Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Halloween -- From Bestselling Mittens the Kitten!

Lola Schaefer is the award-winning author of over 250 books for children. This month, Happy Halloween, Mittens has been on the Kids' Ebook Bestseller List several times. Today it's in the number 7 spot in the Kids' section of Barnes and Noble. 

Lola, let's start with a summary of Happy Halloween, Mittens. 

Mittens, a kitten, wants to help Nick prepare for Halloween. His first efforts make messes. Finally, Mittens helps when his special touch makes a ghost SPOOKY.

What's  your target audience? How do you believe the e-format works serves their needs?

The My First I Can Read Books are written and illustrated to support emergent readers. The combination of the repetetive text and the match of text with illustration offers this particular audience several context and syntax cues so they can be successful, independent readers.

The e-format is another way to reach these readers. The convenience of having an "easy read" wherever you go is quite appealing. Children can entertain themselves with e-books in the backseat of the car, in a dentist or doctor's office, waiting in line, or sitting in a restaurant. I have to admit, though, several years ago when I began my writing career I never imagined this technology. It's immediate, engaging, and FUN!

Is your book available in print format?  How do your sales compare between the two formats?

Yes, all of the MITTENS titles are in print. The earlier books were first released in hardback and paper. Now, with the e-format, the earlier titles have been formatted and the later titles are debuting in all three forms simultaneously. As far as sales, I'm not quite sure yet. MITTENS sells well, especially when featured in the traveling book fairs and the school book clubs. HAPPY HALLOWEEN, MITTENS is a seasonal book and therefore doing quite well this month as an e-book. Ask me that question about sales in two years from now. Then we'll all have better records to review.

Lola Schaefer,
award-winning & prolific!
Tell us briefly about your path to publication: Traditional or independent? Recently or further in the past?

I started writing with my classroom students years ago and it was the first time that I ever tried to pen what was important to me. I quickly learned that I knew very little about structure, the craft of writing and the publishing industry. That was more than 30 years ago and each of those summers I attended a different writing conference and experimented more. You might say I grew alongside my students year after year.

I learned the discipline of writing by authoring more than 150 school library books. These were nonfiction titles and I became thoroughly engaged in the research. Something I still enjoy today! Greenwillow Books (HPC) published THIS IS THE SUNFLOWER in 2000 and after that 1-2 picture books debuted each year. So, for me the journey has been quite traditional. Of course, like any other author, every book proves to be an adventure and a test of my patience and perseverance.

What were your initial thoughts about e-publishing? Have those initial thoughts changed now that you’ve done it?

I suppose I was little leery, as were many others, initially about e-publishing. My generation of readers and writers has had a long love affair with the bound book. I know I was worried that "real" books might disappear. But already we're seeing that there is plenty of room for both formats (and probably more to come). Almost all of my picture books are now available in the e-format. I watch children, as well as adults, read books on their electronic devices. It's reassuring that our current technology can make stories, poems, and nonfiction available almost anywhere and anytime. And I also see children and adults toting print books with them. When I work in schools, children are still excited to walk into the library and find good books and our local public library always has a line of patrons checking out their favorites. I'm hopeful now that all formats will sustain future generations as they become lifelong readers.

Learn more about Lola and her many books at her website.

And visit the Kids' Ebook Bestseller List for more great e-books -- for Halloween-time or any time!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From Heather Killough-Walden: What's Not to Love About E-Books?

Today we have a guest post from  Heather Killough-Walden, bestselling author of The Big Bad Wolf series and The October Trilogy. We last heard from Heather in August when I interviewed her about her book, Forever Neverland. She has another book called Sam I Am that she's publishing in e-format only, and it's perfect for Halloween reading. Over to Heather....

I love eBooks. What’s not to love about eBooks? No murdered trees, no bulky weight, no need for a book mark. You can change the size of the font for those days when you just woke up way too early, and on some devices, there’s not even a need for a reading lamp. You can stay up late to enjoy your favorite book without bothering the loved one trying to sleep beside you because the chapter you’re on is back-lit by the device you’re reading it off of. All of these things are great reasons to love eBooks.

But I’ve got an even better one. The world of eBooks allows writers who were previously ignored by the publishing world to finally step out of the lonely cold of the shadows and into the sunlight. To someone like me, who has literally been writing for nearly the entire duration of her life, that’s nothing short of a miracle.

And that’s why most of my books are self-published eBooks, including Sam I Am. Self publishing was where I got my start. Before eBooks came along, the self publishing choices available to aspiring writers were sketchy, expensive, and disappointing. However, eBooks made their debut and stepped into the lime light with Amazon’s Kindle, and suddenly there were angels singing for writers everywhere.

