J K Rowling has said the decisions about the strict embargoes surrounding the release of her latest book, The Casual Vacancy, were made "100%" by the publisher, as she also advised any aspiring writer to work with a literary agent.
Speaking in the audience-question portion of her only launch-day event for the title, hosted by interviewer Mark Lawson at Southbank Centre in London, Rowling said: "It is a very interesting time to be an aspiring author. We seem to have fewer readers. Whatever you do [self-publish or work with a publisher], I am very pro agent. I think your chances are one million times better if you get an agent. At the moment people can publish in the click of a button, so the industry has changed so much from when I started out in the early 1990s. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but whichever way you go, get an agent. It will increase your chances of being able to make a living."
Responding to another question from an audience member, Rowling said the confidentiality around the book, which saw only a drip-feed of information come through after its initial acquisition, was planned "100%" by the publisher, Little, Brown, though she added: "I'm fine with that. I'm not trying to pass any bucks here. I can only say that if you could see what went on with Potter, then you would say we were the model of relaxed, devil-may-care, yeah-have-a-read, this time."
She said that it was the rise of the internet which made the need to protect the book's contents before its official release even more important. Rowling said: "As a writer, you want to be able to give a reader the whole manuscript, and not have it leaked chapter by chapter."
Rowling also talked about her conversion to e-books following her initial hesitance, taking 200 with her on her iPad on a recent holiday, though she said: "I will always love print and paper best."
During her interview with Lawson, Rowling said she had spent most of the launch day "trying to avoid newspapers", saying she will read the reviews, but that it "takes the sting out of them" to read them at a later date. However, she said she had seen the Daily Mail's line that it was "500 pages of socialist manifesto", and she had "high-fived her husband", saying: "I thought that was alright. That and 'Men in Black III' [which she watched at her hotel with her husband and daughter] were the highlight of my day."
Over the course of the event, Rowling also talked about her fascination with the "mystery" of death and mortality; religion and morality in the book, and her intention to present "a slice of society". She also talked about the pleasure of writing the book and not being under contract, contrasting it with the weight of expectation when she was writing Harry Potter, though she acknowledged: "With the exception of Salinger, you write to be published."
She repeated the fact that she has written half of another children's book, and that her next published book is likely to be for children. When Lawson confessed he had cried at the The Casual Vacancy's bleak ending, Rowling said: "I don't think I would have much to say someone who didn't at least tear up a bit [at the ending]."
The event was attended by 900 people, including Rowling's agent Neil Blair and colleagues such as Zoe King from The Blair Partnership, and Rowling's editor, Little, Brown publisher David Shelley, and colleagues including sales and marketing director Charlie King. The first half was streamed lived on YouTube.
Photo Credit: J.K. Rowling photographed at Southbank Centre for the launch of her first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, published by Little, Brown Book Group. Copyright James Darling.