J.K. Rowling and ‘The Casual Vacancy’ discussed in new USA Today article

J.K. Rowling and her forthcoming novel The Casual Vacancy are the subject of an extensive new piece in USA Today that discusses the differences between The Casual Vacancy and Harry Potter, the marketing campaign of the books, and what’s at stake for J.K. Rowling.

The article describes the key difference between Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy ; that one is for children and the other for adults. Harry Potter centers around a boy wizard who fights to defeat an evil wizard who killed his parents. The Casual Vacancy is a political mystery about a small English town’s election following the unexpected death of a parish council member. These major differences, the article explains, effect everything from the marketing campaign to the sales of the novel.

For one thing, the book is being treated like any other adult fiction novel. Because of this, the promotional material and marketing campaign is targeted at adult readers. This approach has left some booksellers puzzled. They’re not used to a low-key campaign for a J.K. Rowling novel; they’re used to bookmarks, posters, countdown clocks and midnight release parties covered with the famous Harry Potter logo. That isn’t the case with this novel because the marketing campaign is aiming specifically for adults.

This has made advertising the book difficult for some booksellers. As Kathryn Fabiani expresses her frustration, “I’ve been in the dark. We had no posters … It hasn’t been easy. People are curious, but they don’t know what to expect,” says the independent bookseller. “We’ve been taking some pre-order and we’ve got some activity, but nothing like Harry Potter,” she explains. “[The upcoming release] is almost invisible.” This hasn’t stopped her from ordering 300 copies for her bookstore, but she suspects they won’t sell out.

Little, Brown’s marketing director commented on the issue, and Barnes and Noble’s vice president for marketing added her thoughts.

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.”

The article goes on and debates on whether or not we will see the same excitement from fans of J.K. Rowling as we did with Harry Potter. The commercial success of The Casual Vacancy was also addressed in the article. The question of whether or not it will be as successful as Harry Potter was debated.

Also in the article is new information about the book, explaining that the book will receive (or has received, perhaps) an initial first printing of two million copies, compared to 12 million for Deathly Hallows, and that the book will be simultaneously released in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany on September 27.


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