Saturday, February 28, 2015

Toby Neal's DARK LAVA is #1 With Kindle Teens

Dark Lava by Toby Neal hit the coveted number 1 spot in the Teen section of the Amazon Kindle store on November  22nd. It's the seventh book of nine in her Lei Crime series, set in her home state of Hawaii. Toby's here today to tell us about her path to the top spot for teens. She took the time to answer ALL of my questions, so we're getting the full scoop.

Tell us what your book is about.


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Dark Lava is the 7th in a bestselling mystery series set in Hawaii, and it is an action-packed thrill ride that documents the bumpy relationship of Lei Texeira,a brave, damaged young policewoman, and her husband, Michael Stevens, in a plot with more twists and turns than a ​Slinky on steroids! Without giving too much away, the story involves the systematic theft and looting of native Hawaiian artifacts, a couple of murders and a threat from Lei's past that just won't die.

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

​I am a proud indie who has had three wonderful agents try to sell my books. I finally gave up at the zillionth "Hawaii is too niche" rejection and brought them to market myself. I've been living my dreams ever since! ​I'm now represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary who is shopping my teen mystery series, Wallflower Diaries, in NY and a couple of other mystery projects. The Lei Crime Series is represented by Brandy Rivers at ICM in Hollywood and Audible is doing all my audiobooks. I'm thrilled at the alternative path I've taken. There's more than one way to bestseller, nowadays!

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

​Amazing covers on all my books, a top notch editing team hired from traditional publishing backgrounds, ​a terrific social media platform and stories my fans call "unputdownable."

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

Now here's the interesting part. I'm currently a child/adolescent mental health therapist and was a school counselor for 12 years. I know a lot about kids which influences my writing. My first teen book, a post-technology survival novel called Island Fire, coming out in December, is marketed to teens and so is the upcoming Wallflower Diaries series that my agent is shopping because the teen experience is one I remember well and relive daily through my clinical work.

When my Lei Crime books came out, even though I wasn't marketing specifically to teens, I shared my writing journey story at several school events in Hawaii and donated sets of the Lei Crime Series to our high school and state libraries. They caught on to the point that librarians began calling me to order them. The books do deal with adult themes and Hawaii issues that I care about as a social worker (the gap between rich and poor, loss of Hawaiian culture, endangerment of our native birds, sex trafficking, etc) but the actual level of violence and bad language is about Pg-13 if the books were a movie, so while I don't market on Amazon or B &N in teen categories, they are ok for kids 13 and up to read. ​Anyway I'd been hearing from teens via email and social media that they loved the books. The grassroots popularity of the series I was hearing rumors of is gaining ground, and that's good news for all because these books deal with important issues through an entertaining read.


My social media reach is wide. I do a lot of beautiful Hawaii photos on Instagram. I'm on Twitter. I have an active Pinterest page, Facebook, and of course G+ and my website. I hear all the young people are on Reddit, though, so figuring that out is my next project!

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? 

I think divided attention is a real problem for young people. The phones are constantly on, things are beeping and blipping, and the immersion reading I grew up doing is a thing of the past. On the plus side, there are more ways than EVER to read: on devices, phones, computers etc, and there's an explosion of different books that never would have made it to market in the old days, such as mine that meet a niche market: the "culturally accurate" Hawaii read. I think my young readers are Hawaii kids who don't have enough local literature with fast-paced entertaining stories to read.


I know that it took some months of reading on an ebook reader for me to begin having the same "depth of experience" reading on a device that I did in person. I think this is because repeated experience builds neural pathways, and my aging brain pathways were tuned to the cues of paper, ink tonality, smell, etc. It took a while to retrain my brain but I love it now, particularly the customization of fonts and lighting. I think kids who grow up with this are going to have a hard time switching to paper!​

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

My audience for Island Fire is age 10-17, Wallflower Diaries is 13-up and so are all my other books!

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

I believe my whole path to success and becoming a top 100 teen author with one of my "adult" mysteries qualifies! *laughs* Actually the whole thing has been something of a miraculous roller-coaster ride. My life has totally changed in the last three years with my indie author success.

What does your writing schedule look like? What are you working on now?

I write every day, seven days a week and publish 4-5 books a year. Right now ​I'm finishing Island Fire (coming December, marketed to 10-17 year olds) and the Wallflower Diaries, a teen mystery series which are solidly YA with readership from 13-up.​

Time to pull out your Magic 8 Ball: How do you see the world of e-publishing developing for children and young adults over the next 5 years? Do you think it will ever exceed or replace print publishing?

