Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sharon Draper: Two Books, Top Ten, Two Weeks in a Row.

Sharon M. Draper is an award-winning (and prolific) author. She's also an educator, speaker, poet and National Teacher of the Year. On July 27th, her book Out of My Mind hit the number 2 spot in the Children's and Teen section of the Amazon Kindle store. The following week, on August 3, Copper Sun was #10 in the Juvenile section of Today we'll focus on Out of My Mind.

First, tell us what your book is about.

 In Out of my Mind, I have created a character who speaks for all of us, even though she cannot say a word. Melody has cerebral palsy, but she dares anyone to feel sorry for her. She understands her limitations, yet strives each day to reach beyond those limits. She can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t even go to the bathroom by herself. Yet she has a brilliant mind, a photographic memory, and dreams and desires of any of child her age. Her struggles and successes will both surprise and enchant the reader.

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

Out of my Mind is my thirtieth book. I have been very blessed. But I guess you can say it has taken me twenty years to become an overnight success! My first book, Tears of a Tiger, was rejected by twenty-four publishers. I had sent the manuscript to 25 publishers. The very last response was a yes! And it was Simon and Schuster. That was back in 1994. I've been writing and sharing books every since.

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

I think the world of readers is changing. Most of my books are written for young people--teens and tweens--and those are the ones who most embrace the world of computers and smart devices and non-print communication. So they, of course, would be the ones to gravitate to ebooks and ereaders. I'm so glad the book is available in that format for them.

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

I've got a website I am in the process of re-doing it this summer, partly because I like to keep it fresh and current, and partly because the communication platforms have change so drastically. For example, my site could not be opened on my own iPad and other smart devcies. Hopefully, in the fall it will shine! I'm also on Facebook and Twitter..

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

I am very excited about e-publishing. I guess I'm considered "old school" (LOL). I remember typewriters and writing with actual pen and pencil (gasp) on long yellow legal pads. I remember when it was a rare oddity to have a computer at a school and when movies were shown on an old-fashioned sixteen millimeter projector. We listened to music on a record player. There was no such thing as a cell phone or a microwave or an ipad or ipod. And certainly no e-readers. There was no e-anything! But I embraced every change, bought every new device, and kept up with every advancement. So, yes, I'm ready for e-publishing, and for whatever comes next as well!

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

I guess the unexpected part was the success and the increased vastness of the audience. I've received emails from readers all over the world who have read Out of my Mind and loved the book. Those readers might not have found the book in their local bookstore. But through their various digital devices, they can access the book with just a fingertip I like that.

Is your book available in print format?

Yes, Out of my Mind is available in print, as are all of my books. I am very proud to say that Out of my Mind has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for almost a whole year! What a blessing!

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

Like I said, I'm old school. I never want to lose books. I love the smell of a book in my hand, the feel of a page as I turn it, the memories evoked by a glance at the cover. I don't want to lose libraries and bookstores. They are vital to our sense of connection and community. I love sitting in a library and inhaling all the knowledge there as I peruse a real book. I love sitting in a bookstore surrounded by real books as I read on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I think traditional print books will always be around. I think the two formats can co-exist. They must. Both are essential.

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

I really don't know enough yet to answer that question. But a thirteen-year-old aspiring writer once said to me, "I want to be a writer when I grow up. Will there still be books? Will people still read?" She could see the changes and wasn't sure how she would fit into the future. I told her, "There will always be a need for stories to be told, and a need for a person to write those stories. So yes, you can be a writer. The format may change, but the need for knowledge and literary involvement will never go away."

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

I have a five year old grandson who can find things on his iPad that I cannot. He helps me when I get stuck! He reads traditional books as well as ebooks. Instead of using paper and pencil materials, he learns numbers and letters and colors and such on various e-devices. He is comfortable with both worlds. He will grow up knowing and using both. I imagine most kids of his generation will do the same. 

Find out even more about Sharon and her books at her website or by following her  on Facebook.

And you can find more fantastic e-book authors at the updated Kids' EBook Bestseller List.