Friday, December 5, 2008

Publishing a Collector's Edition: Learning From JK Rowling's Tales of Beedle and Bard



JK Rowling's "Tales of Beedle and Bard" started selling last December 4. The book soared to the top of the online bestsellers lists on Amazon.com and the Barnes&Noble Web site.

Rowling originally created only seven copies for friends, bound in Moroccan leather and embellished with silver talismans and mounted moonstones. One was put up for auction in 2007 and sold for $4 million to Amazon.com. Now it's available for public consumption. Yey for us!

Tales of Beedle and Bard was mentioned in the final installment of Harry Potter, the seventh book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" and contains five fairy tales that helped resolve the last book as well as commentary (including extensive footnotes) by the great, late and gay Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, who brings his unique wizard's-eye perspective to the collection.

Discovered "among the many papers which Dumbledore left in his will to the Hogwarts Archives," the venerable wizard's ruminations on the Tales allow today's readers to place them in the context of 16th century Muggle society, even allowing that "Beedle was somewhat out of step with his times in preaching a message of brotherly love for Muggles" during the era of witch hunts that would eventually drive the wizarding community into self-imposed exile. In fact, versions of the same stories told in wizarding households would shock many for their uncharitable treatment of their Muggle characters.

Professor Dumbledore also includes fascinating historical backstory, including tidbits such as the history and pursuit of magic wands, a brief comment on the Dark Arts and its practitioners, and the struggles with censorship that eventually led "a certain Beatrix Bloxam" to cleanse the Tales of "much of the darker themes that she found distasteful," forever altering the meaning of the stories for their Muggle audience. Dumbledore also allows us a glimpse of his personal relationship to the Tales, remarking that it was through "Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump" that "many of us [wizards] first discovered that magic could not bring back the dead."

The book retails for $12.99, but a $100 collector's edition has been offered exclusively on Amazon.com skyrocketed from 778,576 to 22 on the site's "Movers & Shaker's" list, which tracks the biggest gainers in sales rank.

This Collector's edition idea is great for authors and publishers. Once your book has gained enough momentum, the next best thing would be to offer it in "Collector's Edition." You can sell it for about ten times higher than the usual price. Here are some of Tales of Beedle and Bard's special features as a collector's edition:



  • Exclusive reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction
  • 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition
  • Velvet bag embroidered with J.K. Rowling’s signature
  • Embellished book cover complete with metal skull, corners, and clasp; replica gemstones; and emerald ribbon
  • Collector's edition also includes a set of 10 ready-for-framing prints of J.K. Rowling's illustrations

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