Ruta Drummond, whose career at Borders spanned 25 years, has joined Tiger Tales as associate publisher. It’s a neat fit for the former children’s book buyer: her special interest is books for very young readers, the bailiwick of Tiger Tales, which since its 2000 launch has concentrated on offerings for children ages eight and under. A passionate reader as a child, Drummond is enthusiastically embracing her new role. “I’ve read books, then sold and bought them,” she says. “Now I’ll be able to help create them, which is exciting. It’s something different, something challenging.”
Drummond, who was laid off from her position at Borders in August, recalls that she moved into the children’s area there quite serendipitously. “When I first started at Borders, they had no children’s buyer,” she says. “I told them that they really needed to have someone concentrate on children’s books, and they said, ‘OK, you do it.’ And it grew from there.”
Tiger Tales, founded by publisher Elisabeth (Lisa) Prial, is an imprint of ME Media based in Wilton, Conn., yet Drummond works from her office in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I am looking for story ideas, authors, and illustrators,” she says of her new responsibilities. She notes that with the company’s small staff, composed of six women, “We all get to do a little bit of everything, which I love. These are all such terrific, knowledgeable women who have been so welcoming to me. I admire Lisa so much for what she has done and for the wonderful books she has published over the years.”
Prial returns the compliment. “When she was at Borders, I came to know Ruta as a book buyer of exceptional knowledge, experience, and expertise,” she says. Prial worked closely with Drummond when Borders and Tiger Tales partnered to publish 2009’s Beckett and Panda-monium!, a hardcover picture book by Cynthia Platt, illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko. (Tiger Tales will release non-exclusive hardcover and paperback editions of the book in April.) “When the opportunity fell in our lap to have Ruta join Tiger Tales, we were very excited to take advantage of it,” Prial adds.
The publisher explains that Drummond will contribute to the house’s continuing expansion of its original publishing program. Tiger Tales also buys rights to books published by foreign publishers, the mainstay of its list in its early years. “It obviously takes more talent to develop original works than to buy rights, so adding Ruta to our staff was a natural extension of what we’ve been doing,” Prial says.
Drummond, who is keeping a foot in the bookselling world by working part-time for Ann Arbor’s Nicola’s Books in the area of community outreach, has a cautiously optimistic outlook on the future of the picture book market. “Picture books are going through a difficult spell,” she observes. “The chains haven’t pushed picture books to the side exactly, but they certainly don’t have the selection they used to have.” On the positive side, she observes, picture books have two major champions today. “Independent bookstores seem to be better able to carry more picture book titles—they don’t have to buy huge quantities—and they can certainly handsell more easily than the chains,” she notes. “And I know that librarians are huge fans of picture books, since they hold so many story times, and do craft projects tying into these books. I would say that the future of picture books lies in libraries and independents. I’m very excited to be a part of creating these books.”