How J.K. Rowling Became the First Billionaire from Writing Books

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The pen name J.K. Rowling belongs to the first billionaire author, Joanne Kathleen Rowling, a British novelist who created the award-winning Harry Potter series. A book that has sold over 400 million copies around the world. Her books have been published in at least 50 languages, including Latin and Greek.

Her journey to bring the gift of the Harry Potter series to the world makes for an interesting story. Especially as it leads to her becoming the first billionaire author.

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In today’s post, we bring you the story of how J.K. Rowling became the first billionaire by writing books. By the way, subscribe to After School Africa for more insightful videos like this one below:

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First, Life Happened

Joanne Rowling’s life was sailing as smoothly as possible. At age 20, she had a degree in French and was already working for Amnesty International. This was while she was writing the first book in the Harry Potter series. Then life happened and she lost her mother to multiple sclerosis after fighting for over a decade.

She tried to put that all behind her by traveling overseas to teach English in the coastal city of Porto. Afterwards, she got a second dose of life’s medicine when she met and fell in love with an aspiring journalist, Jorge Arantes. She soon had a miscarriage and, against her better judgment, married Arantes.

Nine months later, she delivered her daughter, Jessica, whom she would need police presence to forcefully take from Arantes, who had become increasingly abusive. Weeks later, she got on a plane to Edinburgh, Scotland, where her sister and her husband lived.

Holding on to What She Had

Interestingly, J.K. Rowling never stopped writing once. Not even when she had to live from hand to mouth and was, in her own words, “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.” She kept on writing. At a point, suicide became an option but after going for therapy and finding inspiration in her daughter, she was able to finish the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in 1995. It would take two years, a dozen rejections, and at least 15 remakes before Bloomsbury found her work interesting enough to offer a £1,500 advance. Since when it rains, it usually pours, Rowling was able to get a £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council.

June 26, 1997, marked the beginning of a new phase in her life as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the U.K. under the pen name “J.K. Rowling”. It was an immediate success, as it appealed to its primary audience (children) and adults too. It even received the British Book Award. And that was how Harry Potter worked his magic, turning a destitute single mother into a celebrity author overnight? [pause] Well, not exactly but you get the point. The story doesn’t end here, though.

Then She Hit paydirt

J.K. leveraged the popularity the Harry Potter brand had already garnered. She went on to pen six more books in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). All of them became bestsellers and are available in at least 200 countries and over 50 languages. These books have sold over 400 million copies worldwide and made her a lot of money from movie rights.

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How the ‘Billion’ happened

Within days of the first Harry Potter book, Scholastic (a publishing powerhouse) had bid more than $100,000 for American publishing rights. Later on, Warner Bros. wanted a feature-film deal for the first two Harry Potter novels. They paid a handsome seven-figure sum, which became a very successful movie franchise. By July 2000, the Goblet of Fire novel broke sales records, selling three million copies in the first 48 hours, while all the following books broke successive records.

By 2004, J.K. had become a billionaire while still only halfway through eight Harry Potter films and well before the launch of the Fantastic Beasts movies, which would prove to be a cash cow. Rowling is estimated to have earned well over $1 billion from Harry Potter book sales alone, along with another $50 million for her books for adults and several Potter spinoffs. She has also earned hundreds of millions from her share of the profits from the Harry Potter movies as well as the Fantastic Beasts movies.

She earned an estimated $60 to $80 million licensing fee for the attractions at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and gets a percentage of tickets, merchandise, food, and beverage sales. While money from theme parks has brought in about $100 million, she still makes money from licensing deals, the Broadway play Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, and TV deals.


Speaking on what it takes to succeed in the mist failures, she said, “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 have failed by default”.

Rowling’s story is one of holding on to one’s dream in spite of the storms of life. Her biopic would likely make a Hollywood blockbuster. What’s one lesson you are taking away from J.K. Rowling’s story? Tell us in the comment section. Let us know if you’d like us to bring you more stories like this. If you haven’t subscribed to our channel, this is likely a good time to do so. Until next time, YOUR SUCCESS MATTERS!

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  • Ifeoma Chuks is a naturally-skilled writer. She has written and contributed to more than 6000 articles all over the internet that have formed solid experiences for particularly aspiring, young people around the globe.

    Content Manager

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