Harry Potter prequel sets record

The commercial wizardry of Harry Potter has conquered new territory with a fillip to a type of book which often keeps publishers and their accountants awake at night — a collection of short stories.

Notorious for selling fewer than writers’ full-length novels, the genre has set a new record with What’s Your Story?, thanks to an 800-word contribution from JK Rowling.

Using her now well-honed ability to tantalise, the world’s richest author joined other writers such as the Nobel laureate Doris Lessing with an unusual offering.

Rather than a self-contained tale, she said, it was a section of narrative “from a prequel I am not working on”.

The collection sold all but a handful of its 10 000 print run on the first day of issue, when it was released by Waterstones bookshop to mark the National Year of Reading. Customers were allowed a maximum of two copies each.

The Rowling story is set in the 1970s and appears to be part of a background scene-setter for the celebrated sequence of seven books about the boy wizard and Hogwarts school. In it, Potter’s father James and his friend Sirius Black travel around together on a magic motorbike.

The collection, sold for £5 a copy in aid of Dyslexia Action and English PEN, also includes stories by 12 other well-known authors, including Margaret Atwood, Sir Tom Stoppard and Irvine Welsh. Less familiar is eight-year-old Tahir Naseem, whose micro-story Boy the Boxer was one of three winners of a national competition to be included in the book.

Four postcard-sized stories by winners of a similar competition for booksellers complete the collection. Waterstones said yesterday that the book would not be reprinted, which will make copies a collector’s item.

There were none on eBay a day after the Waterstones sale, although a couple of different books with the same title were on offer for £1,25 and £13,71.–

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