USA Today on “The Casual Vacancy”

Aug 22, 2012

Posted by: Catherine


The USA Today has written a lengthy article on expectations for The Casual Vacancy. Interviewing a range of people from our own web mistress, Melissa Anelli, to book store owners. The also have reported the different appearances and interviews J.K. Rowling will be making for the release of her new adult novel. The article reads:

Rowling’s way of engaging with the world, however, has never included extensive publicity. To promote The Casual Vacancy in the USA, Rowling is scheduled to appear on ABC’s Nightline, World News and Good Morning America, as well as The Daily Showwith Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. She will sit for two print interviews, one of which is with USA TODAY.

“I expect the world to be ecstatic at the range of her imaginative reach,” predicts Rowling’s American publisher, Michael Pietsch. One of the few to have read the embargoed book, he calls Rowling “a genius, one of the great writers of all time.” Reading the 512-page novel, he says, “reminded me of Dickens because of the humanity, the humor, the social concerns, the intensely real characters.”

No wands, apparently: “This book isn’t Harry Potter,” says Pietsch. “It is a completely different concern.”

But the secrecy surrounding The Casual Vacancy isn’t. As with Harry Potter, there are no advance copies for the media, no early reviews. In the case of Harry Potter, this public-relations blackout only fed the frenzy. To date, the seven-book series about a boy wizard has sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, and it became one of the most successful movie franchises in history.

The big question today: Will those little Potter addicts who waited so breathlessly in line at bookstores to buy the new Potter at 12:01 a.m. now rush out to purchase (or download) The Casual Vacancy?

“Fans who read Harry Potter as children will be one of the core audiences for this book, without a doubt,” says Diane Roback, children’s book editor at Publishers Weekly. “I cannot think of an author who is more beloved by her readers.”

For Melissa Anelli, there is no “maybe” about The Casual Vacancy. “J.K. Rowling is a master of storytelling, and I’m going to read any story she writes,” says Anelli, 32.

Anelli qualifies as an über-fan. She’s calling from the annual Harry Potter Fan Club get-together in Chicago where more than 4,000 Potter faithful gathered earlier this month. Anelli, webmistress of the Harry Potter website, wrote the 2008 book Harry, A History, for which Rowling penned the foreword.

The Harry Potter books just became available digitally for the first time in April, after Rowling and Sony collaborated on the website Pottermore. It will be different from the outset for The Casual Vacancy, with Little, Brown simultaneously releasing a $19.99 e-book.

For Rowling fans who once queued up for Harry Potter, this means that instant gratification is now a click a

way. “Considering that those who waited online at midnight can get this book by tapping a device ¦ (The Casual Vacancy) will be arriving in a different environment,” says Carol Fitzgerald, founder of The Book Report Network, a group of websites about books.

These changes in bookselling will help Rowling, says Sara Nelson,’s editorial director for books and Kindle. “The more platforms, the more opportunities there are” for readers to buy books, Nelson says.

Nelson, who has not read the new book because of the embargo, believes Casual Vacancy is the fall’s most anticipated novel for adults.

But asked if she thinks it will go to No. 1 on Amazon and dislodge E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, Nelson says, “Let me look in my crystal ball. ¦ Oops, it’s on the fritz.”

Rowling is not the first author to write for different age groups. Pietsch points to James Patterson as well as Rowling’s fellow Brits Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming (who created both James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

With all her money and philanthropy work, why would Rowling ” a 47-year-old married mother of three who lives in Edinburgh ” even bother publishing The Casual Vacancy?

“She’s a writer,” says Little, Brown’s Pietsch. “She lives to write. Her way of engaging with the world is by writing.

The buildup to the publication date has been low-key. “I think there is a curiosity about (the book), but I am not hearing from everyone that they are waiting for it,” says Fitzgerald.

Some booksellers are puzzled by the approach being taken by Rowling’s publisher.

“I’ve been in the dark,” says bookseller Kathryn Fabiani, head buyer at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn. “We had no posters ¦ It hasn’t been easy. People are curious, but they don’t know what to expect.” The upcoming release “seems almost invisible.”

“We’ve been taking some pre-orders and we’ve got some activity, but nothing like Harry Potter,” she says. “Nothing.” Although she has ordered 300 copies for the independent bookstore, she suspects they won’t sell out.

Little, Brown marketing director Heather Fain says, “We wanted to be very careful in our marketing. This is a very different book and it is aimed at a truly different audience.” WithHarry Potter, she says, booksellers became accustomed to promotional campaigns that included stickers and lightning-bolt tattoos. That approach “just doesn’t fit the book.”

Barnes & Noble vice president for marketing Patricia Bostelman says that Little, Brown’s approach is what the author wants. “Apparently much of their behavior is at J.K. Rowling’s wishes,” says Bostelman. Rowling “has very strong opinions on how she wants publishing of the book handled. ¦ She’s trying not to live on the laurels of Harry Potterand very much wants to have this book stand alone, on its own merit, just as if she were just any other author who was landing on the scene.”

Perhaps it’s not Rowling who has the problem, says Publishers Weekly‘s Roback. “I don’t think the transition was necessarily a difficult one for her. She’s a writer, and a good one. I do think it may be difficult for the market and the media to adjust their expectations. Because given her phenomenal success, anything other than a book everyone loves that sells in the millions and millions may be deemed a disappointment, which is unfair to the book and to the author.”

Back in 2007 in an interview with USA TODAY, at the time of the final Potter book, Rowling said she was working on two writing projects, one for children and one not for children. She knew expectations for any new book would be enormous.

“I think that there will be some disappointment if I don’t write another fantasy,” she told USA TODAY. “But I must admit, I think I’ve done my fantasy.”

The rest of the article can be read here.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.