Despite the irresistibly, humourous slant we have put on it, the below story is supposedly correct insofar as it follows closely what we have been told to accept as a factual and historical sequence of events. It is a satire on what just about everybody has accepted as the truth that has gone into Potter folklore and appears in books, magazines and newspapers all over the world. It is essentially all lies of course. The humour is to make it clear to you that it is unacceptable as a description of what actually happened. The official story of how Potter and Rowling were ‘discovered’ is quite simply an infernal load of hogwash and how intelligent people ever subscribed to it is stultifyingly amazing. If the above does not bring it home to you then you are, frankly, incurable. We will be dealing with it again, in serious detail, in our next blog.

You know well enough the yarn they have given us to believe about how Harry Potter was ‘discovered’. You will forgive us if we make fun of it. We make fun of it because it is ludicrous, and insulting. The facts governing the sequence of events are as given here. This satirical reconstruction of them is intended to expose them for the lies they actually are.

Rowling finishes her little book in 1995 having worked herself to the bone for five long years day and night, battled suicidal depression, lived through abject poverty that would make a Bolivian dirt farmer tremble with horror, well nigh lost the will to live in freezing, Scottish isolation, and endured incarceration in a mouse-ridden pigsty in Leith Edinburgh for two whole years just to finish a book that she never dreamt would one day be published despite all her rigorous self-denial and single-minded dedication. Were it not for her sister’s positive response to her writing she might never have sent her book out at all!

Di didn’t know she was writing a damn thing even if her sister had been scribbling furiously since the age of six and wanted more than anything else to be a writer. Not even when she went all the way to Portugal to her sister’s wedding did Joanne breathe a single word of the book she was passionately writing and had been writing daily for two years by then about the “best idea I ever had.” Di knew nothing of the trouble she had had when the shipping container of written Potter material had been stopped by customs on the way from Porto. Nor how she had to sell her rings and hand over her savings to pay for it. They were never that close and Di had always wondered why her sister had decided to come to her of all people after her marriage went bust in Portugal. Now, two years later, she tells her, at last, about the book.

She reads a wee bit and is surprised. How come she never knew her older sister could write that well? And about a boy too… and they don’t even have a brother. How clever is that? She urges Joanne to find an agent or a publisher without delay and get more psychiatric help as well just to be on the safe side. In the meantime, she will study to become a lawyer in case she runs into trouble with plagiarism issues.

Joanne, encouraged at last – something she never managed to get from her cruel husband, the Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes, – and having worked her fingers to the bone for ten hours a day at her old typewriter that her sister failed to notice the many times she had visited her – reluctantly agrees; and skips off to the library to get the names of publishers and agents. So much rejection, will there be more? Indeed there will, because the first agent she sends to and whose name she was never to disclose doesn’t even bother to return her nice, new folder that she had to scrimp and save to pay for. He owes her a fiver but what does he care if she and the baby have to go without food again? She hoofs it back to the library and opts for literary agent “Christopher Little” because his name suggests he might take kindly to a writer of children’s books. She sells the vacuum and sends off her three chapters and synopsis once again.

Bryony Evens finds the book in the slush pile, waiting to be rejected. She reads it, gives it to freelance reader Fleure Howle. They giggle. Why, it’s like nothing they have ever read before and Howle is sure she saw some sort of light coming out of the pages. They love it. What a wonderful story-line they think. It has “best seller” written all over it. They rush upstairs like schoolgirls to the great man in his office who reads it over a frugal lunch of peas and fish fingers. He will have to talk to Bryony soon, he muses, about postage. But as he reads he finds his toes curling up, one by one.

Three days later Evens dutifully sends a two line acceptance note to Rowling who is up in Edinburgh waiting to be rejected. She reads it eighty times because she is not sure if she got it right the first time around. She borrows money from Di and sends the big two hundred page manuscript down to him. He has problems with it. Too long. Many who were not as smart as him would find it unacceptable and reject it for that reason because, as in life, so in publishing, rejection is what you have to expect. But, he takes it home anyway and reads it.

