Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rambling Through Cyberspace with Kelly Bennett

I contacted author Kelly Bennett when I saw her e-book, Not Norman: A Goldfish Story hit the #5 spot in the Kids' section of Barnes and Noble's online store. Her response was enthusiastic.  "Thank you for sharing this fabulous news!  My first toe-dip into the world of digital books and I’m thrilled!"

In fact, she was so excited she invited us all on her blog tour. Kelly and illustrator Terri Murphy are celebrating the launch of their new picture book ONE DAY I WENT RAMBLING (Bright Sky Press)—which they hope goes E-something soon—with the Let’s Go Rambling Blog Tour through June 22nd! Join the LGRBT and see what everyone’s rambling about, share your own stories and enter to win cool LGRBT giveaways on the blog tour Facebook page. 

I hope to see One Day I Went Rambling on the Kids' Ebook Bestseller List  soon! In the meantime, let's hear about Not Norman.

Kelly, tell us what your story is about. 

A boy, who wants a pet more than anything, is heartbroken when he receives a goldfish, Norman, for his birthday. The boy takes Norman to school, in hopes of trading him for a good pet. But gradually, through the day and into the night, the boy comes to appreciate Norman.

How did you get published? Traditionally or independently? Recently or further in the past? 

My journey as a professional writer began in 1985 with a Harlequin Romance. I wasn’t writing it, I was reading it. The story was about a sweet young thing who’d returned home to settle her father’s estate, needed money and so began writing for the newspapers. And then, as good romances go, got published and got the guy. I already had the guy and 2 children, but like the heroine in that story, I’d returned home to care for my grandmother, too. And I had been a writer in high school, too. So I thought, Hey! Fictitious or not, if she can do it, I can too! And so I enrolled in a community college course in Submitting and Marketing Writing for Children.

I received my first book contract about a year later and have been writing and publishing ever since. All of my writing, for magazines, newspapers and books, has been traditionally published.

Is your book available in print format? How did your e-book come about?

Not Norman, A Goldfish Story, was published in 2005 by Candlewick Press as a hardcover picture book; 2008 in paperback; 2009 as an audio book, and most recently as an e-book. I had absolutely nothing to do with any of this; all editions are the publisher’s decision. 

What were your initial thoughts about e-publishing? 

I was thrilled to learn that Not Norman, A Goldfish Story was going to be published as an e‑book. Being an e-book means that more children will be able to read and enjoy it. And that children who enjoy reading Not Norman at home or in school, can easily take it with them to read and enjoy wherever…

Do you think e-publishing will eventually take over print publishing? 

In a recent Horn Book Magazine article “The E-Future” (Mar/April 2012), Stephen Roxburgh, president and publisher of namelos, notes “The kids learning to read on screens will be the first generation to slough emotional attachment to printed books.” I don’t know if I agree with Roxburgh that kids could completely “slough emotional attachments” as the act of reading a picture book—a child’s primal reading experience— requires a child and adult in close contact, often lap-in-lap close, interacting with and through a story —is so emotionally charged. But I do agree that children are more comfortable with e-everything. That being reality, I expect e‑publishing will become more and more the norm. And, as soon as the financial side of e‑publishing is worked out, e-books will, whenever possible, replace print publishing. But not entirely. For the foreseeable future, Not Norman, A Goldfish Story’s edition history will be the exemplar. Successful paper books will be published in e-format and stories that begin as e-books will be published as traditional bound books. We’re already seeing this. And, good news for authors: as popularity increases and e-readers become more common and less expensive, opportunities to write e-material will abound.

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

Children birth to 8 and their adults are my readers. I can’t imagine e-books hugely impacting traditional picture book printing the way it will—already is—novels, etc. Maybe because I can’t imagine reading an e-book to a group of wiggly 3-year olds at Storytime, or snuggling up with a tot and my e-reader at bedtime. Anyone who has ever seen a child haul in an armful of books for “read to me” time will surely agree. And turning the pages—yes, and sometimes ripping them—is part of that “read to me” experience. Cuddling a lap-baby while you both squint to see the pictures and read text on a device together doesn’t cut it. There’s a reason picture books are so large… No e-anything can replace the important 3-party tactile experience of a child & adult holding and reading a book together.

However, as pure entertainment yes! Bring it on! More and more we’re seeing children being entertained, baby-sat, taught with e-stuff. That’s a fabulous use of e-books—picture books included. Children want to enjoy the same books over and over and over…in e-book format, they can do this— anytime and anywhere!

Too, educationally speaking, e-readers level the playing field. There’s been lots of buzz about over-achieving parents (and educators) rushing children onto chapter books. Additionally, there’s competition among children over who reads better. As with many things “bigger” is perceived as better, so children are moving—being pushed, coerced—into trying to read books beyond their comprehension level. Add to this, complications that come with physical disabilities and learning differences. One of the beautiful realities of an e-reader is they all look the same on the outside so font, book size, subject matter, isn’t an issue.

Learn more about Kelly Bennett and her books at her website. And for a swimmingly good time, (and more on the Rambling blog tour) wade through her blog: Kelly’s FishbowlYou can also follow her on Goodreads and Facebook.

Stop by every week for the updated Kids' EBook Bestseller List!