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All stories relating to J.K. Rowling

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J.K. Rowling non-disclosure agreement gets meta

Anyone who works with books will be familiar with the increasingly ubiquitous non-disclosure agreement prohibiting media from divulging the contents of upcoming titles prior to publication day. Recently, the contents of Salman Rushdie’s new memoir, Joseph Anton, were kept under tight embargo, presumably because any leak of the breaking news that Rushdie was the subject of a fatwa that sent him into hiding for close to a decade would adversely affect the volume’s sales.

Arguably no author’s books have been embargoed more frequently or vigorously than J.K. Rowling’s, a trend that continues with her first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, due in bookstores on Sept. 27.

But in what Quillblog believes to be a first, it appears the non-disclosure agreement some U.K. media were asked to sign itself contained a non-disclosure agreement.

From The Independent:

The arrival of The Casual Vacancy has been more remarkable for showing the ruthless, bullying side of publishing that has become all too common. And, given Rowling’s history of litigation, one can only imagine she has done little to discourage it. My colleague, Katy Guest, our literary editor, was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before her reviewer could be “hand-delivered” a copy of the book. Embargoes are normal, but within the legalese, Guest found a clause stating that even the existence of the agreement could not be mentioned. A sort of publishing superinjunction.

From a business perspective, it is perhaps arguable that a pre-publication embargo is useful for such a hotly anticipated book, especially given that the parcelling out of every last detail of this novel – from its title to its cover design – has been minutely stage-managed. But the injunction not to mention the injunction seems like an instance of leaping head-first down the rabbit hole.

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Book links roundup: Emily Schultz on The Blondes, Ontario illustrator featured on Batman comic cover, and more

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Book links roundup: Kobo to launch in Japan, Rotimi Babatunde wins Caine Prize for African writing, and more

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Stephenie Meyer and David McKee among most frequently challenged authors, librarians say

Racism, insults, and support for “wealth inequality” are among the most common complaints against children’s books at U.K. libraries, according to an article in the Telegraph. Books featuring classic characters such as Babar and Tintin were accused of being racist, but the largest number of complaints were reserved for books by author David McKee.

Criticism centred on three books[:] Tusk Tusk, about a dispute between black and grey elephants, which parents said was racist; Denver, which is accused of supporting wealth inequality, because the title character is far richer than the others; and Two Monsters, which features two bickering characters.

Readers objected to the aggressive language of their insults, which include “stupid peabrain,” “twit,” “dumbo,” and “ignoramus.”

At the risk of rousing parental ire, Quillblog would like to suggest that anyone who considers “stupid peabrain” and “twit” egregiously aggressive probably hasn’t spent much time in a schoolyard lately.

Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Alison Flood reports that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series has achieved a dubious milestone, scoring fifth on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books:

This is the first time the Mormon author’s novels have appeared in the line-up – J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are both veterans of the list – with complaints about both their level of sexual explicitness and their “religious viewpoint.”

“It is the books which are read frequently which are frequently challenged – with all the hype around Twilight and the movies and the celebrities I was actually surprised Meyer’s books weren’t higher,” said Angela Maycock at the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom. Vampire books in general accumulated a host of complaints last year, Maycock said, with “the idea of vampires and other supernatural entities in opposition to certain religious viewpoints.” J.K. Rowling doesn’t make it into this year’s list but her Harry Potter books were the most challenged of the last decade, the ALA said today, with complaints over their “satanism” and “anti-family themes.”


J.K. Rowling reveals title, plot details of new novel

Photo by Andrew Montgomery © Wall to Wall Media Ltd.

J.K. Rowling has revealed plot details for her first novel for adults, and as promised it looks to be very different from the Harry Potter series. The book also has a title: The Casual Vacancy.

The novel is being published worldwide on Sept. 27. In a press release, the book’s Canadian and U.S. publisher, Little, Brown and Company, provides the details:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

In addition to the plot details, Little, Brown revealed how much the book will cost, which may also come as a surprise to readers: the hardcover version of the 480-page book will cost $39.99, while the list price for the ebook edition is $19.99.

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J.K. Rowling signs deal for an adult novel; Twitter goes hog wild

Five years after finishing life at Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling is back with a new publisher and a book deal for her first adult novel. Little, Brown will publish the untitled novel in the U.S. and in the U.K., and Hachette Book Group Canada will handle Canadian sales and marketing.

Rowling’s best-selling Harry Potter series, published by Bloomsbury in the U.K. and Scholastic in the U.S., was initially published in Canada by Raincoast Books, which enjoyed record-breaking sales until 2010. Canadian editions are now available through Penguin Canada.

In a statement Rowling said:

Although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world. The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.

Although the release date and details for the new book are unknown, Rowling, who does not have a social media presence, is trending worldwide on Twitter. Here are a few entertaining tweets out of the thousands already posted:

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J.K. Rowling to sell Harry Potter e-books directly through interactive fan site

In the lead-up to today’s much anticipated announcement from J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter fans had been told not to expect a new novel in the series, but that didn’t stop fevered speculation otherwise. While those still holding out hope for an eighth Harry Potter instalment may have been disappointed by today’s revelation, Rowling’s plans to launch a website containing troves of previously unpublished material are sure to have others salivating.

