Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, often has the inside scoop about what kids want to read. Amulet was the first imprint to offer novels written entirely in instant messages (Lauren Myracle’s bestselling and often controversial TTYL series), and has been publishing modernized fairy tales long before TV got around to it (Michael Buckley’s bestselling The Sisters Grimm series). And if you haven’t heard of the mega-best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, you’ve been living on Mars.
|Jason Wells with Laura Mihalick|
ABRAMS publicity and marketing
What did you like to read when you were a kid?
I read so much as a kid! My favorites were: The Fire Brats series by by Barbara Siegel, Scott Siegel and Barbara Steiner. It’s a post apocalyptic series featuring siblings who are trying survive in a radically changed America after World War III.
The Tim and Ginger books by Edward Artisane. These are mild but fun adventures set in a seaside town—growing up near a shore, the lighthouses and references to low and high tides were easy to love.
My great aunt gave me the We Were There series. They were brief books about historical events in the US. Peppered with illustrations, the books were kind of early graphic novels.
You work the children’s book publishing and selling world. What do kids want to read?
For kids who want to read, they will always find something. They don’t need me to tell them what to read. It’s the kids who don’t want to read that are the challenge. As recent trends suggest, kids clearly want to read novels with illustrations or fun activities that accompany them. From Abrams, the Origami Yoda books and Wimpy Kid books fit this fill nicely.
What do you think it is that has made some of your titles (like Wimpy Kid or Lauren Myracle’s books) such big hits? Are there certain qualities in these books that are extraordinarily appealing to kids?
I think kids especially like books that their parents won’t want to read. Kinney’s Wimpy Kid books with cartoons and Myracle’s TTYL series written in instant messages offer kid-only appeal. As much as review attention and national media can help spread the word, once kids are hooked, the buzz that they create with their friends will help books find a wide audience to make them big hits.
What is your sleeper title at Abrams? What is the one right now that will make it big once kids know about it?
I think that would be Nathan Hales’ Hazardous Tales. These books are modern day versions of the We Were There series I read as a kid.
What do you think will be Abram’s next big thing?
We have a new series coming out in 2014 by Jon Scieszka called Frank E. Stein. It should be pretty popular.
How do you choose a book to give to a kid?
Ah the most important kids in my life are my two nephews. They are always clamoring to be in the know with Wimpy Kid developments, but I always bring them books they wouldn’t have found themselves. I try to choose books that will broaden their worlds, but that are fun. I don’t have a formula per se but I know it when I see it.
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