JK Rowling and the Male Pseudonym

JK-Rowling-40998-1-402 Unless you were on an internet-free desert island over the weekend, you've probably heard that JK Rowling published a well-received but low-selling crime book called The Cuckoo's Calling under the penname Robert Galbraith.

I haven't read the book, and since I've never read a crime novel in my life, I won't really be in a position to analyze it if I do pick up a copy. I'm not at all surprised that JK Rowling decided to avoid the media circus and constant attention for once and publish under another name. But this still leaves me with one major question: why did she choose a male pseudonym?

It's well known that JK Rowling was told to use her initials (and make up a middle name to enhance them) to increase the sales of Harry Potter. Boys wouldn't buy a book by Joanne Rowling, but JK Rowling is probably a man, and so that's OK. It's depressing, but the different treatment of male vs female authors even now suggests that the publishers had a horrible point.

But why, nearly 20 years later, did The Cuckoo's Calling need to be written by Robert and not Rebecca Galbraith? I hope somebody asks her in the weeks to come, especially as she's commented before that she regrets becoming "JK" instead of Joanne. She holds a certain weight with publishers (they must have known this would come out eventually and gain them massive sales in the long run), and she's certainly not concerned about getting high sales right now. Was it another publisher request -- you can do this anonymously, but only if you use a male name? Did the story just seem "right" as a male one? Both depressing possibilities. Either way, I'm not sure the strategy worked, since the book had only sold 500 copies up to this point.

It's certainly possible that she chose the name for innocuous reasons. Maybe she wanted to use a male name to strengthen her disguise (although this now exposes us all to painful "it was clearly not a man's writing!!" analysis). Or maybe she just wanted to honor someone she cares about or respects called Robert.

But it makes me very sad that when one of the best-selling female writers in history decided to do an anonymous experiment, and see how her book would be received without her name, she needed to conceal her gender as well. Is that the only way to get truly honest and impartial feedback? Is that the "default" for "author," crime or otherwise?

Really hoping to hear more from JK Rowling on this one. Professional journalists? Please get on this.