Yes, I do think it will eventually replace print. Anyone who's seen a toddler grab an iPad and start navigating can see how immediately engaging the moving pictures, icons and control are to kids. I think books will become increasingly interactive and multi-modal, with video, song, alternative choices of story pathways, being read aloud options, etc. It's an exciting time!​

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

Oh,as an independent it undoubtedly helps. I've finally got big enough to turn on returnability and have my books carried by B &N and other retailers, but as an independent I carry all that risk which isn't really good business. Ebooks have no overhead, no environmental impact, no storage, and unlimited capacity. What's not to love?​

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

I think ebooks are a very good thing for everyone, overall, including the environment!. Reading to children is super important, but the words on the page are the least important aspect of that. Snuggling with your parent or loved one, tucked under their arm as their voice rumbles in your ear, reading along with them while you suck your thumb...It is a whole-body love experience and reading is just the excuse to enter a wonderful unknown world together. Ebook or print, either will work for that! but nothing can substitute for a parent taking the time to read to a child.​
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Learn more about Toby and her books by visiting the many links she provided above.


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

Want a sneak preview of the rest of the authors I'm featuring for the next few weeks? You can sign up HERE to get my newsletter and stay up to date with the blog and my books.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

WHERE YOU'LL FIND ME: Found in the Top Ten for Nook Teens!

Author Erin Fletcher joins us today to talk about her debut novel for young adults, Where You'll Find Me. On November 1st, it reached the number 4 spot in the Teen section of the Barnes and Noble Nook store. We get to hear all about it!

Erin, first tell us what your book is about.


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Where You'll Find Me is about a girl named Hanley who discovers a teenage guy living in her garage. Hanley isn't sure which is worse: harboring a fugitive, or falling in love with one.

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

Back in 2012, I participated in an online writing convention called Write on Con. On a whim, I entered the convention's Twitter-style pitch competition. One of the judges was editor Heather Howland from Entangled publishing. She liked my pitch enough to request the full manuscript. Once she read it, she made my dreams come true by offering me a publication contract! Entangled is a traditional publisher of romance novels for teens and adults.

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

My target audience is teens (age 14+). I think the e-format works for them for two reasons: 

1. Teens' book buying budgets tend to be limited. It's much easier for them to spend $0.99 to $3.99 for an e-book than $9.99 or more for a print book. 

2. It's convenient! Teens seem to be fused to their smart phones and tablets, which means they can always have e-books at hand.

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?

When Entangled suggested e-publishing, I was both apprehensive and optimistic. Apprehensive because I wasn't sure how many people actually bought e-books, but optimistic because I hoped teens would love the format. For the most part, it's been a good experience. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm a "real" writer because my book isn't in print, but then I pinch myself and remember that this isn't just a dream. People are reading my book. That's as real as it gets! 

What does your writing schedule look like? What are you working on now?

I have a full-time job, so a lot of my writing gets done on the weekends. As often as I can, I also get up and write with the #5amWritersClub on Twitter before going in to the office. Right now I'm working on a contemporary YA novel about a girl who wins the lottery. I'm enjoying writing it, and hope I get to share it with readers!
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You can learn more about Erin and her book at her blog or by following her on Twitter.

See the latest Kids' EBook Bestseller List for more top ten e-format authors and their books. It's updated every Saturday morning. 

Check back next week when my featured author will be Toby Neal.

Want a sneak preview of the rest of the authors I'm featuring for the next few weeks? You can sign up HERE to get my newsletter and stay up to date with the blog and my books.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kobo Kids and Teens Send FIREFLY to the Top Ten

On November 1st, Firefly by P.M. Pevato hit the number 9 spot in the Kids' and Teens section of the Kobo.com store. Paula's book was chosen as a Kobo Teen Hidden Gem for 2014. She joins us today to talk about her top ten success.

First, please tell us what your book is about.

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Firefly is the bittersweet love story between a teenage witch and the immortal witch hunter assigned to assimilate, infiltrate and eliminate her Coven.

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

Independently published, originally August 2013. Joined Kobo Writing Life in 2014 and republished on Kobo, with my own ISBN in July 2014. Firefly is still available through another distributor on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, among other retailers.

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

A variety of factors: networking on social media, connecting with readers and bloggers on tumblr and Goodreads, joining Kobo Writing Life (outstanding support for indie authors), subject of e-book (YA paranormal, witches and witch hunters), perseverance, patience, good writing and editing, and a professionally designed cover that draws the reader in.