As a cricket fan, he figures, in his wisdom, that he needs the rules of Quidditch clarified. Some were to say later that he invented the whole Quidditch thing himself because the association between brooms and cricket bats suddenly sprang into his head and he had one of his hacks write it up for him; but he later denied it.

And his lawyer-partner Neil Blair had the slur and all traces of it removed from the internet because he told the offenders that it was “false”, “unsubstantiated” and “untrue”, his three most favouritest of all words in the whole world that he had learnt nobody could challenge unless they owned a gold mine and were able to take him to court. Blair went to bed at night marveling how three little words could do so much damage to people’s lives. How lucky he was that the laws of the land allowed him to use them with such ruthless efficiency and with total protection from assassination. He was blessed.

Evens sends off to Rowling a list of the many changes that are to be made and asks for the whole manuscript but points out that Rowling will have to cover postage herself. Rowling replies that she has sold all the furniture is suffering from malnutrition even if the child is putting on weight and that postage has gone up tuppence a kilo. Besides, she is not sure she wants to be a writer any more.

Evens told her about Christopher being God and everything although he is “trying to keep it quiet” and that his judgment could be relied upon. The book is a winner they have all since decided and are so excited they club together to buy Christopher a hamburger for lunch.

Evens now proceeds to send copies of the book out to publishers one at a time. She waits until she hears back from one before sending it out to another so as “to save postage”. Christopher had had words with her. She would do anything for him just to see him get off the fish fingers, permanently. Alas, the best seller they sold to Bloomsbury about the death of Princess Diana the year before has made no difference to their fortunes and worse, they are all out of envelopes.

Nothing but rejections meets loyal Bryony’s efforts. Publisher after publisher turns them down.

Disconsolate, Little on a rainy afternoon in October 1995 catches a plane to the Frankfurt Book Fair to peddle his wares. There he meets his old pal Nigel Newton, co-founder of Bloomsbury, who introduces him to Barry Cunningham who has just set up the Children’s Fiction Division for the firm. They have the money at last to do this, having floated the company on the Stock Market the year before.

Newton was flattered that the exchange had valued his small company at over £9 million and the shares sales coming in at £5.5 million had sure made a difference. Over Schnapps that Newton insists on paying for Cunningham tells Little they are looking for something “really special” in the kids’ fiction department. Little completely forgets to mention the book he has just taken on about a boy wizard that when he read it “made his toes curl” and all the excitement it had generated in the office. Just plain skipped his mind. All he could think of was envelopes and if Newton had brought any with him.

“I hope you gentlemen find what you are looking for,” he managed.

A cruel victim of his own coyness and not having sold a thing at the world’s biggest book fair Little returns home. As he crosses the tarmac, counting change, hoping he has enough for a coffee at Heathrow, he remonstrates with himself about forgetting to tell Bloomsbury about Potter and him down at heel and everything.

He tells himself he has got to give up being shy around people and get out more often. Back in the office he gets Evens to resume sending out the copied MS to yet more publishers, one at a time, so as to save postage.

Perhaps one of them may see the potential for a boy-wizard caught between two worlds who does not as yet know what a great sorcerer he is until he gets to the mysterious college for sorcerers located in another dimension. With a story-line like that he knew it was always going to be struggle. Soon however, he has forgotten all about Bloomsbury and Cunningham.

Finally, in June 1996, and having managed to send the book to only four more publishers in eight long months, to save postage, he decides to give it one last desperate shot and contact Bloomsbury. Cunningham may be still there if he has managed to steer clear of the Schnapps.

He phones him up and reminds him about the conversation, their very first, that they had in Frankfurt the previous year. He expresses surprise that, given the fact they were both major players in London’s small publishing world and he, like himself, was partial to a bevy or two, they had never once bumped into each other in over seventeen years, not even in a pub. After all, they work in the same book trade and have so many mutual friends it is laughable.