EBooks have been good to me. I’ve hit the #1 slot in vampire romance on Amazon four times. I’ve hit similar slots on Barnes and Noble. I made the USA Today Bestseller’s List. I became a New York Times bestselling author… all with self published eBooks. If you really can write, if you really do have a gift, and you have the guts to not only reveal yourself to the world but throw yourself upon the mercy of readers everywhere, then eBook publishing can become your very best friend in the world. It’s why I continue to write and publish eBooks even now that I have a print publishing deal with major publishing houses around the world.

And it’s why I’ll probably continue to do so – until the day Sam Hain comes for me. Me. The bard, the storyteller. Because what kind of world would it be without books? Books, whether scribbled onto paper or created with keyboards and light, are magic. But don’t take my word for it. Join the lovely bard Logan Wright as she discovers for herself just how powerful the written word can be, in Sam I Am, the first book my young adult romance series, The October Trilogy.  Halloween is here. The door to Sam Hain’s realm has opened. Sit down with a cup of hot apple cider or steaming, marshmallow-topped cocoa and dare to find out just what it is that waits on the other side.

Heather has a special offer for you. She's giving away 5 Kindle copies of Sam I Am to the first 5 people who sign up on her Twitter account and send her a message referencing the Kids' E-book Bestseller blog. (twitter = @killoughwalden) Good luck!

This week I need to compile my bestseller list on Friday night instead of Saturday morning, since I will be at the Florida Writers Association annual conference. Check the list for the latest top tens in e-format for kids and YA!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Garfield: Purr-fect for E-books?

Earlier this month, Two Minute Garfield Stories by Jim Davis showed up on my Kids' E-book Bestseller list.  Between his cartooning, TV animation and his work for literacy, Jim took the time to share his thoughts on the e-format and its influence on him, and of course on Garfield! 

Jim, tell us what your book is about. Two-Minute Garfield Stories are just the right length for bedtime and the stories are a mashup of heartwarming classics and imaginative new tales.

What is your target audience?  How do you believe the e-format works for that audience?

This book is aimed at the younger audience -- the stories are simple and short! Perfect for bedtime, a car trip, an airplane ride. I was just on an airplane where a 2-year old was totally mesmerized by the e-reader his mom had -- the little boy didn't make a peep during the 2-hour trip!

Is your book available in print format? How do your sales compare between the two formats?

Too early to compare sales, but Garfield Two-Minute Stories was first published by Golden Books in 1991.

Tell us about your path to e-publication.

This is the first-ever digital Garfield book. I’m excited by the potential – publishing has always been a mainstay for Garfield . It’s fun to have the publishing world reinvent itself!

What were your initial thoughts about e-publishing?

My first thought was, oh boy, now we have to digitize all the books we’ve done since 1978. But I’m already a fan. Anything that gets kids to read is good by me.


Every week I'm contacting authors who show up on the Kids' E-Book Bestseller List, to congratulate them and ask for their opinions on the e-format. I hope you enjoy the variety of perspectives these authors bring to the blog. Don't forget to check this week's bestseller list for the latest in e-books for kids!

(Note to authors: If you've been on my list and haven't heard from me, that means I can't find your contact information online. If you'd like to share your thoughts on your e-publishing experience, get in touch with me at

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kindle: Easier Said Than Done?

I told you about my quest to make my book Maximum Magic: The Save Our School Summer available on Amazon in the Kindle format.. I said, "They say it's easy -- I'll tell you if that's true."  Well, my book is live, available for sale, and it's true -- it was easy. Time consuming but easy.

It took me two weeks in the evenings after work to get this project done. The first week was mostly spent on one more revision-read, then re-formatting my manuscript to the Kindle specs . The Kindle instructions  are clear and easy to follow. I needed to change my font, re-space my lines from manuscript double spaced, and format my chapters and page breaks. It was tedious work, but not difficult.

The 2nd week I followed the step by step instructions to change the whole thing into an e-book. Again, the instructions were clear, and they also provide a video that shows you what to expect. Amazon provides the MobiPocket software which is free and easy to download onto your computer. Once you've run your book through Mobi, you upload it into a Kindle preview reader to see how it will look on an actual Kindle. And in this new format, voila! You see typos you never noticed before! So back to the original documents, make the changes, upload again to MobiPocket, then to the Kindle previewer. I needed to do this cycle three times, but it was easier each time and not very time consuming.

Once you're happy, you upload it to Kindle which is also easy. It takes about 24 hours for the book to be live, ready for sale. When it was live,  my book was not showing up when I searched in the age bracket I wanted. The Kindle forum answers most questions, and customer service was just an e-mail away, with thorough, helpful answers given within 24 hours.

For ages 8-12
available for Kindle
There are plenty of blogs and YouTube videos to give you more step by step details, but honestly, I found the Kindle instructions to be easy to follow. I just worked on a few steps each evening and by the end of the week I had an e-book for sale.

