LONDON • The Swedish author of this summer's surprise self- published hit, a bedtime story that promises to "make anyone fall asleep" using positive reinforcement techniques and plenty of yawns, has landed a book deal with a major publisher.
Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin's The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep topped Amazon's charts in the United States and the United Kingdom last month, selling 18,585 copies in the UK in the week to Aug 22, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan.
The sale gave it second place in the UK's book charts and was the first time, according to the Bookseller, that a title produced on Amazon's CreateSpace platform made the official UK Top 50.
The picture book, which tells the story of Roger the Rabbit as he and his mother embark on a quest to help him nod off, complete with frequent repetition and injunctions for the reader to intentionally yawn, was first self-published in Swedish in 2011, with the English edition released last year.
It has now been jointly acquired by Penguin Random House UK and Random House US' children's departments, along with two further, as-yet-unspecified books by Ehrlin.
He has described the title as "a new, safe and innovative way to help your child fall asleep", saying it "is recommended by psychologists and therapists".
"No need for how-to skills, it's as easy and simple as reading a normal bedtime story with (an) improved language pattern that will help your child to relax and fall asleep", runs its online description.
The author, a behavioural scientist who teaches communications at a Swedish university, said he was thrilled to join Penguin Random House: "It is an absolute joy for me to see the response that the book has received from parents all around the world and it is something I never imagined would happen."
Ehrlin has published three books, although none for children.
He said: "I frequently hear from parents about how the story has helped ease their child's bedtime and naptime routines, and I am so pleased to know that the book will now be able to reach, and help, even more families."
Ms Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children's, called the book "a phenomenon that's grabbing people's attention all around the world".
"We are excited to be bringing this book to an even bigger audience in the UK and internationally," she added. "As a publisher, we want to publish books that speak to people and have the power to support them. This book is very clearly doing that."
The mainstream publishers have taken Ehrlin's self-published edition off sale, while they redesign the front cover, produce a "refreshed interior design", and introduce "minimal edits" to the interior text. New print editions will go on sale from Oct 2, with a new e-book due out tomorrow, and audio versions featuring a choice of male or female narrator out on Oct 2.
Online reviews of the picture book are largely positive, with Amazon.co.uk registering 119 five-star reviews from buyers for whom it did the trick.
"Works a treat," reads one. "Put my grandchildren to sleep in a few minutes. Almost sent me to sleep along with them."
There are also 60 one-star write-ups from those for whom it did not work. One example says: "My three-year-old said half-way through 'Mum, you can tell Roger I'm not going to sleep'."
The Guardian's reviewer Imogen Russell Williams found it "sinister", writing that "rather than the cuddlesome Nutbrown Hares, the racked, etiolated bunnies evoke the Black Rabbit of Inle; and their sad, green eyes have an all-too-knowing glint".