Whence Rowling’s Twitter Silence?

J. K. Rowling has the largest twitter following of any author, steady at 14.7 million, but she has — with one brief marketing note last month and two re-tweets in March — been silent on this mega social media platform since January 2019. In May I posted three reasons I thought credible as explanations for this silence: personal problems, a court ordered injunction, and, hope driving argument, a decision to write novels and screenplays (or novels instead of screenplays!) rather than waste her energies on ephemeral politics. She was, after all, becoming a popular target for the social justice cognoscenti to berate for her insufficient woke-ness.

The thought occurs this week in light of the PotterMore rebranding as WizardingWorld.com and the advent of the Harry Potter Fan Club and its $75 Gold Membership subscriber’s fee that the more obvious reason of monetary gain may explain Rowling’s departure from the platform as well as any other. Yes, this is post hoc propter hoc reasoning, a logical fallacy, but just because something happens after something else does not mean that the first might not be the reason for what follows.

The theory is simply this: the bean counters employed by Rowling to maximize her income from her various interests and copyright material advise her to consolidate her property under one umbrella, ‘Wizarding World,’ and to monetize the PotterMore website. They urge her to desist from her posting on twitter because her acerbic and fiercely partisan political posts simultaneously offended millions who do not share her “progressive” views and gave away access to her writing and thinking to those who didn’t mind the bad language and uncharitable posturing.

Ceasing to post on twitter, in other words, would create scarcity for those hanging on her every word while at the same time allowing those on her political right and left the time necessary to forget their differences with her and return to thinking of her as “just the Harry Potter lady” with all the fun memories of the reading and film experiences they enjoyed. All these groups, be they the unquestioning fans, the super-vigilant police of the Politically Correct, or those who voted (egad!) for Brexit or Trump, would be more likely to buy Gold Memberships if she would just shut up for, say, ten months, if not the indefinite future.

Considering the blows being delivered to her brand via over-exposure late last year, her commitment to her legacy charities, and the lack of any effectiveness of her tweets in moving those not already convinced to share her position, I doubt Rowling, if this ‘follow the money’ explanation of her departure from twitter has any relationship with reality, would have wept at the cost to her of following the advice. She gets her life as a writer back, her critics are effectively silenced for lack of new material, and there is the promise of a huge payday by the holidays.

Say 1% of her twitter followers become Gold Members of the new Harry Potter Fan Club at WizardingWorld.com. That would be 147,000 people who pay $75 each year for the foreseeable future to get worthless pins and inducements to purchase or visit other products and properties or just over $11 million annually. Now go ahead and use more realistic figures, say 5% or 10%, and do the math. Volant Charities and Lumos will be funded in perpetuity and Rowling’s remarkable goals of finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis and of placing institutionalized children into homes with families have that much more chance of becoming reality.

And perhaps this is the best way to think about all this for those of us who find the $75 cost of access to Rowling’s Potter material more than a little galling, which is to say, make it a contribution to her charities rather than to Rowling, Inc.

What are your thoughts? Does this ‘twitter silence due to maximizing monetization’ theory pass the smell test? Will you be paying the $75 fee? Do you think Rowling will ever return to daily tweeting?

The Mysterious Rowling Twitter Anagram

I searched the internet recently for connections between Agatha Christie and J. K. Rowling lest I find at the end of a long road that someone has already traveled it and written the travelogue. I found this note at the bottom of a 2014 NPR page whose feature was about a lost Christie longbox:

A Possible Potter Puzzle: J.K. Rowling dipped a toe in Twitter on Monday, apparently just to stir things up. When anything Harry Potter is remotely involved, that’s not hard to do. After mentioning Sunday that she was working on a novel and editing a screenplay, she responded to fans’ excited guesses at the novel’s topic, tweeting, “See, now I’m tempted to post a riddle or an anagram.” Hours afterward came this little riddle:

Answers to the riddle have as yet proved inconclusive.

Rowling was outed as the writer behind ‘Robert Galbraith’ in July 2013. In September 2013 Warner Brothers had announced that Rowling was writing a screenplay for Fantastic Beasts. Why in October 2014 were the guesses about this supposed anagram on her Twitter feed not about Cormoran Strike and Newt Scamander?

More to the point, can anyone find Newt’s and Cormoran’s full names in this tweet along with a message?

If you pull out the letters for ‘Cormoran Strike mystery,’ you’re left with a-a-a-a-d-e-e-e-f-f-h-l-n-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-t-t-u-w-w-w-w-y. Spelling ‘Newt Scamander story’ leaves a-a-a-e-e-e-f-f-h-i-k-l-m-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-o-r-r-s-t-u-w-w-y-y.

There is only one ‘c’ so ‘Cormoran’ and ‘Career of Evil’ together is not possible. There aren’t any ‘b’s so ‘Robin,’ Fantastic Beasts, and Albus Dumbeldore are out. The solo ‘c’ also precludes ‘Scamander’ and ‘Jacob.’ The solo ‘k’ means ‘Kowalski’ is a non-starter. ‘Tina’ works but the absence of a ‘g’ or a ‘q’ means ‘Queenie’ and ‘Goldstein’ won’t work, not to mention ‘Gellert’ or ‘Grindelwald.’

It’s supposed to be about the novel’s topic, though, right? So forget Warner Brothers; we’re talking Career of Evil.

