Delays are the worst. Whether it’s an airport, a train station or a school bus, there are probably a hundred other places people would rather be than sitting and waiting for transportation. When 25 year-old Joanne Rowling was waiting for four hours for her delayed train to move from Manchester to London, her thoughts drifted toward the life of a fictional little boy – a boy she came to name Harry Potter.
She took her time constructing the first story of Harry’s life – six years to be exact. When she was out of money to pay the gas bills, Rowling decided it was “back-against-the-wall time” and she needed to finish the manuscript. Rowling pitched her story of the young wizard to nine different publishers before London’s Blumsbury Publishing agreed to sign her as a client but told her she was most likely not to make any money selling these children’s books.
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was published on June 30, 1997 in London. It remained in the UK for a year until Scholastic Corporation published it in the United States under the name “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” By August of 1999 it had reached the New York Times bestseller list and stayed near the top for much of 1999 and 2000.
With many young followers hungry for more of Harry, Rowling started working on her second book, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” A third and fourth were soon to follow. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was the top-selling book of 2000 with over seven million hardcover books sold.
Warner Brothers caught on to the rise to fame and asked for the rights to adapt Rowling’s story into a series of films. By November 2002, when the second Harry Potter movie had been released, Rowling’s franchise of books had sold over 175 million copies and had been printed in over 200 languages. They are the fastest-selling novels of all time.
Her fifth book was published on June 21, 2003. Sitting close to 900 pages, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was her longest book. The first order of printing in the United States was 8.5 million copies – a record in American publishing.
Needless to say, what started with a little story about a young wizard has grown into a huge success with crazed fans and followers all over the world. Harry has given Rowling the privilege of being the first author billionaire with a net worth of $817 million.
The next time you’re delayed in an airport or train station, you might not want to fall asleep.