On August 2, Disney Press released its latest young adult take on a classic Disney entertainment property, Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw, based on Tim Burton’s 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas. The book continues to top the bestseller lists, again ranking as number one this week on both the PW children’s and the New York Times YA lists. The title even reached number six on PW’s overall bestseller list for the week of August 15. Long Live the Pumpkin Queen has sold just under 100,000 copies to date, according to NPD BookScan.
There were early signs that the novel would be a hit. “We knew there was a strong fan base for this property, and the demand we saw building in the pre-sale window surpassed initial expectations,” said Monique Diman-Riley, director of sales for Disney Publishing Worldwide. “Retail partners were supportive of the title early in the selling cycle and we amplified awareness at Comic Con, leading to significant pent-up demand at on-sale.” Ongoing promotional support, positive reviews, and fan love continue to drive sales, she added.
The paranormal story focuses on the character of Sally, now married to the film’s lead character Jack Skellington, as she adjusts to her role as the Pumpkin Queen of Halloween Town. After discovering a doorway to the ancient realm of Dream Town, she must save Halloween Town and its people from a sinister threat that she inadvertently set in motion.
“Sally is a character people could really connect to, and they were ready to hear more of her story,” editor Holly Rice said. “She’s incredibly brilliant and also very romantic, and we thought we could expand her story in a way that was authentic to her, while touching on the themes that YA readers enjoy.”
“There is a kind of magic, a kind of alchemy, I suppose, with a beloved work of art that’s indefinable but roots itself into our culture, and this was one of those,” Ernshaw said. “We collectively fell in love with this story, and this was a chance to come together to experience something we love again, 30 years later.”
Rice noted that the book’s appeal extends beyond the YA audience as well. “Kids love the film and adults love it,” she said. “It’s a really cool world. Visiting Halloween Town is a little scary but also so imaginative and full of wonder. With YA, we can reach 12-year-olds who might just be coming to the film, but also adult readers who love Sally and want to see what happened to her.”
Ernshaw is another big reason for the new book’s success, according to Rice. “Shea is one of the biggest Tim Burton fans I’ve ever met,” she said. “I give so much credit to her and what she was able to bring to this book. She really honored Sally and her story, and the readers can tell it comes from a fan.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever said yes to a project more quickly than I did this one,” Ernshaw said. The author’s vision for the book started with the theme of dreams, which she thought would be an interesting juxtaposition with the nightmares of the film. “But then I realized it wasn’t just about dreams,” she said. “It became sort of an origin story for Sally. I felt like I was rooting around in Tim Burton’s head and trying not to break anything. It seemed that Sally was guiding me through the story, and I just needed to trust her to lead me in the right direction.”
Ernshaw has been busy, with three books being published within an 11-month span. In addition to the release of Long Live the Pumpkin Queen in August, she published her first novel for adults, A History of Wild Places, with Atria Books in December 2021 and has another YA romance, A Wilderness of Stars, coming out from Simon & Schuster this November. “Without caffeine and cupcakes, I might not have made it through,” she said.
Some of Disney’s other publishing initiatives based on The Nightmare Before Christmas include a cookbook, advent calendars, and a tarot deck and guidebook set from Insight Editions; puzzle and craft books from Printers Row’s Thunder Bay Press imprint; a series of manga titles as part of TokyoPop’s Disney Manga program; and the classic Disney Press picture book, written and illustrated by Tim Burton.