‘Publishing success’ can be traditionally viewed as book sales and it is retrospectively determined, given whatever period of time you wish to lapse after printing! Success of the Harry Potter books looks more and more phenomenal as the decades pass, as does Eric Carle with his timeless tome ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’.
For me, publishing success can also be in the eye of the beholder! I measure the publishing successes we have had here from other perspectives depending on the impact the books have.
When I have a chance to mention ‘Boogie Books is the largest publisher on Amazon of children’s books by children in the world’ it really still makes the hair on my arms stand up! To know we now have a collection of at least 350 titles means that since 2005 we have ensured we can deliver a book on practically every possible area of interest. This library has been gifted, in batches, as printed books to locations where children are in crisis like hospital wards and Ronald McDonald House.
We know, anecdotally, that the books are ‘worn to pieces’ (from the nurses who share them with sick patients) and that ‘you never know what book you need’1. The variety of characters, the topics covered, and the aspirational angle – that a child has written and illustrated a book for another child – means this is definitely a publishing success story! We know children deeply admire picture book creators and for them to discover one of their peers has written and illustrated the book in their hands means they truly are experiencing an increase in their self efficacy “If he/she can do this, I can too!”
The magic of a publishing success is it keeps giving! I know we are not Eric Carle with his 50-year-old ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ but we are on to something special here. We are now working with girls in the tech space at St Aidan’s in Brisbane as they develop the App for the Child Writes library. The vision? To deliver the app for free to locations where children are in crisis – and this will be via a device the organisation (such as a hospital) already own. When we envisaged this nearly a decade ago, the platform for delivering the books was only print and postage, which was costly – now it is tablet and it will be free!
For me personally, describing the most successful book I have written always depends on what project I am embarking on at the time! It sounds fickle I know, but if I told you having a Gold IPPY award for ‘Child Writes: Creating a Children’s Picture Book is Child’ Play’ has meant opening doors given it is a text book and the keystone for all that is the Child Writes program, I would have to say pick that one! If I looked at ‘Imagine’ with its TWO gold awards, it is the most successful from that perspective and I did love working with the illustrator, Ester De Boer, and still love reading the book aloud to children. Then I look at ‘Lily Glamourama’ with only one silver award and I am beaming the most, as I loved writing this more than any other project to-date.
And then, as I packed up my office, preparing to move, I had a box labelled ‘Publishing History’ and in it, a sample of everything – a cookbook I created for friends; a legacy book a friend of mine created for her children before she died; I was a magazine columnist for a while (relished the opportunity to be that person!); short story collections; projects with children – it was incredible to see it all in one place.
To me, creating a book, seeing those words and illustrations bound; the joy as a child breathlessly turns the pages; the immense pride that comes from seeing an idea come to fruition is in itself the definition of a publishing success. It is something I fervently believe everyone has the right to experience and has the ability to attain, even if the success is measured by the smile of one.