Editor’s Note: The David Eccles School of Business is celebrating Women’s History Month by sharing the successes of women business leaders who have made big impacts in the business world.
Joanne Rowling, known around the globe by her pen name of J.K. Rowling, is one of the highest-paid authors worldwide. Her success stemmed from her authorship of the seven-novel Harry Potter series, which has sold more than 500 million copies and has been translated into 80 languages.
Rowling had always been a bookworm, and she wrote her first book at the age of 6. She attended Exeter University and spent a year in Paris as a student. After graduating, she had a variety of jobs, including working as a researcher at Amnesty International.
She first dreamed up Harry Potter and his magical world in 1990 while she waited on a delayed train from Manchester to King’s Cross Station in London. She sketched out the entire seven-book series over the next several years, and she submitted her first several chapters to several publishers. One wrote back asking to see the rest of the book. Her manuscript eventually was accepted for publication, but she was encouraged to use the name J.K. Rowling (Kathleen being the first name of her grandmother) because the publisher was worried that a female author wouldn’t resonate with the young, male audience of her books.
She has seen nearly unprecedented success with her books, which have been adapted into movies, and spawned a script for a play on London’s West End and New York’s Broadway.
The author fell off Forbes’ billionaire list because of her charitable giving to several foundations, including ones she runs.
“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation,” she said during her 2008 Harvard University graduation speech. “In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”