Most fans will have to wait until October 1 to access Pottermore, an interactive website containing 18,000 words of new material delving into the minutiae of the Harry Potter universe, but the first million users who register on July 31 – Harry Potter’s birthday – are being promised early access. At a press conference this morning in London, Rowling said the website will also include social media elements, allowing users to interact with each other. As quoted in the Guardian:

“I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new generation,” Rowling revealed. “I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have. Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment. Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.”

The publishing world will no doubt closely monitor Rowling’s success in adapting the Harry Potter universe to the largely untested (save for certain examples) medium of the Web. Even more significant is the decision to begin selling e-books of the novels, which so far exist only in print, directly through the website (with technical support by e-book vendor OverDrive), bypassing established retailers. The digital editions will appear in ePub (meaning they will be compatible with all e-readers), with Rowling’s U.K. and U.S. publishers – Bloomsbury and Scholastic, respectively – receiving a cut. From the Guardian:

“It means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience,” said Rowling, of her decision to go it alone. “[I am] lucky to have the resources to do it myself and am therefore able to do it right. It’s a fantastic and unique experience which I could afford in every sense. There was really no other way to do it.”

Until recently Rowling had been reluctant to release the Potter novels as e-books, but she said that after downloading and reading an e-book for the first time she had a change of heart.

“It is my view that you can’t hold back progress. E-books are here to stay. Personally I love print and paper [but] very very recently for the first time I downloaded an e-book and it is miraculous, for travel and for children. So I feel great about taking Harry potter into this new medium,” Rowling said.

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Harry Potter, Dan Brown dominate U.K. list of best-selling books

The stereotype has it that England is filled with recondite literati ensconced in mahogany-lined libraries reading leather-bound volumes of Romantic poetry and plump Victorian novels. This as compared to the beer-swilling philistines in America, gorging themselves on a diet of Dan Brown and Tom Clancy (if they read at all). Well, newly released data indicates that this conception is flawed. Readers in the U.K., it would seem, have every bit as much devotion to Dan Brown as their counterparts across the Atlantic.

As noted in the Guardian over the weekend, Brown took the number one spot on Neilsen Bookscan’s list of the U.K.’s best-selling books released since the company began collecting data in 1998. According to the service, which tracks 90 per cent of book purchases in the U.K., The Da Vinci Code moved 4,522,025 units between 1998 and 2010, which accounted for a staggering £22,857,837.53 in revenue. Angels and Demons, Brown’s prequel to The Da Vinci Code, took the fourth spot on the list, with 3,096,850 units sold, accounting for sales of £15,537,324.84.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the top 10 is devoted to Harry Potter: all seven of J.K. Rowling’s books about the boy wizard are featured, with the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, taking the number two spot. The only place in the top 10 not devoted to Brown or Rowling goes to Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight, which clocks in at number nine. In fact, one has to make it to number 13 before a title by an author not among the three already mentioned appears: Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.

Perhaps surprisingly, Stieg Larsson does not crop up on the list until number 17, although the three novels in the Swedish author’s Millennium Trilogy came in at numbers one, two, and three respectively on the list of U.K. bestsellers for 2010.

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Plagiarism charges continue to dog J.K. Rowling

Those pesky plagiarism charges facing J.K. Rowling just won’t go away. In 2004, the Harry Potter author was accused of lifting from a little-known 1987 book, The Adventures of Willy the Wizard, by U.K. author Adrian Jacobs. While the charges appear to be without merit, the case is now more likely to go to court after a British judge refused to dismiss the suit against Rowling. From The New York Times’ Arts Beat blog:

Mr. Jacobs’s estate has said that Ms. Rowling’s fourth book in the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, published in 2000, took plot lines from the Willy the Wizard book. Ms. Rowling has vehemently denied the accusation, saying that she had not heard of Mr. Jacobs, who died in 1997, until the copyright claim was made in 2004 and had not read his book. A judge overseeing the case in Britain agreed that the assertions by Mr. Jacobs’s estate are “improbable” but refused to dismiss the suit. Ms. Rowling’s American publisher, Scholastic, said it considers the assertions to be “completely without merit.”


No to dead-parent narration?

Generations of pre-J.K. Rowling books described kids acting (mostly) without adult supervision. Among other KidLit classics, characters from Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, and The Chronicles of Narnia often had at least one missing parent.

But Leila Sales, a children’s book editor at Penguin Young Readers Group, is speaking out against the ever-growing “ol’ dead dad syndrome” in KidLit. In a Publishers Weekly column, Sales describes the approach as “lazy writing,” offering a quasi-Oscar Wilde quote: “‘To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose a parent in nearly every children’s book looks like lazy writing.’ (I assume that is what Wilde meant.).”

Sales argues that by killing off parents, authors decrease the number of characters, make readers instantly sympathetic, and avoid boring adult subjects. Later she writes:

Dead parents will always have their place in children’s literature. If your book is set at an orphanage, then I would hope you include a lot of dead parents. Or if a book is about a teen coping with the recent death of her mother, then, you know, her mother should have recently died. But when authors omit parents for the sake of convenience, I take issue — as an editor, and as a reader. Because a convenient story is not the same as a good story.

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