Spike in Harry Potter sales as Rowling changes course

JK Rowling at the launch of Pottermore. Picture: Carl Court/Getty
JK Rowling at the launch of Pottermore. Picture: Carl Court/Getty
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SALES of Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks have more than doubled over the last quarter after J.K Rowling’s digital publishing arm allowed the bestselling series to be sold by major online commerce sites, including Apple and Google.

Sales rose by more than 100% in the final three months of 2015 compared with the previous quarter. With the firm continuing to expand its reach in the ebooks market, allowing the Potter series to be sold by the likes of Blackwell’s and Barnes & Noble, it is confident that it is on track for a record year in 2016.

The buoyant performance represents a turnaround for Rowling’s company after a tumultuous year.

Its turnover fell from £31.8m to just £7m in 2015, resulting in losses of £6m. The company also cut jobs over the same period, with the average number of employees reduced from 40 to 30.

The sharp decline in revenue was largely down to the expiry of an affiliate agreement Pottermore had with Sony, worth around £24.5m in royalty fees in 2014.

Since then, the firm has embarked on a significant review of its strategy. Last October, it struck a deal with Apple, which released all seven Potter books on the iBooks platform, the first time they have been made available outside Rowling’s site. Since then, other retail partnerships have been struck with popular e-commerce sites.

According to Pottermore’s CEO, Susan Jurevics, the rewards of the new approach are beginning to emerge.

She said: “This is an exciting new chapter for Pottermore. We are thrilled by the success we have had in recent months as we have embarked upon our new strategy, bringing J.K Rowling’s much loved characters to a larger international audience.”

When Pottermore was launched by Rowling in 2012, it was hailed as a major change in the publishing landscape, allowing one of the world’s most popular authors to bypass the traditional model. Unlike print versions of the books, she retains all the digital rights to Harry Potter, allowing her to enjoy vastly increased profits by selling directly to her fans.

The Pottermore site has recently undergone a major redesign. As well as its retail outlet, it also carries regular news and features about the Harry Potter universe, alongside new and previously unreleased pieces by Rowling herself.

The company said that in the three months since it embarked on its “open commerce strategy” last autumn, there have been more Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks sold than in the previous 12 months combined.

It said that it now “forecasts all time record annual sales” of both products for this financial year.

Although further detail on the company’s recent sales performance was not available, it is understood is already planning a “significant” announcement in the coming weeks as part of its shifting strategy.

The company said that is preparing to “unveil a number of new commercial ventures” in the first half of 2016 as it continues to invest for long-term growth.

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