NEW YORK -- Adult fans of J.K. Rowling can rejoice: She has a new novel coming, for grown-ups.
The author of the mega-selling "Harry Potter" series has an agreement with Little, Brown in the United States and Britain to release her first adult novel, the publishers announced Thursday. The title, release date and details about the book, long rumored, were not announced. A neighbor of Rowling's in Edinburgh, author Ian Rankin, tweeted Thursday that he thinks Rowling has written a mystery novel.
"Wouldn't it be funny if J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults turned out to be a crime story set in Edinburgh?" Rankin wrote. "My word yes."
Her seventh and final Potter story came out in 2007, and in recent years the British author has said that she was working on an adult book and on a Potter encyclopedia.
Rowling's Potter books, which broke sales records around the world, were published by Bloomsbury in Britain and Scholastic in the United States.
Rowling will now share the same publisher with Stephenie Meyer, whose "Twilight" series at least partially filled the gap opened by the conclusion of the Potter stories.
"Although I've enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world," Rowling, 46, said in a statement released by Little, Brown. "The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life."
Rowling's agent, Neil Blair, would not disclose financial details of the deal but said there had been no auction.
Any Rowling book would seem a guaranteed million seller, although it's questionable that her new novel will have the same mass appeal as Potter.
Adult authors from E.B. White to Sherman Alexie have nicely managed the transition to writing for young people but, once a writer is defined as a children's author, the transition can be tricky.
Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, a successful playwright in his early years, once confessed that he was forced to say "goodbye to all that" after his beloved books about the bear and friends. "Goodnight Moon" author Margaret Wise Brown tried for years to write stories for The New Yorker.
Daniel Handler of "Lemony Snicket" fame and Ann Brashares, author of the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" novels, are among the recent popular writers for children who have had limited success as adult writers.
But Rowling does begin with one advantage: The Potter books had an enormous following among readers of all ages and she is widely credited with revealing to publishers that children's books were no longer just for the young.
Meyer's vampire novels and Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy also have caught on with both parents and kids. Meyer herself wrote an adult book, "The Host," a best-seller in 2008.
"It would just be cool if my existing fans liked it," Meyer told the Associated Press in 2008. "And I hope to get some new readers who would never go into the YA [Young Adult] shelves."
Beth Puffer, director of the Manhattan-based children's bookseller Bank Street Bookstore, said she'd have to see the novel before deciding where or whether to stock it.
"I assume if it's written for adults, it's not appropriate for children," said Puffer, who added that she might stock the book in a section for ages 14 and up. "There are a lot of former children and young adults who grew up with Harry Potter and they would likely be an audience for her new book. You also have all the adults who loved the Potter books."
One of Rowling's most passionate fans, Melissa Anelli, said she was beyond herself "with excitement." Anelli, 32, runs a leading Potter/Rowling fan site, http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org .
"J.K. Rowling is simply a great writer, and no matter what she applies her talents to, we will anticipate and enjoy it," Anelli wrote in an email. "I'm also so intrigued by this process: What will happen as the world's greatest children's/YA author navigates the new publishing landscape and publishes for a new audience?"
Rowling's novel will be available in both print and electronic formats.
The author held out for years on allowing the Potter books to come out digitally, but announced in 2011 that Potter e-books would be sold through her own "Pottermore" website. The books were supposed to become available last fall, but have been delayed until sometime this year.