From Rags to Riches: 7 Things Every Writer Must Learn From J.K Rowling

JK Rowling with a copy of her Harry Potter Series
JK Rowling with a copy of her Harry Potter Series

How it all Started:

Some decades ago, a wonder girl was born. She enjoyed reading fantasy books as a little girl and even tried writing some short stories, she had a rich imagination. Wizards, magic and sorcery formed part of her world. She thought she should be a novelist but that was not to be. Coming from an impoverished background, her parents wanted her to do a vocational course that would enable her secure a real job in the real world.

“Your overactive imagination is good for amusing people but not enough to pay for a mortgage or for securing a pension, my little girl,” She was once told by her parents.

As if that was not enough?

Getting admitted into the university was no different. Her parents wanted her to do a “useful” course, but she wanted to study English literature. In order not to upset them, she agreed to pursue a degree in modern languages.

She continued in her pursuit

In the University, she focused on her dream, spending her time mostly in coffee bars writing stories and sometimes not even attending lectures. Upon graduation, she took up secretarial jobs, got married and had a daughter. During lunch sessions, her writing bug did not leave her. Her employers noticed that she was not paying attention to work. As a result, she lost her job numerous times.

A failed Marriage

Sadly, she also had a failed marriage. Her world was crashing down all around her. There seemed no hope. She was miserably alone with an exceptionally short-lived marriage, jobless, a lone parent with a daughter to look after, and as poor as it was possible to be in modern Britain. The fears that her parents nursed about her, and that she had for herself, had come to pass. She felt as if she was the biggest failure from any standard. At a time she even contemplated suicide. There seemed nothing to look forward to in this world for her.

The Turning Point

She decided to take full control of her life. Failure had taught her things that she never knew about herself. Failure made her discover her true self. It gave her an inner security which did not come from passing university examinations. She realized that she had more strong will and discipline than she ever thought. With an old type writer and a story to tell to the world, the sky is just the starting point for her.

One day on a train journey from London to Manchester and back, she created a story of a boy wizard in her mind. She thought that to be a good bed time story for her daughter.

She began writing the entire story, spending most of her time in a coffee shop, writing all day and ordering only one cup of coffee, indeed she was determined.

A few years down the line, she finished her manuscript after writing 700 pages in long hand and then manually typed it. She now had to send the manuscript to publishers.

“Children’s stories have no market”

Series of Rejections

Her manuscript was rejected one after another by twelve publishers. It was very easy to give up at that juncture. She had never had any success in life. It seemed as if her life was jinxed.

Yet she persisted

She sent her manuscript to the 13th publisher.

After a year, her wizard story finally found a home at Bloomsbury. She was granted a miserly $1500 advance. Her publisher advised her to keep her day job, as there just wasn’t enough money in children’s literature. The first printing of her book had a run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were sent to libraries. In early 1998, an auction was held in the U.S. for the rights to publish the book. Scholastic Inc. won and paid her $105,000. The book was published in the U.S.

Her book attracted millions of fans from the world over, irrespective of culture or nationality, children or adult. She became the first person to become a billionaire from her books.

In 2006, she released the seventh and the final book in the series that sold more than 400 million books worldwide. Today, her books have been translated into 65 different languages.

Joanne’s patience, persistence and an unshakable belief in herself more than paid off in the end.

J.K Rowling Quote
J.K Rowling Quote

Who is the wonder girl?

She is the British novelist, screenwriter and film producer best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, the famous J.K. Rowling. Her first book, a boy wizard story, was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today, the Harry Potter brand along with its movie franchisee, is worth billions of dollars.

What every writer must learn

Your Background isn’t a stumbling block:

Many a writer have abandoned their dreams due to their backgrounds. Many have stopped writing because they felt they are not been supported. You could come from a poor home and your family might not support your dream. But that is not a yardstick to ditch your dream.

