It’s a busy time in the publishing life of Jay Asher, whose 2007 debut novel from Razorbill, Thirteen Reasons Why, with its anti-bullying message, was a break-out bestseller. Razorbill has recently acquired The Future of Us, a novel coauthored by Asher and Carolyn Mackler, which is scheduled for November 2011 release. Thirteen Reasons Why, which has 750,000 hardcover copies in print in the U.S. and has been sold into 31 countries, is due out in paperback from Razorbill on June 14. And Penguin Young Readers Group has just launched the Thirteen Reasons Why Project, an online venue where fans can post their thoughts on and reviews of the novel via several media.
The deal for The Future of Us was brokered by Razorbill publisher Ben Schrank with Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literacy Agency (for Asher) and Jodi Reamer of Writers House (for Mackler). Jocelyn Davies and Schrank will edit the book, which has an announced 500,000-copy first printing. The novel centers on two best friends who log onto AOL in 1996 and discover themselves on Facebook—15 years in the future.
In The Future of Us, the authors continue to explore some of the themes Asher investigates in Thirteen Reasons Why, in which a teenager who commits suicide leaves behind tapes addressed to 13 people, detailing how they played a role in her death. “When we published Thirteen Reasons Why, we had no idea that its message would resonate so long and so intensely with readers,” Schrank says. “Though The Future of Us is a more playful book, it too delves into the concept of destiny, and how each move we make affects our future and the futures of those around us.”
The publisher delayed releasing the paperback edition of Thirteen Reasons Why, given the steady sales that kept it on the New York Times children’s hardcover bestseller list for 65 weeks. “Typically we see a bell curve for a book’s sales, but with this novel, sales kept increasing, and spiked in spring 2009, after we launched our first online marketing push,” Schrank recounts. That initiative included a dedicated YouTube channel, on which an actress playing the novel’s suicide victim reads 13 tapes. The tapes can also be heard on the novel’s Web site, where a comment tool has elicited more than 14,000 responses.
As a follow-up to that online initiative, the publisher is launching the Thirteen Reasons Why Project, a site on which readers can post reviews as text, photos, and videos. “Given that kids have responded so strongly to Thirteen Reasons Why online, this project seemed like a natural next step in creating a destination for readers to share their thoughts,” says Courtney Wood, assistant director of online marketing for Penguin Young Readers Group. “We wanted to create a kind of online scrapbook that fans can then share with their friends through Facebook and Twitter.” The site also includes an interactive map that identifies the geographic locations from which visitors are posting their contributions.
Thirteen Reasons Why is slated to have a life in yet another medium. Universal Pictures and Strike Entertainment have acquired film rights to the novel, with Selena Gomez cast as the lead. Strike’s Eric Newman and Marc Abraham are producing with Mandy Teefey of July Moon Productions.