When the first novels in the Orca Soundings series arrived from the printer in 2002, we had no idea that we were in this for the long haul. Like many initiatives in the publishing world, they seemed like a good idea at the time. Little did we know that 100 titles later, with 1.4 million copies in print, translations into French, Spanish, Latvian, and Swedish (among other languages), several similar series for other age groups, and a long-term focus on Reaching More Readers, these little books would continue to inform the way we publish and influence the success of the company.
The Orca Soundings novels are simply described as teen fiction for reluctant readers. Or as hi-interest, low vocab (hi/lo) or as books for struggling readers. Whatever they are called, they are successful and most importantly, they are read.
The Orca Soundings came out of a then-defunct series published by a now-defunct educational publisher. One of our authors, Beth Goobie, had several titles that were languishing out of print and it seemed like a good idea to bring them back. We saw this as an opportunity to dip our toe in the educational market, to publish shorter novels for struggling readers and to lead readers on to more challenging longer novels.
And then we saw we were on to something. We discovered that with the right author, these little books could sing. We learned that 15,000 words is sometimes the perfect length for the perfect story and that a lower reading level can lead to some of the most compelling storytelling. We found that when you strip away the excess and really get down to the story, amazing things can happen. Carrie Mac, Lesley Choyce, Norah McClintock, Eric Walters – the list goes on – all authors who found this a most freeing format. And most importantly, these books were being read. Kids who had never finished a book were picking up an Orca Soundings novel, finishing it and asking for more. Students who could read but didn’t because of time constraints could knock one of these off on a bus ride. And 1.4 million copies later, they are asking for more.
Here’s to the next 100!