Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wizard's Hall

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?


Penelope Anne Cole said...

Hi Jan, good question. I've read some of Jane Yolen's books -- though not this one -- and agree that she writes well. Perhaps in Rowling's case her series was plotted out to be released annually and thus build suspense. Once the publicity machine of big publisher got involved, that made a big difference. Not to mention the film series. Yolen said that Rowling didn't copy her, nor the book that came out way before hers did about a witch/wizard school where you board a train -- all fantasy tropes. Oh, Yolen also has a home in Scotland!

Janet Ann Collins said...

I didn't mean to imply that Rowling had copied Yolen. As the saying goes, great minds think alike. And I doubt that a series that long would have been under contract before the first one sold well.