Working with the remainders from ‘Cormoran Strike mystery, ‘Leda’ works as does ‘death’ but not both. Jonny Rokeby is impossible (and he no-shows Career). Shanker, Whittaker, Laing, Brockbank, Digger Malley – all fail.

Love to hear your ideas!

Two New (Sort of!) JKRowling.com Posts

Yesterday Rowling broke her Twitter platform silence of eight months with a post and a retweet of a PotterMore posting about the new logo and tagline for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ (‘J. K. Rowling Returns to Twitter‘).

She also reposted a January 2017 post, ‘Cursed Child Film Rumours,’ at her JKRowling.com website about rumors of a Daniel-Emma-Rupert film production of ‘Cursed Child.’ She says this rumor is “rubbish:”

I have no idea how these stories emerge, but to set the record straight once and for all: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a stage play, it was conceived and written as a stage play, it was always intended to be a stage play and nothing else, and there are absolutely no plans for it to become a movie, a novel, a puppet show, a cartoon, a comic book series or Cursed Child on Ice.

And she posted another link, much like her Twitter re-tweeting, to the PotterMore story about the Times Square logo-and-tag-line unveiling: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Takes over Times Square.’ That posting included this video.

Three short notes:

(1) The excitement about these events which even we are obliged to note are of no importance whatsoever, the change in logo-tagline of a Broadway play and an author’s return to a social media platform (!), testifies to the currency and vitality of Harry Potter’s status as the global shared text.

(2) If any conclusions are to be drawn from the JKRowling.com twin postings on top of the return to Twitter, my first guesses would be (a) it’s a business decision to use the tweeting platform with more than 14 million followers to highlight marketing events representing no little investment (how much do you think it cost to pull off that Times Square event about essentially nothing beyond reviving interest in a smash hit that may be showing signs of jumping the shark? To make the logo square with books and film logo?) and, (b) Rowling herself may be not totally on board with this. That reposting on her website of the 2017 denial of a movie production in the offing (2026?) sounds a bit like a ‘note to self’ (and to the world) that she is not really a prisoner of Rowling, Inc.’s mercenary concerns.

(3) Does anyone out there doubt that eventually, perhaps as with Tolkien “well after the author’s demise,” this play will be adapted into a movie and that there will be a Harry Potter movie re-booting, as well as a television series, opera, and Ice-Capades? If Christopher Tolkien couldn’t stop it, Rowling won’t be able to, and, given her charity concerns and commitments, I have to wonder at how long she will hold out against pressure externally from Warner Brothers and internally from Lumos and Volant.

J. K. Rowling Returns to Twitter

In addition to this tweet of her own, The Presence also re-tweeted a PotterMore article about a Cursed Child event last night in NYC’s Times Square.

The link to her own website’s page about writing advice remains pinned to the top of the page.

Does this mean “She’s back!” or is it just a promotional plug of a Rowling, Inc., property after eighth months silence, an acknowledgement she has to do something to keep the platform vital?

Or is it a testing of the waters? If, as we have speculated here, her departure in January was as likely as not due to the overexposure of her brand and her having reached the point of greatly diminished returns, even fan hostility, the enthusiastic and generous response to her return has to be encouraging.

Possibility Three: Back to the Future

Warner Brothers has sold Rowling on a return to the successful formula of the original Harry Potter film franchise: she writes wildly successful novels and Warner Brothers then adapts them for the screen.

This is third of three speculatives posts about why Rowling has ceased from tweeting on her Twitter home page, a social media platform with 14.7 million followers she had been using to share announcements from Lumos and the several Rowling, Inc., enterprises as well as airing her center-left political beliefs about Brexit, anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and President Trump. The first speculative post was “Possibility One: Personal Problems” in which I reviewed the potential reasons Rowling wouldn’t want to make public that are keeping her from tweeting; the second was “Possibility Two: Court Ordered Silence” in which we covered the chance that she stepped back because the Sherrif (judge) in her case against a Personal Assistant ordered all litigants to be silent on social media.

If you’ve read those posts, you know that I think it is a stretch to think any of the reasons discussed in them — disease, addiction, relationship agonies, and a court order — are serious possibilities. None of them, to get right to the point, explain why Rowling’s office staff of four full-time employees and two part timers, not to mention the contractors and employees who work for her directly and indirectly at PotterMore, Bronte Studios, or The Blair Partnership, could not re-tweet announcements from Lumos, Volant Charities, Bronte Studios, Cursed Child, Hacheete Publishing, or Warner Brothers. Even a court order wouldn’t explain silence after the 4 April sentencing of the former PA.

So, we’re left with a mystery. Why would Rowling forsake the use of the largest Twitter platform of followers of any author ever? Instead of looking for causes that would apply to every other human being, which search has pretty much come up empty, it’s time to think about reasons that might apply only to J. K. Rowling, the Master of Narrative Control and Media Manipulation. Think “Hermione and The Quibbler.” Or, better, “Hermione and the ‘Bug’ in a Jar.”

Rather than wondering about the mystery of Rowling’s silence and what might have caused it to happen to the author, we should consider the possibility that the silence is intentional on her part and the effects — heightened interest in her activity (or lack of same) and the enigma of her disappearance — rather than the accidental consequence of forces outside her control are exactly her purpose.

Why would she want to do that? Here are my three guesses. [Read more…]