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Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

At the October 11 “prequel” address for RISD Entrepreneur Mindshare – a full-day event hosted by the Career Center this Saturday, October 19 – children’s book author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka 99 IL spoke about his journey from student to celebrated professional and the incredible amount of work he continues to put in to promote his books.

Krosoczka drew a large crowd at RISD, something he’s used to from visiting more than 100 schools, libraries and conferences each year. He told students there to hear how he has made it as an entrepreneur that he has been leveraging technology to market his work right from the start, developing a website in 1998 when the technology was in its early stages, creating animated online book trailers and using MySpace, Facebook, Skype, Ustream and Twitter to get the word out among librarians and other book buyers.

But it was an analogue tool that led to his first publishing deal. After getting nowhere mailing cards to art directors, he realized that if he wanted to pitch his own books, he needed to get his work into the hands of the real gatekeepers: editors. In 1999 he managed to get one of his promotional postcards into the hands of children’s book editor Tracy Gates, and Random House jumped on the opportunity to publish Good Night, Monkey Boy.

While Monkey Boy garnered a lot of notice in the press (“local author makes good!”), when his next book, Baghead, was published 15 months later, it was greeted with far less hoopla. So Krosoczka determined to stir up some of his own. He revised his website (yet again) to include downloadable, educational content related to his books that schoolteachers, parents and school librarians could print out and share with kids. He stepped up his personal appearances across the country and (he proudly told his RISD audience) even opened at one book festival for Barney, the purple dinosaur so loved by children and reviled by their parents. “Promoting your books is kind of like a cross between being a politician and a touring musician,” the ebullient author observed.

Now a husband and father of two, Krosoczka has 18 children’s books to his credit, including the enormously popular Lunch Lady series, which has inspired a video game and a nationally recognized holiday: School Lunch Superhero Day. Lunch ladies, educators, kids and politicians got onboard, and the event even garnered attention from the White House.

So far, Krosoczka’s work has earned two Children’s Choice Book Awards (for the Lunch Lady series) and has been translated into multiple languages. Last fall he presented what has become a hugely popular TedX talk, starting with the compelling observation that “well before my imagination was my vocation, my imagination saved my life.” He also organizes an annual gathering of authors and musicians called the River’s Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash in Northampton, MA with his wife/manager Gina. In addition, he hosts a regular radio program called The Book Report and has created a scholarship at the Worcester [MA] Art Museum (in his hometown) to give needy kids access to art classes.

But as someone who truly loves and relates to kids, Krosoczka says the best part of the whole ride is meeting the dedicated fans who have grown up with his books and reading their inspiring and brilliantly illustrated mail.

Simone Solondz

Get inspired by other entrepreneurs at RISD Mindshare’s main event, this Saturday, October 19, 10am–6pm, Chace Center Auditorium. Speakers include jewelry designer Lauren Tickle MFA 09 JM, RI Innovation Fellowship winner Adrienne Gagnon MA 08 and 3D printing app inventor Janos Stone 98 SC.

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