MapQuest: Look in the Book
Are you a whiz at scavenger hunts? Ever dream of following a map to glittering treasure? For readers who answer yes, A Treasure's Troveby Michael Stadther (Treasure Trove Inc.) might be the golden ticket to adventure. Stadther has written and illustrated what he calls "a fairy tale for all ages," filled with clues that will lead clever readers to actual treasure—18-kt.— gold tokens redeemable for jeweled brooches worth a combined $1 million—hidden in various places across the country. This self-published phenomenon was released in November 2004 and has been riding high on a publicity and sales wave ever since, landing on numerousbestseller lists, and earning a Today Showappearance, among others.
These days, it's not so unusual to hear about a self-published children's author hitting the big time. Eragonby Christopher Paolini, Time Stops for No Mouseby Michael Hoeye and Shadowmancerby G.P. Taylor are a few recent examples. However, those books attracted attention from major publishers and were relaunched in the trade with fanfare after their smaller self-published runs. Stadther, in contrast, has done it all himself.
"I was rejected by about 10 traditional publishing houses, some of them quite brutally," Stadther recalled. "But I hold no ill will or rancor toward any of them. This book was so different in so many ways, including how it's marketed. My costs are huge when you consider the jewelry and all the marketing and publicity efforts. I'm about $3 million in the hole right now, so I understand why no one would spend money on an unknown author and an untested project like this."
Without a publisher to take on his project, Stadther set up his own company, which is still housed in his home in Westchester County, N.Y. "Doing it myself, using subcontractors, means I'm able to recoup about 50% on each book sale," he said. "I truly never would have recouped my investment in a traditional deal." He then hired Harrison Edwards PR of Pound Ridge, N.Y., and provided them with a large budget. "They have done a wonderful job building this slowly from local press and radio all the way up. But it was an intriguing idea from the start, which certainly helped."
The original idea for A Treasure's Trovecame from Masqueradeby Kit Williams, a 1979 British book that became an international phenomenon. Stadther explained, "I thought it was really neat. This author made a golden hare and buried it somewhere in the British Isles, providing clues in the book for people to find it. I [then] started thinking of a treasure-hunt book that I could write and illustrate. When I saw this beautiful grasshopper brooch in an antiques store in London, I thought, 'Why don't I use antique Victorian and art deco pieces in my hunt?' Things just took off from there."
By taking off, Stadther means on all cylinders. The November launch of A Treasure's Trove included 3,000 hardcovers; 40,000 paperbacks; 40,000 copies of a companion puzzle book, 100 Puzzles, Clues, Maps, Tantalizing Tales, and Stories of Real Treasure;33,000 copies of a full-cast CD recording; and 22,000 plush "Pooks," styled after the lead dog character in the story. To date there are 28,000 hardcovers, 350,000 paperbacks and 165,000 puzzle books in print.
The hunt for the tokens officially runs until December 31, 2007. Until that time, the prize jewels are touring the country, making stops at various museums. Stadther is making the rounds as well, balancing his stay in each city with visits to schools and bookstores in addition to museums, jewelry stores and gem conventions. More details and tour dates can be found at www.atreasures-trove.com.
For anyone keeping score, major publishers have indeed made contact in the wake of this success. Stadther confirms that he has had "long discussions" with Simon & Schuster, including a deal for S&S to distribute the book into non-U.S. English-speaking territories. Other aspects of an arrangement are still on the table, though Stadther said he's not likely to turn over the publishing reins completely.
Hollywood has come calling, too. Tom Cruise's production company, Cruise/ Wagner (with partner Paula Wagner), in conjunction with Paramount, has purchased feature film rights for a sum reported to be in the mid-six figures.
Looking ahead, Stadther said Treasure Trove Inc. will soon secure official office space for its 12 staffers, potentially in Old Canaan, Conn. The author/illustrator is working on another story featuring many of the characters in A Treasure's Trove, and possibly another treasure hunt, too, though he's still undecided on that point. In the meantime, fans can make do with a second Treasurecompanion puzzle book that will hit shelves later this spring.
Best in Show
From the moment that author Kate DiCamillo made her children's book debut with Because of Winn-Dixie(Candlewick, 2000),booksellers, librarians and readers knew they were witnessing something special. The tale of a smiling stray mutt that befriends a lonely, new-in-town girl won a Newbery Honor, and the hardcover has sold 250,000 copies (the paperback reprint, released in 2001, has topped a million copies).
A shaggy dog story like that quickly got Tinseltown abuzz. Walden Media, the company behind film adaptations of Holesand The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, developed and produced the flick, with Wayne Wang directing and Twentieth Century Fox distributing. The modestly budgeted film opened on February 18 to mostly warm reviews and had an opening-weekend box-office tally of $13.2 million; as of March 6, it had grossed $26.8 million.
Last December, in advance of the big-screen splash, Candlewick printed a remarkable 500,000 copies of a movie tie-in edition of the paperback, as well as 100,000 copies of The Official Movie Scrapbook, and produced a Winn-Dixie plush dog. The fluffy pup and the movie tie-in are both featured in a cross- promotion between the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain and Twentieth Century Fox. "Demand has been very high," said Susan Hershberg, publicity manager at Candlewick. "Both the movie tie-in and the original books are selling extremely well across all channels."
Walden Media produced educational materials related to the film and book and held advance screenings in major markets across the country. DiCamillo attended a special screening at the January ALA Midwinter meeting in Boston and participated in a q&a session with librarians there. In addition, Reading Is Fundamental is cross-promoting the book and movie with an "I Love My Pet" poem-writing contest for kids five—15 years old. Winners receive Because of Winn-Dixieprize packages. Hot dog!
A Series by Any Other Name
Before Meg Cabot made a name for herself with the runaway success of The Princess Diaries(HarperCollins, 2000), she was a prolific author writing historical romances (among other things) for several publishers under two noms de plume in addition to her given moniker. Also in 2000, Cabot penned Shadowland,the first novel in a series called The Mediator, about a teenage girl who serves as a liaison between the living and the dead. Cabot wrote this series for Pocket Books under the name Jenny Carroll.
Fast-forward a few years: The Princess Diaries and its sequels have become a huge hit, earning legions of teen and pre-teen fans and spawning a high-grossing feature film from Disney. "Meg Cabot" has become a hot brand and HarperCollins has secured the rights to The Mediator series (including the first four titles published by Pocket). Taking full advantage of Cabot's new recognition, Harper put the author's name prominently on the hardcover of Haunted: A Tale of the Mediator, the fifth book in the series, the first one for which HarperCollins/Avon was the originating publisher.
By December 2004, when the hardcover of Twilight, the sixth and final Mediator title, was published, the first five books in the series had been reissued in paperback by Harper's Avon imprint, all bearing Cabot's name. There are currently 400,000 copies of the six books in print.
"When the rights to the first four Mediator books became available, we were thrilled to be able to publish them at Harper," said executive editor Abby McAden. "We'd already published book five, Haunted, which was a New York Times bestseller, so we knew that Meg's audience loved her supernatural books, too, and this time the Mediator books would come out under her real name. We felt strongly about supporting our author, and [Meg] loves these books especially. We wanted to give them another shot for us, and for her."
According to publicity director Amy Burton, a strong national media outreach for Twilight generated some good teen magazine and Web site coverage; Cabot will also do a satellite print or radio tour in support of the books, though plans are not yet finalized. Recent visitors to www.megcabot.com had the opportunity to enter a sweepstakes; 20 winners walked away with complete sets of the series.