Illustration by Ryan Etter
Conjuring the Next Harry Potter To fill the void left by the blockbuster series, publishers are making big bets on new authors. The global marketing push behind a tale of young magicians in love.
by Alexandra Alter
Erin Morgenstern, an elfin painter with ink-black hair and a fondness for bowler hats, Tarot cards and antique clocks, has never published so much as a short story before. Now, with her first novel coming out in September, she's at the center of the most high-stakes competition in the entertainment industry: the race to discover the next Harry Potter.
Ms. Morgenstern's novel, set at the turn of the 19th century, tells the story of two young, love-struck magicians who compete in a magical circus. Doubleday won the novel with a high-six-figure advance. Rights have sold to 30 foreign publishers; some countries paid six figures, a sum typically reserved for established blockbuster authors.
Hollywood studios, eager to anoint the next fantasy blockbuster following the end of the $7 billion Harry Potter movie franchise, began circling immediately after the book sold. Summit Entertainment, the production company behind the "Twilight" films, snapped up film rights in January and has been pitching the novel to "Twilight" fans in hopes of shoring up a fan base. The producer of the Harry Potter movies, David Heyman, is in negotiations to produce the adaptation.
Booksellers that have been hard hit by the recession and the digital revolution have seized on "The Night Circus" as a potential cure for lackluster sales in a post-Harry Potter world. To nurture a new fan base, bookstores across the country are planning publication-day parties that resemble big-budget film premieres. Some are bringing in magicians, jugglers and stilt walkers and serving popcorn, cider, candied apples and other carnival fare to re-create the atmosphere of the book.