Teen fiction for reluctant readers--quality is possible.

Author:Wooldridge, Andrew

Orca Book Publishers began life as a publisher of regional history and travel guides nearly 20 years ago. A brief foray into children's publishing has since become our focus and we now publish 40 titles a year, covering the children's publishing gamut from picture books through teen fiction. Hardcover, high-quality picture books, early chapter books in the Orca Young Readers series, juvenile fiction and novels for teens make up the bulk of our list. While not always commercially successful, teen fiction has long been a crucial part of our publishing program and we have been publishing stand-alone novels for young adults for a number of years. Books such as The Tuesday Cafe by Don Trembath, Before Wings by Beth Goobie, Dancing Naked by Shelley Hrdlitschka, and Alone at Ninety Foot by Katherine Holubitsky were commercially successful and allowed us to invest more in the development of other genres. As a smaller publisher, we are able to publish solid authors in reasonably sized print runs. We are big enough to attract skilled writers and yet small enough to publish on a gamble: a first-time author with a compelling project, an author writing out of genre. Of paramount importance to us is good writing.

We see ourselves primarily as a trade publisher with a strong library presence and have recently been spending more time promoting our titles to school and public librarians. At countless conferences and discussions we were hearing the same things while trying to interest attendees in the latest releases. Do you have anything for reluctant readers? How about teens reading at a grade 2-4 level? media specialists would immediately ask upon entering our booth. We realized that there was a whole cadre of possible readers out there who might never see or read one of our books. What if we tried to lure them in? Give them something simpler than a standard novel, get them hooked and hopefully they will move on to longer novels and other work by the same authors. We started to look at the high-interest low-vocabulary market and saw potential for a publisher such as Orca to leverage our reputation for quality and to increase our reach.

We kicked the idea around for a while and came up with Orca Soundings, a series of short, high-interest novels written below grade level. Orca author Beth Goobie was a catalyst for the project. Her lyrical, beautifully written novels like Before Wings and The Lottery are well reviewed and sell well. But she had also written...

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