In the beginning they were furtive readers, hiding their primary coloured novels in their laps or slipping the dust jacket of the latest Andy McNab over their commuters paperback. Then, in 1998, Bloomsbury produced an adult edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Those grown ups who had not yet succumbed to the thrall of the boy wizard now had permission to do so. It was a proper book now. A book for grown ups.
The only difference between the original, published a year before, and the new edition was the cover, a sophisticated monochrome photograph replacing the original colourful, bright and busy illustration. The move by Bloomsbury marked an important and interesting change in how we view children’s literature. Bluntly, if adults were not already reading Harry Potter, Bloomsbury wouldn’t be marketing the books to them.
Kids’ books were now officially part of pop culture – something that we ought to know about should we wish to converse with colleagues and friends. The move was repeated with subsequent novels in the series, and then, in 2005, both adult and child versions of … Half-Blood Prince were released simultaneously.
When … Deathly Hallows, the final novel in the Harry Potter series was released in 2007, a third of editions sold carried the adult cover*. In raw numbers that’s 1,268,738 copies; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was number one on both the adult fiction and children’s fiction bestsellers list. More recently, Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy has been aggressively marketed to the crossover audience, with a staggered release of differently targeted cover art (right).
It is not, however, just big franchise fiction that is treated this way. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, published 2003, enjoyed the same fate, with simultaneous release of editions with covers for children and adults and became the best-selling British novel of the last decade, selling excess of two million copies. Read the rest of this entry