A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Harry Potter

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chronicling My Journey with Harry Potter


July 1998

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

This was the opening paragraph of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which I read in the morning on my way to my internship with Raincoast Books in 1998.


I was immediately hooked by the language. I love first paragraphs of novels and here, right off the bat, JK Rowling had set the stage for the most magical of books by honing in on the lack-luster imagination of this suburban middle class couple.

By the time I arrived at Raincoast (a 40 minute bus ride later), I was incapable of working. I basically told my boss that I couldn’t do any work that day because Harry Potter was trapped in the dungeon with Fluffy, the giant three-headed dog, and I needed to see how it was all going to work out.

Harry Potter was actually on the third floor of Hogwarts, but I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was talking about. They knew Harry Potter, dungeon, wizard, and that was enough.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had been published in the UK the previous year (June 30, 1997).

My interest was peaked because JK Rowling had received a $100,000 advance from Scholastic to publish the books in the US, and that was a big news story at the time.

Raincoast Books, as the distributor of Bloomsbury UK, discovered that they actually had the rights to publish the Harry Potter books in Canada. (There was initially some confusion about who had the rights and Alan Macdougall, president of Raincoast, had met with Christopher Little (Jo’s agent) at Frankfurt, and they’d sorted out the deal. Raincoast, not Scholastic, had the rights in Canada. And off we went!)

So I was initially lured into reading the book because of the publicity about its author, and also because Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was set to be published in July 1998.

As my internship was coming to an end, I was working in the catalogue department at Raincoast Books. For those of you not in book publishing, publishers create a catalogue of all the books they are publishing that season. There’s a cover image of the book, a descriptive blurb, and author bio and sometimes a couple of interior shots for picture books or photography books.

Those catalogues are printed and given to sales reps who then visit booksellers and, using the catalogue, pitch the titles to the booksellers, who then determine what books will be stocked on the shelves and promoted.

My job was to find something interesting to say about the Harry Potter books because we were putting both in the catalogue and needed to give them a little push. In particular, we knew that there were 7 books in the series and series sales tended to wane as the series progressed. We wanted to see what kind of audience we could build from the beginning, assuming it was going to dwindle with each book.

(Raincoast.com 1998 website copy)

I know it’s hard to imagine a time when Harry Potter wasn’t popular, but JK Rowling attended some deplorable book readings in bookstore basements next to the toilets where trapped book browsers were compelled to listen because they happened to be nearby when she started reading to the handful of guests who’d shown up.

That was another lifetime ago.

And tonight, quite possibly 13 years later to the date of my first Harry Potter encounter, I am attending the midnight showing for the last Harry Potter film.

“I am dead excited” as the British fans like to say. And although I’m a little sad to see this part of the franchise come to an end, I am really looking forward to Pottermore and the adventures that lie ahead.

Cheers to Harry Potter, JK Rowling and the friends that I have met along the way!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Watch the YouTube video of the Forbidden Journey ride. It’s really dark so I’m not sure if it will make sense to those of your who haven’t been on the ride. The ride is a 3D or 4D adventure. You fly through Hogwarts grounds and the Quidditch pitch, then a dragon chases you, you dip down into the dungeons, and end in the Great Hall.

This calmer video shows the castle and the path you wind through the castle.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL

I went to Infinitus 2010 in Orlando in July and the fine folks at Universal Orlando invited conference attendees to the park after hours for a special presentation and access to the wonders of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade at night. It was magical.

Entering Hogsmeade.

Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Express is the first sight on your right.

On the left just along the way is Dogweed and Deathcap: Exotic Plants and Flowers.

It’s winter in Hogsmeade but somehow even in shorts this works.

Zonko’s and Honeyduke’s sweet shop is also on the left entering Hogsmeade.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The first site of Hogwarts is breathtaking.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The path to the racing Dragons, and to any ride, is filled with little references to the books and movies. Here’s the car from Chamber of Secrets crashed into a tree. Not the Whomping Willow but still.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
When you’re ready for a drink, the Three Broomsticks will do.

