"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" on sale July 16, 2005
(Associated Press, December 21, 2004)
In other words, her fans will have to take the book off their Christmas gift lists, and make it part of their New Year's resolutions.
"We are delighted to announce the publication date," which also will take place in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, said the joint announcement by Nigel Newton, the chief executive of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in England, and Barbara Marcus, the president of Scholastic Children's Books in the United States.
"J.K. Rowling has written a brilliant story that will dazzle her fans in a marvelous book that takes the series to yet greater heights. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' delivers all the excitement and wonder of her best-selling Harry Potter novels," they said.
The announcement not only pleased Rowling's millions of followers, it also delighted the British stock exchange.
Bloomsbury shares surged 7 percent to a new all-time high of $5.69. Sales of Harry Potter titles have provided the company with a significant boost in the past, although in September it said the absence of a new Rowling release this year had held back its annual rise in profits to 4.5 percent at $7.16 million.
In an earlier message on her Web site, the British author wrote: "I know you all expected this to happen on Christmas Day, but I was sure that those of you who celebrate Christmas have better things to do on the day itself than fight your way into my study, whereas those of you who DON'T celebrate Christmas would definitely prefer not to wait until the 25th."
Rowling, 39, noted that while she is pregnant with her third child, she has had the time "needed to tinker with the manuscript to my satisfaction and I am as happy as I have ever been with the end result. I only hope you feel it was worth the wait when you finally read it."
The 2005 publishing date means that fans will be spared the seemingly interminable three-year wait between Potter IV, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and Potter V, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which came out in summer 2003.
The publishers' statement and Rowling's Web site did not say whether the new book's length would top the industrial-sized 870 pages of "Order of the Phoenix."
As the London stock market indicated, the new book in the series should be great news for booksellers, who have endured another year of slow sales.
More than 100 million copies of the fantasy series, which debuted in 1997, are in print, and "Order of the Phoenix" sold an astonishing 5 million copies within 24 hours of publication.
Sales have remained phenomenal even as Rowling's books have grown longer and darker, reflecting the boy wizard's maturation into adolescence. The first three Potter books have been made into hit movies. The books also have inspired countless Potter paraphernalia, including candy, cakes, capes and toys.
Rowling has said that one of her characters will not survive her sixth book, but she refused to identify that character.
Potter himself is safe, at least for now. Rowling has said her teenage hero will survive until the seventh and final book in the series, but has refused to say whether he will reach adulthood.
Only recently, the book's completion seemed far away.
In a message posted December 10, Rowling said she had nothing "noteworthy to report, because I have been spending nearly all my time sitting in front of my computer writing, rewriting and taking the occasional break to bang my head off the desk in frustration or else rub my hands together in fiendish glee (I think the latter has happened once)."