See the difference?

In 2006, author Emily Schultz published her first novel Joyland, about a teenage boy growing up in an Ontario town in 1984. This was her second published book, coming after a 2002 collection of short stories. It apparently got some really great editorial reviews from national publications, calling it a great coming-of-age novel and an exploration into teen sexuality.

About seven years later, His Royal Scariness Stephen King published a novel with the exact same name, about a college student in 1973 who gets a job at an amusement park and finds himself solving an unsolved murder (I’ll have tor find time to read it one of these days). Plenty of King fans went online to download the e-book (some may not have realized that for a while the book wasn’t available in that format, which will explain what happens next). But the funniest thing happened: several of these King fans downloaded Schultz’s book believing it was King’s book. And right until the end, some of them never realized they got a literary coming-of-age by a Canadian-American author instead of a dark, creepy whodunit from Stephen King!

And it reflected in the reviews some of these people gave Schultz’s book. Here’s one who absolutely hated it:

I have always loved Stephen King novels. However, this one was a rambling, stream of consciousness mess. I had to go back and read over the last pages again and again to try to understand what was happening. For a person who reads several books a week, this is annoying, to say the least. I will still read his next book, if there is one. He fascinates me with the way he thinks, generally. This book was not my favorite, by any means.

And here’s one who thought they’d try to counter-balance all the negative reviews from King fans:

However somebody give it a one star rating because THEY accidently purchased it thinking it was Stephen King, i’ve no idea how they did that but this review is too counter balance that one.

Here’s a prankster who thought they’d satire the whole confusion:

As soon as I learned Steven King had his sex change operation AND changed his name, I immediately rushed out and bought this book. The surgery (and hormone therapy) have really changed his appearance AND his writing. It’s amazing. It was almost like reading a completely different author.

Mrs King (Schultz), your new vagina has served you well! Nicely done!

And here’s one from someone who actually thought it was a great Stephen King novel, if you’ll believe it:

Full of suspense and mystery and real, visceral horror. Don’t be put off by the new nom de plume. King’s new pen name signifies another evolution in his career, just as he emerged from the Bachman years’ “Thinner” into the soul-baring masterpiece of “It”. Writing from a feminine perspective is admittedly experimental, but this experiment is a SUCCESS.

Now, I’m sure plenty of authors would be upset about this confusion. Ms.. Schultz has actually kind of taken advantage of the confusion and the money coming her way by creating a Tumblr blog called Spending the Stephen King Money, where she details how she’s been spending her unexpected royalties, from donation to charitable organization to IKEA shopping trips. And of course, it’s only brought more attention to her, and her book. I’m sure plenty of people will read it now just to read the story that got confused with a Stephen King novel.

In fact, there’s a certain author who plans to read the book:

Yep, King is ordering her book, and Ms. Schultz in turn is planning on reading Stephen King’s Joyland. It’s a really weird but hilarious ending to a rather strange series of events stemmingfrom a simple misunderstanding. But hey, I’m sure both authors will laugh about it when they look back on it years from now, if they aren’t laughing about it now. And who knows? Maybe they’ll collaborate torelease books around the same time with the same titles and see what happens. In fact, I kind of hoping they do!

I’m not sure how this sort of thing happens, except through serendipity. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing happening on such a scale that even some media organizations report it. Sure, we all have or know someone who went to get a certain book or movie or check out a certain TV show and ended up reading or watching something with a similar or identical title (that actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago). But on this massive scale? It’s almost a little hard o rap your head around. If Saturday Night Live was airing new episodes right now, this would be the subject of a Weekend Update joke.

Well, like I said above, this is a case of serendipity at work. Just a happy accident. I wish something like that would happen to me, and I’m sure plenty of people will echo the sentiment. Not only is it a funny story, the royalty checks and recognition wouldn’t be too bad either. But it’s still very unlikely, even when your book has a similar name to a bestseller (The Quiet Game and Snake aren’t the only books out there with those names, believe it or not).

But I don’t think’s that’s a bad thing. After all, it’d suck if a lot of negative reviews brought down your book’s average because of some silly confusion. And I’d prefer to get success through my own hard work, creativity, and the help of my good friends and/or readers rather than through some silly mix-up of random chance.  More satisfactory that way, anyway.

I just have to write something that will allow that sort of success. Well, hopefully that story will come soon, if it hasn’t already. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think of the King/Schultz mix-up?

If this happened to you, how you would react?


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