Butterbeer in the Hogs Head
I chose to have Butterbeer in the Hog’s Head. The hog’s head behind the bar moves. And butter beer is delicious. It’s sparkly, creamy and beer like, but sweet. Like a cream soda with root beer and butter cream foam on top.

Butterbeer stand

I had some from the Butterbeer cart in the village centre, but the Hog’s Head butterbeer from the tap was by far the best. (There’s also a frozen, slushy version, but the Hog’s Head poured the best.)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Owl Post

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Ollivander’s Wands packaged up (and for sale) in the Owl Post. You can send an owl from the Owl Post and they have a Hogsmeade postmark.

The Owlry is pretty stunning.

Peppermint Toads in Honeydukes
Peppermint Toads in Honeydukes.

Pink stairs in Honeydukes
Honeydukes is a kid’s delight. I bought a chocolate frog, pear candies and pineapple candies.

Pumpkin Juice
Pumpkin Juice. I didn’t have any but I did sniff a friend’s. It’s like drinking pumpkin pie, or smells like it anyway.

Lavender, Ron, Hermione
Costumes are not allowed in the park, but there was an exception for us.

Tonks, Mad Eye, Harry
Tonks, Lavender, Mad Eye, Harry, Hermione, Fred

Hagrid’s hut.

The attention to detail is remarkable. I love the typography and signage. This is Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Entering the gates of Hogwarts.

Talking Portraits
Inside Hogwarts. The talking portraits are, well, talking!

Harry, Ron, Hermione
Harry, Ron and Hermione talk to you and decide that Hermione will use magic to help you fly.

The pensieve in Dumbledore’s office.

Dumbledore's Office
Dumbledore on the balcony talking to us.

Sorting Hat
The Sorting Hat explains, in rhyme, the rules for the magical ride in which you fly through the grounds, across the Quidditch pitch, into the owlry, then into the dungeons. Totally awesome. I went twice.

Great Hall
The great hall.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Tales of Beedle Bard by JK Rowling

The Tales of Beedle Bard by JK Rowling (Collector’s Edition) arrived today. It was as cool as opening a package from Apple. Thank you Jo!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Opening the box. The gift case is bigger than I expected. I also saw the regular edition in the store and was hoping this would be spectacular by far. It is.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Slipping off the case cover, you have a big leathery book hallowed out with a side pocket for your Beedle the Bard reproductions of the prints and the velvety pouch with The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

I chose to look at the prints first. Love the skull.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Lots of great sketches. A whole envelope.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The fountain is my favourite. I might frame this one.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

In case you need to be taunted, here’s the gift package.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Gryffindor red and gold embroidered pouch containing the tales.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Gasping. The title page is beautiful. I love it.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Jo’s handwritten introduction.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The rest of the book looks like Cochin Wizard (?) to me. (That’s a font.) It’s awesome. Cute metal clasp. There are more photos to come. Can’t talk now ... reading.


The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Opening the box from Amazon.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

This side up.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales cover.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The book also smells good.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Marbled end papers.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The title page. Still gorgeous every time I open the book. Loving this present.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

HPEF Beedle Bookfair at Barnes & Noble

Shopping at Barnes & Noble between December 4 and 10th? Use the HP Education Fanon Bookfair voucher (cite #352096) and a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to HPEF for their literacy endeavours.

Here’s the full scope from the HPEF newsletter:


Are you planning to buy a copy or twelve of The Tales of Beedle the Bard this holiday season? Wait! Be sure you get your Beedle from a Barnes & Noble store between Thursday, December 4th (the release day for the new book by JK Rowling!) and Wednesday, December 10th using the HPEF Bookfair voucher. In fact, make all your holiday book, CD, and DVD purchases during the Bookfair dates! Every B&N purchase made then and using the voucher or the HPEF number of 352096 will have a portion of the proceeds donated back to HPEF to continue our literacy endeavors.

