Publisher Spotlight: Linda F Radke of Five Star Publications, Inc.

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Welcome Linda F. Radke, President of Five Star Publications, Ink. home to the fabulous children’s literature magazine Story Monsters Ink! 

“Story Monsters Ink is a free, subscription-based digest that gives parents and educators the latest news about award-winning and debut books, profiles on both renowned and newly published authors, upcoming book events, and author presentations.”

Linda F. Radke, President of of Five Star Publications, Inc., places significant importance in providing rich content to help educators, parents, librarians, and tutors instill the joy of reading and writing in children.  Linda provides a special opportunity for students to submit book reviews highlighted in the publication.

I had the honor of interviewing Linda for our November Publisher Spotlight Interview ~ let’s take a look into her kid lit world!

Linda, what prompted you to get into publishing Story Monsters Ink and why children’s book publishing in particular? 

​I have been producing and marketing award-winning books since 1985. I am a former special education teacher and I must admit that our Little Five Star division has a special place in my heart. Once a teacher, always a teacher. I started Five Star Puppets when we published Alfie’s Bark Mitzvah. It all started with an endorsement from Lamb Chop and Mally Lewis. I knew that Alfie wanted to meet Lamb Chop and what better way than through the creation of a professional performance puppet and a costume character. Kids of all ages relate to puppets and mascots and so the first Five Star puppet and costume character was born. The love of puppets and mascots transfer over to the love and encouragement of reading. Fast forward to the creation of Story Monster. It all started with the creation of our Story Monster puppet. He was a professional puppet that lives in the heart and soul of every children’s book. We took Story Monster to book events and one of our authors, Conrad J. Storad, often took him to school events. Lynda Exley was instrumental in the creation of Story Monsters Ink when it was in a newsletter format. It doesn’t take long for folks of all ages to fall in love with Story Monster. We then developed the Story Monster Approved! program, where kids actually serve as our book judges. We have panels of students at schools all across the US who read the books submitted to the program and tell us whether they should be approved by the Story Monster. These little judges take their jobs very seriously. My family has always been behind the Five Star scenes and supported all of my wild and crazy ideas. Daniel (my youngest son) was the kind soul behind the Alfie costume and now you will find him often times when you meet the Story Monster costume character. I have always carried a secret wish to publish a magazine, but it had to be the right time and the right message. It takes an incredible team to build a magazine and a special team to bring you each and every issue of Story Monsters Ink.

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How do you decide what to consistently feature in each publication and how has this evolved since you first started? Is it driven by needs of your target audience of parents, teachers, librarians, authors and/or set by the ideas and goals in promoting children’s literacy by your team?

​Our editor-in-chief Cristy Bertini and I discussed what we really wanted this magazine to be about and who we wanted it to be for. As with everything that we do at Five Star, the answer was clear: children. We wanted something that kids would find very interesting and we wanted to promote literacy. BUT, who does most of the reading to children? Parents and teachers. That became our goal – to make sure each issue has something that will appeal to kids, parents, and teachers. We have our regular features such as the Spanish language column, written by Leigh Carrasco, who is an educator and an author; our science and nature column written by Conrad J. Storad, who is an author and editor of over 50 science and nature-based books for kids; our recipe page, which we always make sure is something that kids can help prepare; our Kids Can Publish page, where we publish poems, drawings, articles, etc. submitted to us by children; and an activity page. And then we have our featured articles with both celebrity and independent author interviews. We also have a “Teaching Tools” tab on our website where teachers can download a free set of classroom questions that pertain to each issue of the magazine.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned your first year as a publisher? 

​This is my 30th year as a book publisher and my first year as a magazine publisher. I was amazed at the immediate response (before the first issue was even published) from publicists, authors, librarians, and more anxiously waiting for that first issue. SMI is a free online subscription and is completely supported by our advertisers. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the folks who supported our magazine and believed in us from issue one. ​This is not a surprise, but a shout-out to my incredible team. It’s not surprising that I work around the clock to produce and promote books and now an incredible magazine, but the strong team that surrounds me. I am often teased for the late hours I keep and the early hours I am found working online. Enter Cristy Ber​tini  – I met my match. Her dedication is beyond the call of duty. She gives this magazine her all and then some. She keeps the SMI team going with love, gotta-get-it-done-on-time attitude and around the clock support. Her efforts are priceless.​

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Do you hear from fans and readers of the published books or magazine? What kinds of things do they say?  

​Oh absolutely. Whether we are publishing someone’s book, or they are entering one of our awards programs, or we are interviewing them for the magazine, they become part of the Five Star family and we try to support them as much as we can. Here is a lovely comment that we recently received:

“I personally am so grateful for your amazing contributions to our youth, our parents and grandparents, our educational system, and for all the hungry minds you fuel every month. What greater accomplishment can we hope for than to enrich the lives of others? Great Job!!!”– Award-winning author Darleen Wohlfeil

In your mind what are the top three components that make a great children’s book? 

A story with a mission, dynamic illustrations that bring it to life, and a catchy title. ​

How do you divide your time between the magazines you have in development / the marketing and PR for the ones newly released / and what lessons have you learned to make this process make sense and run day to day more smoothly? 

​With real estate is location, location, location and with this magazine and books it’s marketing, networking and more marketing – It’s about building relationships one author, one publisher, and one advertiser at a time.

What has been the toughest or most challenging aspect of being a publisher? What has been the most successful and rewarding aspect of being a publisher?

​The most challenging aspects are having a professional budget to do it right (my motto is: do it right or don’t do it at all) and working with authors who trust our experience. Managing expectations is never an easy job. The most rewarding aspect is when you hear that a child who never liked to read is now begging to be a Story Monster judge for our Story Monster Approved program. That makes everything we do worth it.

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How do you reach out to libraries, publishers and parents with Story Monsters Ink? How much of this role revolves around yourself as the publisher and a combination of authors / illustrator / parents / children participating in the magazine? 

​It’s really a combination of all of the above. We reached out to many teachers, librarians, authors, etc., when we first started and it really took off from there thanks to word-of-mouth and social media. We post updates regularly on our Facebook (www.Facebook.com/StoryMonsters) and our Twitter pages (@StoryMonsters). And now, Story Monsters Ink is being distributed nationally, so look for it at your local newsstand!

Do you have any advice to give to authors who seek to feature their books with Story Monsters Ink in future magazine publications? 

​Authors who are seeking to be featured in the magazine, have their books reviewed, or advertise with us should contact Cristy Bertini at cristy@fivestarpublications.com or call 413-687-0733.

What significant objectives are you currently working on and what goals are you setting for Story Monsters in the next 5 years? 

​​Our ultimate goal is to see Story Monsters Ink on every bookstore shelf and in every school library. We plan to keep doing exactly what we’re doing and we’ll be there in no time.

How and when was your mascot, the cute little Story Monster, created?

Jeff Yesh does an incredible job of designing SMI and Story Monster has a special place in Jeff’s heart. We gave Jeff the task to create a Story Monster character and his artistic talen​t brought Story Monster to life. And we now have Story Monster plush reading buddies! Kids will love sharing their favorite books with him and practicing to become better readers at the same time. The plush toys are now available for pre-order through our website www.StoryMonsters.com.

Where can readers and fans find out more about Story Monsters Ink and pick up a free copy download PDF or a subscription? 

​SMI is available in digital and print subscriptions. Visit www.StoryMonsters.com to subscribe so you don’t miss an issue!

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To submit a book review or to have your book considered for listing in the newly released or award-winning book columns, contact Editor-in-Chief Cristy Bertini for guidelines at cristy@fivestarpublications.com.

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