Things To Take Away From The Harry Potter Series

How do we take a book series that has been a bestseller for over decade, and dive into its right’s and wrong’s, do’s and don’ts? Well, we don’t. This is not about an in-depth analysis of the story or the literary value of J.K. Rowling’s most successful work, rather about what learnings we can imbibe into our own characters or focus on them in case we feel we have already imbibed them, through simple and relevant examples from the books.LoveThe most important, and rightly so, lesson in the book, is that the power of love diminishes any curse, any negative outburst, anything that tries to overpower you at all. Albus Dumbledore’s constant reminders to Harry that the fact that he can love is proof that he has powers greater than Lord Voldemort say so. As we see throughout the story, the fact that Harry was protected by his mother’s love made him impossible to be touched by death eaters, and when we move towards the very end, we see how potent love and sacrifice becomes, whether it is Snape’s undying love for Lily, or Harry’s great sacrifice for the whole of wizard kind. The point here is simple, in our day-to- day existence, we come across many crossroads where we need to choose. Choose between being angry on someone/something and being forgiving, between finding faults with someone and appreciating their small tasks, between selectively liking someone and loving them unconditionally. The choices all lead to the same road, finding your ability to love, and seeing your happiness increase manifold in due course of time.


All friends matterWith Ron and Hermione by his side, Harry always felt he could move mountains, and so do most of us, we feel elated, strong, and indefatigable when surrounded by our friends. It does not matter whether you have two friends or twenty. What matters is whether you respect all friends equally. Harry considered Ron his best mate, even though Ron walked out on him on at least two major occasions, once during the Triwizard tournament in Book Four, and once (the more serious one) when they were hunting horcruxes in Book Seven. On both occasions, Hermione stuck by Harry rock-solid and truly dependable. Then why is Ron still Harry’s best mate? Well, the diversity in the characters of different friends bring out the best in your own character. When Ron was not walking out on Harry, his easy-going personality made him a lot more fun to be around than Hermione, and Harry cherished those moments, they brought out the lighter nature of his character. Hermione, on the other hand, always ready to help, a moving library by herself, brought out the more serious nature in Harry, the bit of his character that outshone everyone else owing to his instincts and nerve. This goes to show that all kinds of friends are indispensable, and we should treat them all with equal respect.


KindnessThis kind of ties in with the first takeaway. Well, if you are not kind, you cannot love. However, in the context of the story we are talking more about the sort of kindness one needs to show to those who are socially inferior. Dumbledore said – Sirius should have been kinder to Kreacher, and he was too right. If Kreacher had not been treated kindly by Regulus, he would have never saved the locket from going into trash, and the Harry trio might have never been able to trace the missing horcrux. Likewise, in our lives, we come across several situations where again we are confronted with choices on how we should behave with our helping hands, such as our cooks, our drivers, our security guards, and so on. Always treat them with sincere kindness, there will come a time when what has gone around will surely come around.There are many more takeaways from the book series, but I will leave them for an actual book review later.

Choosing Your Book Format: Hardcover or Paperback

In the past, the decision about a book cover followed a steady pattern with traditional publishers. Most big name traditional publishers would print a book in hardcover, and then some months later, the paperback version would come out. This process was followed for a couple of reasons. A new book, especially by a well-known author, was a collector’s item. The first edition of a hardcover book was something to treasure, and it was often of the highest quality and made to be aesthetically pleasing, including having a dust jacket. People who wanted a book they could treasure for the rest of their lives would buy a hardcover book. But not all readers could afford hardcover books, so a cheaper mass market paperback would eventually follow. Depending on how much value the readers perceived that the book would hold for them, they might opt to buy the hardcover or they might wait for the paperback. On occasions where the hardcover did not sell well, the paperback edition was never released.

As the world of publishing has changed in the last couple of decades, more publishers have begun to bring out only paperback versions for books perceived not to be of such great lasting value, especially in terms of genre books like romance novels and mysteries. This move saves the publisher money and also makes the books available to a target audience that might not have paid as much for a hardcover of a mystery that can be read in just a few hours.

Now that self-publishing has become so popular, and because traditional publishers are struggling to remain financially stable, more and more books are being printed solely as paperbacks because it’s the most affordable choice. However, hardcover books are still chosen for significant titles by traditional publishers, and some self-published authors also choose hardcover books, often in addition, but rarely in place of paperbacks.

In choosing a book cover format, authors should think about the way the book will be used, the practicality of the cover choice, their own printing costs, what price the market will bear, and how potential readers will view the cover. Following is a breakdown of guidelines for choosing a book cover format for self-publishers.