Cunningham, who by pure coincidence, just that very day managed to get the new Children’s Section for Bloomsbury up and running, is understandably a bit iffy about the whole thing. He knows there is no money in children’s books and one of these days he is going to tell his boss just that. Business may be booming since they got the millions from the share float and true, the Hewitt book on the princess proved a bigger hit than any of them could have imagined, even if it cost them two million to buy it…but with postage these days… he is not sure.

He is just so sorry that he was left out of the negotiations with Little over Hewitt’s book or he might have had a chance to renew their relationship begun in Frankfurt. On the plus side, after an overseas call to his friend Arthur Levine of Scholastic he has come to understand that it is sometimes better to “take a chance” on an unknown author, one of Levine’s pet phrases.

So, he tells Little not to feel rejected and drink is not the answer, but, even if they have not met since that fateful day in October in Frankfurt eight months ago, he will read it, “as a favour”; but “only as a favour”, he stresses, as word might get around that he is trying to set up a Children’s Fiction Division or something. The big man at the other end of the phone tries to keep his tears under check. He knows too well what rejection feels like.

One day, when he is rich, he will fill his offices with good looking chicks that he will hit on, one at a time…to save postage. Out of politeness to the stranger he doesn’t mention that he has already sent the manuscript to twelve other publishers including two that Cunningham himself actually worked for.

“Damn sensitivity!” Cunningham hears him hiss as he puts the phone down. He tells Bryony to take the manuscript around to Bloomsbury’s laughing with her on the way downstairs how, out of all the publishers they had sent the book to, they had plumb forgotten the one that was just a taxi ride away. To his relief, his office manager says she will pay for the taxi herself.

When Cunningham gets to see the sample chapters in a big, brown envelope, he is not overly impressed. He doesn’t dislike it but his old buddy Dahl, now there was a writer. Could hammer out a ten page story in a matter of months could old Roald. He wonders why there is no synopsis with it but lets it pass. But, he knows kids will go for the wizard thing for sure and the low self-esteem angle is clever shit.

In fact he might use that some day himself.

What Little or Evens had failed to see, having been in the book trade only seventeen years, or they would surely have found a publisher by now, he, with his superior knowledge and experience, sees immediately. “It was all there”, a whole world, etc, etc”, he was to say later, ten years later, when he finally came out of hiding, long after Potter had become a national brand right up there with HP sauce, Big Ben and Prince Harry.

He shows the first chapter to his boss Nigel Newton who takes it home to his daughter Alice who reads it immediately and falls in love with it. For months later she nags her dad to take it on.

“Please, please, pleeeeese daddy, I need to read more about Harry. How many more months do I have to beg you! Don’t you know anything about books? Mummy! Mummy!”

Having only been in the book trade for over twenty years before founding his own company, Newton has no idea what she is raving about. He shows the chapter to Liz Calder his co-founder who used to work writing synopses of new British fiction to send off to MGM but she is only mildly impressed, if that is the right word, just like himself. Wizards? Two worlds? Made no sense. She would make a point of steering clear of the author.

Newton was thinking; he may have created a new Children’s fiction division and was fortunate he have found a known alcoholic who could spare time from his A-Anon meetings to take it on, and he had at last a million or so left aside to set it up, but he was not really into children’s books and had not the slightest idea why he had set up a Children’s fiction list to begin with. Books on the English Royal family were all he ever cared about because that’s where the money was.

“There is no money in children’s books” his long-time friend Christopher Little always used to tell him.

And he can still see the big man’s craggy face frown with disappointment when he told him in Frankfurt about his new Children’s Division.

Anyway, as a good father he gives into his daughter’s strident pleas and writes out a cheque for £1,500 as an advance for Rowling and posts it off to her the next day.

He regrets that it is all the company can afford to give in advance of royalties but as the envelope slips from his fingers into the out-tray he resolves to try and claw it back some day,…from postage. At first he and his board of directors decided on an initial run of two hundred but Cunningham persuaded them to push it up to five hundred. If they managed to break even they would be happy. It’s a one-off after all. If it were a series, now that would have been different.

