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Harry Potter and the Lucky Break

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If not for an 8-year-old child the world might never have heard of Harry Potter and the world of magic and mystery that is Hogwarts.

After five years of writing Harry Potter and the Philsopher’s stone, J.K. Rowling submitted the book to every publishing house in England that would look at children’s literature&#8212only to be turned down seven or eight times.

When she finally submitted to Bloomsbury, what saved her was 8-year-old Alice Newton, the daughter of Bloomsbury Chairman Nigel Newton. Newton gave his daughter a chapter to read.

“She came down from her room an hour later glowing. Dad, this is so much better than anything else,” he told the New Zealand Herald. “She nagged and nagged me in the following months, wanting to see what came next.”

The nagging eventually lead to a book deal, and Rowling was given a £2,500 advance. Her books, movies and merchandising have gone on to earn her £562 million and change, made £19 million for her agent, and turned Daniel Radcliff, the kid who plays Harry Potter, into the world’s youngest millionaire at age 14.

As an aspiring fantasy author, I look to Rowling’s story a fair amount for inspiration and to gauge my own progress.

After starting Harry Potter while sitting on a delayed train between Manchester and London in 1990, Rowling finally started looking for an agent in 1995. A year later that agent had contacted almost every publishing house, and finally got her a book deal in 1996.

When she finally did get a deal it resulted in an average advance, typically less $10,000, and little marketing support from the publishing house. Thousands of novels are bought the same way every year and most of them fail.

People are reading less every year, but Harry Potter has made people read. It originally succeeded on word of mouth alone, and is now a world-wide cultural reference.

All because a 8-year-old girl liked the writing of an out-of-work school teacher.

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About Eric James

  • DrPat

    Good news, Matt – not breaking, but definitely worthwhile.

  • Dawn

    I just finished reading the 4th book GOF – I had seen all the previous books in movie form, so I was pretty caught up on the story.

    In the first 30 pages or so I thought, “hmph, this isn’t the “best” written stuff I have ever read,” strictly from a technical standpoint, but as I got further into the story I was entranced and enrapt in the plot itself and the characters.

    I think what JK Rowling does well is create a unique and distinctive voice for each character – which is not easy – of course the movies have helped develop the characters into something quite tangible and I am sure that has helped the author in the subsequent stories, but truly the idea is brilliant and the continuity is superb.

    It’s like LOTR for the next generation. Keep writing Matt and maybe you can be the next billionaire!

  • Victor Plenty

    The first three are also worth your time, if the characters appeal to you. The movies give you the most vital plot points, but they just don’t have time to cover the rich character details and other great background information you will find in the books.

  • Leoniceno

    What’s interesting is that The Hobbit was discovered in much the same way, with the son of the publisher being the first to read and comment on it.

  • hediel

    im from belguim and i wreeli wreeli like harry potter better nows at daniel
    radcliff but i meybey love him a bit i have ol his stuff from videos untill hes stuff. when he read my papier then he can e mail me but i know the chans is not possible but im trieng ok byebye kisskiss