In the late 1990s I read the first Harry Potter book before it became a best seller and enjoyed it. However it didn't seem better than lots of other books for kids. I assumed one of the main reasons it sold so well was because, unlike most fantasies, it took place in a school instead of a setting like the Middle Ages. That allowed kids to identify with it.
But this week I read Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen. This book was originally published in 1991, years before Rowling's book and it's also a fantasy that takes place in a school setting. It's well written, the plot was original, the characters are believable, and it has all the features that make a book good.
So why didn't this book become a best seller? It has gone into a second edition, but never became as famous as the Harry Potter ones. Yolen is an excellent writer who has had lots of other books published so obviously hers must sell well, but she hasn't become an icon like J. K. Rowling.
I wonder what made the difference. Any ideas?