Joanna Rowling — author of the fantastically successful Harry Potter books, to date the best-selling booking series in history with over 400 million copies sold, who has a Forbes estimated personal fortune of $ 1 billion — now has another set of numbers to add to her success story.
Following 2007’s Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the seventh book in the series, and the 2011 release of the similarly named second installment of the last film, Rowling and her publishers announced in April 2012 her new adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, would be released on September 27.
In true Rowling record-breaking style, pre-orders for her new adult offering have topped international booksellers Waterstone’s yearly stats, punching in an impressive 1 million.
Nutshelled: The Casual Vacancy is about tensions inherent in the English class system that come bubbling to the surface in a fictional village Pagford.
Against a backdrop of a local council election, a battle of political-social interests — namely filling a vacancy left after a council member dies — ensues when moneyed villagers plot to vote in someone to help rid the village of a center that treats heroin addicts and unwelcome residents living in the nearby housing estate The Fields.
It’s a long way from the world of magic, Harry Potter, and Hermione, but industry observers are confident Rowling will not only top pre-order figures but also book charts. Philip Stone, charts editor at The Bookseller magazine, told the Associated Press:
“It’s one of the biggest releases of the 21st century. I think 99.9 percent of us are predicting it will go straight to number one.”
A spokesperson for Waterstone said:
“This is definitely the biggest launch of the year. Having said that, it is not in the league of Harry Potter, which is obviously a phenomenon that built up over a decade.”
Although industry observers aren’t expecting sales figures of The Casual Vacancy to rival the 25 million sold by Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (in its first 24 hours of release no less), time may undo that prediction. The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown’s follow-up novel The Lost Symbol holds the current record for highest hardback sales in a first week for an adult novel with 550,000 sold.
Confessing she was more than a little apprehensive at how readers and critics would respond to her first post Harry Potter adult effort, Rowling told the New Yorker she changed her mind about publishing The Casual Vacancy anonymously:
“In the final analysis,” said Rowling.” I thought, ‘Get over yourself, just do it.’”
As if to underline her transition into choppier, adult waters, she adds:
“I had a lot of real-world material in me, believe you me. The thing about fantasy—there are certain things you just don’t do in fantasy. You don’t have sex near unicorns. It’s an ironclad rule. It’s tacky.”
No-one ever said that in Hogwarts.