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Don’t tell Kirk Eason that the best way to make money from the books he writes is to sell them. He’s more likely to give them away.
The Wilton children’s book author is well aware of the economics of book publication, having been a successful stock broker and money manager until he retired from the financial profession in 2009.
And while his colorful book, If You Could Be The Critter You See, and its successor, Critters Galore Outside Your Door, have earned positive critical reviews, they are self-published and self-financed and won’t appear on any bestseller lists.
But there is more than one way to measure success, and that’s what makes Eason a very successful man these days.
On Feb. 20, Eason turned 75, a milestone birthday for someone who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 27 years ago. And while his body may have slowed down, his mind and spirit are moving at a rapid pace.
Eason keeps a stash of his books in his car, and when he and his wife Dagny go out to eat, Eason peruses the restaurant. Are there any parents with young children at any of the tables? If he sees any, and the children are well-behaved, he likes to stop by the table, introduce himself and give the children copies of his books. “I love to see their reactions, “ Eason said.
The parents are usually thrilled to get something for their children to occupy themselves with at the table, he said, and the children love the brightly illustrated books which are full of interesting facts about wildlife. Critters Galore Outside Your Door even contains a coloring book, which children find highly entertaining.
When Eason finds receptive families, he will autograph the books for them. “Sometimes parents ask me how much I want for the books. I tell them they are free and they are very happy to receive the books as gifts,” Eason said.
Just as his books teach children lessons about ants, frogs, chameleons, hummingbirds and owls, in his own quiet way, Eason is teaching the children he briefly encounters a lesson in how to treat others.
“If they remember that a man out of the blue once did something kind for them, perhaps they will pay it forward to others,” he said.
Eason’s first book, “If you Could Be The Critter You See,” earned him a top rating from Kirkus Reviews, which called it, “an accessible, smart book that finds an impressive balance between education and enjoyment.”
But while Eason’s physical motor skills are limited due to Parkinson’s disease, and he can’t promote his books or attend book signings, that hasn’t stopped him from visiting local elementary and nursery schools and sharing his books with young children.
Kids are immediately drawn to his books which focus on animals and backyard “critters.” In addition to bright illustrations, the books contain a lot of interesting information, such as the fact that ants can lift more than 10 times their weight, and that cheetahs can’t roar but they purr, and they talk to each other making chirping sounds.
At the end of his first book, Eason even has a little Critter Quiz, asking questions such as, “Who has no bones and feels like a handful of Jell-O? Answer, octopus.
Making the transition from strockboker to children’s book author may not seem like a natural progression, but Eason says when he retired, he decided to pursue his passion. “Some men like to golf, but I like little kids, and decided I wanted to do something for them,” he said.
He considers the money he has spent on self-publishing his books to be the equivalent of what a golf hobbyist would spend on tee times and club membership fees, so it has been a worthwhile endeavor.
But while he is happy to give away his books to children, he put strings on them when giving a pair of them to the Wilton Bulletin. “I will give you these books for free — on one condition. When you are done with them, you need to personally give them to a child,” he said with a smile.
Eason’s legacy to pay it forward continues.
If You Could Be The Critter You See and Critters Galore Outside Your Door are available on amazon.com.