Retailers have welcomed the "huge news" J K Rowling is to publish her first novel for adults with Little, Brown, with one predicting it will top print and e-book charts. However, an independent bookseller voiced concerns that larger chains and supermarkets may slash its price in order to claim the greatest market share, but added the book's release "can only be a good thing for bookselling".
Rowling tweeted this morning that the book would be out "later this year" and that it was "very different to Harry, although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much".
Rival publishers privately expressed shock that they had not been offered the book. Rowling's agent Neil Blair told The Bookseller: "We didn't auction. J K Rowling's choice wasn't about money but rather led by a desire to choose creatively how to pursue the next stage of her career with a new genre and new direction." Hachette refused to comment on whether an advance had been paid.
Literary agent Paul Moreton, partner at the Bell Lomax Moreton Agency, said Rowling was a "massive brand in her own right", aside from Harry Potter, suggesting her decision to move from Bloomsbury, the publisher of her Harry Potter books, to Little, Brown for the new title may not represent "dissatisfaction [with Bloomsbury]" but more an "opportunity to start from scratch". Bloomsbury stressed it was "proud to be J K Rowling's longstanding children's book publisher", adding: "The relationship between Jo Rowling and Bloomsbury remains stronger than ever." Bloomsbury will publish illustrated editions of the seven Harry Potter books from 2013 onwards.
Jonathan Ruppin, Foyles web editor, said: “It is clearly huge news, it is the talk of the office already. It will be the biggest selling book of that time, I am sure other publishers will move their books out of schedules to make room for it.
"[Rowling] has shown herself to be a gifted storyteller across seven books, keeping readers sustained up until [Harry Potter and the] Deathly Hallows, so she will do it again with adult fiction I can imagine. I am sure it will be at the top of our bestseller and e-book chart.”
Waterstones spokesman Jon Howells said: “This is news that everybody has been excited about for years and the fact that there is now light at the end of this tunnel is extremely exciting for everyone.
“I imagine it is probably quite daunting for J K Rowling to go back into writing because there has been such a lot of pressure on her and such a lot of focus on her from readers, media and critics who scrutinise what she does that in a way they wouldn’t do for any other writer. It is probably unfair pressure as well."
He added: "Harry Potter was Harry Potter and this is obviously going to be something different, but she has a ready audience of readers, who when they started reading Harry Potter in 1997 were kids and are now adults, so the recognition of her name amongst adults is so massive that one would expect this to be a very exciting book to publish, sell and read.”
Simon Key, co-owner of indie bookseller The Big Green Bookshop, said: “It can’t do anything but good really in terms of raising the profile of books. I am sure W H Smith, Asda and Sainsbury’s will try to sell it at 2p just they can be the biggest selling retailer of their book . . . but it is going to be a big thing, people will open at midnight in an attempt to recapture some of that Harry Potter magic. It can only be a good thing for bookselling. I will be quite interested to see how she writes for adults.”
Meanwhile, there has been widespread media reaction, with articles across the daily newspapers including the Guardian, Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror.
The Independent described Rowling as turning "her back on Bloomsbury", and described the relationship between Bloomsbury and Rowling as having been occasionally "tempestuous". An accompanying comment piece by Boyd Tonkin said "many giants of children's writing don't migrate readily between readers of different ages".
Tonkin also suggested Rowling should "look close to her Edinburgh home" for inspiration.
An article written by Lindesay Irvine in the Guardian said: "booksellers up and down the country will be rejoicing", and anticipated that "grateful booksellers can presume more than one volume is on the way". The Times also said the book was "guaranteed to be a bestseller", and reported a tweet by Scottish author Ian Rankin, which said: "Wouldn't it be funny if J K Rowling's first novel for adults turned out to be a crime story set in Edinburgh? My word yes." The Daily Mirror also picked up on the crime story rumours.
The Daily Telegraph called the novel "one of the most anticipated literary launches in years", and included a comment from Blair calling it "exciting news".
The Daily Mail reported industry insiders estimating the book deal as being worth more than £5m, and highlighted the debate on Twitter around the news, with a fan saying: "I have only just heard about plans for a new book and I am already gripped".