I had a one-on-one critique session with Rick Richter at a writing conference in Boston. I wish I could have chatted with him for hours. As you’ll see from his answers, he’s got a wealth of information from his many years in the publishing industry, and I am grateful he took the time to answer the following questions, including the tough ones. Thank you, Rick!
Let me first set up your rather amazing resume. You were a co-founder (with many others) and former CEO of Candlewick Press, a publisher at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, president of Simon & Schuster Sales and Distribution Division, the creator of Simon Spotlight, and the founder of Ruckus Media Group. While at S&S you helped reintroduce the market to Eloise and Raggedy Ann. You’ve also served as chairman of the Children’s Book Council, and as an early director of First Book, and you’re currently a literary agent at Aevitas Creative Management. I think it’s safe to say you know a lot about children’s literature. How did you get started on this path?
My father worked the night shift at the Boston Globe—the “lobstah” shift I think is what they called it—and he thought the book business was nobler than newspapers. “People don’t wrap fish in your work at the end of the day.” I remember him saying, so he encouraged me to find a job in books. My soon-to-be-wife introduced me to a friend who worked at a small company in Natick, Massachusetts—Picture Book Studio—and I fell head over heels over the work of Lizbeth Zwerger. I remember telling the staff there (the entire staff interviewed me!) that I would do anything at the company. “Anything at all.” I started packing books in their warehouse.
I was really fortunate to have two amazing bosses at this little company. The first, Motoko Inoue, went on to become Eric Carle’s long-time and exclusive agent. The second, Andrew Clements, went on to write the classic Frindle, and became a staple in the industry. So I learned to love the business at the knee of two highly principled and wonderful people.
Now that you’re an agent, do you see the children’s lit world differently?