The HBP Release Date: It’s Closer Than You Think!

by Alex

UPDATE: As recently announced by JKR herself, HBP will be released at midnight July 16, 2005. Great job, Alex!

The one question that every Harry Potter fan wants answered–besides the identity of the Half-Blood Prince–is, “When will the book actually be released?” I wanted to give the hardcore fans, as well as myself, some hope and insight by deducing an accurate guess as to when HBP will be published! Let’s get started. The first real hint we received from Jo was at the Edinburgh Book Festival on August 15, 2004:

I am normally like this when I write a book. Usually when I am just over halfway I normally love it, but by the time I finish it I completely despise it and think it is worthless rubbish.

We can now deduce that Jo was over halfway finished with Book 6 on August 15, 2004. In an interview right after the release of OotP in June 2003, she mentioned she had already started writing Book 6:

I started it when I was pregnant [with her second child, not the third]. That was a different situation because I knew I didn’t have to so that immediately meant that I wanted to! You know, the absolute reverse of Goblet of Fire.

Since OotP was released on June 21, 2003, why did it take over a year for Jo to reach the halfway mark of HBP? Well, for one, she had a new baby to take care of. I am guessing that during this time Jo didn’t really get any serious writing started until about 6 months after the release of OotP, around Christmas.

A little well-known HP history lesson: Usually, an HP book takes about a year to be released after the last one. That tradition was broken when OotP appeared 3 years after the publication of GoF. Jo has said, however, that HBP should be quite a bit shorter than OotP:

According to the plan for book six, it will be quite a bit shorter than Order of the Phoenix. I am not going to swear on my children’s lives that that is going to be the case, but I am 99% certain of it.

Remember what Jo said regarding the length of OotP:

Yes, five is going to be shorter than four. I always knew four would be the longest, but even I didn’t expect it to be that long.

All we can say for now is to go on Jo’s first statement regarding the length of HBP until she says otherwise.

Moving on, new revelations on Jo’s site (the greatest gift to HP fans everywhere) have once again revealed clues to HBP’s length:

I have learned something from this experience, which is that when you read through twenty chapters at a sitting, then decide to do some FAQs for the website in the early hours of the morning, you mess up.

This tidbit was revealed in early October 2004, two months after her revelation of having already written more than half of HBP. How much could Jo have written from that period in which she went from “halfway” to twenty chapters? Is Jo getting closer to the end of the book much more quickly than we expected? Jo has even said that she doesn’t write everyday:

I write most days when I am working hard on a book (like now), but every day would be hard on my children! I like to spend time with them, too.

No hard feelings there, every mother needs time with her children. OotP was 38 chapters long. If HBP is supposed to be shorter than OotP (and Jo was halfway through the book two months prior to the revelation of the present twenty-chapter length), Jo must be nearing the end of HBP soon (assuming the twentieth chapter of HBP is one of the final chapters). I think we can expect the book to appear earlier than three long years after the publication of OotP!

It did, however, take her over a year to finish the first half of HBP. What does that say about the second half and my proposal that she is nearing the conclusion of HBP more quickly than we thought? Obviously, Jo is cruising through the second half quite quickly, and with her son now well over a year old, the prospect is looking much better for a quicker release date. My guess is that the completion of a first draft of HBP should be during the early months of 2005, possibly by the end of January. I also believe that around that time she will make the announcement on her web site. Shortly after that, the publishers will announce the publication date. “But wait,” I hear the critics calling, “you forgot about Jo’s newly announced pregnancy.” I believe that this latest pregnancy is actually a clue (and a blessing in disguise) that only proves HBP will be completed sooner than expected:

So let me reassure you that book six remains well on track and, fingers crossed of course, I don’t foresee any baby-related interruptions or delays. I still can’t say for sure when it will be finished, but I have written a lot and I really like it (a reckless challenge to fate, that; I bet the next chapter goes horribly wrong now).

That was posted on the web site on July 24, 2004. Women don’t usually find out they’re pregnant until after a month or so. Therefore, Jo had to at least be a month or two pregnant before she revealed to the world her wonderful news. I’m not her doctor, but I’m guessing that her bundle of joy is going to be born around late January or February. Seeing as Jo said she didn’t anticipate any baby-related delays on Book 6, that must mean she should be finished with the first draft by or before early 2005! This all just goes to show that the first draft of HBP should be finished by the early months of 2005.

Of course, after Jo finishes writing the first draft of the book, the tedious task of editing, publicity, illustrations, and audio versions will begin. The editing process, however, should not take very long:

Question: How painful is the editing process for you? Compared with writing a first draft, how long do you spend editing? Who do you conference with?
Answer: I work with my editors. I enjoy the editing process, but I edit fairly extensively myself before my editors get to see the book, so it’s never a very long job.

A little more HP history: OotP was released seven months after Jo announced she was finished. During that waiting period of the editing process, audio recordings, illustrations, and publicity, production happened. (Editor’s note: If HBP is indeed shorter than OotP, this waiting period may take less time).

Now we can finally move on to the big finale, my theory of when HBP will be released. First, here’s just one more bit of information to help further support it. Here is what Stephen Fry, narrator of the British audiobooks, has to say:

I would have my legs cut off if I gave anything away. I think we can probably say that this next one is probably not going to be longer than The Order of the Phoenix–29 hours of listening if you buy the tapes or CDs. That’s a lot of studio time reading! In fact, whenever I see Jo Rowling, I’ve just become completely banal and vulgar–I’m not at all interested. I don’t care what the story is, who lives, who dies, just “How long is it going to be?”

This means a month before the halfway point of HBP, Jo was already making meetings about the audio versions.

Big finale, drum roll please! My prediction for the release date of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is between July and August 2005! Yes, I know, this is a tad bit earlier than expected by my fellow HP comrades. Most of you were expecting Summer 2006 rather than Summer 2005. But if Rowling announces she finished the book around January or February 2005, then the book should be ready around seven months later, by July or August 2005.

I’m not just saying this because I wish it to be true. I have deduced this conclusion from the information given to the public. But, again, I could be entirely wrong. You never know what could happen when you are writing a book. Here is just one more example to show you what I mean:


Question:How many rough copies do you have to do before you get it right?
Answer: Loads and loads and loads. The worst ever was thirteen different versions of one chapter (chapter nine in
 Goblet of Fire). I hated that chapter so much; at one point, I thought of missing it out altogether and just putting in a page saying “Chapter nine was too difficult” and going straight to chapter ten.

Basically, anything can happen in Jo’s life while she is writing HBP; a relative could become ill, her new baby could be born early or, as seen above, a chapter could just take longer to write than others. Life is unpredictable, but no matter what the publication date turns out to be, I know I can’t wait for Half-Blood Prince to be published and its secrets to be revealed!

*Sources:,,,, and