Hardcover
If you are publishing your first book, you probably should keep your costs low until you know your book will sell, so you are better off opting for a paperback over a hardcover book. That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. Hardcover books are often a good choice for:

  • Children’s Books-because children might be rough with their books so these covers will give the book greater endurance.
  • Cookbooks-because a hardcover book can more easily lay flat on a kitchen counter for quick reference while cooking.
  • Coffee Table Books-hardcover books are easier to hold than paperback books because coffee table books tend to be larger than the average size of 6×9 or smaller used for most paperback books.

While most nonfiction titles and novels will do best as paperback books, you might also ask yourself what perceived value your readers will find in the book. How important is your book, and how important will your readers perceive it to be? Putting your ego aside, you need to understand that your readers are probably not going to place as great a value on your romance novel as they will if you write a biography of Mark Twain. The type of cover you use will speak to the reader, telling him how important your subject is. Remember, readers do judge a book by its cover.

One final advantage to a hardcover book is the amount of “selling” text you can place on it. It is possible to print a nice looking hardcover book without a dust jacket so that the front and back material are the same as if you printed a paperback. However, most hardcover books are printed with dust jackets, which allow for more text to be printed on them. A good formula for text on a dust jacket is to fill the back of it with testimonials you’ve collected from other authors or experts in your field. Then the inside front flap can provide a description of your book that might even run over onto your inside back flap. The inside back flap can also provide space for a short biography of the author and room for a color author photo. Room for more text means more space to sell your book to the potential reader.

That said, if you’re like me, you may find the dust jacket gets annoying while you read the book. I have a tendency to remove the dust jacket while I read, but if readers do that, it doesn’t hurt anything once the book has been sold.

Finally, think about the cost to you and the customer. A paperback book is more affordable to authors and readers. However, a hardcover can be produced sometimes for as little as four dollars more, and that cost can be passed onto the customer by selling the book for five dollars more so you still make a profit on the hardcover. The question is simply: Will people be willing to pay five dollars more for the hardcover edition?

Paperback
The paperback cover is most affordable, and except for the few exceptions listed above, it is probably the best choice for any book, especially novels and self-help books and other nonfiction titles. Again, your book will be judged by its cover, so people may perceive your paperback book as of lesser value-meaning they might actually think the content is of less value too-than if it were a hardcover. However, there is no longer any sense that people are “slumming” by buying paperbacks. I don’t know the percentages for a fact, but I would guess that at least 90 percent of books are printed solely as paperbacks today, especially among self-published books.

You have a little less space on a paperback cover to write text that will sell the book, but you can generally fit on the back cover all the information that you would include on the inside flaps of a hardcover’s dust jacket. If you wish to include testimonials, you can place them inside the front cover as the opening pages. I have mixed feelings about placement of testimonials. Many readers will read them in choosing to buy the book, but others will go to the book description first-most people will buy the book because the topic interests them more than because someone famous said the book is great-but having both can only help so it’s up to you whether or not you feel your testimonials deserve back cover space. Often you can fit just one or two short testimonials on the back cover with the description and author bio to balance everything out.

French Flaps
I’m seeing more and more books published with French flaps. This format is basically a hybrid. It is really a paperback book, but the flaps are an extended part of the paperback cover that fold inward to serve as a dust jacket without being removable. French flaps provide the same space as a hardcover for book descriptions without the expense of a hardcover with a dust jacket. A book with French flaps does cost more than a paperback, but depending on how many books you print, it will probably cost you less than a dollar more per unit.

I believe a lot of authors are choosing to use French flaps because they believe this format makes their book look more professional or significant than if it were simply a paperback. Readers may be impressed with the look of French flaps and even see them as a novelty, but frankly, I find such books annoying to read-the flaps have a tendency of wanting to flip up, making the book somewhat unwieldy. This format feels pretentious to me, like such books have delusions of wanting to be hardcover books.

Making the Choice
Personally, a standard paperback is good enough for me with the few exceptions of books I’ve listed where a hardcover is preferable. While I have offered some guidelines here for choices, no two books are the same and special circumstances may exist that would make one cover a better choice than another. Every author must choose for himself which book cover will best suit his book to promote its value as well as be most desirable in format and price to potential readers.

Book Marketing Techniques: Those That Backfire

Authors need to promote their books, but there’s a right and a wrong way to market, and wanting to sell a book is no excuse for not retaining your manners. No one likes a pushy salesman. Here are some examples of ways I’ve seen authors try to sell their books that have been a total turn-off for me. Authors, make sure you aren’t using these techniques. I’ve listed them in order from what are, in my opinion, least to most annoying.

Lying about Your Book’s Greatness

I’ve seen authors lie about how wonderful their books are in several ways.

