Saturday, February 7, 2015

THE LEMONADE WAR: A Top Ten Hit for Kids of All Ages.

Jacqueline Davies joins us today. She's the author of the popular book, The Lemonade War. On October 25th it hit the number 3 spot in the Children's and Teen section of the EBooks.com store. 

The Lemonade War is the first book of five in The Lemonade War series. Jacqueline has won many awards for these books, and for others she has written for children. I'm please that she's joining us to share her story and e-publishing experience.

First, let's find out what your book is about. 

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THE LEMONADE WAR is the story of a brother and sister who get in an argument about who can sell the most lemonade in the five days before school begins. Older brother Evan, who struggles in school, is upset to find out that his smart little sister Jessie is not only skipping a grade but will be in his fourth-grade class. Determined to prove that he can best his sister in at least one arena, he launches the competition. But Jessie is also determined to prove something: that she can keep up with the older kids in fourth grade and that Evan can be proud of her. With the stakes so high, the bet escalates into an all-out war, and as the battleground heats up, there really is no telling who will win — or if their fight will ever end. 

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

I attended a writing retreat in 1997 and was fortunate enough to have my unpublished manuscript critiqued by the well-regarded and highly published children's author Jane Yolen. Jane knew everyone in publishing (and everyone knew Jane) so her interest in the story was invaluable. She directed me to submit the story to editors she felt would be a good match, and the story was acquired by Cavendish Children's Books. So that was a very traditional path to publishing. From there, I continued to submit my own manuscripts, and by the time I signed with an agent, I'd sold five books and had three different publishers. This was a pretty standard story back in those days. Getting published then required persistence, knowledge of the craft and marketplace, and getting out there—meeting writers and editors and agents at conferences, gatherings, and on retreats.

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

I visit schools all the time, and I often talk with kids about why they think the book is so popular. Together, we've come up with the elements of the story that we think appeal most to readers. First, it's a story about sibling rivalry, and just about everyone on earth can relate to that topic. Even brothers and sisters who get along well sometimes argue and get tangled up in a fight they can't get out of. Second, the story is built around a competition, and kids live in a very competitive world, so they're always interested to read about bets and contests. Third, the book deals a lot with money, and kids like money! I know when I was that age, I was always interested in earning money, spending money, saving money, and sometimes giving it away. So that's a topic that really hooks readers in elementary school. And finally, this is a story with two main characters: one is a boy and one is a girl. And I think that shared view in the telling of the story helps to broaden the audience. 

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

Truthfully, the book has largely marketed itself (which is to say that word of mouth via readers has marketed the book). In its first year, it had respectable sales, but nothing that would make you sit up and take notice. From then on, the sales numbers have grown every year. I think an important force driving the interest in and sales of the book is the One School, One Book initiative started by the non-profit Read to Them, whose mission is to promote family literacy. The idea behind OS/OB is that when an entire school community comes together to read a single book (and by community, I mean everyone from the kids to the teachers, the administrators, parents, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians—everyone!) there is an excitement and energy generated around reading that results in far-reaching benefits: improved literacy, stronger family connections, community building, and the message that reading is FUN and really matters. Schools are hosting OS/OB events all over the country, and more and more are choosing to use THE LEMONADE WAR as their school-wide book. It's a story that can be read to and understood by kindergarteners, but that holds the interest of students all the way up through sixth grade. Not many books can cover that span, and I hear over and over that the book has been a huge success across the grades. 

Some studies say children reading e-books are reading more, while other studies say they comprehend less of what they read. What’s your opinion or experience?

There was just an article in the New York Times on this subject. It focuses the question on reading ebooks to toddlers, and I think that's an important distinction. You can't group all children's books into a single category when considering this topic. I believe that for toddlers, the format of the book really does matter and that traditional books are better than ebooks. Kids at this young age are absorbing information in so many ways, and a huge part of how they experience the world is through touch and the manipulation of objects. You can't beat a good 'ole print book for that. Traditional books show their age, which is wonderful! A torn page, the corner of a cover that was chewed by the dog, even the random scribbling on a page by a previous library reader—all testify to the history of the book and create a community of readers. Yes, traditional books are cumbersome; they get worn; they fill up shelves—but that's actually the point. You live with and develop a relationship with traditional books that you can't with e-books because of their essential ephemerality, and for these reasons (and more) I think it's important that toddlers are introduced to reading through traditional books. As readers get older, I would hope they would find a balance, never losing that love of paper-and-cardboard books, but exploring and incorporating the convenience of e-books. I know I read differently on the screen than I do when I'm holding a print book in my hands, so I would argue for matching the medium to the application. 

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

I write books for young readers of all ages, from preschool through high school. The target audience for THE LEMONADE WAR is upper elementary, so that would be Grades 3–5 (though, as I said previously, the actual reading range is wider than that). Upper elementary is an age group that is pretty fluid in terms of format. They read e-books and print books, and in fact I sell more copies of the paperback of THE LEMONADE WAR than I do of the e-book. But because THE LEMONADE WAR is the first book in a series and kids typically want to read all five books once they've read the first one, the e-format allows them to get the books quickly and at a slightly lower cost. A lot of kids at this age are "series gobblers"! They get really excited by a book and want to read through the series in a hurry. The instantaneousness of e-books serves these readers well.
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To learn more, visit Jacqueline at her websites: jacquelinedavies.com and lemonadewar.com. She has a blog on her author website.

See the latest Kids' EBook Bestseller List for more top ten e-format authors and their books. It's updated every Saturday morning. And check back next week when my featured author will be PM Pevato.

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