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

As per previous response, I am extremely active on social media: Goodreads, tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (inspiration boards), Instagram. Once all accounts were set up, I don’t need to spend a lot of time as one might assume because one post on tumblr, for instance, feeds other accounts. My social media activity is extremely efficient. And it is worth it. I connected with YA bloggers who have tumblr and Goodreads accounts and who review YA paranormal. They have become extremely supportive and loyal, anticipating book II, cheering me on, recommending books to read, and inviting me to join YA groups on Goodreads.

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?

I am not familiar with any studies. However, in my opinion, reading is reading whether in print or on a tablet. Children and teens are extremely savvy with evolving technology, and the fact there is a choice between print and tablet can only encourage reading.

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

My target audience is Young Adult, from 13 to 17, although I have been contacted by younger readers as well as adults. The book is MG and YA friendly, so there are no concerns for a young audience. My e-book is priced within the “sweet spot” as indie publishers call it (between $2.99 to $4.99, and adjusted according to each market), thus extremely affordable. YA reviewers are happy to receive the e-book via email – it is instantaneous as opposed to snail mail.

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

Given my experience in academic publishing, I didn’t hesitate to explore self-publishing. I applied my transferable skills and experiences. The time and energy it takes to find an agent for me was better spent working on my novel, building my author brand, attending conferences like Book Expo America and self-publishing workshops in New York City, finding common denominators, positives and negatives, and doing my own homework. I can only describe my attitude as motivated. At present, my decision to self-publish - instead of waiting for the uncertain path to find an agent who in turn would query a publisher - resulted in exposure and attention that Firefly would not have received had it remained unpublished. I didn’t go through a waiting game; rather, I took a DIY approach.

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

The path I chose, to self-publish, has led to wonderful relationships within the self-publishing industry, with reviewers, bloggers, and enthusiastic readers, and attracted the attention of traditional publishers. Recently, I contacted YA reviewers/bloggers who reviewed Firefly and asked if they’d like to review an Anthology of short stories (see below). The bloggers responded enthusiastically. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Every time a reader likes and reblogs a tumblr post, sends a message, I am grateful, and the unexpected these messages weren’t anything I could have predicted. I didn’t think that far ahead. 

It was also unexpected for Kobo to have chosen Firefly as a Teen Hidden Gem for 2014. And most recently to have achieved bestseller status. I expected self-publishing to be a steep learning curve, but didn’t think about anything other than publishing, building my brand, and networking. The rest is a gift.

What does your writing schedule look like? What are you working on now?

I approach my writing as a profession. Every Friday, I draft a writing schedule for the coming week. Write, edit, read, research, repeat. Writing is my bliss. However, I make time for horseback riding, yoga, gardening, a monthly book club, and other activities. Presently, I have just finished final editing of a proof for a short story, “The First Coven”, to be included in an anthology entitled Short & Happy (or not), edited by Richard Bunning and Dixiane Hallaj (S & H Publishing). This anthology is scheduled for publication mid-November 2014. I am also drafting book II of The Firefly Series, and working with an editor on revisions for Firefly, although I can’t make any definitive announcement about publishing traditionally just yet.

Time to pull out your Magic 8 Ball: How do you see the world of e-publishing developing for children and young adults over the next 5 years? Do you think it will ever exceed or replace print publishing?

During a panel discussion at a self-publishing conference, a well-known agent described the publishing industry as going through “tumultuous changes”. That was in June 2012. I do not envisage print media disappearing; however I do anticipate the number of eBooks published and purchased will continue to increase. When that escalation will plateau, I can’t say, except that the development of the e-publishing world specifically for children and young adults will continue to evolve over the next 5 years and beyond. Public libraries are lending e-books and tablets, a sign of things to come.

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

E-format has been tremendous for me. I reached a significant audience and offered an appealing paranormal story at a great price point.

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

Whether e-book or print, reading is reading, and can only contribute positively to developing a child’s and young adult’s love of reading, a relationship that will be carried forward into adulthood.
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As she mentioned in the interview, P.M. Pevato is very active with social media. If you want to find out more about her and her books, try her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram. A second edition of Firefly will be published in both eBook and paperback versions later this month.

See the latest Kids' EBook Bestseller List for more top ten e-format authors and their books. It's updated every Saturday morning. Big news on the list: iBooks has now broken out their Children's Top Tens separate from Young Adults. They used to be bunched together under the "Children and Teens" category. My chart has been updated to reflect that change. 

Check back next week when my featured author will be Erin Fletcher.

Want a sneak preview of the rest of the authors I'm featuring for the next few weeks? You can sign up HERE to get my newsletter and stay up to date with the blog and my books.

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.

Want a sneak preview of the rest of the authors I'm featuring for the next few weeks? You can sign up HERE to get my newsletter and stay up to date with the blog and my books.