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Heidi MacDonald points to an article in the Hollywood Reporter about the runaway success of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid novels (which are often classed with graphic novels, although they are really more of a hybrid format). There’s a lot to chew on in the article, and Heidi’s post gets some interesting comments about the fact that kids are reading—and buying—lots of comics lately; the only writer whose work is outselling Kinney right now is Stieg Larsson.
One of the really interesting angles of this story, though, is that from day one, the first three volumes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid have been available online, for free. It started out as a web-only book on the kids’ site Funbrain.com, and author Jeff Kinney has insisted on keeping it there. How does that work? I suspect there are two kinds of readers: Those who know about Wimpy Kid but not Funbrain (I’m guessing the target audience doesn’t spend a lot of time using BitTorrent) and those who go to Funbrain for math help, as my daughter did, and stumble on Wimpy Kid along the way. So he’s tapping into two separate audiences, much as comics publishers hope to do with digital and direct market sales. In addition, Kinney upgraded both the writing and the art for the print edition and threw in some extra twists that aren’t online. Although this seems to be pretty ad hoc, it sounds like a pretty good business plan to me.
Kinney had better watch his back, though: James Patterson, the author of Maximum Ride and Daniel X, both of which have done well both as prose novels and as graphic novel adaptations, has just published Middle School, a prose-graphic novel hybrid with a bit of a Wimpy Kid vibe—and he has put the first 20 chapters online for free.
Amulet Books will pull yet another egg out from under their golden goose on November 9, when they release the fifth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The press release makes it seem like the big news is that the color scheme of the new book will be purple, and to be fair, that probably is the most important feature to the readers, who are already sold on the first-person tales of Greg Heffley, average guy. However, author Jeff Kinney also hints at a major shift in the relationship between Greg and his best friend Rowley; apparently, nothing will ever be the same again. Not something I was expecting from the Wimpy Kid books.
Can’t wait that long? You can scratch both the Twilight and the Wimpy Kid itch with a single parody, The Diary of a Wimpy Vampire which is just out this week; it’s from a British publisher but is supposed to be published internationally. According to the UK paper The Independent,
Aimed at kids aged 12-15, the book is called a “comic tale of a teenage vampire’s struggle with the angst and traumas of adolescence.” It focuses on Nigel Mullet, who was made into a vampire as a teenager and will therefore spend eternity at the awkward age of 15.
Now that is a fate worse than death. Speaking of which, if you’re thinking “Why didn’t someone do a zombie mashup of Wimpy Kid?” wonder no more; Papercutz has you covered.
(Hat tip: Martha Cornog.)