The Potion for Success

Once upon a time, there was a boy who delighted the imagination of Muggles.

Young and old, these ordinary people grabbed hold of the tale of a little boy who was tragically orphaned, could cast spells and fly a broomstick, and had a magical scar that marked him as special, and did not let go.

Until now.

July 21 marks the end of a decade-long phenomenon that marked popular culture as indelibly as Harry's lightning bolt scar marked his forehead. The Saturday release of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," will seal the boy wizard's fate and leave millions of readers satisfied -- or hungering for more.

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Whatever happens to Harry, his memory will live on well beyond the past 10 heady years. With wizarding rock bands, fan conventions and the tantalizing hint dropped by author J.K. Rowling that she may have more up her sleeve, the Harry Potter series will likely take on a life of its own among many future generations of readers.

But today's fans, who -- depending on how fast they can read -- will know whether Harry lives or dies in his battle with Lord Voldemor come Saturday, will soon have another question: What's next?

Secret Potion for Success?

"It's a crapshoot," said Barry Goldblatt at Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency about the possibility of another young literary figure as captivating as Harry Potter.

"What's the next Harry Potter?" will be the catchphrase among publishers for the next ten years, said Goldblatt.

The majority of editors and agents that spoke with said that re-creating Harry Potter would be impossible.

However, there are certain qualities that any future Harry Potter-esque novels will require for success.

Arthur A. Levine, the publisher of the Harry Potter series in the United States and one of two editors who has worked with Rowling on the books, said that the Potter phenomenon has given him a simple litmus test for success.

"When you read something you ask yourself, do you love it? If you say yes, then you ask yourself, why do you love it."

Levine said he couldn't have predicted the Potter-mania that took over the world, but when he read Rowling's manuscript, he recognized elements that would make the books sell.

"I remember thinking, this is so much fun -- the humor reminded me of Roald Dahl. So of course, here's one of the greatest writers of children's literature, and here's someone who reminds me of that," Levine recalled.

Harry's magical world also contributed to the books' great success. J.K Rowling created a land as fully imagined as J.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth or C.S. Lewis' Narnia, each with its own lexicon -- "Muggles," "quidditich," "a golden snitch."

Harry, according to Goldblatt, also had the characteristics of a universally appealing hero.

"A fish-out-of-water kid looking for a place. … It's a universal story that every human being can relate to," said Goldblatt. "Then you empower him and you give him the ability to defeat others who are in his way. And you give them an image that most people are looking for in their lives."

And yes, it did matter that Harry was a boy.

"Little boys would never read about Henrietta Potter," Goldblatt said. "Girls will read about both."

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