The Next Harry Potter

Dear Miss Snark,

Your advance copy of the MJ Rose book makes me wonder.

Being that you’re in the publishing world, you could perhaps answer a trivia question that keeps some of us awake at nights. Along with the rest of the known universe, I’m waiting for the last Harry Potter book. I know this is a book release like no other. I’m curious how all the mechanics for the Harry Potter releases work, without ANYONE ANYWHERE getting hold of an advance copy. All those bookstores, all those UPS drivers, all those people who work at printing presses, all those mysterious warehouses where books are kept… and NO ONE gets a copy out early? The mind boggles. Please elucidate, from your perch on the inside of the publishing biz.

Lounging Labrador sends her regards and many pawprints of spring garden mulch to Killer Yapp. (Killer Yapp will send the dry cleaning bill for his muddied up Burberry rain vest)

You mean you want to read this copy of Harry Potter here on my desk?


Ok, enough screaming, I'm only joking.

First, the books come in big ol boxes with strapping tape, then shrinkwrapped and palletized. It's not like there's just one in a manila mailing envelope. There are truckloads.

And yes, of course, the copies will be all over town soon enough. It doesn't matter though, cause the fun of this is the waiting, and the excitement and being in line on the first day.

Those smug snots who say "oh I've read it already, Mummy's secretary had it messengered over" are not people you want to know. It's no fun to know first, cause you have no one to share the juicy fun details with. And NO ONE wants to have you spoil the surprise.

But yes, there are copies. We just don't tell you about it.


Elektra said...

Added to that, if the Rowling lawyer people get even a whiff of pre-release reading, they swoop. Last time some poor bookstore in Canada sold a few copies early; the lawyer people tracked down the kids who bought them and made them sign a waiver saying they wouldn't speak a word about it.

Anonymous said...

Bootlegging Harry Potter would be as much of a party pooper as pulling the veil off the Oracle of Snarkphi.

(That was a priceless scene, though, the Priestly twins reading HP arcs.)

Anonymous said...

If you've ever been to a major book store, you'll know there's a good chance the teenagers stocking the shelves can't actually read. Meanwhile, the truckers and warehouse people are too busy doing their actual jobs to break into the boxes.

A Paperback Writer said...

I vaguely recall that there was some fiasco with Book 6 where someone down the food chain (bookstore clerk or such) read and posted large sections of the book a few weeks before it was released. As I recall, lawyers were shutting him down hours later.
Did anyone else read about this? Or am I remembering wrong?
At any rate, I agree that it's all in good fun to have everyone start the race at the same time, rather like the "read-a-thons" we used to have when I was in grade school. It was my idea of bliss in 3rd grade: come to school with a blanket, a book, and a soda, and the whole class is one big cozy community for an afternoon. HP 4,5, and 6 have seemed like that to me: even though I'm alone in the armchair, I know that whole communities of people are sharing my read-a-thon and ready to buzz with disscussion about it a few hours later.
Miss Snark, thanks for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, a biz question. If you were an author with a pub date around HP, would this be a good or thing? Pick one: It's good because of the huge increase in bookstore traffic. It's bad because all theose folks going to bookstores have only one thing in mind.

ORION said...

I read Harry Potter.
I think anytime a lot of people go into a book store it's a good thing.
Have you ever been capable of buying only one book?
I sure haven't

Wonk said...

It's the same with libraries. They have to sign a contract with the publisher (Scholastic, in this case), saying that a limited amount of people will be handling the book before the release date for processing and entering in the catalogues, and they have to agree that they will not read any of it before hand. Talk about tempting.

Not doing so will mean that they'll lose access to future releases from the publisher, blah blah blah etc.

Divine Bird said...

I was a senior bookseller at a chain store during the release of book 6, and it was an...interesting experience.

We got the pallets of books in their specially-marked boxes about a week before the launch. When the delivery guy dropped off the boxes, we scanned them as normal and then had to verify that none of them were open. Everyone working in the store had to sign a form that said we wouldn't read the book NOR would we open the boxes until launch night.

Of course, we promptly opened a box and lifted one of the books out to admire it. HOWEVER, we were all book lovers to the extent that we just opened the front cover to the first page, read the first paragraph, and then closed the book. None of us wanted to ruin the surprise for ourselves! :D

It was really nerve-wracking though, to walk back to the storage room and to see all those white boxes stacked off to the corner. We kept an even closer eye on any customers who happened to wander too close to the back room door. ;)

snarkfodder said...

I know exactly why you all don't tell the public about the ARC Harry Potters in your possession.

Answer: Crazy people.

(i.e., REALLY crazy people.)

Dave said...

