What a year Amy Krouse Rosenthal had in 2009. First, with four children's books published that spring, Rosenthal got the coveted invite to be a breakfast speaker at BookExpo America; then, on Mother's Day, the New York Times printed a glowing review of all four of her new titles, Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink (Chronicle), Spoon (Hyperion), and Yes Day! (HarperCollins); and she hit the New York Times list for Duck! Rabbit! May 24—staying on for weeks and re-emerging later in the summer.
But for all of her success with children's books, Rosenthal was not always recognized as the author of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Crown/Three Rivers), which was supported by independent booksellers across the country and named an Amazon best memoir in 2005. She is also the author of The Belly Book and Your Birthday Book (Clarkson Potter), plus pregnancy/motherhood/child journals and the recently released Bedtime for Mommy (Bloomsbury), which combined several of her interests into one work. In addition, Rosenthal is a blogger and has become known as Amy K.R. to fans of her Mission Amy K.R. blog.
While her writing may seem all over the map, the theme of making the most out of your days and sharing that with those you love permeates her books, blogs, and videos projects. So Rosenthal and agent Amy Rennert wondered if there was a way to bring all of her books under one brand—a yellow umbrella. "People who knew her from Little Pea and the children's books did not know about the memoir or the journals or videos," Rennert told PW. "While her publishers provided tremendous support, we wondered if we could do more to brand Amy K.R. books."
The idea for the yellow umbrella goes back to the 2008 viral video The Beckoning of Lovely that Rosenthal started with a YouTube post, in which she invited strangers to come and make something creative together with the woman (Rosenthal) holding a yellow umbrella in a Chicago Park on 08/08/08. Hundreds showed up, and thousands still send in creative contributions, which Rosenthal will edit into a film called The Beckoning of Lovely, set to make its theatrical debut next year on 11/11/11.
To corral such varied creative endeavors, author and agent formed Team Amy, joining forces with freelance publicist Sarah Burningham and marketing consultant Chris Boral at Rosenthal's expense. Since coming together last fall, the team brainstorms weekly, and just as Rosenthal's 25 books and journals passed the million-unit sales mark in April, it unrolled the Yellow Umbrella retail program, announcing it in an ad in the New York Times Book Review with the support of all five publishers. Under the program, more than a dozen independents across the country have set up displays with a variety of Rosenthal's books under a yellow umbrella, supported by marketing materials (including the yellow umbrella and yellow umbrella stickers for all the books) provided by Team Amy (again at the author's expense).
Burningham said Rosenthal's publishers and the booksellers who helped launch and build the author's career quickly got on board. Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., was one of the first booksellers to pop open its Yellow Umbrella display. "Amy's creativity goes beyond writing and publishing engaging books of all kinds," said store owner Elaine Pettrocelli. "She thinks about how to help booksellers give their customers more. And as my six grandchildren will tell you, her books are really fun." Vivien Jennings of Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Kans. (whose grandson is also a fan), said when the author recently did an event for The Wonder Book (HarperCollins), the store didn't need much convincing to feature brand Amy K.R. under its Yellow Umbrella. "In this very embattled industry, she has this perfect spirit of ‘let's all work together,' " said Jennings. "Amy wants to know what she can do for you."
"It's very cliché, but she is a big picture thinker," said Victoria Rock, Rosenthal's editor at Chronicle. She said Rosenthal thinks both intellectually and intuitively about the author's role in publishing and promotion. "It's exciting to watch what she does," Rock continued. "I think all authors should watch what she does."