  1. Having non-credible book endorsements, both on their websites and books’ back covers. By non-credible, I mean having an endorsement signed by “A.K. in Hawaii” or “A Teacher in San Diego.” If these people don’t want to give their names, they probably don’t support your book enough to want to stand by their comments, and they aren’t going to convince me that your book is worth reading. At the very least, you want full names, and a blurb from Tom Smith isn’t going to mean much to me anyway, unless you’ve written a book about healthcare and he’s Dr. Tom Smith from the Cancer Treatment Center of Miami, or something along those lines. If you can’t get experts on your book’s topic or celebrities or other authors to endorse your book, you’re better off just not including any testimonials so it doesn’t look like false promotion.
  2. False testimonials. Yes, I’ve seen false testimonials and heard authors tell me about them. “A.K. in Hawaii” might be the author’s next door neighbor, a real person who really read the book, but he might just as well be someone the author made up. I know of one author who had a comment page on his website, and about once a week, he would post a comment under a false name raving about his book to try to convince his website visitors how popular and wonderful his book was. The sad thing is that this author’s book truly was terrible, full of grammar mistakes and typos and badly printed, so anyone who read the book knew those comments had to be lies or written by completely crazy people.

Showing Off Your Big Ego

Too many authors try to promote themselves in ridiculous ways by writing on their websites how their book is a “must read” and contains the answer to all the reader’s problems. If you have to tell readers that, they aren’t going to believe you. Go find some legitimate testimonials from reliable people who will say those things about your book. You are not qualified to judge your own book because you have a vested interest in it.

The worst example of authors showing their egos that I’ve seen is when they post book reviews for themselves on Amazon and other online bookstores, and of course, they give their books five stars and brag about how great their books are. When I see an author give himself a five-star review, I realize the author is clueless about what is legitimate as a review; he hasn’t done his homework about the publishing industry, and he is trying to use trickery to sell his book. Not only will I not buy the book, but if there’s an option to vote on the review, I will always vote that it was not helpful.

Being In Your Face and Violating Personal Space

No one likes to have his or her personal space violated. However, not everyone has yet learned that the Internet also contains personal space for people. It’s one thing to have your book for sale on your website, at online bookstores, to promote it at websites for book promotion, or to buy Internet ads. It’s another thing to invade other online users’ personal space.

Here are some book marketing efforts I’ve experienced online that have been a total turn-off for me.

  1. Repetitive and Unwanted Emails. I’ve had this happen more times than I can count. Somehow an author finds my email address and adds it to his email list and I start hearing from him every couple of days about all his book events and why I should buy his book. Even if I want to be on the person’s email list, sending me an email every couple of days is irritating. An email once a month or even once a week isn’t that bad, but I have other things to do than read about your book events on the East Coast when I live in Texas, and I am not going to hop on a plane to attend your book signing, especially if I’ve already read your book and had it signed. And if you’ve added me to your email list without my permission, well, technically, that’s illegal.
  2. Sending Friend Requests at Social Media Sites Solely to Promote Your Book. If people are interested in your book, they will request to be your friend at a social media site. Instead of spam friend requests, take out a Facebook ad that will be targeted toward the people most likely to read your book. It might cost you a little more money, but it will save you time online and provide you with far better results.
  3. Posting Book Covers on Other People’s Walls. My “Wall” is not the place to promote your book. My friends are not posting on my Wall so they can find out about your book. Get off my Wall!
  4. Messaging. No one likes junk mail, so don’t send me a message about how great your book is and how I can buy it. I only want messages from my real friends.
  5. Chatting. This one I especially find irritating. One day I was on Facebook, and an author, whom I didn’t know and who had already sent me three messages trying to tell me how great his book was and to let me know I could get it on Kindle for just $2.99, sent me a chat message about his book. If I don’t reply to your message, I sure don’t want to chat with you. I politely ignored him and logged off Facebook rather than tell him to quit harassing me. I wasn’t going to engage in an argument with him. But let’s be clear-I’m on Facebook to chat with my real friends. Not to read your book.

Sadly, space violations don’t only happen online. I was once at a book festival where an author made a point of going up to people walking by her booth with a set of headphones and quickly placing them over her victims’ ears before they could object so they could listen to her audio book. When I saw what was going on, I quickly turned down the nearest aisle and avoided that side of the room for the rest of the time I was there. I’ve also stopped to look at books at festivals where authors have said things such as “Why don’t you buy this book?” and “What can I do to get you to buy my book?” You can let me be is what you can do. Tell me about the book if you like, give me a chance to read the back cover, and then I’ll buy or move on. I don’t need a pushy sales pitch.

Have you ever met an author who behaves in these ways? I sure have-too many times. Perhaps you are even one of those authors. Hopefully, now you know better. Let’s face it-guerrilla book promotion doesn’t work when you act like you have a gorilla’s manners. Connect with your readers, but do it on their terms, without being pushy or rude. Be friendly, be straightforward, but also be willing to take “No” for an answer. When you are polite, you always make a better impression on your potential readers.

