Around the 1990s, JK Rowling would have caved into poverty, were it not for state benefits. Three decades later, the woman who managed to scribble down story notes at every spare time during the tough times, metamorphosed into the world’s richest writer/novelist. Her ladder to financial success was her series of stories – the Harry Potter novels.
As of 2019, the Harry Potter franchise which has become a global brand is worth up to $15 billion! The books have so far received up to 80 translations across the world either in part or in whole, with over 500 million copies sold! Meanwhile, it has garnered JK Rowling massive wealth, contributing the major part of her over $900 million net worth.
JK Rowling Before Harry Potter
She was born Joanne Rowling on the 31st of July, 1965. Joanne was born at the general hospital in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom. She is the first of the two daughters of Peter and Anne Rowling; her younger sister is named Dianne. Joanne had no middle name. She only took up her second initial “K” to produce a masculine-sounding name on the advice of her first Harry Potter publisher who feared that her book targeted at a young-boys audience might not sell well under an obviously female author name. The K stands for Kathleen, the name of her paternal grandfather.
Joanne grew up in Gloucestershire where she attended the St. Michael’s Primary School in Winterbourne, and Wyedean Comprehensive School in Sedbury. Her keen interest in writing started at a very young age. She read a lot as a child and came up with her first storybook at six. At eleven, she wrote her first novel. After high school, Rowling studied French and Classics at the University of Exeter in Devon, England.
As a college student, she continued to read widely, accumulating a fine of £50 at her university’s library for overdue books outside her course of study. Following her graduation in 1986, she moved to London where she worked as a secretary/researcher at Amnesty International. She later worked at the Chamber of Commerce in Manchester.
Birth of the Harry Potter Novels
JK Rowling got her “Harry Potter” inspiration in 1990; the same year she lost her mother to multiple sclerosis. She conceived the fundamental plot (the story of a boy studying at a school of wizardry) which would form the bases for her books while sitting on a train bound for London’s, King’s Cross station from Manchester. The trip delayed for four hours – but it turned out a life-changing four-hour wait for Rowling! For the next five years, Jo developed the stories that gave birth to the seven Harry Potter novels. Within this period, she worked as a teacher, first in Portugal and later in Scotland while using her spare time to write.
In 1995, JK Rowling completed her first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In June 1997, she published the book through Bloomsbury Publishing. She later published the same story in the US in 2008 through Scholastic Publishing under the title, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She subsequently published six more novels, namely:
- 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)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
Rowling also wrote three Harry Potter companion books, namely: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), Quidditch Through the Ages (2001), and The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008). In 2012, she established the Pottermore Digital Company. She also published her first novel for adults titled The Casual Vacancy the same year. Later in 2016, Rowling co-wrote a two-part made-for-stage story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The same year, she also came up with her first original screenplay based on the Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. She subsequently released the second screenplay, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in 2018.
How Much Did JK Rowling Make From Harry Potter?
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels initially held no prospects of financial success. In its budding years, Rowling was practically told she can’t make a living from writing children’s books. However, luck began to shine on her following Scholastic’s publishing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The money she made from the sales was enough to afford her a new two-bedroom flat at Hazelbank Terrace in Edinburgh.
Following this, JK Rowling’s financial success began to soar, with her subsequent publications hitting best-seller status. The fourth book of the series sold 372,775 copies on its first day of release in the UK, and three million copies in its first 48 hours in the US, earning Rowling the British Book Awards’ Author of the Year. The fifth novel sold nine million copies in its first 24 hours, emerging British Book Awards’ Book of the Year in 2006. Rowling’s seventh installment eventually broke all previous records, selling 11 million copies on its first day in the UK and US. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child equally broke records as the most pre-ordered book in the United States since 2007. In 2017, Rowling reportedly made up to $54 million from the sales of her books!
In addition to the money she makes from her book sales, JK Rowling also garners fortunes from theater, movie and television adaptations of her novels. Between 2001 and 2011, Warner Bros. who purchased the film rights at seven digits in 1998, released eight adaptations of the Harry Potter novels. Adaptation of the first novel broke box office records, grossing about $93.5 million. Subsequent adaptations also attained great financial success. Stage productions of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child also turned out hits in the UK and US. Moreover, the films from her original screenplays were financially grossing, with Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them bringing in a global income of $814 million and JK reportedly pocketing not less than $10 million from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. JK also garners millions annually from Harry Potter-themed recreational parks.
Here’s How JK Rowling Spends Her Fortune
JK Rowling spends a good part of her enormous wealth in real estate. Most prominent among her estate properties is her $57 million house in Kensington, West London, UK. She also owns a yacht reportedly worth $15 million. In addition, Rowling appears to have a taste for designer’s clothes, usually appearing at events in fashionable high-end couture. She as well enjoys vacationing at the Hamptons from time to time. All these must be costing her fortunes too.
Having received far more than she ever needs, Rowling believes she has the moral responsibility to give. This is what makes her invest significantly in several charities, especially through her Volant Charitable Trust which she founded in 2000. She also supports the international children’s charity Lumos and the poverty alleviation charity, Comic Relief. Since after the release of Quidditch Through the Ages (2001), Rowling has donated up to £15.7 from the book’s proceeds to Comic Relief. In 2013, she gave up £19 million from the sales of The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Lumos.
Another prominent institution that receives significant support from Rowling is the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic in the University of Edinburgh. In 2019, she donated as much as £15.3 million ($18.8 million) to fund research at the clinic named after her late mother. Other charities she supports include GingerBread, Dyslexia Action, Shannon Trust, English PEN, and so on. In 2012, JK Rowling’s charity donations totaled about $150 million, causing her to drop off Forbes‘ billionaire list of the year.
Moreover, JK must be spending on her family, including her kids. She has two children, David (b. 2003) and Mackenzie (b. 2005) with her husband, Dr. Neil Murray whom she married in 2001.
The couple spent about $330,000 on building two treehouses for their children. That was after acquiring and bulldozing an over $1 million neighboring house to create space for the buildings. Rowling also has an adult daughter, Jessica (b. 1993) from her first marriage to Jorge Arantes which lasted just one year (1992-1993). JK equally spends significant sums in paid-staff, including secretaries, personal assistants, and bodyguards. She reportedly spends up to $150,000 annually on private guards’ salaries.