Media: Harry Potter and a marketing whizz

School's out, the bookshops are ready. Watch marketing chiefs create a new superhero in children's literature. By Rachelle Thackray

FOR SOME children, watching the hours pass before the end of school next Thursday could be the most agonising wait of their lives. On that day, at exactly 3.45pm, they will be able to find out what Harry did next.

Harry Potter, that is - schoolboy wizard and star of the bestselling series by JK Rowling, whose previous two titles topped the charts and sold 750,000 copies between them. The third, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, goes on sale 15 minutes after school finishes on Thursday, at pounds 2 off its cover price of pounds 10.99. The offer runs until 5.30pm the same day, in an initiative designed to stimulate children's anticipation - while appeasing their parents' purses.

It's all part of a marketing campaign that breaks new ground in children's book publishing, one that the publishers have partly based on Disney's launch of The Lion King.

Rosamund de la Hey, head of children's sales at Bloomsbury, said a specific "happy hour" for the launch meant children would have no excuse for playing truant to get their hands on the book: "If we released it at 9am, we could get an awful lot of grief. We wanted a national event, and rather than having it just trickle down, we thought that if we focused on a time it would be fair to the kids. Hopefully there'll be queues of kids up and down the streets, waiting for their copies. It's very much a visual exercise."

Murder One, the crime bookshop in London's Charing Cross Road, used a similar strategy with the adult thriller Hannibal, selling copies of the embargoed book after midnight on its date of release.

Rowling's books have lent themselves to creative marketing, with Harry's adventures trailing a catalogue of delightfully evocative names - Dudley Dursley, Hogwart's School of Witchcraft, Ron Weasley and Nick the Nearly Headless Ghost - through familiar but often magically transformed settings.

The success of visuals and timing are just as crucial to this Harry Potter marketing campaign, acknowledged by booksellers as a one-off event in children's publishing. Last year it capitalised on Rowling's appeal to older readers by publishing the original title, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in an adult format.

For Harry Potter's latest launch this Thursday, many shops have hired children's entertainers and lookalikes, and "Spot Harry" competitions will be staged by local radio stations. Blackwell's bookshop in Oxford anticipates such keen demand that it will place a chained-up dummy copy of the book in its front window before the launch. Dillons in Birmingham has put a copy in a cage, under the watchful eye of the security guard. Other bookshops have used display boxes with a "Coming Soon" sticker to herald the book's arrival.

De la Hey, who initiated many of the marketing ideas, said: "We were talking about the way Disney marketed The Lion King. They always do a tantalising teaser, and that's never really been done for books in a big way. We wanted to emulate that. It's been prompted by booksellers who were phoning me in January saying: `When's the new one coming out?' That got us thinking about the timing."

George Grey, of Dillons marketing department, said Bloomsbury's campaign gave bookshops a fantastic opportunity: "The aim has been to generate an interest at one point in time, which enables us to do events, instead of it being diluted throughout the day. I can't imagine any bookshop wanting to be left out." He is working with Waterstone's on a joint promotion.

Humphrey Carpenter, creator of the children's comic wizard Mr Majeika, is one of Harry Potter's few detractors, likening Rowling's books to "fake antique cars".

"They're a competent pastiche of lots of children's books. The books aren't bad, but there doesn't seem to be anything excitingly new. But if the marketing initiative sells books, that's great: I'm in favour of any kind of marketing that can do that," he said.

Despite the jamboree of publicity planned for next Thursday, Joanne Rowling herself - recently named one of Britain's most creative minds by showbiz magazine Entertainment Weekly - is nowhere to be seen. She is not giving interviews or appearances as she is already working on the fourth book in her series of seven Harry Potter titles.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Senior Account Executive / Account Executive

£25 - 30k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are looking for an Accoun...

Account Manager / Sales Account Manager / Recruitment Account Manager

£25k Basic (DOE) – (£30k year 1 OTE) : Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright A...

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright R...

Web Designer / Digital Designer

£25 - 40k (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Web Desig...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments