Joanne “Jo” Rowling, (born July 31, 1965) is an English fiction writer who writes under the pen name J. K. Rowling. Rowling is most famously known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has gained international attention, won multiple awards, and sold over 300 million copies worldwide. In February 2004, Forbes magazine estimated her fortune at £576 million (just over US$1 billion), making her the first person to become a US-dollar billionaire by writing books.
In 1995, Rowling completed her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on an old manual typewriter. Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evans, a reader who had been asked to review the book's first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was handed to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected it. A year later she was finally given the greenlight (and a £1500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from the small publisher Bloomsbury. The decision to take Rowling on was apparently largely due to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of the company's chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father, and immediately demanded the next. Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children's books.
Soon after, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing. The following spring, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., who paid Rowling more than $100,000. Rowling has said she “nearly died” when she heard the news. In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher's Stone with an initial print run of only one-thousand copies, five-hundred of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are each valued at between £16,000 and £25,000. Five months later, it won its first award, a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. In February, the novel won the prestigious British Book Award for Children's Book of the Year, and, later the Children's Book Award. In October 1998, Scholastic published Philosopher's Stone in the US under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, a change Rowling claims she now regrets and would have fought if she had been in a better position at the time.
To date, six of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter series, one for each of Harry’s school years, have already been published and all have broken sales records. The last three volumes in the series have been the fastest-selling books in history, grossing more in their opening 24-hours than blockbuster films. Book six of her series earned The Guinness World Records Award for being the fastest selling book ever. The sixth book of the series sold more copies in 24-hours than The Da Vinci Code sold in a year. (The Da Vinci Code was the best-selling book of the previous year.)
The above information is courtesy of Wikipedia.org