Twenty years after the release of the first of the main seven Harry Potter films, the original pitch that author J.K. Rowling wrote for different publishing companies will be revealed.
It is going to be on display as part of the ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ exhibition at London’s British Library. The pitch was released to the media to drum up interest in that exhibition. The handwritten note lays out the general bones of the first book. It mustn’t have been as great as the final product since 12 publishers denied Rowling before she got a deal with Bloomsbury Books.
As you know, they ended up making BILLIONS from the Boy Who Lived.
The text shows that while the pitch and original iteration of the books was different, the general story remained similar. Harry still lived with the Dursleys. Hagrid still broke down that door to deliver Harry his Hogwarts acceptance letter. And Harry still had his world-famous scar given to him by Voldemort.
But to get a general idea of those differences, here is the first part of that text from Seventeen Magazine:
“The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.”
The pitch goes on to mention Harry’s soon-to-be best friends and that much also hasn’t changed much, if at all, all the way down to the location of herbology class.
“Harry makes friends with Ronald Weasley (sixth in his family to go to Hogwarts and tired of having to use second-hand spellbooks) and Hermione Granger (cleverest girl in the year and the only person in the class to know all the uses of dragon’s blood). Together, they have their first lessons in magic — astronomy up on the tallest tower at two in the morning, herbology out in the greenhouses.”
The pitch is cut and dry and not that unique, which is probably why it wasn’t picked up. The beauty of the Harry Potter books is all of the amazing background and world-building that Rowling had planned out well before the first book even was finalized. That’s not something one can stick in the written version of an elevator pitch.
Whomever her agent was —if she had one— should’ve done a better job of explaining to prospective publishers that their client was planning something epic, otherwise it really just sounded like she was writing a generic children’s story about witches and wizards.
Regardless, there can’t be a day that goes by where those 12 publishers don’t kick themselves for not signing the young single mother. Rowling now has more money than the Queen of England. It has to be about as painful as a cruciatus curse.