Monday, September 12, 2016

Interview with Literary Agent Rick Richter

I met rick at a conference in Boston, in fact, you might say I agent stalked him. I heard about him through 12x12, did my research, and found he'd be presenting at a conference. The conference sounded great, and I was able to get a good deal on airfare, so I went. I have to admit, that I was nervous meeting with Rick, but he is personable and charming as you will see from his interview. 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. You’ve also served as chairman of the Children’s Book Council, and an early director of First Book. You’re a literary agent at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth and helped reintroduce the current market to Eloise and Raggedy Ann in prior lives. I think it’s safe to say you know a lot about children’s lit. 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 the 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?
Absolutely, I think becoming an agent is something every publisher should do. It is a lesson in humility, a lesson in patience, and one feels the victories and set backs of the authors and illustrators we work with in a much, much more visceral way. I’m even more in awe of the talented people who make up our industry and their willingness to persevere.  
For the rest of the interview, please visit my website.