Saturday, August 24, 2013

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT: an iBookstore Bestseller for Susan Pfeffer

Susan Pfeffer's book, Life As We Knew It showed up on the Kids' EBook Bestseller List on July 20th, when it hit the number 8 spot in the "Children's and Teens" section of the iBookstore.  The book has received numerous starred reviews and honors and was nominated for many state awards, winning six. The second book in this series, The Shade of the Moon, was just released on August 13th, and there are two more on the way!

Susan very generously answered ALL of my questions, so we get to find out quite a bit about her e-publishing experience.

First tell us what your book is about.

Life As We Knew It is the first of a four book series about the consequences (all bad) on earth after the moon's orbit is changed, increasingly the moon's gravitational pull.

The book focuses on sixteen year old Miranda, who keeps a diary recording the daily life of her family as they struggle to survive unthinkable suffering and loss.

Tell us briefly about your path to publication.

I wrote my first book that got published my last semester in college. I've been a writer ever since.

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

Life As We Knew It is a popular title, and has been a New York Times best seller. But I think the fact the price went down is definitely a factor!

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

I've been incredibly fortunate with Life As We Knew It. To begin with, it was shortlisted for a couple of prestigious science fiction awards, which put it out there for sci fi people to find.

In addition, there was something about the book that appealed to bloggers, who continue to review the book and bring it to the notice of new readers.

I have a blog, which I've kept going for a few years now, and which allows me to communicate directly with people about my books and my life.

I also tweet, when I can think of something particularly pithy to say.

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

Life As We Knew It is a young adult novel, so its target audience is teenagers, although I'm delighted that grownups frequently enjoy the book as well.

I really don't know how teenagers feel about e-format vs. print.

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

My publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) handled putting Life As We Knew It (and the other three moon books- The Dead And The Gone, This World We Live In and The Shade Of The Moon) in e-book formats. I'm not sure how I felt about it originally, possibly a little concerned about how it would affect sales, possibly a little excited.

Now, of course, it's simply the norm. When I get my royalty statements, every six months, I look to see how the e-book formats are selling.

In addition, I've put a few of my older titles on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It's a good feeling to know those books will never go out of print.

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

When Amazon first put Life As We Knew It on Kindle, they said they had 250,000 titles available. Now it's over a million, and obviously that number keeps growing and growing and growing.

I'm intrigued by what e-publishing is doing to the industry, and frankly, the whole thing is something I couldn't have predicted.

Is your book available in print format?

All my moon books remain in print and available as hardcovers and paperbacks, as well as e-books.

Do you think e-publishing will eventually take over print publishing? Why or why not?

I don't think e-publishing will ever replace picture books. And I don't think it's going to take over institutional sales. For example, there are schools that use Life As We Knew It in their classrooms, and I think right now at least, schools would rather use paperbacks than e-books.

Beyond that, I can't hazard a guess. I do know I'm glad I'm at the end of my career (Social Security is beckoning). I think writers starting out now will be able to navigate all the changes, but the middle of the career writers will have a harder time handling things, in particular the pirating of their works.

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

Unauthorized scanning of books is a real problem, and one that is going to get worse and worse unless some tough laws are passed and enforced.

So on the one hand, you gain sales and readers with the availability of e-books. And on the other, you lose sales (if not readers) because people don't understand that scanning a copywrited book is the same as shoplifting.

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

I think the opportunity for backlists to last forever is the most relevant. If a kid reads a book and likes it, e-publishing makes it easier to find and read all (or at least some) of the author's other titles.

And, of course, there's the advantage of being able to learn about the author immediately, from a quick trip to Google or Wikipedia. Or learning the definition of a word you don't know without having to get up and find a dictionary.

I would have really liked that when I was growing up! 

Keep up with Susan and her books by visiting her blog, or by following her on Twitter. Also, her series has its own website!

And check out the latest top tens in the top stores, all on the Kids' EBook Bestseller List, updated every Saturday morning.