Rowling has signed with new publisher Little, Brown (her previous American publisher was Scholastic, which does not do adult books) and will be edited by David Shelley, currently Little, Brown's publisher. The move is a bit surprising, since publishers don't normally edit. (They're too busy with the bigger picture stuff.) But hell, this is JK Rowling. Why not?
The choice of Shelley, being well-known for a career editing bestselling adult mysteries, basically also gives us the type of novel Rowling will be writing, a complete breakaway from what made her the world's most well-known author. (Well, maybe next to Stephen King. That one is up in the air.)
And I say, Good for her!
Authors, thanks to the branding nature of book producing these days, are often type-cast into a certain type of book. But authors often write more than one type of book (one of the reasons why authors use pseudonyms if writing in a different book genre than normal). If Rowling can break this mold, especially if she does so successfully (both on a financial scale and on a critical scale), perhaps publishers will realize that pigeon-holing their talent is never a good idea.
I mean, look at what happened when somebody let Heath Ledger play the Joker. Nobody thought it would work and he turned in one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen. Similar thing there in my mind.
Also, CNN ponders another interesting financial sidenote: the publishing industry needs to produce more "event" books or books that can drive customers into bookstores. This idea intrigues me, as we all know that Borders is now dead and that independent and niche bookstores across the country are closing every month. If more books appear that simply create interest in the wider world, as in the mainstream media, then perhaps people would pay more attention to books in general.
Part of the thing there is that people forget that books aren't like other forms of entertainment like TV shows or movies, wherein they come and go rather quickly. Books often sit for months in a bookstore before being bought and sometimes, a title suddenly become very popular, months after its first appearance. This happens with much frequency than in other forms of entertainments - movies rarely return to theatres and TV shows are cancelled. As such, while event books sounds like a nice idea to drive bookstore foot traffic (the pillar of any in-store retail money-making, really), I'm not sure it could ever work.
The mainstream media pays more attention to Rowling for the fact she's basically a celebrity than the fact she writes books. And Harry Potter became a social buzzword after the movies started coming out. Getting the media to pay attention to the written word is like asking for them to pay attention to new academic studies that aren't "neat" or "buzz-worthy" but are still insanely smart: it just ain't gonna happen. Sad but true.
Also, just announced this morning (more mainstream coverage for Rowling): the Harry Potter series will be released in ebook format for school and library use, from an collaboration between Rowling's Pottermore and Overdrive. The Harry Potter series was originally supposed to only be available digitally from the Pottermore website.