With 20/20 hindsight, here's what I did right: I didn't promote ahead of time that the book would be available by a certain date. That took the pressure off, and allowed me to take any hiccups in stride, able to wait for the great responses from customer service. Besides, what's the hurry? Once the book is done, it's out there forever.

And here's what I learned: I figured that middle grade readers who were interested in magic would find my book by its keywords, and I would have at least some sales on a fairly consistent basis. Well, the book has been live for one week, with no promotion. Total sales so far? Zero.  

Gotta go -- time to promote!

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has been #1 on Amazon's "Children's and Young Adult" bestseller list for 30 weeks....until TODAY!  See which author and book broke through to the top. It's on this week's Kids' E-book Bestsellers list.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

L.J. Smith: From Vampires...To Witches...To E-Books!

L.J. Smith is the best-
selling author of many
books and series. Her
writing has spawned two
TV series, and has been
translated into thirty-five
Last Saturday The Initiation and The Captive by L.J. Smith hit the #8 spot in the Teen section of the Barnes and Noble e-bookstore, and the #3 spot in the Children and Teens section of Apple's iBookstore. This is a compilation of two books from her series, The Secret Circle. Lisa (the initials stand for Lisa Jane) was excited to hear about her e-book success and she very kindly answered ALL of my interview questions.

Lisa, let’s start with a summary of The Initiation and The Captive.

I’d like to focus on the two original SECRET CIRCLE books, which just premiered as a hit show on the CW. They tell the story of Cassie, slight and shy, who is uprooted from her home and brought to live in New Salem, Massachusetts. There Cassie discovers that she is a tremendously powerful hereditary witch, and the final member needed to complete the Crowhaven Road coven, which is split between good and bad magic-workers. The entire Circle, though, is in the greatest of danger from Black John, a restless spirit of pure evil looking for a new body and determined to make the Crowhaven coven his own. If Cassie is to face him, she’ll need a united coven behind her, and it doesn’t help that her best friend’s boyfriend—also a witch—and she are hopelessly in love. 

What is your target audience, and how do you think the e-format work for that audience?

My target audience is anyone interested in forbidden romantic urban fantasy/horror (try saying that three times fast). I have in the last week gotten emails from a nine-year-old in Israel, a thirty-three year old American woman, a twenties-something Brazilian reporter, a Dutch high school student, and an Arabic gentleman. However, of course, my biggest audience is teenagers and readers in their early twenties. No matter who is reading my works, I support the format wholeheartedly. It’s satisfying to download an e-book and have it immediately ready to read, and, of course, wherever you keep your e-books, you’ll have plenty of room for my something over two dozen titles!

How do your sales compare between the print and electronic formats?

When my books were released in print, every book made the New York Times Bestseller List, with the exception of THE SECRET CIRCLE, which was a book about witches competing with a lot of vampire books, and a number of books from movies. So I would say that the sales are about the same in print and e-format. Of course, since THE SECRET CIRCLE has come out on TV, there has been a run on print books, so I may just not have the information to answer this question.

Tell us briefly about your path to publication, and how you got into the e-format.

I’ve been writing books since I was in college, and have published around 25 or so. Naturally my approach was very traditional. I started out without an agent, and without any idea of how to get one. It was what is now Alloy Entertainment that contacted me (having read my first two acclaimed hardback books) to ask if I’d like to try to write something different—a trilogy about vampires. That was THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (now in its third season as a show on the CW). It was due to a sort of accident that I also published THE SECRET CIRCLE through them. But, given that they are a book packager, and that my initial contract transformed my creativity into “work for hire,” they are entirely responsible for putting my books into e-books.

Was e-publishing your idea or your publisher’s?

This was definitely my publisher’s idea, since this is the first I’ve heard about my works becoming e-books. I am always glad, however, to offer the reading audience worldwide another venue to my novels.

How are people finding out about your books?

Gosh, I have no idea. But I intend to feature the fact that SECRET CIRCLE is in e-format on my website, at

Do you believe the e-format helps or hurts you as an author? How?

I don’t believe that it either helps or hurts me as an author. After all, my books came out in print first and did well. Now, they’re doing well as e-books. I’m happy! I will say one thing. I would not want to publish a book in e-format alone.

Do you believe the e-format helps or hurts your readers, specifically children and/or young adults? How?

I think I must be not qualified to explore this question. I’m not sure how having access to books on computer or a Kindle-like-device is going to hurt my readers. As I said, they can now take a whole library of books with them wherever they go. The one thing I do miss with reading an e-book is the actually feel of a book’s pages in my fingers.


See this week's Kids' E-Book Bestseller list for more great books and interesting authors!