What Is An E-Book? – The Industry and the Future

E-books have evolved in their short history to a point where most online surfers have heard of them and understand the different formats. The key to e-books is that they are electronic versions of books and do not require printed versions, but can be available in hard copy form if the publisher chooses. Many self-published writers are finding e-books to be a simple way to express their ideas without the costs and barriers involved with traditional publishing. Amazon has been a leader in the industry with its Kindle reader while Apple has challenged the platform with its iPad, which downloads e-books from the iBookstore.

The main reason for making an e-book can be summed up by efficiency. An e-book doesn’t get lost like a physical book and doesn’t have the problems of torn pages or a worn cover. From a cost perspective, there is no longer any reason to spend a fortune on cutting down a forest to create thousands of copies of a book without knowing if it will sell. In the old world, books might be out of stock if they did sell, requiring new pressings, whereas in the new world e-books are never out of stock. The emerging model for printing hard copy versions now is based on orders as they come in, such as at Amazon.

Another efficient quality of e-books is they can be updated more easily. Traditional books were printed in a series of pressings, based on demand. But if demand diminished a book might go out of print and become outdated. The original pressing might also have misinformation or typos. E-books, however, allow the writer to always have an updated version ready for online distribution, as errors can be corrected immediately, instead of waiting for the printing process to take months.

Consumers enjoy the advantages of e-books over traditional books thanks to lower pricing. Since it costs less money to make and market an e-book than a printed book, the price drops for consumers. Number of pages can still affect the price, but e-books make it possible to sell more items of the same thing. For example, instead of buying an entire book, some people might just want to purchase one chapter at a reduced price. Other advantages of e-books are they can be converted to different languages and they can be used with text-to-speech software to create audio books for people with disabilities.

Today’s e-books are designed for smaller screens than in the past. Dedicated e-book readers have become an extra electronic device people purchase specifically just for reading e-books and online newspapers. The Amazon Kindle has been one of the most popular e-book readers, along with the Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and Sony Readers. Tablet computers such the iPad make useful e-book readers due to their portability and controls that make reading easier. These devices can download and store e-books from online stores such as Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader Store and the public library-based OverDrive. Mobile devices such as iPhones and Androids can also read e-books.

Although the e-book market does not have industry formatting standards, the most popular format has been the Adobe PDF files. Web developers tried to construct a system known as Open eBook, a zip file based on XHTML and CSS, that breaks e-books down into components. But the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) has moved closer toward the EPUB format as a standard, allowing the file to be converted to other formats. EPUB can embed metadata, resize text and supports Digital Rights Management.

The popularity of e-books has skyrocketed in the second decade of the 21st century. In May 2011 Amazon reported that its sales of e-books had surpassed sales of hard copy books. A Pew Internet Project survey in 2012 showed that 21 percent of American adults had read an e-book within the past year. It was also found that e-book readership favors people under age 50. A large majority of e-book readers read printed books as well. Nearly half of the respondents said they preferred e-books over printed books.

In 2012 Apple launched iBook Author, which is a software program that allows authors to create e-books in the PDF format on an iPad and directly make products available in the iBooks store and for sharing. Amazon has a platform called CreateSpace for authors to create e-books, which must conform to the site’s policies. Lulu also provides the tools for authors to create and market their own self-published e-books.

E-books have proven to be profitable, even for traditional publishers such as Random House. Fifty Shades of Grey by novelist E.L. James was one of the company’s big sellers in 2012. Half of the 30 million copies sold were e-books. The company reported that e-book sales made up 27 percent of the total book sales, which was a 7 percent increase from a year earlier.

Free e-books can be found at Amazon by looking at their Top 100 Free list. Many times a publisher will give away a sample of a book as an e-book that promotes the printed paperback or hard copy for sale. Sometimes e-books are just free to expose a new author. Apple also offers free e-books at the iBooks store. Other websites that offer free e-books are ManyBooks.net, Free-ebooks.net and Open Culture. You can also search for free e-books using the PDFgeni.com search engine.

The future of e-Books may merge more with multimedia and text to speech capabilities. It remains important that e-books are a clickable medium. They can be linked to websites as well as interlinked so that they provide easy navigation to source material. The most advanced e-books link to instant videos that complement the text. E-books are very useful for people involved with other communication besides writing.

Musicians, painters and movie makers can use e-books to showcase and promote their other media. Ultimately, e-books are quick learning tools that provide instant access to deeper content. If the e-book can speed up someone’s search for knowledge to a matter of minutes or even seconds, it has a powerful utility for the reader. Expect e-books of the future to help people cut through technical jargon and learn new systems quickly with visuals and creative ways to index and categorize knowledge.