Why Pottermore Makes Perfect Sense (And Is Brilliant Business)

by Ginger on June 23, 2011

in Inside Book Publishing, The 9-5

If you’re even a little bit of a Harry Potter fan, or even a little bit tuned into pop culture news, you know that today J.K. Rowling announced Pottermore, after a week or so of intrigue and mystery around the web. It appears that the full nature of Pottermore will remain a secret until the launch date in October, but the one thing we know for sure is that it will be the exclusive retailer for digital audio books and for the first time, digital ebooks.

There was a lot of speculation in the last week of what Pottermore would be, with most online sources I found guessing that it was going to be an online game of some kind. So today’s announcement has, in some ways, disappointed some of those people. I, on the other hand, had a feeling that this was what we’d be seeing.

RambleGinger predicts Pottermore ebook salesThere are a few reasons why I thought this. For one, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to ebooks lately, so I knew that there were rumors of Rowling trying to figure out how to handle ebooks for the series. For another, I read a quote of Rowling where she talked about how much she enjoys the convenience of ebooks at times.  And finally, after reading a post on GalleyCat about the rumors, I was led to a Facebook page that claimed to have leaked screenshots–and one of those screenshots held the words “Buy now” next to blurred out images of the 7 book covers with an ereader beneath it.

But mostly, I figured that Rowling is one hell of a smart business woman, and she wouldn’t possibly be ignoring ebooks–she just had to find the way to do it that worked for her.

I understand why people wanted Pottermore to be a game or something more interactive like that (though I do think there will be more interactivity and fan & community based pieces to Pottermore than just a store). But I think for a minute a lot of people forgot that Rowling is a lover of words, an author, a writer–not a game maker. That’s not to say that a game won’t someday be a part of this world, but it makes perfect sense to me that Pottermore will at least START with the books.

Additionally, Rowling has said that she has additional content that will be available to expand the world of Harry Potter. My guess is that she will be releasing books (or chapters) that enhance the story that already exists–a Silmarillion for the Harry Potter world perhaps? Or even delving further into some of the stories hinted at in the books? I think it’s brilliant. You know as a writer that she created more than what made it into the final books–that’s what editing is for–and that fans (myself included) will lap that stuff up.

Add in to all this the fact that this is a BRILLIANT business move. She’s taken full control over the digital sales of her books. Which, in point blank terms, means she is going to reap all the financial rewards, without sharing those revenues with a publisher or a retailer. Right now, if an ebook is sold the “traditional” way, the author ends up with the least amount of money out of everyone: the retailer takes somewhere around 30% of the sale. Of the remaining 70%, an author is lucky to get 25% (rates vary, depending on the publisher, the author, and the contract. But this is pretty standard for the big publishing houses). So that means for a $20 book an author might get $3.50, if other overhead costs aren’t taken out first (this is a really, really, REALLY rough version of the economics. It actually includes a lot of other pieces. This is for illustration purposes only). What Rowling has done? Means that she will get 100% of the profit. Yes, she will have to pay the overhead costs, but I guarantee she’ll sell enough to pay her overhead–probably on the first day. She’s taken the middle men (publishers and retailers) out of the equation, going straight from her hands to yours. It’s brilliant business.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what Pottermore actually looks like come October. And you can bet that I’ll be lined up to buy those ebooks as soon as they’re available. I mean, being able to carry all 4,178 pages around at once? Sign me up.

Lisa June 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

So excited about the ebooks. The entire Harry Potter series on my phone? HELL YES.

I am very curious to see how they are priced and how it affects the ebook market. I love ebooks but often find them a bit expensive.

hp_gr8est_fan June 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

hey,, u r absoltely correct when it comes to JK ROWLING,,,, when i saw the video that is on pottermore.com rite now, i thought the same i.e. she is very very smart to do this kind of thing which is gud as i am gr8 hp fan… && she showed it in a way that a fan or even a non-fan of hp would be delighted to use the website….
& i cant even wait till october…….. its so long & she is making us restless day by day & nite by nite……….. well its obvious that not a million but a billion people r thinking the same way that i am rite now……… heads off to JK ROWLING for being so intelligent……. && i dont know who u r but if u can contact to JK ROWLING anyway i would love if she answers one question of mine,, “WHO IS HP BASED ON ?”………….!! bye bye….!! & oh my name is neelu & i am frm india………!!

Lizzie June 24, 2011 at 5:25 am

I think you make an excellent point when you say that JK Rowling is an author, and not a game maker. A lot of people forgot this, I think. It’d be great to have something to play with on Pottermore, but I think it’s going to complement the e-books rather than overshadow it 🙂

Kim June 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I’m pretty excited about this. I read the Harry Potter series late, like 2 years ago late, so it’s possible my excitement is because the story & the characters are still so fresh for me. Regardless, major excitement on my end!

Thanks for sharing!


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