J.K. Rowling reveals two rejection letters she got for ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’

In one of the rejection letters J.K. Rowling received while submitting under a pen name, the publisher suggested that a writing course could help with feedback.

In one of the rejection letters J.K. Rowling received while submitting under a pen name, the publisher suggested that a writing course could help with feedback.

(Lefteris Pitarakis / Associated Press)

If you’re a writer, you’re going to get rejected sometime — even if you’re the creator of the blockbuster “Harry Potter” books.

Last week, J.K. Rowling posted on Twitter two rejection letters she received while she was trying to find a publisher for “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” which she submitted under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

“We could not publish it with commercial success,” wrote Constable & Robinson, not realizing the rejection was to the author of the very commercially successful Harry Potter series.


“Double check in a helpful bookshop, on Amazon or in the twice-yearly ‘Buyer’s Guide’ of The Bookseller magazine (order via newsagents, or available in your local library), precisely who are the publishers now of your fiction category/genre,” the letter continues.

Constable, an imprint of Little, Brown UK, says on its website that “the fiction division of Constable specialises primarily in crime.” Galbraith’s book “The Cuckoo’s Calling” is a crime novel.

Constable & Robinson goes on to suggest the author take a writing course if he wants feedback.

Even though Rowling emphasized she was posting the letters “for inspiration, not revenge,” the other publisher that passed on the book felt the need to explain its brief, negative response.

Crème de la Crime, an imprint of Severn House, rejected the manuscript around the time that it was joining the large British publisher.

“We have conducted investigations over the Easter weekend and the letter is correct — the submission was sent at the time that Crème de la Crime was being sold to Severn House and until Friday we had no idea of this,” explained Severn House Chairman Edwin Buckhalter.


Buckhalter had some advice for aspiring writers who get rejected. “Publishing history is littered with these sorts of stories, and I think ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected several times before being published,” he said. “I would suggest writers try to find a good agent. Publishers tend to look through submissions from agents first.”

“The Cuckoo’s Calling” was eventually published, under the Galbraith pseudonym, in 2013 by Little, Brown’s Mulholland Books in the U.S. and its Sphere Books imprint in the UK. Three months after it was published, the Sunday Times outed Rowling as the author. Rowling has written two sequels to the novel, “The Silkworm” and “Career of Evil.”

Even if the Galbraith books had never been published, though, Rowling would likely still be doing pretty well financially. The multimillionaire author will almost certainly make a tidy profit from “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the upcoming film written by Rowling and based on her book of the same name, a “Harry Potter” prequel of sorts.

On Tuesday, Scholastic, the press that published the “Harry Potter” books in the U.S., announced it’s partnering with Warner Bros. Consumer Products on a licensing deal for tie-in books based on “Fantastic Beasts” and the “Harry Potter” movies.

According to a news release, the books will include “movie handbooks, coloring and creativity books, guided journals, paper craft books, poster books, and sticker books.”

The “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” movie, featuring Eddie Redmayne as “magizoologist” Newt Scamander, is scheduled for release on Nov. 18.


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