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!