My sister tells me she’s pregnant! As a first-time aunt, I want my gift to my first nephew to be the coolest gift ever. But what would be a cool present? At this point, I have no clue. I give it a rest and stay in shock for a couple of weeks about the fact that my sister is really pregnant and that I’m really becoming an aunt.
The solution: a kids book
April – June 2019
I keep wondering what this gift should look like, it could really be anything. My sister tells me the theme of the baby room is ‘forest friends’. Apparently that’s a common baby room theme, I can imagine a thing or two. At least this is a direction.
During the summer I visit a friend who has two adorable girls. During bedtime, I read them a self-made book that one of her friends had gifted explaining why he owns a cat. This is such a creative and unique gift, wow! My mind is blown, it inspires me enormously. All of a sudden it’s perfectly clear what I will make: a self-made book, ofcourse!
August 2019 – September 2019
I finally know what I want to create but don’t know yet what kind of story to write. It could be about anything as long as it has to do with forest friends, so what would I most enjoy writing about? So far, nothing in particular comes to mind. I ask one of my close friends and mom of a one-year-old for advice on the type of books she likes to read to her son. She gives me two good tips. First, she likes reading stories that have some kind of lesson, such as Nijntje learning that it’s bad to steal. Second, she tells me that young kids only see basic bright colors, and can’t distinguish pastel or light shades. That’s apparently why Nijntje’s books are made with primary colors. These are two things I didn’t know before!
For a couple of weeks I brainstorm further on the story and how I could write it. One day it occurs to me that in the past, I’ve had a talent for rhyming. For the sake of narrowing my scope, I figure I might as well create a rhyme.
I ask a mom-colleague of mine whether rhyming makes sense, and she says it absolutely does. Apparently kids will try to pronounce the rhyme words of the sentence. Now I have quite a list of requirements that should give me some boundaries:
- The book theme is forest friends
- I should include a moral
- The book should have bright colors
- The story should rhyme
- I figure myself the drawings should be quite simple, and the story should be pretty simple too, as I’m gifting this to a new born
I come up with a great idea: why don’t I write a story about two animals becoming friends, as the theme is forest friends anyway? I brainstorm about what it entails to become friends and think back of the numerous times I started over in a new city abroad. I usually started out alone, not knowing anyone, and then all of a sudden finding someone who I had something in common with. Great! The idea for the story is born, but what animals should I include? I google ‘forest friends’ for some inspiration, this is what I get:
I notice the drawings are quite simple, which is good to realize: I have to draw 12 images (minimum number of pages to print an Albelli book is 24), so let’s choose animals that are easy to draw. After some more brainstorming I figure the main character should be an owl: they are different from other animals because they are up at night, so it’s hard for them to make friends.
In the middle of my rhyming experience I get a new idea: a lesson about getting enough exercise to stay healthy. Even though this is a nice lesson, I conclude it’s too heavy as a first-time book gift, and drop it again. I focus on my friends-making story.
Rhyming websites for the story
I remember some great rhyming websites of the times when I was writing a poem for Sinterklaas. Sinterklaasgedichten.com turns out to be the best rhyming tool. During a week or two I rhyme during breakfast, after work and in the evenings until the story is finished.
Paint Brush (Mac) for the drawings
I always keep a notebook and sketch some of my ideas for each small rhyme. Then I wonder what would be the best way to create the drawings as ‘final version’. If I sketch them and take a photo, they won’t appear nicely if I try to put them in a book. So, I should do something digital. I figure Paint might do the trick, as it’s easy. I google for a Mac version of Paint, and voila, I find Paint Brush. It’s pretty much the same thing. Off I go.
Albelli for printing the book
Some of my friends are keen photo album creators, so it doesn’t take me long to turn to Albelli. Apparently they have discount codes all the time, so I google until I find a good code. Without discount, I think the book is on the expensive side: 34 euro including delivery costs.
The book finally arrives, and it actually looks super neat! It’s great to see the physical version in real life. Damn, the book has turned out even more nicely than I expected! I decide to translate the book to English as well and send my friend from Germany a copy because she and her daughters inspire me so much!
4 November 2019
My nephew Alex is born, he is the cutest and I’m the proudest aunt ever😎😎😎. My sister and her boyfriend tell me my book is the coolest gift Alex received, what a great compliment! I’m happy, mission accomplished! Some friends and family members tell me it’s a great gift and that I should publish it. Never received such positive feedback on any of the business ideas I’ve tested so far.
November 2019 – January 2020
I gift a small version of the book to a couple of friends who either just became mom or are celebrating the first birthday of their son/daughter. Their reactions are positive and they also tell me I should publish it.
I decide to create a test version of the book to see reactions of people who are more objective. I ask various printing companies for a quote of a softcover. One printing company is by far the cheapest, about 2,5 times as cheap as the rest: Printing Partners.
I decide to place an order for 25 softcover books. I distribute them right before COVID-19 hits, and forget about having distributed a bunch of them. In the end, I might have gathered feedback from around 6 people.
Feedback from parents with kids 0-7 years old
- ‘We’re very excited about your book, we’re truly impressed!’
- ‘This book is funnier than some other kids books’
- ‘Kids are loving the book!’
- ‘It’s special because it rhymes from start to finish’
- ‘I like the choice of words, it’s atypical’
- ‘I like the synonyms, in this way my kid expands her vocabulary’
- ‘It’s not only nice for the kid, but also for the parent.’ This is an interesting comment because I already wondered whether the book should be entirely targeted to the kid. Apparently not necessarily.
- ‘Some concepts were too difficult to grasp. Like owls being able to turn their neck 280 degrees’
- ‘My 7-year old could read along with the text balloons in the drawings.’
- ‘Very funny, I had to laugh myself’
- ‘My 4-year old didn’t really understand the story but she understood that it was about friends’
- Drawings / design
- ‘The drawings are amazing. My kids and I really liked them’ (3x)
- ‘Impressive that you’ve created it with Paint’
- ‘We can use the drawings to point to some animals on the page’
- ‘We like the colors’
- ‘My 4-year old daughter understood the book was for her and not for me’
- ‘The drawings are interesting, we can point’
- ‘It reminds me of Dick Bruna books’. While Nijntje definitely served as inspiration, I wasn’t out to copy them. I’ll change this for my next book.
- ‘My kids and I didn’t like that the word clouds were cut off on the sides’. Making a mental note to also change this.
- ‘Doesn’t look entirely professional with the thick black contours. Try to reduce the pixels’. Will try to change this as well.
- ‘I’ve learned things myself as well. For example that a hedgehog rolls up.’
- ‘I like the name Ibrahima, it suggests diversity.’
- ‘The next day my kid asked me for Ibrahima, so the name stuck.’
March / April 2020
My favourite printing partner Printing Partners tells me that they could print hardcovers of books starting from 40 pages and up. I realize I would never make a story covering 40 pages, so for a while I leave it as is.
Then someone tells me I could make two books in one, which is a great idea! I decide to take my spare time during COVID-19 to create a second book. During the process I notice that while I enjoy creating the book, I miss the intellectual challenge. Nevertheless, it’s nice to create the book entirely myself.
I email Printing Partners again. They give me a quote for an order of 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000 hardcovers 21 x 21 cm. I reckon that only for 2000 hardcovers I could make a reasonable profit, but I wouldn’t pay for that amount up front. Hence, I decide to let it rest after all.
As I would like to take up a more intellectual challenge (graph databases), I decide I will try the publishing route. Right next to my work at Amstel Station there are 3 kids publishing houses, so I will drop a copy once COVID-19 measures are relieved and see what they think. Who knows?
TO BE CONTINUED!