So how can you help? Go to any Barnes & Noble from December 4-10, 2008. Shop in the store for anything, that’s right, ANYTHING.* Take all your items to the cashier, and give them the voucher or Bookfair number before you pay. After you’ve made your purchase, take your items home, and know that you just helped HPEF. And if your B&N has a Café, use the voucher for those lattes and scones you get. Every penny helps.

You can double your giving. Every B&N has a Holiday Book Drive. When you come into your store, select a book to purchase and donate to their Book Drive recipient and use the Bookfair voucher. One purchase helps HPEF and a child in your community. See a bookseller in your local store for details.

It’s really that easy. Every single purchase you make during our Bookfair helps. It’s your gift to us without having to worry about what’s on our wish list. Make the gift even better by forwarding this email and information on to everyone you know…family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, other HP fans, and anyone else you can think of. You don’t have to be a part of HPEF to make a beneficial Bookfair purchase, and you don’t have to buy just HP titles. Anyone can buy anything to help. It’s such an easy way to help in these tough economic times.

Want to know more? Need a voucher? Visit our page here for further details and a full FAQ. In advance, thank you for your support, and a very safe and happy holiday season to you and yours.

Heather French
HPEF Bookfair Liaison

*Ok, there’s a few exceptions…no gift cards, textbooks, magazine subscriptions, or membership fees will apply to the Bookfair. But, really, anything else helps!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Amazon Sells The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling


In December 2007, Amazon bought JK Rowling’s handwritten book The Tales of Beedle the Bard for $4 Million. At the time I thought it was awesome for Amazon to have bought the book, and that it was fitting for the number of copies they’ve sold of the books and ... well isn’t that nice.

I was also pretty desperate to hold that book. The little white gloves of the Sotheby’s staff are etched in my mind.

And NOW ... Amazon has the exclusive right to sell The Tales of Beedle the Bard to the masses. There is a limited collector’s edition that I just pre-ordered and a standard edition.

Here it is. Drool away. And if you want to order the book and follow my link below, I’ve signed up for the Amazon affiliate program and will get a percentage of the sale. That would be a nice Christmas present and could pay the hosting fees of SoMisguided or I could turn it back to you in the form of postage and mail you out any book that I’ve reviewed on my site (except for the signed copies of stuff I’m particularly fond of ...) Ya, that’s a better idea.

Who’s for that? If we make any money, I’ll post the amount and how many books and postage that equals and I’ll send you Christmas presents. We’ll figure out the details as we go. (I’m saying Christmas because Beetle isn’t published until Dec. 4—but you can pre-order.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is Available for Pre-Order on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Review: The Magician by Michael Scott

imageThe Magician is the second book in the series “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” and I like it a lot.

The first book The Alchemyst introduces readers to the legend of Nicholas Flamel.

Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. He is acknowledged as the greatest alchemyst of his day and it is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

My Harry Potter friends will know about him and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The records show that he died in 1418 but his tomb is empty.

The legend is that he lives on by making the elixir of life and that the secret of eternal life is hidden within a book that he protects called the Book of Abraham the Mage.

Michael Scott’s series is based on this part of the legend—that the book, in the wrong hands, will destroy the world.

The Magician, Dr. John Dee, plans to steal the book and bring about its prophecy. The Alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel, must protect the book and the good side of the prophecy, which is that twins—Sophie and Josh Newman (regular kids) are the only hope.

The Twins have powers that can be awakened and if they stay on the right side of the battle, they can save the world from the Dark Elders.

I know in writing it seems flaky, but it’s a great, page-turning adventure. I like these fantasy books that are based in reality but have a side of reality that we just don’t see or understand. We ignore magic because it’s just not sensible.

6 books in the series. Books 1 & 2 are in stores.

The Magician by Michael Scott is published by Delacorte Press (part of Random House)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Harry Potter: Beyond the Book

I met several really cool people this weekend at Portus 2008 who are involved in various Harry Potter fan sites. Here’s a few you might like:


Azkatraz, Harry Potter conference next year in San Francisco. July 18-21, 2008. There will be a Wizard Rock show at Alcatraz.

