Saturday, May 4, 2013

THE THIEF: Stealing the Limelight as a Nook Bestseller for Kids

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, hit the number 3 spot in the Kids' section of the Barnes and Noble Nook store on March 30th. As you can see by the cover, it's the winner of a Newbery Honor. Megan has taken the time to answer quite a few of my questions about her experience with electronic publishing. Enjoy!

First, Megan, tell us what The Thief is about.

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The Queen of Attolia is the second book in a series that begins with The Thief. It's almost impossible to write a synopsis of Queen without spoiling Thief, which I hate to do. So I will just say that I set my stories in a landscape that was inspired by Ancient Greece, but is a lot more Byzantine in its technology, with a pantheon of goddesses and gods highly invested in the fate of three tiny countries, Eddis, Attolia and Sounis.

My main character is a thief. He is both clever and highly skilled (and knows it, and brags about it) which is why it comes as such a surprise when he is captured after trespassing in the palace of the Queen of Attolia. His capture sets off a chain of events that leads to war among the three countries, with abductions, intrigue, and some interference from the Gods.

Tell us briefly about your path to publication: Traditional or independent? Recently or further in the past?

I guess Traditional is probably the right word, but it was highly unconventional. I sent two of my short stories to Diana Wynne Jones. Not only was she gracious enough to read them, she recommended I send them to her American editor Susan Hirschman who agreed to publish my collection of short stories, Instead of Three Wishes. That was in 1995 when everything was on paper. A great deal has changed since in publishing since then.

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

I know exactly! I blame David Macinnis Gill. His excellent science fiction book, Black Hole Sun, was a Free Fridays selection on the Nook Blog. David got a chance to recommend any book and chose mine. Thanks, David! I am embarrassed to say he writes a better blurb for my book than I do.

How are people finding out about your book? Tell us about your marketing and use of social media.

You mean other than David? Honestly, I have a great team of people at Greenwillow who support my books. They are very patient with my failure to tweet or blog and they do a great job. I've been really lucky to have readers who recommend my books to their friends and family. I was going to say "by word of mouth," but I think many of the recommendations are passed around electronically.

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

Because I write children's book and books for young adults people sometimes ask what age group the books are for and it's tricky to answer. I write for people who really like to read, who like to read fantasy, and who like to read a book over and over. I get fan mail from readers as young as ten, but those readers usually go on reading the books as they grow older. Many of my readers are adults. I am embarrassed to admit that quite a few of them have become adults while waiting for me to get my books written. I don't think my younger readers have moved to the e-books as quickly as my older readers have, but I think it is happening slowly but surely.

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

I've been very excited about e-books from the first time I tried reading on a hand held device. I realized how vast the difference is between reading on a screen fixed to a computer on a desk and reading on a device you can hold in you hand like a book. Suddenly, I could imagine reading 60,000 words of an e-book.

As you got into e-publishing, have you discovered unexpected things? Has anything happened that you wouldn’t have predicted?

I didn't realize until I started reading e-books myself that the format alters the way I read. I am much less likely to flip back a few pages to check for something I might have missed in an e-book and also less likely to sneak a peek at the ending. Over time, I imagine both these things could affect my writing.

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

All my books have begun in print format and are still available in that format. All of them have subsequently been released as e-books by my publisher.

Do you think e-publishing will eventually take over print publishing? How do you see the world of e-publishing for children within the next 5 years?

I do think that e-publishing will take over print publishing, but I don't have any idea how long it will take. I think the biggest difficulty facing readers today is finding the next book they want to read. I'd like to see a better mechanism developed to connect readers to the books they want. I'd also love to see a safe way for young readers to connect online with other people who love the same books they do.

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

As a writer, I think that the more ways there are to read a book, the better. Adding e-books to the option for readers is a great benefit. Subtracting print books from the options would be an equally disturbing loss.

As a reader, I hope we never get to the point that we don't have second hand bookstores full of cheap paperbacks for me to read.

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

I worry about accessibility. Not everyone has an e-reader, but accessibility isn't just a matter of money. It's about encouragement and community support for reading. When a teacher leads her class to the school library and tells them to pick out a book, it is a community activity. Not only can you see that everyone is reading, you can see what they are reading. Will the same thing happen when there's no physical library and no physical books? When a child sees an adult reading a book, it sends a message that isn't sent by a man looking at the screen on his phone, even if the man is reading Catcher in the Rye instead of watching a music video. As our e-reading increases, I think we need to find new ways to send the message to kids and young adults that reading is a great adventure.

What advantages of e-publishing do you think are most relevant to the children’s literature market?

I lived for a year in Norway and bought almost all of my books electronically. I am looking forward to a time when people can easily buy any book from anywhere in the world.
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Find out more about Megan and her books at her website. And check the newly updated Kids' EBook Bestseller List for more top ten books. For some reason, the B & N Kids list is dominated by classics today which is odd, but I report it as I see it. Enjoy!