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Marketing for new Harry Potter book unusual

Published June 7, 2005 12:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Wall Street Journal

How do you market something that's already so popular it doesn't need marketing? Answer: any way you want.

Or any way she wants, in the case of J.K. Rowling, whose sixth Harry Potter novel is due out next month. After just seven years, the Harry series is on the short list of the greatest literary phenomena of all time, and shows no signs of flagging: In the U.S. alone, there are now roughly 103 million hardcover and paperback copies in print of the first five Harry Potter titles. Readers eager to buy the Half-Blood Prince have already pushed the book to the top-selling position on Amazon.com Inc.'s Web site and on Barnes & Noble Inc.'s retail Web site.

In other words, Rowling's publishers aren't exactly worried about buying enough radio spots.

Rather, the marketing logic behind Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is very much dictated by the author's goals, which include pleasing her fans and largely bypassing the established media. The strategy is similar to one used by some politicians and movies stars: They eschew multiple magazine and newspaper interviews by going straight to their fans in more benign, controllable appearances.

In a departure from the promotion of her last book, Rowling is not planning to grant any interviews to the press in the United Kingdom when the latest Harry installation is published July 16.

This time around, the marketing centerpiece is a contest sponsored by her U.K. publisher that will enable 70 youngsters age 8 to 16 to meet and ''grill'' her after they've traveled to Scotland's Edinburgh Castle as part of a weekend-long celebration surrounding the book's pub- lication.