Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cynthia Leitich Smith: Back Again with Another Bestseller

Last June, I interviewed Cynthia Leitich Smith about her bestselling e-book, Cat Calls. That interview has been the one of the most popular of all the ones I've posted. Cynthia's new book, Haunted Love, has been a Books On Board bestseller since December 3rd, and I'm delighted to welcome her back to the blog.

First let's start with a description of Haunted Love.

Spirit, Texas, is a town of secrets, and as the new owner of the local haunted movie theater, Cody Stryker is juggling more than his fair share.

When a mysterious new girl comes to town and runs afoul of the ghost that lives in his theater, Cody’s caught in the middle and needs to figure out exactly who he can trust.

"Haunted Love" is a short story featuring new characters and set in the same Gothic universe as Cynthia Leitich Smith's novels Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, Diabolical (forthcoming), and Tantalize: Kieren's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle.

As you got into e-publishing, has anything happened that you wouldn’t have predicted?

I’m most surprised that there isn’t more mention in the kidlitosphere of e-editions of books that are also published in print. Then again, it’s not something I routinely cover myself at my own blog, Cynsations, though I regularly highlight works by other authors.

One of my 2012 goals as an author-blogger is to do a better job of pointing out books' electronic and audio editions in addition to their corresponding print versions.

What is your target audience, and how do you believe the e-format works for that audience and serves their needs?

For “Haunted Love,” my audience is young adults, ranging from age 12 to 102. Really, half of my reader mail comes from grown-ups! But arguably, the core audience is 15 to 25. Obviously, the younger the readers, the more likely it is that they’re tech savvy. There's a wonderfully active and enthusiastic YA literature community online.

What top factors do you believe put your e-book where it is now?

The book offers a short story, originally published in an excellent anthology, Sideshow, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick Press). That same publisher released the e-short. So, it’s a professionally edited and published piece with a cover created by the enormously talented Candlewick design team. As an author, that kind of support is priceless.

“Haunted Love” is a mystery and love story featuring paranormal characters, all of which are story elements popular with YA readers.

Beyond that, the story is set in the same fantastical universe as my Tantalize series, also published by Candlewick. So, there’s an already invested base audience but also an opportunity for prospective readers to get a sample of sorts.

More personally, I’ve made an effort to spread the word about the e-release through my own site, blogs, and networks. (I’m hugely heartened by all the bloggers, tweeters and facebookers who’ve helped the announcement go viral.) Beyond that, I'm currently running a facebook ad, promoting the e-book, with a link to more information.

Do you believe the e-format helps or hurts your readers, specifically children and/or young adults? And how do you see the world of e-publishing for children within the next 5 years?

Ideally, kids should be tech adept and well read, and yet so many today aren’t. Especially with youth, access and affordability are critical. Library funding is vulnerable in this age of ongoing budget cuts. It's tragic, but the reality is that millions of young readers around the world don’t own a book in any format.

Even if some e-books can be sold at a lower price point, right now, for too many families, the cost of an e-reader or computer is more of a wall than a gateway.

Will that disparity remain in five years? If the world economy were better, I would be more optimistic, but I suspect we’ll see an even greater gap. Some kids will miss out entirely while those from privileged backgrounds will have opportunities to embrace e-books only or at least for a substantial percentage of their reading.

What about ten years? The future there may be brighter, I think. Experience teaches us that tech becomes more affordable over time. If that’s the case, the lower book production costs (materials, shipping) may make it possible for every child and teen to personally own and explore a first-rate collection of books.

It would be even better if they could have print books, too, though from what I understand, there is technology in the pipeline that will allow us to e-publish in a way that's more satisfying on a tactile level and for sharing.

So long as we maintain the community aspect—the related conversation in the public/school libraries and brick-and-mortar bookstores and classrooms—that would be the best imaginable result.


See this week's bestsellers in e-books for children and young adults, where Cynthia's Haunted Love has jumped to the number one spot on Books on Board.  And stop back next week when we'll talk with Peter Bently, author of the Barnes and Noble bestseller, Underpants Thunderpants.