Rowling then is invited to London to meet with Cunningham and Little at a restaurant in Soho, whose name alas is not given to us, and which has since been demolished. Over the first course Rowling confesses that she has been planning a series of seven books and Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone is just the first of them.

Cunningham is flabbergasted, more flabber than gasted, it has to be said, as he has been putting on weight since his divorce; and almost chokes on his chicken soup as Little had not told him over the phone about any series; and and there had been nothing about a series for crying out loud as a synopsis telling what the series might be had not been included with the manuscript; nothing to even hint that there could be more than just one book.

True, he had wondered why she had left the story hanging there on the last page but he figured that was just a writer’s quirk. Dahl had lots of them. It was even said he had joined the Freemasons.

Nevertheless, Rowling is bursting to tell him. He listens in a daze as she has talks at length about all her plans, some of which got to him in a strange way, reminding him of the horrors he had been experiencing lately at night.

“I don’t suppose you have ever seen a flock of owls fly into your room, Joanne?”

“To be honest, I’m not sure. How many?”

“Never mind. I call them my Dementors. What about a head growing out from between your shoulder blades?”

“No. But I have given birth. There was gooey stuff everywhere. I was really, really, really,… to be honest … depressed for weeks. ”

“Black demonic angels with secret powers? It’s the beating of the wings….the wings…. never mind. Do they sell Schnapps here?”

He calls the waiter to have his soup removed and pays attention to the vast panorama that Rowling is opening up before him, wondering all the while why nobody had told him about a flippin’ series. No mention of it in the synopsis. In fact no synopsis.

Odd though, how this woman had touched on some of his worst nightmares. She must have magical powers. As the waiter removes his plate he reflects that one of these days he will set up his own publishing house. He will call it Chicken House. Kids love Kentucky Fried.

Rowling is wondering where her agent is as Cunningham wonders where he got the idea from:

“How long have you known Chris… I mean Christopher?” she asks.

“Met him for the first time in Frankfurt. Very shy man. Lacks self-confidence. A bit like Michael Parkinson. That’s why he couldn’t make it. Hates to be seen in the company of young women like yourself. Makes him shy and nervous. I am surprised he has lasted so long in the cut-throat world of London publishing. He should get out more often. Now, Joanne… you should know that a series of seven books that we are going to market all over the world and that we and Scholastic have opened up an office for in New York is not going to make you a dime. You must accept that. I might be able to talk Scholastic into taking a chance on it. But, I can’t promise anything. And if you think we have already contacted Hollywood you can forget about that as well. As a precautionary measure we will be negotiating with your agent for world rights. But beyond that we won’t be going. Let me repeat what I just said because I want you to remember it and it is a classic line that will prove useful some day. You will not be making any money from it.”

I-will-not-be-making-any-money-from-it. Thanks Barry.

“Also, you realise we will not be publishing your book until we have the sold the rights in America to Scholastic… or somebody. This is normal procedure with a book by a totally unknown unpublished author whom we have never seen before and who has taken us all by surprise . It’s a big risk for us and five hundred copies at this stage in the UK is about as far as we dare go. We are a poor company as you know that just managed to publish 152 books last year. We hope to get back the advance of £1500 I am about to offer you for the first two books.”

“Something wrong with it? Did I leave something out?”

“The title. Bit… well…. “philosopher” you know, I can hardly spell it myself. That is a huge mistake all by itself. And just too many pages Joanne. Too many pages. Big ask to get us to shorten them.”

“I know how hard that must be for you Barry, as my editor and all. But, poor as I have been all these years, I am not really after money. In fact, I hate money just as much as I hate writing whatsitsname… fantasy. So long as me and my daughter can get to eat regularly I don’t care about that. It’s the prolonged starvation Barry. I just want to see my name in print. And then I will die happy. I really… really… really… to be honest… mean that.”

“Me too. I’m sure they sell Schnapps here. Waiter!”

changed March 25, 2012