I’m planning to write a series of posts telling the story of the books I’ve written. I wanted to post this one while we are still in 2018.
It was 10 years ago this past summer that I’m Looking For A Monster! was published. It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent a decade as a published author/illustrator. This book has done so much for me. It has taken me places I never dreamed I’d go. I started doing school author visits when I only had this one book. It even won a design award from the NY Bookbinder’s Guild.
I’m getting ahead of myself. The story starts a bit earlier. I had gotten to a point in my life where I wanted to get my ideas out into the market. I finally put some books together and was trying to decide whether to try to get them published traditionally or self-publish them. I met Danny Tepper who wanted me to do some illustrations for a project of his. He had two children’s books published by Random House and he told me he could get me a meeting with his editor. I was thrilled. We went up to Manhattan to the RH building on Broadway and sat in Heidi Kilgras’s office. I pulled out a stack of book dummies and some less finished book proposals. She was very nice, said some non-committal things about many of them but on every proposal, down at the bottom of the page, was my company logo:
Every time she saw it she commented on how much she loved my logo. By the end of the meeting she had not picked up any of the book ideas I had brought but she said she wanted to do a book that looked like my logo. I left and began my drive home from New York to Maryland. I thought “What kind of book can I do that uses silhouette characters?”
“What do I like to draw?”
“I like to draw monsters.”
“So I’m looking for a book about monsters.”
“I’m Looking For A Monster!“
I had a great title and I began to write (in my head) the simple story of a boy looking for his perfect monster. I had it pretty much completed by the time I reached home 4 hours later. (This is the first of 3 books that have been almost completely written on long road trips.) Once home, I started drawing monsters. Big monsters, small monsters, scary monsters and silly monsters. I put together a dummy with a bunch of silhouette monsters and some rougher sketches and sent it to Heidi. (You can see the original dummy here.) She told that it was exactly the book she wanted and sent it to the acquisitions committee. They said yes!
As we were discussing the contract two things happened. One was that Heidi told me they published a lot of pop-up books in her department and they thought it would make a great pop-up book. I asked if I can design the pop-up mechanisms and she said yes. She also said that they had a hole in next summer’s schedule and could I finish everything in 2 months? I said that I could and so the book would come out less than a year after going to contract.
It’s at this point in the story that people who have tried to get published are usually kind of angry at me. Nobody gets invited to pitch directly to an editor in their office. Nobody is told to create a specific book to pitch. Nobody ever gets a contract so quickly and then a book never comes out so fast!. Lightning seems to have struck me over and over during this period.
I got some pop-up books for reference including David Carter’s The Elements of Pop-Up and began folding paper.
It was a matter of turning my two-page jokes into one-page pop-ups with the action of each pop-up delivering the punch line.
I knew I wanted to do a wheel and I used it twice. One side is the antler joke and the other is the three monster heads. Here is what the printed wheel looks like on the inside of the page. The slime monster was originally going to melt into a puddle but we had to cut one mechanism for cost.
The book came out on July 8th, 2008. Everything from that point on was just success upon success…until it wasn’t. That’s the story of my second book which I will tell shortly.
Without this book I would not have written or illustrated many of the other books I’ve had published. I hadn’t even thought of using silhouettes to illustrate a book until Heidi asked for a book that looked like my logo. I went on to use them in other books and those books led to the inspiration for others. Now, in the decade since I’m Looking For A Monster! came out I have 12 published books, another coming next May and more in the works.
Sadly, it’s my only out-of-print book. You can occasionally find them on Amazon or eBay. Be careful as some of those have torn and broken bits. I have a few that I’m keeping on hand since I bring one with me to show at author visits. I feel very lucky to have had this book published and so a huge THANK YOU to the folks at Random House, the many people who helped me along the way and all of the families who enjoyed reading I’m Looking For A Monster! over the last 10 years.