J.K. Rowling is the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, one of the most popular book and film franchises in history.

A graduate of Exeter University, Rowling moved to Portugal in 1990 to teach English. There, she met and married the Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes.

The couple’s daughter, Jessica, was born in 1993. After her marriage ended in divorce, Rowling moved to Edinburgh with her daughter to live near her younger sister, Di. While struggling to support Jessica and herself on welfare, Rowling worked on a book, the idea for which had reportedly occurred to her while she was traveling on a train from Manchester to London in 1990.

After a number of rejections, she finally sold the book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the word ‘Philosopher’ was changed to ‘Sorcerer’ for its publication in America), for the equivalent of about $4,000.

The book, and its subsequent series, chronicled the life of Harry Potter, a young wizard, and his motley band of cohorts at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Key achievements

  • Author of the fastest-selling book in history, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • Earning $480m in three years for her first three Harry Potter books.
  • Rowling is now wealthier than the Queen.

Lessons for your store

  • Don’t stop after your first success – Rowling has continued to write books even after making millions.
  • Don’t stop after rejection – Rowling was let down by several publishers before being taken on.
  • Look for inspiration everywhere – Rowling found her multi-million pound inspiration on a train.