It should be encouraging to authors, pastors, athletes and chefs—really, anyone in any line of work—that J. K. Rowling’s pseudonymous book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, only sold 500 books in the U.S. Of course, now that the world knows she is actually the alleged author, Robert Galbraith, the book will sell a lot more.

Besides providing an opportunity to let you know that I’ve been writing under the pseudonym, “Timothy Keller,” her revelation reminds us that it’s celebrity, not necessarily quality, that sells in our world. Put another way, quality sometimes sells, but celebrity always does, at least until your 15 minutes are up. I’m looking at you, Kate what’s-your-name (you know, the one with 8 kids who used to be with Jon).

Here’s the takeaway for me and for you:  your level of success is not a reliable way to gauge the quality of your work. You may be laboring in relative obscurity, but you may still receive the most enthusiastic “Well done!” from our Lord.

Some people can open movies, draw crowds, or sell products on the strength of their name alone. You can’t, which by the way inspires you to do better work. You may become lazy and careless if publishers are outbidding each other to print your next book. They may privately think it’s skubala, but they’ll slap your name on it and sell a bazillion copies. Who’s going to tell you the truth?

Thank God for your lack of notoriety. It means there’s a better than average chance that your peers will level with you—because they still think of themselves as your peers—and you’ll have to produce good work for it to be read. Just don’t expect it to be as popular as anything written by J. K. Rowling. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Robert Galbraith.


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  1. By the way, please don’t think I am at all suggesting that Timothy Keller’s books are anything short of stellar. It would have fit the context better to say I’ve been using the pseudonym, “Rick Warren,” but no one who knows me would have believed that.

  2. I applaud your decision to choose quality over quantity … why else would anyone labor under the pseudonym ‘Michael Wittmer’?

  3. On the other hand, some of us will labor in obscurity because the work we produce is just mediocre at best — that’s ME, not you! I keep plodding because it is what I’m called to. The harvest I lay before my Lord will be small, but it will be faithfully completed.

  4. Good one, Rob! I see that once you’re doing taking classes we find out how you really feel! It may be labor, but it’s a labor of love, he wrote, narcissistically.

  5. Amen, imhavoc!

  6. Does this mean your next book won’t be titled the “Publisher Driven Life”?

  7. Since we’re confessing here, I write and blog under the names Russel D. Moore and Phil Johnson!! Boy, I sure feel better having that off my chest!

  8. I feel like at some point someone should mention that JK is obviously a talented author who has almost certainly influenced millions of kids to become lifelong readers.

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