Barry Cunningham is the Publisher and Managing Director of The Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world. Barry Cunningham has personally discovered some of the biggest names in children’s fiction today, including J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) and Cornelia Funke (Inkheart, Dragonrider). He recently spoke with Writer Unboxed about his journey as a publisher, discovering Harry Potter and much more. We’re deeply honored to have him with us.
Part 1: Interview with Barry Cunningham
Q: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you start in the publishing business and what has your journey been like?
BC: I started in marketing children’s books. I traveled the UK with Roald Dahl, among other people, and really learned the difference between what children respond to and really like, and what they’re told to like. Roald Dahl had a very physical relationship with the whole market. He looked like a big friendly giant, and he entranced people with his storytelling and his writing. His relationship with the children was really about being on their side. Really his message was something that teachers and educators didn’t respond to as much but children understood, and that was: Beware of adults!
So I spent a lot of time working with authors and traveling around with Roald Dahl and just soaking it all in. I really learned my craft about this business by watching children respond to books. Books children love they love almost physically. The books that they love they kind of physically hug and don’t want to give back, and the relationship with the author is part of that.
Though I spent time promoting books for adults early in my career, I was drawn back to children’s books, and when Bloomsbury asked me to do a report on starting children’s list, I thought, “I can do this. I’m not a proper editor, but I know a lot about children’s books.” So I tried for it. I think it was a good decision!
Q: How do you think your background helped you become a successful children’s editor? [Read more…]