Bloomsbury aims to cast Potter spell on TV tie-ins

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The Independent Online

Bloomsbury is turning to the lucrative market of books to tie in with television series in its latest attempt to expand beyond Harry Potter, as the boy wizard nears his final adventure.

The publisher will focus on food initially, with forthcoming books by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the television chef who once cooked with placenta, and Heston Blumenthal, the innovative culinary brain behind the Fat Duck restaurant.

Nigel Newton, the chairman, said he had high hopes for the new genre. "One just has to look at the best-seller lists," he said. The group has hired a new editor, Richard Atkinson, who specialises in food and television tie-in titles. It will publish a book to accompany a David Dimbleby BBC series about British buildings that airs next spring.

Mr Newton, who discovered Harry Potter, disclosed his plans as the company unveiled interim profits of £4.22m, up 3 per cent on the previous year, on sales up 6.5 per cent at £37.7m.

Bloomsbury has just one Harry Potter title left up its sleeve: the seventh and last instalment in the teenage wizard series is due out next year, although no date has yet been set for its publication. A paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released in June in adult and children's versions. Even after the final title is released, analysts see more life in the wizard franchise from re-released books to accompany the remaining films and special box sets of all seven titles.

In the six months to 30 June, the group spent £31.2m on new authors, 39 per cent more than during the previous period, whittling its cash pile down to £31m from £53.5m in the process. New authors for the autumn include William Boyd, whose Restless has been well reviewed. As well as signing up new writers, Mr Newton is on the hunt for acquisitions to expand the group's geographical reach and the range of subjects it covers.

It has pushed into the pre-school book market, publishing 16 titles to appeal to new readers in the past six months. Its biggest adult releases during the half-year included Joanna Trollope's Second Honeymoon, which shot to No 1 in the hardback best-seller list, and Douglas Coupland's JPod. Its non-fiction division has books from Gordon Brown and David Blunkett due out in the autumn.

The group's US arm slipped into a loss during the first half after it spent more on staff and new offices, but expects to make a full-year operating profit. It moved into mass-market publishing in the US for the first time in June. Its US sales rose 46 per cent to £6.79m, while its German division grew revenues by 24 per cent to £2.5m.

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