A new book by British author J.K. Rowling, her unofficial farewell to the adventures of boy wizard Harry Potter which made her the world's wealthiest writer, goes on sale on Thursday.
Proceeds from “The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” expected to become an international bestseller even though the seven-book Potter series is over, will go to a charity for vulnerable children in Eastern Europe co-founded by Rowling.
Beedle the Bard is a collection of five fairy tales and is mentioned in the final Potter book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" as having been left to the boy wizard's friend Hermione Granger by Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts school.
Only one of the five stories — “The Tale of the Three Brothers” — was recounted in the Potter book, and the volume contains clues that were to prove crucial to Potter's final mission to destroy Lord Voldemort.
Indicating the interest the new book is likely to generate with Potter fans young and old, one of seven hand-written, illustrated copies of Beedle the Bard made by Rowling fetched $4 million at auction a year ago.
Online book store Amazon, which bought that copy, is printing up to 100,000 collector's' editions costing $100, and the global print run will be around 7.5 million copies.
Bloomsbury will distribute the book in Britain and Scholastic in the United States.
Publishers and retailers give all net profits to the chosen charity once their costs are covered, and retailers who sell the book at a discount — a common practice with the Potter series as stores fought for market share — do so at a loss.
In the sale catalog for the auctioned copy, Rowling wrote:
“'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' is really a distillation of the themes found in the Harry Potter books, and writing it has been the most wonderful way to say goodbye to a world I loved and lived in for 17 years.”
She is hoping Beedle the Bard will live up to expectations and make millions of pounds for The Children's High Level Group (CHLG) (www.chlg.org) which she co-founded with European parliamentarian Emma Nicholson.
The charity campaigns to protect and promote children's rights across Europe. It began work in Romania before moving to Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and the Czech Republic.
In July 2007, Deathly Hallows became the fastest selling book ever. Between them the Harry Potter books have sold over 400 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 67 languages.
They have also spawned a successful movie franchise which has earned around $4.5 billion at the box office with five films released. A further three are planned, with Deathly Hallows being divided into two parts.
Beedle the Bard may not be Rowling's final word on the world of Harry Potter. She has said she plans an encyclopedia on the series and will donate the proceeds to charity.
Rowling, 43, went to court in New York earlier this year to sue an independent U.S. publisher which planned to bring out a 400-page Harry Potter reference book. A judge ruled in her favor in September.