Author-illustrator David Kirk, who is best known for his Miss Spider series of 23 books—which have sold five million copies in the past 25 years—has decided to break free from corporate publishing and be his own boss. Earlier this year, Kirk launched his own company, Pipweasel Publishing, which debuted in May with My Hugging Rules, a picture book written and illustrated by Kirk that was inspired by specific regulations regarding hugs established by one of his daughters.
The first print run for My Hugging Rules was 10,000 copies. Pipweasel titles are distributed by PGW.
Kirk freely admits that “all these things on the business side of publishing that publishers do so easily for authors,” aren’t so simple, from production to book marketing and publicity. Kirk says in the past few years, he has had to “learn how to set up a corporation, obtain a trademark, register a copyright, procure an ISBN, build websites, find a distributor, locate pre-press assistance and a book manufacturer, then work through hundreds of artistic, editorial, production, and manufacturing issues—all while creating stories and art.”
Despite it all, Kirk enjoys being his own boss finally, at age 64. Of the publisher-creative relationship, he noted, “You’re not doing what you like to do, you’re always trying to please somebody else.” But, he added, in his new venture “it’s been a tricky path,” and he intends to “work out the many kinks” in his business model before he enlists other artists and writers.
Except this self-imposed rule doesn’t apply when it comes to his older brother, Daniel Kirk, 67, who also writes and illustrates children’s books, including the Library Mouse series. The Kirk brothers are partnering on a series of graphic novels to be published by Pipweasel, beginning with the spring 2020 release of the first installment. The graphic novels will tell the same story from the two men’s childhoods from each’s perspective. The books all will be produced in a flip format and will be titled David & Danny and inversely, Danny and David. In the first volume, David, age seven, and Danny, 10, go to a library-sponsored event at a big downtown theater. Danny is supposed to accompany David to a G-rated movie, but sneaks out instead to see a monster movie “that’s too scary for David.” David searches for Danny, finds him, and the story progresses from there.
“The stories will end up in the middle with, hopefully, both of us agreeing on the sequence of events,” Kirk explained, disclosing that the project initially was a memoir about his own childhood, but expanded to include Daniel “after going back and forth” over recollections of their childhoods in Ohio, growing up with parents who were professional puppeteers.
Noting that the brothers had to update a few things about their memories from the early 1960s, so that modern readers would understand setting and context, Kirk said that the series will target early readers, ages six to nine.
As for the name of his company, Kirk named it Pipweasel after “a kind gnome” in The Adventures of Mr. Pipweasel by Ida Bohatta Morpurgo. Disclosing how much the German author inspired him as a writer, Kirk recalled purchasing one of her books, The Gnomes Almanac, at a library sale in Ithaca, N.Y., some 30 years ago.
“There is a verse for each month,” he said. “It got me writing for the first time in my life. The pictures were sweet, too. I don't think there would have been a Miss Spider had I not found this book.”