JK ROWLING, the Harry Potter author, has signed a publishing deal to release her first ever novel for adults, in what is set to become one of the most anticipated book launches in years.
Worldwide English rights to the book, whose genre, release date and subject matter are shrouded in secrecy, have been snapped up by publisher Little, Brown, a division of French company Hachette Livre.
The deal means that Rowling’s long-standing relationship with Bloomsbury, the London-based publisher that launched the Harry Potter books, has come to an end, at least in terms of new works by the author.
Rowling's humble beginnings, which included spells writing in an Edinburgh coffee shop to stave off the cold, are the stuff of literary legend.
Rowling, who is worth an estimated £530 million, said that the new novel will be nothing like the Harry Potter series, which sold over 30 million copies in the UK alone. She said that with the move from children’s to adult fiction, a move to a new publisher seemed like a logical step.
She said: “Although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world.
“The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher.”
Rowling said that she was “delighted” to have a “second publishing home” in Little, Brown in what she described as a “new phase” of her writing life.
Little, Brown, which is also home to authors such as Alexander McCall Smith and Jenny Colgan, refused to comment on the book, beyond saying that its title, publishing date and “further details” will be announced later this year.
As soon as the deal was announced, speculation swirled around Twitter about the book’s content.
Ian Rankin, the Edinburgh-based author whose highly-successful Rebus detective novels are also set in the city, suggested Rowling’s book will be a crime novel.
“Wouldn't it be funny if J K Rowling's first novel for adults turned out to be a crime story set in Edinburgh? My word yes,” he said.
He continued: “Might explain why she left the neighbourhood (me, McCall Smith, Atkinson near-neighbours) and moved across town..”
Neil Blair, Ms Rowling’s literary agent at The Blair Partnership, remained tight lipped about the book.
He said that it was “exciting news” when contacted by The Daily Telegraph but would reveal no more.
“At this time neither we nor Little, Brown are providing any further details I’m afraid,” said Mr Blair.
It is understood that there was no bidding war for the book as it was not put up for auction.
In a statement, Bloomsbury said: "We are proud to be JK Rowling’s longstanding children’s book publisher. On the 26th June this year, we will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of the first publication of ‘Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone’.
"The relationship between JK Rowling and Bloomsbury remains stronger than ever. We are pleased to announce that as part of our long term strategy for Harry Potter we intend to publish illustrated editions of all seven Harry Potter books in a rolling programme from 2013 onwards in addition to our partnership on e-books with the Pottermore website."