Tom Peterson

Publisher The Creative Company

The Creative Company has a rich family history. Tell us a little about the company and its publishing ethos.

The Creative Company was started by my grandfather, George Peterson, Sr., in 1932. His first product was a set of over 500 rubber stamps that were used by teachers to teach everything from spelling to geography to math. His primary market for the product was schools, which to this very day is the foundation of our customer base. My father purchased the business from my grandfather in 1963 and slowly evolved the business into what it is today – a children’s book publishing company. I represent the third generation in this family run business, and as my dear wife likes to remind me, it is the third generation that most often kills the family business. Now that’s some type of motivation!

Could you outline a typical day as Publisher of The Creative Company?

Unlock the doors, call the electrician, empty the waste paper baskets, receive inventory into our accounting software. 95% of what I do is no different from any other small business owner, no matter what widget they may be creating, or selling. It is the remaining 5% of my time, however, that defines who I am as a publisher, and what  our company will be in the marketplace. The intimidating part of this of course is that there is no scheduling this 5% of time. I’m unable to say, okay now between 9:00am – 9:30am I’m going to make some good decisions. Instead that 5% of time is likely to occur while I’m taking out the garbage, and the challenge is to be ready for that moment!

On average, how many titles do you publish each year?

On average The Creative Company publishes 75 books a year: 70 of these are published under the Creative Education imprint – mainly nonfiction, series work; and 5 books published under our Creative Editions imprint which specializes in picture books.

How many illustrators do you typically work with per year and roughly what percentage of these are located outside the U.S?

Per year the number is 5, or equal to the number of picture books we publish in any given year. In total there are perhaps 10-12 illustrators that we work with on a regular basis. The vast majority of these individuals, perhaps 10, currently live in the United States – even though they may call home any number of places in Europe.

Tell us about 3 recent projects you have enjoyed working on and why?

Our new company letterhead, our 75th anniversary banners for our parking lot, and a new shipping container – anything but another book!

What can we expect from The Creative Company in 2008?

Hopefully a few more projects that will make others take a step back and say, “Wow! how in the world did they manage to publish that?”

The Creative Company recently attended the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. How important is this event to you and why?

Creative has attended the Bologna Book Fair for as long as I have been with the company (22 years), and well before that. Over that time the Bologna Children’s Book Fair has become a highlight for us of each and every calendar year. We have made many friends, established lasting business relationships, and found an audience that respects and appreciates the work that we do. Each year the fair reinvigorates our belief in publishing the books we love.

Within the last couple of years, which children’s book has been the most successful for The Creative Company and what do you attribute to its success?

Most successful is such a subjective term, and I think I define success much differently than many. Success for me is not defined as financial gain, but rather did we make the most of this subject, idea as we possibly could. Based upon that definition BLACK CAT BONE, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Gary Kelley, certainly has to be mentioned, but there are others: I STILL HATE TO READ, FRANKLIN THE FLY and THE HOUSE. I like to think that every book we publish can or will be successful by this measure – it should be, or I haven’t done my job very well.



Are there any trade magazines which are of particular interest to you in your role as publisher?

Not book trade magazines. Most, but not all, book trade magazines are simply a tool of the large publishers. What’s new amongst the bestsellers and pop celebrity culture seems to be their mission. I much prefer to look to design magazines (architectural, graphic and fashion) to spark what little inspiration I have within me!  🙂

What is your all-time favourite children’s book and why?

Certainly it will be the next one that we publish. Without that belief the process of bringing a book to life is simply too difficult.

This interview has been syndicated courtesy of Childrensillustrators.com