Why are ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ sales far below ‘Deathly Hallows?’

08.03.16 7 months ago

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a script, not a novel. Might that be the cause of less-than-stellar sales for the latest story from J.K. Rowling's Wizarding world?

Even though Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the most pre-ordered book since 2007 in the United States, it's fallen well short of Rowling's last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The book, a script from the London play, had a first printing of 4.5 million copies. A press release from Scholastic says Cursed Child “sold more than 2 million copies in North America in the first two days of sales” and that this is “unprecedented for a script book.”

Now the last part doesn't surprise me, I can't imagine many other scripts would be as wanted than a new Harry Potter story, but the fact that it's only sold 2 million does. Deathly Hallows sold a record 8.3 million copies in the United States in its first 24 hours back in 2007. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sold 6.9 in the same timeframe.

So why the huge disparity? The midnight release party I attended wasn't the norm so I can't speak to how it was received elsewhere. However, perhaps this both being a script rather than a novel, and written by Jack Thorne rather than Rowling, really did make a difference. I'm still digesting the new story but it certainly feels different and it's the first time after reading a Harry Potter book that I've been left with mixed feelings. Other longtime fans I've seen discussing it online have been less kind.

Even if fans were waiting to see the play at The Palace Theatre in London”s West End first, I would think they'd still get their hands on the book immediately so these numbers are pretty bleak considering. But Cursed Child is still doing better than anything else out there right now. USA Today reports:

For comparison purposes, Harry Potter dominates: For every 10 copies of Cursed Child sold, the USA TODAY Best-Selling Books No. 2 book, Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty, sold less than two copies. And the latter sold for a full week, compared to one day for Cursed Child.

The new script-book also was No. 1 on Amazon by Tuesday, while a $1 pocket version of the U.S. Constitution was No. 2 (after Muslim-American lawyer Khizr Khan offered to lend his copy to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the Democratic National Convention).

To be fair, this release is the Special Rehearsal Edition, there's going to be a Definitive Edition of the script once the play is out of previews so that could also be a factor. But fans not being ravenous over new Wizarding world material is strange indeed. Rowling has said this is likely the last story for Harry himself, but perhaps her fans already made their peace and said goodbye to him in 2007.

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