What started as the ghost of an idea for Andrea J. Buchanan, author of the bestselling Daring Book for Girls, has blossomed into an enhanced e-book original from Open Road Integrated Media, the company’s first for teens. “This readership is so comfortable with technology,” says Barbara Marcus, advisor to Open Road and former president of Scholastic Children’s Book Publishing and Distribution. “We were looking for something that really was meant to be published digitally first, and we knew there was a book out there that was appropriate.”
Gift, which will be released on March 27, centers on four high-school classmates who uncover frightening paranormal secrets. “I had the idea to write a ghost story,” says Buchanan, who in addition to the Daring series has also edited anthologies on parenthood. At the same time that the author was sketching out what would become her first novel, she also was starting to read e-books on a tablet. Buchanan soon realized the technology’s potential to enrich the reading experience. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to take advantage of its “shape-shifting” aspects—how dynamic it can be?’ ” she says. “This story really lent itself to that. I wanted to see it as an e-book.”
Buchanan, a classically trained pianist, knew early on that she would incorporate a musical element into her story. When she was less than halfway done with the writing, she saw a performance by Swedish singer-songwriter FreddeGredde on YouTube. The author and the guitarist ended up collaborating on the book’s soundtrack, and Buchanan decided to model one of the characters on him. Their musical compatibility was only part of the equation: “He’s adorable,” she says. “Working with him was definitely not the worst part of my job.”
Eventually, Buchanan approached Open Road with a finished manuscript and, she says, “a ton of crazy ideas.” Her ability to present the e-book as a complete package appealed to the company, and led to a contract offer. “Andi came to us with a vision,” Marcus says. “She was very committed to the storytelling, which is the most important thing. I know that we wouldn’t have been as interested if we’d read the novel and she’d said, ‘Let’s add a few bells and whistles.’ She can think as an author, and also totally integrate the technological developments.” Marcus says the manuscript went through a “typical editing process” with freelance editor Judy Gitenstein, and then the additional features took six months from final manuscript to on-sale date. The fully enhanced e-book, including embedded video featuring FreddeGredde as well as some spooky triggered effects, is available for iPad only. But all e-platforms contain links to music, plus a journal written by one of the characters and a graphic novel, which tells the story from a different perspective and was illustrated by Daring Book artist Alexis Seabrook.
Open Road recently signed a distribution deal with Ingram, which means that all of its e-riginals titles, including Gift, will also be available in a print format. “It’s important that there’s availability,” Marcus says. “Not every reader has access to a device, and some people want both.” Gift will work as a traditional book, she says, because the storytelling comes first.
“I really value the immersive aspect of reading,” Buchanan adds. “I wanted to respect the reader and not just have wacky enhancements because we could.”