On June 26, 1997 J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury Press released the first of the seven books in the Harry Potter series in the United Kingdom, with a first run of just 500 copies. The starving author of the children’s book had received a measly $4,000 advance, but turned into an instant success in the UK.
Since the first publication of the series over 17 years ago, the seven Potter books have sold nearly 500 million copies while the franchise as a whole has made almost 25 billion dollars. Throughout this time Rowling has gone from utter obscurity to a household name around the world, she compared the transition to that of the Beatles during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010.
Beatle-like is the perfect way to describe what the author went through, from living hand to mouth, to becoming the first billionaire author the world has ever seen, going from “hit and miss” book signings on her first United States book tour to drawing thousands upon thousands of people to every public appearance she made.
However, the changes that the Potter series has brought have not been limited to the lives of J.K. Rowling and her family, but they have also had a great impact across the globe. As the best selling book series of all time the books have helped lower the percentage of the population that is illiterate from just under 25% in 1990, to an expected 15% by the start of 2015. Her impact on literacy has been well noted, winning her numerous awards including British Book of the year for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
These days Rowling keeps busy with her family, including three children, as well as more writing. She has since used the pen name Robert Galbraith to publish The Silkworm in 2013, as well as publishing The Casual Vacancy in 2012, neither of them having the outlandish success of the Potter books. Rowling still works on the Potter series from time to time, the last publication, a short chapter in which Rowling filled readers in on the adult lives of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, was published on her website pottermore.com and generated so much traffic to the website that the servers crashed for a number of hours.
Still, Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling have created a parallel universe in which magic replaces the need for technology, where people rely more on themselves than the help of others, and where anything is possible with the correct combination of knowledge, confidence, and conviction.