Posted on April 16, 2012
I think J.K. Rowling has to be one of the smartest, most lucrative writers ever. With just a few moves within the past couple weeks, I have to make the motion to crown her Queen and Empress of the writing community. Let me make my case before anyone seconds the motion.
Never has a book franchise touched every facet of the consumer community like Rowling’s Harry Potter series. With just seven books, she managed to land the lucrative film deal, which many writers feel is the holy grail of writing. Her book releases became epic, becoming huge worldwide events (I should know – I attended the second largest event in Silver Springs, MD for the final book). The movies became one of the largest pre-sale events on the internet, and the movies helped spawn an even bigger market for book and movie-related merchandise (I have eaten she strange flavored Bertie Bott’s beans). Needless to say, other franchises like Twilight and Hunger Games check to make sure they are following the Rowling formula.
And then, Rowling took a step sideways. She announced her new website, Pottermore, which is an online community that went into beta in August 2011 and is now up and running live. With Pottermore, two major leaps into the future of writing came into fruition. One, Rowling becomes the first author to offer her books electronically ONLY through her Pottermore website. While the electronic files will work with your Kindle or Nook, the files themselves come strictly from her website. With that move, she may change how e-books are purchased, although it’s too early to tell whether it will be for good or evil. Currently, the individual books are priced at $7.99 for books 1-3, then price at $9.99 for the last four, or you can purchase the whole set for $57.54. You can also purchase the audiobooks as well from Pottermore.
But that’s not all for Pottermore. You can sign up for an account where you will get assigned an alias. Once you get the confirmation email, you can sign in and start interacting. Right now, only book one The Philosopher’s Stone is available for play. Once in, you follow Harry on his journey. But here’s the brilliant part. Unlike other online role playing games, the object of play is not to just walk around with no purpose. You are guided through scenes with additional information to read with each scene. So instead of just playing and finding objects (which you do have to do to an extent), you need to read.
Rowling has even included some never-before-read content that once you click on a hidden icon you can unlock these new pieces of information. One of my favorites so far is the background to Professor McGonagall. You, of course, go through a sorting ceremony where after you answer some questions you are placed in a house (I’m in Ravenclaw). You can start earning points for your house by finding objects, and later becoming proficient in brewing potions or casting spells and participating in Wizard’s Duels. But that’s not the brilliance of the game. It’s a game that encourages reading, and gives you carrots all the way through to unlock new things to read. It’s even suggested that you could buy the e-books and read along while playing. I’m not sure any other author has a book series that can do anything close to what Rowling has now accomplished.
Pottermore offers a never-ending extension of Harry Potter’s world where you can become a classmate of Harry’s forever. So far, other than the e-books and audiobooks, I don’t see if this will be revenue-making for Rowling or the website partner Sony. However, Rowling gets to continuously update information as well as offer insights into how she wrote the series. For us writers, there are some fascinating tidbits that show she’s just as crazy as all of us in her plans.
And if that weren’t enough, Rowling will be using some of the background information found in Pottermore combined with other new information to create an ultimate Harry Potter encyclopedia. According to an article for Entertainment Weekly, she will be donating any of the proceeds to charity.
Rowling isn’t done writing. She’s also writing an adult book called The Casual Vacancy. Amazon gives the description on their website, and already prices it for Kindle at $19.99 (an alarming price). It is definitely stepping away from anything magical, but I’ll bet she’s hoping her sales will stay levitated.
So after all of this, does anyone want to dispute my claim to crown Rowling Queen and Empress?