'Harry' Gets the Biggest Press Run Ever

05/19/2003 3:28PM

June 21 will not only bring the first day of summer but also J.K. Rowling's eagerly anticipated fifth entry into the boy-wizard canon, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." And its arrival will come with an 8.5-million-copy hardcover American press run -- probably the biggest ever in the publishing industry, the Wall Street Journal reports.

And while the book will no doubt be a massive hit, the Journal also wonders if it will be successful enough to warrant such a printing, not to mention the estimated $3 million to $4 million promotional budget that Scholastic Inc. intends to lavish upon it.

While the other "Harry Potter" books came out in relatively quick succession, it has been three long years since the last title, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," was published. The Journal points out that the 13-year-olds who devoured "Harry" back then are now 16 -- which means that their attentions can easily go elsewhere.

On top of that, the new book promises to be a cumbersome 896 pages and will cost a healthy $29.99. Furthermore, the British-based Rowling, 37, who recently gave birth, won't be traveling to the United States to promote the new title. And finally, it's been a rotten year for the book business.

By slight contrast, in England, the British publisher, Bloomsbury, has scheduled a June 26 event at Royal Albert Hall, at which Rowling will meet with more than 4,000 students from all over the U.K., read from the new book and answer questions.

As such, expect to see "Order of the Phoenix" blanketed everywhere -- in billboards and ads, store displays, on radio promos and even at baseball games.

"What's more summery than baseball?' a Scholastic exec tells the Journal, explaining that the marketing plan "gets us in front of people who might not frequent bookstores."

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