Admit It: You Read Harry Potter

Admit it: You read Harry Potter


And even if you didn’t, you’ve been unable to escape the billboards, backpacks, and advertising the mega-grossing films have spawned. Maybe, under cover of night, you even purchased your very own vibrating broom

Don’t worry. Your secret is safe.

I’m not here to judge you, only to point out that this billion-dollar media juggernaut began as a book. For kids.

It started when a little-known British book by a little-known British author landed on a desk at Scholastic, Inc. Bloomsbury had paid JK Rowling a scant £2500 advance, but the Scholastic editor who read this book in 1997, decided to acquire the American rights for a shocking six figures, and that little-known book became a series. To date, just the final book in that series has sold 44 million copies.

To me, the most interesting part of this story are the publishing professionals on both sides of the Atlantic who read this very same manuscript about a young wizard who comes of age at the center of a battle for the very soul of mankind...and turned it down.

How do you spot genius? What is the thought process that goes into creating the Next Big Thing? How do you know that this manuscript about vampires is the book about vampires? Or decide what comes after dystopian tales about killer unicorns and the virgins who hunt them? Or fall in love with a lesbian Cinderella? Or figure out that a picture book about a pigeon masquerading as a transit employee will be loved by kids, lauded by librarians and purchased by parents?

And—psst!—don’t look now, but aren’t books going the way of the compact disc?

Welcome to Pub Crawl, Big Think’s new blog about publishing for young readers. Here, we’ll round up the experts who create books for ages 0-20, and talk to them about what success looks like (is it always huge sales and hit movies?), and explore the inspiration that guides their day-to-day decisions.

We'll ask some hard questions about what the business of books will look like next year, and in 5 years. We'll wonder aloud if the picture book is dead, or about to be reinvented. We’ll discuss whether all young adult (YA) books are crappy, or if some actually qualify as literature. We’ll figure out why some books are pink, and others are black, and whether there are enough good stories for teenagers who don't identify with falling in love with a werewolf.

We’ll also talk to authors, illustrators, agents, librarians, readers, and anyone else making news—or waves—in the world of literature intended for young readers, but (admit it) read by everyone.

Let me know what you’re curious about, or who you’d like to hear from. I do love taking requests. I promise not to tell anyone you asked.

Or say a word about the broom.

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