"I've published over fifty books for kids, including joke books, picture books, a collection of poetry, and activity books.
My publishers include HarperCollins, American Girl, Putnam, Candlewick, and Gibbs Smith. My books out this year include BUNNY CHRISTMAS (HarperCollins), A VERY HAIRY SCARY STORY (Putnam), MRS. MCMURPHY'S PUMPKIN (HarperCollins), SUDDENLY ALLIGATOR: AN ADVERBIAL TALE (Gibbs Smith), and MINI-MYSTERIES (American Girl). For a complete listing of my books, see my website at www.rickwalton.com "
What drove/inspired you to get started?
I love to create. I get a thrill out of it. I've been creating since I was young. When I was in high school, one of my teachers told me that a story I'd written for her would make a good kids' book. That got me thinking...
Do you have any specialized training?
I have an M.A. in English, creative writing emphasis, but I got that long after I began publishing. My greatest training probably came from foreign language classes, where I learned about language; music classes, where I learned about rhythm; and wacky friends, where I learned about humor.
Has this been something you've always wanted to do?
No. I've wanted to be a teacher, a lawyer, an arts administrator, a businessman, a travel agent. Finally settled into writing.
Have there been any obstacles along the way?
Of course. It's hard to write something someone wants to buy. Rejection is never fun. Finances aren't easy. Knowing where to go, what to do, in a business that is more art than science, isn't easy. But then, there are obstacles to anything worth doing. If there aren't any obstacles, you're probably not doing it right.
Before you got the all important contract, how did your friends and family react to your goals? Were they supportive?
They were reluctantly supportive, but they would get excited when I'd explore other options, such as going into international business law. Now that I'm a parent, I understand their concern. You want your kids to be able to support themselves, and the arts aren't often the best way to do that.
Now that you have a book (s) in print, do you get different reactions from friends and family?
Absolutely. Getting published tells them that your goals are more than a pipe dream. Now they're all proud and supportive. And they like that I can dedicate books to them.
How did you land that very first book deal?
The wrong way. Sent too many queries to too many publishers. But got lucky. Lerner asked to see something. I sent it, they took forever, I called, they said they were still thinking but would I like to write joke books. I did.
Did you have any misconceptions in the beginning about the whole book process?
I should have paid more attention to the writing and less to the marketing. I would have advanced faster, I think.
How would you describe your work? What's the most important thing you'd like others to get out of it?
Varied--warm fuzzy bunnies, wacky kids and animals, mysteries for girls. My favorite thing to write, though, is the odd, the innovative, the wacky. My favorite stuff is still unpublished.
What's the most important thing you'd like others to get out of it?
Delight, and if there's a message--the message.
Do you have an agent?
I did. I don't anymore. I decided I wanted more control over my career, so we separated.
If yes, please explain how you acquired your agent and how you think having one has helped you. If you don't have an agent, would you consider getting one?
This is the formula a Harper editor told me to use. It worked for me. Look in Literary Marketplace (LMP) for agents that specialize in children's books. LMP screens the agents, making sure they're legit. There are vanity agents out there, who make their money by charging you for manuscript critiques and not by selling your books. There are also inept agents who think anyone can agent books, but who don't have the connections, the knowledge or the skill. A bad agent can do you more harm than no agent. LMP makes sure the agents make their money from sales, and that they are selling. Make a list of all the agents you find who have a major or sole focus in the children's market.
Send them all a query, briefly describing your background, your sales record (if you have one), and the manuscript(s) you'd like them to represent. Ask them if they are willing to look at your manuscripts and consider you as a client, and if so, ask them to send you information about their agency. Make sure you provide a SASE.
When the responses come in, prioritize the yes's according to a combination of all the factors that might be important to you--percentage (15% is now the norm, though sometimes you'll find 10%), location (New York is nice, but not essential anymore), enthusiasm, gut feeling, anything else.
Send your manuscript(s) to the first agent on your prioritized list.
Wait. If you're rejected, send to the second agent.
Continue, one at a time, until you run out of agents.
If they all reject you, just keep writing and marketing and try again after a year or two when you have more experience and more of a track record.
If you're accepted, congratulations!
I got my agent the second time I went through this process. She helped quite a bit, especially at first.
Describe your relationship with your editor(s) (art director if applicable).
Friendly. I like to be on their good side. I occasionally nag them if they're moving slow, but I give them the benefit of the doubt and try to be an easy author to work with. No one likes to work with prima donnas.
How do you most often communicate with your publisher--e-mail, phone, or snail mail?
What books do you have in the works now?
An activity book and a new collection of mini-mysteries from American Girl A picture book THE REMARKABLE FRIENDSHIP OF MR. CAT AND MR. RAT from Putnam A couple more bunny books from HarperCollins Some more language arts picture books and some activity books from Gibbs Smith..
Is there anything you'd do differently with your new projects?
I used to spend a lot of time on speculative writing that I knew would go nowhere. I still do some of this--it's my creative R&D. But I now focus more on the projects that editors have expressed interest in.
Do you do any author events? If so, please describe what they generally consist of.
School visits, writers conferences, the occasional librarian or teacher convention. I go into great detail on my school visits on my website.
How important do you think author appearances are for you and your book(s)?
Not essential, but useful. They're one way authors can use their time. You find the balance that works for you.
What's the best thing about publishing a book?
It's like having a child--you thrill and delight in creating something new and wonderful.
What's the worst?
The expectation that it will solve all of your problems--you'll now be rich, successful, and your life will be fulfilled. You probably won't get rich, there's always another hill to climb, and any personal problems you had before will still be there, only now you're in the public eye.
Any last words of encouragement for beginners?
Do it because you love it. If you love it, the process itself is the reward. If you don't love it, find something you do love and do that instead.