The Cuckoo's Calling: Rowling Donates Her Royalties to Charity
Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, wrote the new adult mystery novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. On July 14 after The Sunday Times outed Rowling as the author of the The Cuckoo, sales instantly skyrocketed. Just one day after the news broke, Rowling's novel was “temporarily out of stock” on both Amazon's and Barnes and Noble's websites.
It did not take long for the truth to be revealed: Chris Cossage, a partner at Russells law firm, confidentially revealed the secret behind Robert Galbraith's identity to Judith Callegari, his wife's best friend. Callegari then outed Rowling in a conversation over Twitter. But despite the success of The Cuckoo's Calling, Rowling was "left dismayed and distressed by such a fundamental betrayal of trust," reported the Daily Mail.
Rowling filed a law suit against Gossage in London's High Court. All the parties responsible for leaking the information apologized and Russells law firm agreed to reimburse the author's legal costs and make a donation to the Army Benevolent Fund, colloquially known as The Soldiers' Charity.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Rowling said the donation is "a thank you to the army people who helped me with research" and an acknowledgement of her "appreciation and understanding of exactly how much this charity does for ex-servicemen and their families, and how much that support is needed."
Rather than profit from her novel, Rowling accepted the donation to charity and announced in a statement that "all global net royalties which would otherwise have been paid to her from book sales of The Cuckoo's Calling would be donated to The Soldiers' Charity for a period of three years, dating from July 14 — the day that Galbraith's identity was made known."
J.K Rowling, whose $444.5 million net worth is estimated to be more than that of Queen Elizabeth, certainly can do without the profits from her novel. But the renowned author was not born into success. In fact, Rowling rose from poverty — at one point living on state benefits with her youngest daughter — to unprecedented success. It is admirable to see that her current prominence has not blinded her from remembering the past. Life was "very hard and I didn't know there was going to be this fairy-tale resolution," Rowling said to The Telegraph. "This room is full of ghosts." Rowling's charitable donation reflects her sense of generosity, responsibility, and humility, as well as her unwillingness to detach from her roots.
While wealth should bring responsibility to care for the less fortunate, it too often drives people to live excessively and gluttonously. An article in The Atlantic suggested that wealthy people are often the least generous because "the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support." In fact, it may come as a surprise that people with the least money to give are often donating the most. For example, in 2011 the Americans in the top-20 percentile for earnings contributed on average only 1.3% of their incomes to charity.
It is refreshing to see wealthy individuals like Rowling who remain humble and cognizant of the huge impact they can have on improving the lives of others. Of course, Rowling is not alone. Steven Spielberg recently announced that he will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Holocaust film Schindler's List with a number of special screenings to raise money for the Holocaust remembrance foundation, the USC Shoah Foundation's Institute for Visual History and Education. In addition, just last week Sam Simon, the terminally ill co-creator of The Simpsons, pledged to donate his fortune to charity.
It is too often that we hear about people becoming addicted to wealth and fame and forgetting about the less fortunate along the way. We need more examples like J.K Rowling, who has remained selfless, humble, and altruistic despite the contagious effects of stardom.