Basically, anyone today can get anything printed," said Gary VanRiper, founder and publisher of the Camden [N.Y.] Times & Beach Journal and half of the father-son writing team/publishers of the Adirondack Kids series, which began in February 2001. "The big thing is selling it and marketing it."
VanRiper, who with his son, Justin, is putting the finishing touches on book four, The Great Train Robbery (Adirondack Kids Press, Mar.), has already become savvy on that score. The books, featured on their Web site (www.adirondackkids.com) were among the top 10 sellers for 2003 at Utica, N.Y.—based distributor North Country Books. A total of 31,800 copies in print, and the VanRipers plan to launch the fourth book with a 10,000-copy print run. That's up significantly from book one, The Adirondack Kids, which had a 2,000-copy first printing that sold out in two months.
The first book, which Gary financed with extra money that he earned coaching high school basketball, grew out of a 200-word homework assignment that he and then nine-year-old Justin wrote. When they read it at a Parents as Reading Partners event, people asked, 'Where's the book?' So Justin and Gary expanded the essay into a 14,000-word chapter book for ages seven to 12.
What started as a project for just Gary and Justin has gradually evolved into a family business. Justin's mother, Carol, a professional photographer, handles marketing for the series and is illustrating The Great Train Robbery. The books have been adopted in a number of Albany schools, and Justin's sister, Sarah, a teacher, is working on a separate curriculum guide.
While it may seem as if the publishing venture puts undue strain on Justin to write and promote the books, Gary is quick to stress that "we're not stage parents. We didn't want this to encroach on his childhood." Although the pair continue to sit down once a week to work on a story, Justin, now 13, does very few book signings during the school year and leaves much of the publicity to his father. As Justin grows older, he's learning to face a new children's book challenge: he's also outgrown the target age-range for his books.