Shame on the editors for snubbing JK Rowling

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When JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first published – 25 years ago today – no one could have foreseen that the story of a bespectacled boy wizard would become a multimedia enterprise encompassing Hollywood films, sold-out plays in the West End, a lucrative studio touring business. and mountains of goods. Potter is a lot of money. And yet, Rowling’s greatest contribution to the Exchequer coffers may not have been fully recognized: her role in revitalizing the entire children’s publishing industry.

A quarter of a century ago, the children’s departments of publishing houses tended to occupy a Harry Potter-like position in Privet Drive – although they weren’t actually housed in the cupboard under the stairs. , they didn’t always feel like the most beloved member of the family. But when Harry first received the letter summoning him to Hogwarts School, it opened up not just his world, but an entire publishing industry.

“I think the children [publishing] was a bit in the doldrums,” says Tom Tivnan, editor of The Bookseller magazine. “The children’s market as a whole was moving around £190m a year in 2000 [when Pottermania was starting to reach epidemic proportions], but then, by the time the last Harry Potter book came out in 2007, it was moving around 320 million. So that’s a 70% growth over those seven years, while most of the rest of the [book] the market was falling.

“I think a lot of senior publishing executives had started to say, ‘We haven’t tapped as much as we could into what could be a very lucrative market.’ They expanded their departments, gave them more resources: everyone was looking for the next Harry Potter. And today – something people don’t realize – the children’s book market outsells the general fiction market. Every best-selling children’s author right now should thank Rowling – the platform created by Harry Potter has lifted everyone who has come after.

It’s not just sales that have gone up, but quality, says New Statesman magazine’s novelist and children’s book reviewer Amanda Craig. “I think in the 1990s there had been a general drop in ambition and expectations for kids, they were definitely being palmed off with substandard stuff.” By the middle of the decade, American horror imports such as “that awful Goosebumps series” and the Point Horror books were dominating the UK children’s book charts.

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