Infinitus 2010 is the next Harry Potter conference AND it’s in Orlando, Florida, which will be the home of the “World of Harry Potter” theme park. I am incredibly excited about this conference.

My loot bag photo includes the links to lots of fun stuff that I discovered at Portus. Click on the photo to view it in Flickr and mouse over areas to see the info.

My Loot

Monday, July 14, 2008

Portus: July 12, Masquerade Ball

Saturday I gave my keynote at the luncheon and that evening was the masquerade ball.  A little wrock (wizard rock for you muggles) and lots of costumes.

I went as a stylized version of Hedwig.

Monique & James



A Sugar Plum Fairy

Cute as a button!

Nearly Headless Nic

Nearly Headless Nic

Hedwig & the Phoenix


Bad guys have great costumes!

Great Costumes

Good thing my Gryffindor buddies are around.


Hep & Aziza

More costumes

Snape & Dumbledore

Snape & Dumbledore



Poor Winky. Fell off the butterbeer wagon.

Portus 2008: July 12

Albus? Aberforth?


The Craft of Portus

Lots of fans make incredible art.

Portus 08: Harry Potter dolls

My absolute favourite paintings were by Elizabeth Wu. This one in particular I really, really wanted.

Hermione by Elizabeth Wu

I have to mention my totally cool Snapefest bag. If you’ve never heard the Snapecast podcast, have a listen to the snapey, snarkiness of Snapecast.

Portus 08: Most Precious Gift

The People of Portus

Jim Dale, narrates on the North American audio books. Brilliant.

Portus 08: Masquerade Ball

Henry Jenkins, smarter than Hermione, Director, Comparative Media Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Portus 08: Henry Jenkins

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Portus 08, July 12: Met Dumbledore

Dumbledore & one of the Hallows

Yesterday was about Slytherin. Today was about Gryffindor.

Here’s the burned hand of Dumbledore.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Portus 2008: Mudbloods

First wizard spotting is a death eater.


First Wrock (Wizard Rock) concert I attend is The Mudbloods.

The Mudbloods on MySpace. I am LOVING “Wish You’d Be My Witch”. Please listen.

Despite the ominous overtones of these two things, the conference is very cool and awesome.

I’ll be posting photos on my Flickr stream.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Portus 2008: Saturday Keynote


Bibb Lettuce with Cucumbers and Tomatoes, Oil and Vinegar Dressing

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breast with Roasted Corn Sauce, Garlic Mashed
Potatoes, Seasonal Fresh Vegetables
Vegetable Lasagna

Banana Cream Pie in Almond Crust

And then the phenomenon of podcasting in the Harry Potter community, according to Monique.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Portus 2008: Dallas, TX June 10-13


I’m going somewhere special on July 10.


Friday, December 14, 2007

JK Rowling’s Handwritten Book Sells for $4 Million

JK Rowling’s handwritten book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, sold at Sotheby’s for £1,950,000 ($4,062,930 CDN) to ...


Rowling is donating the proceeds to The Children’s Voice campaign, a charity she co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten—all 157 pages of it—and it looks gorgeous. It’s bound in brown leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones.

Amazon.com posted a review of the book and some incredible photos. There’s also a short video clip:

I’m giddy just thinking about what it would be like to hold that book. Here’s what the reviewer had to say:

So how do you review one of the most remarkable tomes you’ve ever had the pleasure of opening? You just turn each page and allow yourself to be swept away by each story. You soak up the simple tales that read like Aesop’s fables and echo the themes of the series; you follow every dip and curve of Rowling’s handwriting and revel in every detail that makes the book unique—a slight darkening of a letter here, a place where the writing nearly runs off the page there. You take all that and you try and bring it to life, knowing that you will never be able to do it justice. With that, let’s dig in and begin at the beginning, shall we?—Daphne Durham

Read the full review on Amazon.com

(Source: Tip from Siobhan)