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Here comes the big bonanza

27 June 2005

As the bookselling world gears up for the big bonanza surrounding the publication of the sixth book in the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, there seems to be more and more focus on children’s books. Its publisher Bloomsbury has forecast a £20 million pre-tax profit and is even the subject of nervous city reports because of its dependence on the Potter books.

A massive number of bookshops will be opening for midnight sales of the book on 15th/16th July. Borders will open all 32 stores and has even set up a ‘Wizards Workshop’ designed to brush up employees’ knowledge of the Harry Potter books. There is expected to be frenzied price-cutting from the official published price of £16, with many bookshops selling at £12.99. The chains looks like discounting to £9.99 and the supermarket chain Asda is offering £8.95 on pre-orders. There’s also been persistent criticism of the savage discounting ‘giving away’ the profit on the biggest sure-fire bestseller of the year.

This immense wave of excitement on publication of the new Harry Potter title will be repeated across the world, but J K Rowling is far from being the only children’s author who can stir up such passionate loyalty. Jacqueline Wilson, who has recently taken on the role of Children’s Laureate in the UK, has a huge fan following and is currently the most successful author in Britain in terms of overall number of books sold (News Review 37 12 April 2004 Unofficial Laureate of the Sleepover Generation).

Roald Dahl, thought by many adults to be a bad influence on the young, was adored by his legions of child fans. At the recent opening of the Roald Dahl Museum, complete with chocolate doors, Cherie Blair said that his legacy had been to get children involved in reading and writing. This dedication to their child readers marks out many children’s authors, including all the children’s laureates (News Review 14 February Boom in children's books and News Review 21 February Children's writers hit the headlines).

We have recently reported on developments in the children’s book world. The liveliness of the children’s market has been reflected in other initiatives, such as the launch of the Waterstone’s/Faber competition, The Wow Factor, reported on this week.

"There's never been a better time to be a children's writer," says George Grey, Head Children's Buyer at Waterstone's. "The country's top three best selling fiction authors are all children's writers and UK leads the world in children's fiction. THE WOW FACTOR is giving new writers a unique chance to get the financial and marketing support needed to become a successful children's author."