Let’s be honest. We’ve all walked into a bookstore like Chapters and seen the massive table filled with Harry Potter memorabilia. We’ve looked through Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and failed to pronounce the many creatures’ names in the book. It’s no secret that the Harry Potter series is a worldwide success or that JK Rowling makes money off way more than just the books. But what does make the Harry Potter series so successful?
Multiple Genres for Multiple Audiences
If you’re a kid, you know that adult who’s a proud Gryffindor. And if you’re an adult, you know that one kid who knows every Dumbledore quote like the back of his hand. There’s something about Harry Potter that appeals to all age groups. Of course, not everyone loves Harry Potter; but it wouldn’t be too hard to find someone from every age bracket who does. This could be due to the characters. Although the book’s main characters are teenagers, many adults are also in the spotlight, such as Hagrid, Dumbledore, and Voldemort. The book also falls under many different genres. The books are mainly fantasy, due to the magic and the creatures. But action and adventure, mystery, and even romance are also present in the series. You can’t have a story about a group of teenagers without love showing up somewhere! Harry Potter might also be considered a coming-of-age story, as we see Harry grow from a little kid into a mature adult.
The World Is Full Of Detail
If you’ve read Harry Potter, one of the first things you remember is the massive Hogwarts castle. It appears on the movie posters, some of the book covers, and you can even build it out of Lego! JK Rowling put a lot of thought and effort into making the Hogwarts castle as realistic as possible, despite it being a fantasy place where teenagers learn to blast each other across the room. Although its concept is unrealistic, it feels real because there are so many details and history behind this one building. Similarly, JK Rowling has created dozens of different creatures in the Harry Potter universe from the sometimes invisible Thestrals to the hedgehog looking Knarls. Another factor that makes this series so realistic and engaging is the laws and rules that are regularly referenced throughout the series. Although they revolve around a fictional world full of magic, some of them are similar to the rules in our society, making them slightly more believable. For example, it makes total sense that a wizard can’t use magic at home before they are 17 years old, because they are probably irresponsible with a wand.
The Themes Draw People In
Although Harry Potter is mainly meant to entertain, there are a few lessons that can be learned from the series. The biggest one is friendship, shown by Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s continually evolving relationship throughout the seven books. They may be close but their friendship has been tested in different ways. For example, in the fourth book, Harry and Ron have a massive fight as Ron starts to feel jealous of Harry’s success and attention. Another huge theme in the Harry Potter series is good versus evil. Harry is a hero, while Voldemort is a villain. The Order of the Phoenix is helpful, while the Death Eaters are harmful. This can even go as far as animals in the books. Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, is gentle, while Nagini, Voldemort’s snake, is dangerous. These themes are universal and most of us are naturally drawn to stories revolving around them.
Harry Potter’s Character Arc
Harry Potter is a compelling character because of his character arc, which follows the “Rags to Riches” storyline. In The Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid and Dumbledore leave Harry in the care of his aunt and uncle, who hate both him and his parents. Because of that, he is neglected and scorned, making most of his childhood miserable. It’s only when Hagrid shows up again and tells Harry that he has magic, does he consider a life outside of the one his aunt and uncle have provided for him. He is taken to Hogwarts, where he proves to be a very talented wizard, more exceptional than others his age. As he grows older, he meets people who care about him and help him on his quests. This arc may speak to some people because they might not be satisfied with their own life and want to be the hero in their own story. In the end, Harry beats the villain, showing that you can overcome the challenges life throws at you.
Harry Potter Has Huge Marketing Potential
There’s no doubt that JK Rowling makes money on a lot more than just the seven books. The series led to a spin-off series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which has been quite successful too. Aside from making money off the movies themselves, she also makes a profit from the screenplay, which is available as a book. On top of that, those tables in bookstores are filled with everything about Harry Potter from costumes to board games. Think back to Halloween - how many 10-year-olds have you seen walking around with glasses and a fake lightning scar on their forehead? Probably a lot! And if you weren’t aware, there is a massive theme park dedicated to JK Rowling's books at Universal Studios. Because of the diverse work she created, JK Rowling has had many opportunities to expand the Harry Potter universe.
So if you’re a writer, take a look at your own work. Does your story have the same components as the Harry Potter series? Can you use the elements of your fictional world to market it effectively? If so, maybe someday you’ll have a table filled with games and costumes about your series in bookstores!