Kate DiCamillo.

Kate DiCamillo has come a long way from her debut author tour in 2000, which consisted of only two bookstore appearances in Minnesota: the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, and Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis. While the turnout at both events promoting DiCamillo’s first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie, was “nice” and sales were brisk, the Twin Cities resident recalls, it was only “because my friends all came.”

This fall, DiCamillo’s publisher, Candlewick Press, is making sure the bestselling author of five novels, two picture books, and six volumes in the Mercy Watson series reaches more readers than ever before. And they’re using a mix of both traditional means and modern technology to do it.

First, Candlewick is launching its electronic publishing program with the release this past Tuesday of DiCamillo’s five novels; her latest, The Magician’s Elephant, was simultaneously released that day in hardcover and as an e-book, with both formats pricing at $16.99 retail. The retail price for the four DiCamillo backlist e-books is $6.99, except $5.99 for The Tiger Rising.

Between September 4 and November 15, DiCamillo is traveling from coast to coast on a 10-city tour promoting The Magician’s Elephant. Not only will her many fans in the usual tour stops—places like New York City, Seattle, and Minneapolis—be able to hear DiCamillo read from and discuss The Magician’s Elephant, but, thanks to the Internet, audiences all over the world will be able to participate in a virtual book group event on Sunday, October 25.

The Webcast will be broadcast live from the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. While Sidwell Friends is best known for being the private school which the two Obama girls attend, no word yet as to whether Malia or Sasha will be present at the event—although the prospect of reading and discussing The Magician’s Elephant to an audience that includes members of the First Family is “intimidating to think about,” DiCamillo admitted.

“But I’d love to think maybe they’ve read something I’ve written,” she said in an interview a few days before flying to Atlanta to kick off her tour at the Decatur Book Festival.

“We’ve never done this before,” said Tracy Miracle, senior publicist at Candlewick, explaining that the idea was the brainchild of the company’s president and publisher, Karen Lotz, in response to their wish to raise DiCamillo’s profile even more than it’s been raised since that first reading at the Red Balloon nine years ago. So far, 150 bookstores and libraries planning to host large events have registered to participate (individuals may also register for the event). If additional bookstores or libraries wish to participate in other virtual book group events with DiCamillo, they can email their requests.

“Kate’s books have been heavily used in children’s book groups,” Miracle said, explaining that the Webcast at Sidwell Friends was scheduled for October 25 for two reasons: October is National Reading Group Month, and audiences will have an opportunity to read and digest the September release before the virtual book group assembles.

In order to further augment the experience for participants, Candlewick Press is providing participating bookstores and libraries with The Magician’s Elephant discussion guides, bookmarks, activity kits and signed book giveaways.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick, $16.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-76364-410-9