Harry Potter turns 25: a behind-the-scenes visit to book publishing

She was on her way to London on a crowded train when the idea of ​​Harry Potter came to her, and she completely obsessed over it. However, she soon became frustrated, when she could not find a pen in her bag suitable for writing, and was ashamed to borrow one. That wasn’t bad, as instead of facing the blank page and sympathizing with sentences and words, J.K. Rowling unleashed her imagination over the course of four hours, the time the train was late. The slender black-haired boy, with his spectacles and funny clothes, began to take on an unfamiliar name: “He will be famous – a legend – every child in our world will know his name.” As Professor McGonagall predicts in the opening chapter of the promised novel “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.

The fate of a book written by a woman

Unfortunately, the publishers were not very enthusiastic about this novel, and the only publisher who accepted it, could only buy the rights to publish it in Britain, and refused to write its name as she wanted, with only the initials J.K. Rowling, for fear that young boys would not read a book written by a woman . However, the hero Harry, born on a train from Manchester to London, his fame swept the whole world, as Rowling expected him, and the parts followed, achieving fantastic numbers in sales, amounting to more than 400 million copies, and was included in the list of bestsellers in history, as well as winning a number of Of the awards and quoted in many of the films that achieved the highest income in the world. The series changed the life of its author, from living on government welfare benefits, to the first billionaire to make her fortune from something whose owner never expected to profit from it, writing stories!

On June 26, 1997, when the first novel in the series was published, no one had heard of her charming child, who spent his childhood in a basement under his aunt and husband’s stairwell, before discovering the truth about himself. Had it not been for the efforts of a group of children’s book lovers, he might have been buried in a drawer without his glowing eyes seeing a single point of light.

Children love unfamiliar names

The story begins with a call, received by Barry Cunningham, head of children’s at Bloomsbury Publishing, from literary agent Christopher Little, “I have a great book, would you like to read it?”

Little makes no mention of the manuscript’s rejection twelve times, but Cunningham’s eye reads on its page that he is not the first to see it, and as soon as he reads it at home, he realizes that the children will like it. Like Cunningham, Nigel Newton, founder and CEO of Bloomsbury, took the manuscript home but did not read it. “I handed it to my daughter Alice, who was eight years old. She showed up an hour later and was high. She wrote a little note saying: ‘The excitement of this book made me feel very warm in me. I think it is one of the best books an eight or nine-year-old can do. You read it’.

The next day, Newton presided over the meeting, everyone was excited. Four children sat on beanbags in a room on the fifth floor, deciding Harry, but Newton already knew the outcome, as long as Alice loved him, everyone should love him.

Meanwhile, Rowling was almost destitute, subsisting on welfare and writing in cafés, after going through an unfortunate marriage with television journalist Jorge Arentes. Rowling did not say anything about the nature of the violence she experienced 13 months and a day, but her husband stated in an interview with him that on the last night of their marriage he dragged her out of their home and slapped her hard. When she met her publisher, Cunningham advised her, “You need a day job, because you’ll never make any money from children’s books.” In those days, a writer could only sell his book a few thousand, and when he suggested that she change the title, thinking it was too hard to pronounce, Rowling said that children liked unfamiliar names.

Changing the rules of the game

Janet Hogarth, editorial assistant, left Bloomsbury just before Harry’s publication and accepted a job as an editor at Scholastic Children’s Book Publishing. When an editor from a New York auction house called to ask its new boss if anyone knew what “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was about. The man was already carrying the manuscript and did not find time to read it. The auction went crazy and he didn’t understand why. Hogarth was asked to write a brief summary and fax it to the auction house. Hogarth told him that he would be more famous than Roald Dahl, whose works were some of the best-selling novels in the world. “I told him to offer his maximum budget.” The next day, it was all over the papers. Scholastic had managed to pay out $105,000, right before the UK’s release, unheard of in the history of children’s books.

Thomas Taylor, the first Harry Potter cover painter, rushed to London to Bloomsbury’s office, met Cunningham and showed him this book called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by an author he had never heard of. “He gave me the book, a pile of papers with notes in the margins and missing chapters, because the author was still working on it. I read it on the train and at home and enjoyed it very much. I spent two days drawing the cover and took it to London for delivery. When the novel came out, we got 10 copies of First edition for the store I was working in. I kept thinking about buying a copy, but I thought I’d wait for the signed copy they would send me. About six months after it was published, I began to realize that this book had become really popular. My colleagues kept telling customers, ‘Do you know who this is?’ ? He did the cover. People didn’t believe it, so why am I standing behind the closet? It was so embarrassing. Of course, the 10 books were sold out and I didn’t buy one, so I never got the first edition.”

After Cunningham’s departure, Emma Mathewson was given the opportunity to work at Bloomsbury in his stead, having acquired Harry Potter before publishing to set up his own company. She says, “I remember his surrogate saying to me, ‘Look Emma, ​​it’s our list now, if there are any books that haven’t been published yet and we think we should scrap them, we should get it done now. Harry Potter was on the list. I started reading it and it was really magical and funny and full of With magical adventures, I said, ‘No, we should keep this. Sure. I wanted to get rid of the Giants at some point, but Rowling insisted on keeping them because they would be important in Book Seven.’

Dear sir or dear madam?

As soon as I read the novel, Rosamund de la Haye, Bloomsbury’s director of children’s book marketing, sent copies in an envelope for the Smarties Prize. She was lucky enough to be shortlisted and then bet Newton that they would sell 20,000 copies by Christmas, which he mocked. “He still owes me a box of champagne,” Rosamund says.

Julia Eccleshir, children’s book editor for The Guardian and author of A Guide to Harry Potter Novels, was chair of the Smarties Award jury when Rowling won in 1997. The judges selected three books and presented them to a huge group of children from across the country. “Once we got the votes, we were overjoyed,” she says. “But the win did reveal an important fact, that the Harry Potter author was a woman. Until then all the fan letters were to ‘Dear Sir’.”

As for Hogarth, it was her job to revise the final edits before they were sent to the press, and with nervousness and panicked watching the clock, she inadvertently left a typo on the back cover and on page 53 but it was too late. It says “These copies of the first edition are now worth thousands because of my fault!”

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A year later, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” released the second part of the series that its owner had initially planned to complete in seven parts, and the event was celebrated at King’s Cross Station, London, and Rowling won for the second time a “Smarties” award. In December 1999, the third installment, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” also won the Smarter Award, making Rowling the first person to win the award three times in a row. But it withdrew the fourth part of the competition to give the other books a fair chance to win the prize.

The third part, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” 1999, was marketed through the idea of ​​a movie company. “We chose 3.45 pm to avoid the children being absent from school,” says La Haye. “The front page of the Daily Telegraph leads the queue of children queuing outside the bookstores. With the fourth book, we pick midnight, and the queue stretches down the alley into the green. It was an event. “Special for the whole family, kids and teens, everyone in the crowd was dressed as witches. I’ve worked in a bookstore for nearly 30 years and have never seen anything like it before or since.”

In order to release “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2000), the publishing house rented a food cart, and put together an entire train that departed from Kings Cross.” It was an absolutely epic tour, lasting four or five days with two events a day and 500 children each. station.What we didn’t realize is that there is a very large online community to learn about trains so whenever we get to a place we have people following us along the way.At some point between Newcastle and Edinburgh we suddenly stop because the coals run out and the crowd starts gathering… The success of Harry Potter has given children’s books intellectual respect and incredible profits.”