But consider that the pallets and boxes of OJ Simpson's book never left the warehouse. That's why there are so few copies floating around out there.
Had the copies been delivered to the bookstores, the clerks would be tempted to take a copy and there would be dozens floating around.

Anonymous said...

Er... I certainly didn't get a chance to read a couple of HPs before they came out when my husband was working in a local bookstore. He signed a paper saying so. And that would have been WRONG. (Like Miss Snark saying it's no fun to know before everyone else. Because it kinda is, actually. In a small, sad way, of course.)

Anonymous said...

A clarification: I work in an independent children's bookshop, and to my knowledge, Scholastic stopped making ARCs of Harry Potter after book #2. Until the books actually arrive at the shop, there are *no* preview/galley copies floating around in the world at large. (Unlike the advance copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns that's now sitting at my elbow - nyah, nyah, nyah!) But yes, when the HP books arrive, we do tend to slice open a box and peek at them. Under heavy guard, of course. And I'm such a perverse little snot, I like to read the *last* sentence before resealing the box.

Calissa said...

I, personally, don't care about having it first. Once I get a hold of one, I take a good couple of months or more to read them. Books I love I salvate over a while, and I read them very slowly. I drag it out. I do it on purpose. Because I want that book to last a while.

And if someone gets it 'first' and spills the beans for everyone else, I'll be highly ticked off. I avoid most any "Harry Potter" news until when closing day is close and wont read again until after I read it all, just to avoid any spoilage.

Kim Stagliano said...

I had the great pleasure of participating in Liz Murphy's (owner of THE LEARNED OWL, Hudson, Ohio) transformation of the ENTIRE DOWNTOWN into Diagon Alley to promote book #5. Liz got every store to assume a role from the books. The culmination of the five hour long event was a candlelight parade that ended at her bookstore at 12:00midnight - when the books were unsealed. Not a second before midnight. Over 20,000 participated in this event, it got national news coverage and was a BLAST! www.learnedowl.com

Also, Miss Snark will be interested that Liz has a banner on her site "In Light of the Tragedy at Virginia Tech, Liz recommends Jodi Picoult's latest."

Kim said...

I can't believe how I'm looking forward to the last Potter book - and I'm one of those people who will avoid any and all HP mentions until I have my copy (preordered, of course, I'm becoming a nerd in my old age). I've already warned my husband and kids that I'm locking myself away to bury my nose in it when it gets here. And if anyone ruins it for me, I'll clobber them with the book itself... :)

Janet Black said...

Just watch the movie, "The Devil Wears Prada" and you'll see how advance copies get around.

Anonymous said...

Harry Potter arcs? I wish. Well, OK, no I don't. Especially because its #7. Why would you want the fun to be over with early?

I happen to work in the sales department of a major trade publisher with a major, embargoed book releasing this summer and I haven't been able to read most of it. And I was only given that part after promising to give my first-born to the marketing department.

Seriously, I worked at a bookstore for both the release of 5 and 6 and the books only arrive a week or less before the release. No one's reading the book before July 21 unless your JK Rowling herself (or, I suppose her editors). She's even said her daughter and husband don't read the books ahead of time!

Heidi the Hick said...

I recommend checking out uppercasebooks.ca

For the Half Blood Prince the entire twon was involved (much like Kim Stagliano's comment above) and this year it's not just the town...it's the whole township!

What do you think JK Rowling herself thinks when she observes all of this?

jon deal said...

I used all my industry insider connections and got a copy of HP7 and posted about it earlier this week.

(yes, it's a total joke, but it was amusing to "spill the beans")

S.F. said...

I'd love to have a novel released at the same time as HP. One downside, your chances of having the Times/anywhere else #1 Best Seller for the next six months are dead in the water.
Very big upside, millions in bookstore.
And if history is any guide, many bookstores will be giving out store vouchers to tempt people away from the department stores, because the department stores will be selling HP at 5c a bushel. Store vouchers these customers then cannot spend on HP book 7 because they just bought that. More people in store with money they want to spend? Less chance of bestseller, more chance of selling lots.

Dave said...

Yanno, anything that gets kids to read is good - Harry Potter, Eragon, Lord of the RIngs, CS Lewis, even fan fiction of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.

And as for adults, I would love ot know the story of HP7 right now, not so I could gloat, but well, so I could satisfy my curiosity. Yah, I know, that's so much BS, but I Wouldn't gloat to Miss Snark or the snarklings.

Nick said...

My sister's boyfriend manages a bookstore, and he said when HP6 came in the micromanagement was extreme. He actually had to keep the books roped off in a separate section of the storeroom and had received detailed instructions about where to place the books and even which aisle to carry them down. Sheesh.


Samuel Tinianow said...

To simplify what others have hinted at so far, the mechanics are simple: everyone signs nondisclosure agreements. Including the UPS guys.