Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, David Gaughran, Disruptive Innovation, Ebooks, Self-Publishing » J.K. Rowling Really Is Self-Publishing: A Closer Look

J.K. Rowling Really Is Self-Publishing: A Closer Look

26 June 2011

David Gaughran is a regular visitor and comment contributor here. David has written a detailed analysis of what J.K. Rowling is doing with Pottermore and has pulled out several elements Passive Guy hasn’t seen elsewhere.


She will pay Sony & OverDrive a percentage. Sony will build the “interactive reading experience” and manage the website. A percentage is their fee. Same for OverDrive who will build and manage the e-shop.

Why Warner are getting a percentage is less obvious. My guess is that it’s because they own the rights to any game set in the Harry Potter world. Rowling has been careful to describe the “interactive reading experience” as anything other than a game.

However, the descriptions of how that will work, and the screenshots, leave little doubt that she could have been open to a legal challenge without coming to some agreement with Warner first. In addition, they owned the trademark to the word “Pottermore”.

. . . .

The e-books will be available from October. She is going to give a sneak preview to 1 million lucky readers who will be able to “shape the interactive reading experience”.

If you are a Harry Potter fan you will be bouncing off the walls just imagining what that could be. From now until the end of July, you can enter your email address to be in with a chance to be one of those lucky 1 million.

She will hoover up the email address of every single Harry Potter superfan in the world. Then she is going to sell directly to them.

October will see the launch of the interactive reading experience of the first book only. The second book will come in 2012. Do you see what is happening here?

The movies are at the end of their run, with the final one being released shortly. There are no more movies in the pipeline. There will also be no more Harry Potter books. There may be related stuff, such as an encyclopedia, but no new books in the series.

Now she will have a “new Harry Potter release” for her fans every year – a new interactive version for them to experience – only on her website. She is tying them in. It’s genius.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran



Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, David Gaughran, Disruptive Innovation, Ebooks, Self-Publishing

5 Comments to “J.K. Rowling Really Is Self-Publishing: A Closer Look”

  1. I’d do it a bit differently. I’d prefer to get richer faster, and I’d also not want to risk losing my audience with a year-long wait between titles. Websites provide instant gratification to to visitors, just as ereaders provide instant gratification to readers. So here’s what I’d do:

    Create levels of membership within the site. Members have to buy each title before being able to download the next one in the series — this is something that could be accomplished by issuing individual “keys” (number codes) with each book purchase after the first one. That code would be used at login when purchasing the next book, then with that next book comes a new code for the next book, etc. Every book in the series would be available from day one.

    Each book purchase would entitle the buyer to more and better site privileges.

    A year wait in an Internet world seems too long.

    I’d also be talking to an ereader maker about getting an exclusive Harry Potter ereader up for sale on the site, along with the usual accessories.

    • Patricia – Sounds like a good system for you.

      If Pottermore evolves into a real online game, there are lots of lucrative systems for extracting dollars from hard-core gamers.

  2. Warner owns the site and all imagery from the movies. As for the “gaming” aspect:


    “…with all-new illustrations and interactive “moments”. Users start out by choosing a magical username, and as they move through the chapters of the book they will be sorted into houses – choose wands, shop on Diagon Alley and experience life at Hogwarts, just like Harry. Points can be won for houses by casting spells and mixing potions, users will be able to comment and add their own drawings and content – and Rowling herself will be dropping in “as a normal punter” now and then…”

    Not a “game” exactly, but an things “Potter” social science experiment; with an enormous self publishing reward.

    • It’s not a game exactly, no. But there certainly are game-like aspects to it. And failing to come to an agreement with Warner in advance could have kept a lot of lawyers busy for the next few years arguing just this point.

    • SL and David – I agree this doesn’t sound like a real game.

      More like a virtual community with some perhaps-interesting features. A lot depends upon execution.

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