This is is the second installment in the Female entrepreneurs blog series. Previously we looked at Jacqueline Gold, the woman most famous for bringing sex to the high street. This time we are going to be looking at J K Rowling. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn't read one of her books, watched one of the film adaptations or at least heard of the Harry Potter phenomenon. In this piece you will read about her journey and how she got started. This may seem like a bit of an obvious choice, but her story really is interesting. It’s a real life tale of rags to riches, and with the start of a new year upon us her inspiring story makes for perfect timing!
J K Rowling was born in the sixties in Glouctershire to a father who was a war veteran. She began writing as a small child and in her teens began to further her passion for writing by immersing herself in all the classic books and writers. She then went on to study at Exceter University.
In 1990 while on a train that was delayed for 4 hours, she came up with the concept for Harry Potter and started writing the first novel. Not long after starting the novel sadly her mother passed away at the young age of 45 from multiple sclerosis. This influenced the tone and depth the book took in places.
To try and deal with life at that difficult time, she took up a English teaching position in Porto, Portugal. This is where she met and married her first husband, Jorge Arantes, a TV journalist and had her first daughter Jessica. The marriage to Jorge didn't work out and they separated. At the time It didn’t seem like she was having very much luck in life, so she moved back to Edinburgh.
Trying to write a book and take care of her daughter as a single mother on a very basic benefits wasn't easy. She'd take her daughter for a walk in a stroller and when her daughter would fall asleep, she'd nip into a café and spend more time writing the novel. When she finally finished the manuscript in 1995, she sent the first three chapters to an agent but the first agent just sent it right back. The second agent she sent it to agreed to take it on and asked to see the rest of the manuscript. Even then, it took almost a year to find a publisher willing to publish it, and they had 12 other publishers saying 'No thanks' to publishing the first Harry Potter novel. I bet most of them are kicking themselves now!
Finally a small London publisher, Bloomsbury, agreed to publish JK Rowling's book, after the chairman’s daughter read it and couldn't get enough. They gave her an £1500 advance but advised her to keep teaching as 'children's books didn't pay very well'.
The first print run only had a 1000 books of which 500 were sent to libraries. But the book started winning awards and the craze started to begin.. After a while publishing rights in the US were picked up by Scholastic Press for £100,000, and when she heard the news she claims she nearly fainted!
In 1998, Warner Bros bought the movie rights to the franchise for an undisclosed 7 figure sum. Rowling insisted she still had a big say in the content of the films, including that it had to be shot in Britain and that all the actors had to be British. Coca-Cola won the bid for in-film product placement after agreeing to donate $18 million to the Reading is Fundamental charity, of which JK Rowling was a fan.
The JK Rowling story is an inspiring one as she kept believing in her dreams even through the hard times, something that we can all struggle with on ocaasion. Even after having many publishers turn her book down for publishing, she still perservered. Even more inspiringly, now that she is famous and wealthy, she insists on giving back to being involved with charitable work. Her mothers death from multiple sclerosis was an obvious driving force behind her charitable donations. She also chairs the One Parent Families charity after her experience as a single mum.
Not only is her story a massive inspiration, but so is she! So maybe this is the year where you follow that dream, or chase a special goal. Have you always wanted to write a novel? Personally I keep saying I am going to write a short film script so this is the year that I will finally do it.
Whatever your plan is, good luck! Work hard, stick at it and believe in yourself, they seem to be the key elements to success. Most of the most successful people I look at have always had knock backs and obstacles that they have had to work around. Donald Trump has apparently been bankrupt over 4 times!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.” JK Rowling
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