Sure, teen secret agents James Bond and Alex Rider have generated a lot of heat in the book market in the past couple of years. But the spy game is hardly just a guy game. Cammie Morgan, a star pupil at boarding school cum spy-training center Gallagher Academy, is a character with a series on the rise. She made her butt-kicking debut in I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Hyperion, 2006). Cammie’s second action-filled adventure, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy bowed last October with a first printing of 75,000 copies. To date, combined sales of both books (including I’d Tell You’s paperback edition) have topped 300,000 copies; film rights to I’d Tell You have been optioned by Walden Media.
“My daughter is 12 ½ and the perfect age for these books,” says Becky Smith, manager of Town Crier Bookstore in Emporia, Kans. “She likes that Cammie is a strong, smart girl still interested in boys, but not ga-ga over them. She’s a kind of 007 for girls.”
Hyperion was counting on a solid teen and tween following when it promoted I'd Tell You on teenreads.com and Allykatzz Holiday Giveaway on alleykatzz.com, a monitored social networking site for girls. Both titles were featured in advertising in Delia’s and Alloy teen clothing catalogs (resulting in 3.5 million impressions on Alloy.com) and I'd Tell You was also part of a “summer reads” teen bag distribution via Alloy and Delia’s outbound order shipments and also at major book-industry conventions like BookExpo America. Also energizing the promotional end of things, Carter makes a more personal connection with her readers via her online diary on allycarter.com as well as her MySpace page.
Smith says her store “sells the heck out of” Carter’s books, with the author consistently ranking in Town Crier’s top 10 YA selections. And many customers are further impressed that Carter is a local phenomenon. “When people hear she’s from Kansas they get really excited,” Smith notes.
Carter and Hyperion have initially planned six Gallagher Girls titles, though associate publicity manager Deborah Bass notes that “there is always the possibility of it going well beyond that and/or the possibility of spinning it into different series featuring other characters.”
No details of book three are available yet, but for Carter fans who are finding it hard to wait for the next Gallagher Girls installment, the author also pens an adult chick lit series about a single self-help guru named Julia James. Of those books, Carter writes on her Web site, “I can assure you that even my ‘adult’ books are rated PG,” addressing the issue of whether they are appropriate for teen fans, and she suggests that mothers and teens might read them together just to be sure.
“Middle school girls really love the Gallagher Girls series and they come back to read all of her other works, too,” Smith says. “It’s nice to find an author who also writes books that are at a higher level, but are still YA-OK,” she adds. “The girls who read Harry Potter are now older and they are good readers. They’re looking for things like this.”