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To Meet Demand, 'Harry Potter' Sequel Moved Up

April 07, 1999|PAUL D. COLFORD | NEWSDAY

Of the 16 children's hardcovers that sold more than 300,000 copies last year, only three did not spring from Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues," PBS' "Teletubbies," Disney's animated film "Mulan" or some other visual fare, according to Publishers Weekly.

So it's a relief to note that one of the hottest children's books around, J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," started out as a book, and McDonald's offers no tie-ins.

"Harry Potter," the colorful tale of an 11-year-old boy who leaves his cruel aunt and uncle to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was introduced two years ago in Britain by Bloomsbury Publishing, and became the top seller among adults as well as children. The rare crossover hit also won major literary awards for Rowling, a single parent who had spent time on public assistance before she found a publisher.

Now, Scholastic Inc. has moved up--from September to June 2--the planned release of the sequel, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," which finds the youngster in his second year at Hogwarts School. The earlier date is part of Scholastic's attempt to stem the further loss of sales among the many American readers so hungry for the sequel they've been ordering the British edition from the British subsidiary of Amazon.com, the online bookseller.

In 1997, Arthur A. Levine, who has his own imprint at Scholastic Press, bought the North American rights to the first book for $105,000--a pittance compared with advances for promising novels and celebrity memoirs, but a fortune for a children's book by a first-time author. But Scholastic certainly appears to be recouping that advance--and then some--with 350,000 copies in print (and counting).

To avoid losing future business to online sources, Scholastic will seek to protect its North American interests by publishing the "Harry Potter" books closer to, or in concert with, their release in Britain, said Barbara A. Marcus, Scholastic Inc.'s executive vice president for children's publishing. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," the third in what Rowling sees as a seven-book series, will be published in October.

Paul Colford's e-mail address is paul.colford@newsday.com

For More Reviews, Read Book Review

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