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Book Packager Looks for Writers, Artists

February 04, 1989|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

Carnival Enterprises, one of the largest book packagers in the nation, is looking for talented Orange County free-lance writers, illustrators and art directors.

"I'm always looking for talent I can tap to help us develop projects," said Gregory Lee, director of the Minneapolis-based firm's California office in Laguna Hills. "Carnival is a low-key company that has a nationwide publishing business, so we consume a lot of free-lance talent."

And what exactly does a book packager do?

"We do everything a publisher does except sales and marketing," Lee said. "We create the books from scratch and very often deliver the final printed books to the publisher."

Carnival, which produces more than 100 books a year for such diverse clients as Simon & Schuster Inc. and Hasbro Toys, specializes in juvenile literature and juvenile nonfiction.

The 8-year-old firm has produced many award-winning children's books, including "Mother Told Me So" (Raintree Publishers of Milwaukee), winner of the International Reading Assn. Children's Choice Award, and "Angel Child, Dragon Child," a picture book for Raintree Publishers about a Vietnamese girl adapting to life in America, which won an award from the National Council for Social Studies.

Lee, 32, said he worked in Carnival's Minneapolis office for 4 years as editorial director. But the bitter Minnesota winters took their toll on the Santa Ana native and he suggested opening a branch office in Orange County.

"I wanted to move back home," he said with a laugh. "It was not hard to essentially persuade the heads of Carnival that a West Coast presence would be important. And Orange County, as I read in the newspaper every day, is the business leader in probably the whole state. I mean what better place to be?"

Because most people are not aware of what a book packager is, Lee said one of his objectives since opening Carnival's Orange County office a year ago has been to spread the word.

"A lot of people who want to be in publishing--whether they think they can draw, write or edit--don't know packaging is a legitimate way to get into publishing," said Lee, who works out of his home.

"But they can get credits for writing books for school libraries, ghostwriting stories for a toy company (Carnival has done many books and tapes that go with learning machines and dolls), or help write audio programs for book and tape products. I'm able to give people publishing work where they can establish a portfolio."

Another of his goals, Lee said, is that he wants publishers on the West Coast "to know Carnival as well as our Eastern clients do."

Lee said publishers frequently come to a company such as Carnival when "they need a series and they may need a lot of books at one time. Their staffing situation just may not allow them to accomplish that many books in a tight time frame without hiring new people. And many of them just don't have the resources to invest in bigger staffs. They hire a packager to accomplish the same amount of work for basically a finite fee."

In other cases, a publishing house with limited resources may be able to produce only 100 titles a year but in order to stay competitive may want 150 titles in their yearly catalogue. When they reach that point of saturation, Lee said, they will hire a book packager as an extension of their staff.

Lee said one of the purposes of opening Carnival's West Coast office was to increase its exposure among companies that aren't in the publishing business but which may want to sponsor a book as a fund-raising gift or premium for people who contributed to a charity favored by the corporation. As an example, he cited a book produced by Carnival for the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the 1987 World Series champion Minnesota Twins.

Although Carnival recently produced "All Through the Night," a hard-cover children's picture book for Abingdon Press in Nashville, Tenn., the firm usually sticks to producing books for series: fiction with common themes or characters, or nonfiction with a focus on biography, science and nature and serious topics such as teen-age suicide and drug abuse.

"We take (a publisher's) marketing objective and then we create the writing and whatever illustrations or graphics are needed," he said. "We design the series look and recommend the format: Should it be hard cover or paperback. We create audio programs if it's going to be a book and tape series, and we do all the camera-ready work, up through arranging for printing of the series."

The firm, according to Lee, is currently producing new software programs for "Socrates," a popular video-learning system by Video Technology Industries.

But many of the current projects Carnival is working on, Lee said, are for publishers that specialize in creating both fiction and nonfiction books for school libraries.

While he is interested in developing an Orange County free-lance talent pool, Lee emphasized he is not interested in having authors and illustrators send him manuscripts and drawings in hopes of Carnival publishing them. He would, however, like to see samples of their work, particularly from writers and illustrators who are "dying to do children's books."

He can be contacted at (714) 837-6650.

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