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A challenge to Harry Potter?

30 December 2013

The latest self-publishing success story comes from the most unlikely place - France. Or perhaps it is not so surprising, since the French publishing world is known for its rigidity and for its success at fighting off change of any kind, leaving the literary establishment firmly in charge. But it is from this unpromising source that the latest publishing sensation has come, with the authors being two Strasbourg librarians and their girl magician heroine bearing a distinct relationship to Harry Potter. J K Rowling has been so phenomenally successful that all attempts to copy her have failed, but that these two authors have successfully come up with a female Potter magician who is far tougher than the original and offers something different.

Anne Pichota, who comes from Ukraine, and her co-author Cendrine Wolf met in 2007 and discovered their shared longing to write for children. They look up to J K Rowling. Pichota says that ‘Harry Potter gave us courage. J K Rowling is a great role model.'

Together they created a teenage girl heroine who is a great magician and named her Oksa Pollock. They wrote a book about her adventures. But no-one was interested, so they decided to self-publish and promote their book themselves. After two years they had sold 15,000 copies, building their success on word of mouth and their own website. After three years of hard work and six books, the publishing establishment woke up to what was going on and the book was sold to French publisher XO Editions - and then to 27 publishers around the world. Sales of the series now top 1.5 million worldwide.

The series works because the books offer strong storytelling and an appealing heroine. The Bookseller said: ‘Filled with fantastical creatures, evil magic and epic battles between good and evil, The Last Hope offers an adventure that rivals the Harry Potter books in scope.'
In the UK the book will appear in paperback from Pushkin Press in February, with a new book, Oksa Pollock: The Forest of Lost Souls. In the UK the books are up against the strong UK children's publishing world, where the flourishing international English language publishing business means that less than 3% of books published in the UK are translated from other languages.

But what of the US? Presumably that is still to come, though probably not far behind.

The UK site of Oksa Pollock