Women of the Year
Illustration by Lu Cong for TIME
March 2, 2020 1:02 PM EST

In the fall of 1998, Harry Potter crossed the Atlantic. The wizarding world imagined by author J.K. Rowling already had a foothold in Europe: the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the U.K. that July made it the first children’s book to top the British hardback best-seller list. Buoyed by the series’ success and critical acclaim across the pond, the first Harry Potter book debuted stateside in September to enthusiastic reviews. Before year’s end, Warner Bros. had secured the film rights, and the boy wizard was on his way to becoming a globally recognized brand. Two decades later, authors who cite Rowling as a creative influence—from Rick Riordan to Tomi Adeyemi—are power players in their own right, and the publishing industry has been transformed by Rowling’s unlikely rise. The billions of dollars Harry Potter made in bookstores and at the box office resulted in a surge in similar fare, from Twilight to The Hunger Games. Melissa Anelli, author of Harry, a History, says the series proved to publishers that young audiences are “not just willing to read a book, but would follow the stories they loved to the end of the earth”—and thus, that young-adult literature is worth serious investment. —Cate Matthews

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This article is part of 100 Women of the Year, TIME’s list of the most influential women of the past century. Read more about the project, explore the 100 covers and sign up for our Inside TIME newsletter for more.

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