Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meet the Author: Jeff Kinney

I won't lie: one of the reasons--maybe the main reason--I'd recommend you download the latest Apple "Meet the Author" podcast from iTunes (free!) is that its subject, Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, tells a nice story about how he owes everything to me.

He doesn't phrase it quite like that. But he does tell the story of going to the New York Comic-Con in 2006 hoping to find a publisher for the 1300-page opus he'd spent eight years creating. Jeff was discouraged. The first day of the Con he was turned away at the door despite having a ticket because the event was wildly oversold and the fire marshal was a stickler. After nearly slinking home in defeat, he returned the next day and got in but couldn't find anyone interested in looking at his material. Finally, he approached the Abrams booth because he'd heard they'd published a webcomic called Mom's Cancer and saw my artwork on a poster as he walked by. Editor Charlie was at the booth, agreed to check out Jeff's story and, as Jeff tells it, within 30 seconds said "This is exactly what I'm looking for!"

As I may have recounted too often, I was at the Con that day. I don't recall seeing Jeff but I was one of the first people Charlie shared Jeff's proposal with, and have always admitted with a rueful shrug that I didn't quite get it. At the time, Jeff imagined Wimpy Kid as a Wonder Years-style humor book for nostalgic adults. He didn't know he'd written a kids' book (a situation I've found myself in as well), let alone one of the best-selling kids' series of all time. Charlie was right and I was wrong. Happily.

If you want to hear Jeff himself tell that story, including some nice comments about my book, it starts at about 17 minutes into the podcast (there are both audio and video versions available, I recommend the one with pictures).

Ego inflation aside, the other reason I'd recommend you download the podcast is that it tells the story of an author who spent eight years creating a 1300-page opus, which through perseverance and luck became a series of books that sold tens of millions (I lost count: 60M? 70M? 80M?) of copies in 40 languages worldwide, spun off three movies, and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Work hard + Stick with it + Seek opportunities = Success (sometimes).

Who doesn't need to hear a story like that once in a while?

NY Comic-Con 2006: Editor Charlie, Publicist Melody (who has since moved on to other career opportunities) and me at the Abrams booth, all blissfully unaware this was the day that changed Jeff Kinney's life.

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