When Globe Pequot Press decided to create a children’s imprint, Muddy Boots, it began looking at the children’s backlist at other Rowman & Littlefield divisions, That’s when marketing director Margaret Milnes discovered the work of Linda Kranz, whose work was published by other houses that were also purchased by R&L, which is how her work ended up most recently on the Taylor Trade list.
“Linda was ‘the unknown franchise,’ ” said Milnes, who regards her as one of the superstars of Muddy Boots in particular and children’s publishing in general. “Cumulatively, we’ve sold over a million copies of her books.” Because of Kranz’s passionate fan base and her extensive school tour schedule, Milnes is determined to turn Kranz into a recognizable “brand.”
Kranz’s picture books about creativity and self-expression, like her bestselling Only One You (2008) and its companion, You Be You (2012), are filled with her paintings on rocks, and the words and art frequently turn readers into fans. That was the case for Sue Lubeck, owner of The Bookies in Denver, who carries all 15 of Kranz’s books and places them at the front counter, along with letters from parents and kids. To date, Lubeck has sold over 4,000 copies of Only One You alone. “There’s very few people that I put it in their hands that don’t buy it,” she said.
Kranz published her first book 20 years ago, a keepsake journal for children, All About Me. She was national sales manager for Northland Publishing in Flagstaff (later purchased by Rowman & Littlefield) at the time, and she worked in publishing for close to three decades before turning to writing and art full-time. “I always tell kids to do what you love. I used to work all day and paint all night,” said Kranz.
Much of Kranz’s inspiration comes from nature; she lives just an hour and a half from the Grand Canyon, a place she often visits for lunch. “Nature really does center us,” said Kranz. “Our lives are so busy. It’s nice to take a walk and breathe in the beauty.” For her books, she often paints illustrations on the rocks she finds on walks and hikes.
This past spring, though, for her new book Where I Belong, Kranz instead created clay snakes. Although she got the idea for the book when she was hiking in a forest and saw a branch that reminded her of a snake, she couldn’t get the tree branches she collected to work. “With a contract signed and a deadline fast approaching I had to regroup,” said Kranz. “I switched to air dry clay. I had never worked with clay. It was challenging. Yet, it all worked out. When I speak to students at schools I try to emphasize that things don’t often turn out as we planned.”
Next up for Kranz are two picture books: One Yellow Fish (Oct.) and Orange Fish, Green Fish (Dec.). GPP and Muddy Boots are planning an extensive marketing campaign, including a national broadcast and print media campaign targeting kids and parents; a mommy blogger tour; an event kit for stores and schools, with activities and messaging celebrating self-esteem and self-expression. They will also promote the books on Muddy Boots’s newly launched website.
As for Kranz, she’s currently reworking one of her early craft books on rock painting, Let’s Rock! (2003), for grades one through six. “I told my publisher usually when you’ve done a book, you’re done,” said Kranz. After accepting the challenge of rewriting a previously published book, she realized: “It depends on when.”