Harry Potter has become one of the most famous fictional characters across the world. The first book in the series of seven was published in 1997, and it soon developed a keen cult following of avid readers. The tale has since been made into eight films, plays and several spin-off stories — turning Ms Rowling into a multi-millionaire.
According to the BBC’s history programme, ‘Witness’, book publisher Barry Cunningham was the first to believe Ms Rowling’s tale of a young wizard had legs.
She had sent the manuscript to 12 different publishers beforehand, but they had all rejected it.
Mr Cunningham, of Bloomsbury, thought he was onto a winner with Ms Rowling’s tale when he picked it up in 1996, and saw his young daughter was immediately hooked.
He told the BBC: “I had [Rowling’s] home phone number, so I rang her.
“And like many authors, they don’t believe it’s a publisher ringing them, they think it’s a joke.
“So after I convinced her that I really was Barry Cunningham, that I was ringing from a publisher in London, she was lost for words, I think!
“I didn’t know how long the journey had been for her, I didn’t know how many publishers had turned her down, and agents indeed.
“Then I invited her down to London, and she said, ‘yes, yes, yes’.
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“I said, ‘do you mind a little bit of editorial?’ and she said, ‘no, no’, so it was a very happy start to our relationship.”
At their first meeting, Rowling revealed that she had always intended for Harry Potter to be a series, rather than a one-off.
Mr Cunningham at the time was rather surprised, as children’s books rarely extended into sequels at the time.
During the podcast, Mr Cunningham revealed how he gave Ms Rowling some “infamous advice” to “get a day job” as children’s books were difficult to profit from at the time of their conversation.
However, once Harry Potter was published, Ms Rowling said her life underwent a “sudden, seismic and wholly unexpected shift”.
In The Sunday Times’ 2020 Rich List, Ms Rowling ranked 178th.
She is believed to have a net worth of approximately £795million, and her book sales had exceeded 500million worldwide.