Joanne never had it easy, she was not born with a silver spoon, she never had supportive parents, at a time no body was ready to listen to her. While narrating how bad things were for her then she was described as: “Being as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless”. That was her background, the parents were poor, but she was determined.

Your niche determines your reach:

A writer’s niche is very important. A niche simply put, is your specialization and the expertise you have gained over the years. Be it in Health, Technology, Family, Motivation, Finance and so on. Many writers today neglect their niches because it’s not lucrative or popular. Joanne faced same , her niche was “Children fantasy” which was not lucrative then.

But that never stopped her from writing, she was persistent despite being told that: “Children’s stories have no market”. Her persistence paid off, the niche has taken her places she never imagined, she went ahead to write 7 books in the series, and even more and is being celebrated in the world today for the then “no market” niche.

J.K Rowling Quote
J.K Rowling Quote

Taking action matters a lot:

Are you afraid of taking actions? Do you think your writing prowess is not good enough? Writing has always been a dream, but you are afraid of mistakes. Now listen to this: Joanne couldn’t have made a name for herself if she never took actions. Harry Potters wouldn’t have been a reality today if she never made an attempt at writing. Many writers today, are in motion rather than taking actions.

I love the way Leonardo da Vinci puts it: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things”.If indeed you wish to become the next Joanne of our time, you need to start taking actions today. The actions you take today, determines your tomorrow.

Failure should never deter you:

Joanne experienced series of failures in her writing career. Her life was full of ups and downs but she never relented. While setting up a career as a writer, she had a break-up. How demoralizing! But she won’t allow that to stop her.

She lost her job, because she wanted to achieve her dream, but that was never going to stop her from keep pushing. After spending years putting up her story, it was rejected. She moved from one publisher to the other, until she got to the twelfth, yet it was the same story.

We experience failures in many ways daily especially as a writer. Writing is a daunting task, but sometimes your write-ups won’t be appreciated. Every writer should learn that failures and disappointments are part of life, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

The road to success is narrow:

Imagine yourself writing an article/book and it gets rejected, what would come to your mind. You might feel that’s the end of the road for you and your writing career. But Joanne teaches us that, the road to success is indeed narrow.

After being rejected by the twelfth publisher, she was sure of succeeding with her writing, and she had the courage to approach the 13th publisher, which turned out to be the turning point in her career. There is a thin line between success and failure, if you can conceive it you can achieve it.

J.K Rowling Quote
J.K Rowling Quote

Success is not a day’s job:

The Harry Potter series’ idea was conceived by Joanne while she was on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. But 7 years down the line, she was still writing her first novel. Yes, it took her 7 years before she launched her first novel. Isn’t that ironic to what is witnessed today. Many writers want a “get-success-quick” model.

They wish to conceive an idea today, start writing today, complete it today, and become successful same day. The truth about success in writing as exemplified by Joanne is that it’s never a day’s job. It takes time before one can be successful as a writer.

Writing can make you a fortune:

If there is any career in the world that can make you earn wealth, reputation and fame, then Writing will definitely come top. Writing not only liberates you, it gives you a voice and makes you an authority. Today, Joanne is an authority and well respected in the world.

She has progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. She is the United Kingdom’s best-selling living author, with sales in excess of £238m.The 2016 Sunday Times Rich List estimated her fortune at £600 million, ranking her as the joint 197th richest person in the UK. Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans.

In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors. In February 2013 she was assessed as the 13th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. She has also received honorary degrees from St Andrews University, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, the University of Exeter, the University of Aberdeen and Harvard University, for whom she spoke at the 2008 commencement ceremony. Writing has made Joanne a fortune, and it’s exactly what it can do for all writers.


The story of J.K Rowling is one every writer must learn from. Her writing career is an inspiration every writer should benefit from. J.K Rowling has shown that no matter what your background is, you should identify what you are exceptional at, and pursue it vigorously. It might seem difficult in the beginning, there will be challenges, failures and disappointments too but you should never be deterred. With time, you can move from rags to riches and make a fortune out of your writing.

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