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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The mystery of JKR's defection

The stunning news that JK Rowling is shifting to adult fiction has intriguing background

According to the Daily Mail, it was announced at the end of January that JKR had reached a settlement with Christopher Little, the agent who Discovered her.  An astute fellow (or maybe psychic), he discerned the potential of the Harry Potter books, after the author had been rejected by a number of publishers. 

Apparently, Mr Little (70), who was seriously ill at the time, received a letter in July 2011, informing him of the end of their 16-year association.  Miss Rowling (46), had joined a new agency, set up by lawyer Neil Blair, who had been Little's business partner. 

The settlement with Mr Little is believed to be worth millions.  Undoubtedly, she can afford it:  the switch from Bloomsbury (the publisher of the Potter books) to Little Brown, is estimated by industry insiders to be worth five million pounds.  But there must have been a good reason for the shift.

According to insiders in the industry, Christopher Little can be difficult to work with, having obstinate ideas about commission and so forth.   More relevant, however, is that JKR and her new agent, Neil Blair, had worked closely together on the Pottermore project, which -- as everyone knows -- was a digital creation as well as a book.

"The catalyst for the split," according to Adam Dawtrey, writing for Variety, "was Rowling's revolutionary move, masterminded by Blair, to become her own digital publisher by creating the Pottermore website."

The website, built by design agency TH_NK with tech support from Sony, created a social networking universe around the books and Rowling's vast archive of background material.

A lawyer who studied at Exeter College, Oxford, and College of Law, Guildford, Blair was head of business affairs, Europe, for Warner Bros., before joining Christopher Little's agency in 2001.  From then on,  he acted as JKR's "key dealmaker," and when he set up his own company this northern summer, he took JKR with him.

The Blair agency currently operates out of the TH_NK office in East London.

It is amazing to think that just six years ago Blair, the Little Agency, and JKR herself were being scolded by the digital world for refusing to release the Potter books in eFormat.

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