Harry Potter Idea

Jo started writing as a child and would often read her stories to younger sister, Dianne.
Jo’s first job was in London. She worked as a researcher and biological secretary for Amnesty International.

In 1990 during a Manchester to London train journey the idea of a boy at a Wizardry school came into her mind. The idea started with Harry, followed by all these characters and situations. Back at her Clapham Junction flat Jo immediately started writing.

By 1995 Jo had developed the original idea into a planned 7 book series and completed the first story, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Difficult Times

During this development time for Harry Potter, Jo encountered many difficulties. In December 1990, Jo’s mother died after a ten year battle with multiple sclerosis. This influenced Jo’s portrayal of Harry Potter. She introduced much more detail of the loss her character felt over his parent’s death by the hand of Voldermort.

The soul-sucking dementors, introduced in the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, were the result of Jo suffering from clinical depression after her marriage break-up with Portuguese television journalist, Jorge Arantes.

Jo returned from Portugal with their daughter, Jessica. They lived in a flat in Edinburgh to be near to Jo’s sister, Dianne. Jo wrote Harry Potter whenever Jessica was asleep. She often took Jessica for a walk in the pushchair. Then Jo would write in a local café as Jessica slept.

Halfway through writing the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Jo had a moment of crisis when she realized there was a serious fault with the plot. Jo had to rewrite one chapter 13 times, in order to solve this dilemma.

It was three years before Jo finished the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She had run out of steam and needed a break. Before Jo started on the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she spent two months re-reading the plan for the book and making certain she knew what she was doing.

Jo finished the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in a hotel room at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh on 11 January 2007.

A Publishing Deal

Jo used the telephone directory to pick out two literary agents. She posted the first three chapters to these two agents. Bryony Evans, a reader for the Christopher Little Agency was so enthusiastic about the story, the company agreed to represent Jo.

The agency submitted the story to many publishers.

A year on and Barry Cunningham, editor from Bloomsbury Publishing agreed to publish Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (Barry Cunningham now has his own publishing company, ‘Chicken House’.)

Alice Newton, eight year old daughter of Bloomsbury’s Chairman, had been given the first chapter to review by her father. Alice read it and immediately demanded the next chapter.

Bloomsbury requested instead of Joanne Rowling, she use two initials in place of her Christian name. They were concerned their target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman. She chose to use ‘K’ because her paternal grandmother’s name was Kathleen. She calls herself Jo because she was only ever called Joanne when she was young, if somebody was annoyed with her.

Harry Potter Wins Prizes

In 1997 Jo received a grant of £8,000 from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing the Harry Potter books.

In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone printing just 1,000 copies. Five hundred of these were distributed to libraries. These copies today are valued between £16,000 and £25,000.

Five months later the book won a Nestle Smarties Book Prize. In February 1998 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone won the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. Later the book also won the Children’s Book Award.

Harry Potter is Auctioned

In 1998, Scholastic Inc., won the rights to publish Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone after an auction held in USA. They paid $105,000.

Scholastic published the Philosopher’s Stone in the USA, changing the title to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published in July 1998.

The third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, won the Smarties Prize.

In January 2010, the Prisoner of Azkaban won the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year award.

UK and USA Sales

The fourth book of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released in both the UK and USA at the same time. The book broke sales records in both countries.

In the UK, 372,775 copies were sold on that first day. That almost equalled the number of Prisoner of Azkaban sales during its first year.

In the USA, three million copies were sold in the first 48 hours.

In the 2000 British Book Awards, Jo was named Author of the Year.

In 2006 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince received the Book of the Year prize at the British Book Awards.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book of the series was released on 21st July 2007. It broke sales of its predecessor, the Half-Blood Prince. 11 million copies were sold in the first day of release in the UK and USA.

Global Brand

Harry Potter has become a global brand. It is worth an estimated £7billion. The last four books of the Harry Potter series have set records as the fastest-selling books in history. The books are available in 65 languages.

Film Rights

Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to the first two novels for a seven figure sum back in 1998.

The final story, the Deathly Hallows has been filmed in two parts. The first part was released in November 2010 and the second part is to be released July 2011.

Coca-Cola won the bid to tie in their products to the film series. As part of the deal, they had to donate $18million to the American charity, Reading is Fundamental and other community charities.

Jo was an executive producer for the first film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, enabling her to have a high degree of creative control. Jo is also a producer for the final films of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The Rewards

In 2001 Jo purchased a nineteenth-century estate house on the banks of the River Tay. She also owns a home in Marchiston, Edinburgh and a £4.5million house in Kensington.

March 2010 when Forbes published its latest world billionaire’s list, they estimated JK Rowling’s net worth to be $1billion.

The Philanthropist
Jo supports many charities such as One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, Comic Relief and the Children’s High Level Group.

In 2000 Jo established the Volant Charitable Trust. The annual budget of £5.1million is to combat poverty and social inequality.

Jo says, “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”

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