Happy Tales Publishing



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 Our Back Story

The ‘Happy Series’ of children’s storybooks evolved simply from the desire to try and make sure that a wonderful little Yorkie dog by the name of ‘Happy’ would not be forgotten. This loving little character meant so much to the writer, our family and to a host of others in our community that I began writing our series of ‘Happy’ books several years ago but it was only in 2009 that I decided to turn these stories into a published series of Children’s Storybooks.

That lengthy learning process is a story in itself as I vetted just about every UK illustrator on the Internet looking for the artist’s character style that could, maybe, fulfill my expectations. A shortlist of ten names was drawn up. I made contact with the ‘interested' seven that replied. The other three indicated that they were too busy but good luck! Two of the seven were keenly interested but they were tied to big name publishers and that would mean I would have to submit my story and if it was not immediately rejected I would have to wait and see if the Publisher would let me use those illustrators. I know of authors that have waited years to get their stories published by the larger publishing houses and I wanted to get moving now…not wait in some cue for something to happen in the future… if it ever happened!

Competitive proposals saw the list cut to two and my original first choice, Lisa Fox, was approached to work with me and she happily agreed. One of the key things, outside of her amazing artistic capabilities, that kept her in the forefront during the selection process was the self admission that she had been a rebel in her younger days and that she was not afraid to tell it like it is! Being a rebel myself I welcomed this refreshing capability as I did not want someone to tell me what I wanted to hear and end up with an unsaleable book! Lisa was someone I felt I could work with and build an ongoing understanding because this was not a one book deal… this was for a lengthy series …and therefore one must build a compatible team for the future.

I was the admitted amateur who was beginning a major learning curve about writing storybooks for children. Who was I to not take the advice and use the experience of others that do this for a living and have had successful books published over several years! However, as the writer, and the person that was paying the bills, I insisted that the original idea and story be told and not get diverted or lost through outside editing and other suggested personal input by all those involved in the process. If the first book had gone to a large publishing house I am sure that I would not have recognised anything at the end of the process and I would have given up on any future writing in frustration!

Lisa and I began the process of turning an idea and lots of words into a saleable book that children would like and appreciate. I say lots of words as my original story was well over 4,000 words and apparently children’s storybooks are supposed to fit into a certain mould or not be considered. I was told that 32 pages and less than 1100 words were my limits. Frankly, I don’t like to be limited in any way to tell a story, nor should anyone else be, so, “Happy’s Christmas Gift” is 40 pages and 1900 words! ("Happy As A Fox" is 48 pages and 1880 words)I have always been a person that thinks and works ‘outside the box’, if necessary, and believe that these literary fences imposed by influential publishers and controlling retail bookseller chains is an imposition on creativity.

Once the process evolved and the editing and constant text ‘tweaking’ sank to a dull roar, the illustrator was able to tie down the scenes and submit pencil sketches of the desired ‘traditional style’ of characters with some background. The scene descriptions in the original text were conveyed in the artwork and hence could be removed from the text. Changes and suggestions were made constantly back and forth in a wonderful spirit of cooperation. However, it was very tedious at times and very frustrating on both sides when text editing or illustration impasses took place. To get over these one had to rely on ‘common sense’, bowing to experience or just going with a ‘gut feeling’ after full discussions and options have been determined.

Writing a children’s storybook is not easy...
but it is fun and very rewarding...
yet madly humbling!

Moving page by page, signing off on each for text and sketch composition, I now awaited the artwork. Sitting waiting for several weeks, as the artist goes into full flow, one asks questions of oneself. Will I like the artwork? If I don’t, what do I do? Abandon the Book? Get another illustrator? But then I have got the best illustrator for what I want! She is fully into the story having created the unique loveable characters. I love her work on other books…she throws herself into her books! And, she has her young son Callum looking over her shoulder… on my behalf! I'm sure that I will love it!

Then the first pages arrived on the e mail… they were amazing! The amount of detail in each of the scenes shows just how much Lisa cared about the total scene. Each illustration is a piece of artwork in its own entity. Yes, we have a great traditional storybook! Now we needed to find a printer and then begin the marketing!

Having heavily researched the printing capabilities on the world of the Internet and sent out basic information for preliminary quotations, I ended up with two highly competitive quotes. Printing can be complicated and it was essential that we establish an ongoing relationship for future books, so I needed to make sure I was dealing with someone that Lisa and I could work with to get the best product. We chose The Four Colour Print Group because of their high quality work that we had seen samples of and the quality of professional services provided by their staff in Kentucky and their associates in a factory many, many time zones away!

With everything now in place and on schedule we were placed into a very sad personal turmoil as the real little ‘Happy,’ better known to his friends as ‘Little Hap’, suddenly took ill and died unexpectedly of unknown causes. He was only eight years old. My little buddy and the star of the ‘Happy Series’ and the Marketing programme died the day after the final proofs were received for the first printing! His little footprint would never now be stamped on his books!

It was a very sad week as our marketing plan was reorganized and I added his passing to the bottom of the dedication page of the “Happy’s Christmas Gift.” It was even more important now to make sure that we continue the series! We miss him a lot but he is looking over my shoulder as we write each new story.

Well, "Happy’s Christmas Gift" has been received well and loved by all those children who have had access to it. I have been told by many parents that this wonderful little book is now required reading on Christmas Eve at their house along with other Christmas classics. During the rest of the year it is also taken down from its shelf and read often as Happy has that amazing 'Yorkie' charm that begs attention.

To gain credibility and feedback during the run up to the 2011 Christmas season we participated with 17 Mom Bloggers in the USA and Canada who reviewed Happy's Christmas book and wrote their comments on their blog sites. You can find their comments in our Special Awards and Independent Reviews section.

As an 'international' author, the title assigned to those authors who are not of the USA, the opportunity to put our books up for awards in this hemisphere is virtually zero. However, we were advised that the Gelett Burgess Foundation did allow foreign authors to compete for their awards as long as our books were available to the public directly in the marketplace or through the internet.

We were encouraged to submit "Happy's Christmas Gift" for consideration of a 2012 Children's Book Honor Award by my illustrator, Lisa Fox. I knew we had a great little book that North American bookstores were looking for if we could just distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack - so we submitted the book and hoped for the best.

“HAPPY’S CHRISTMAS GIFT” Wins 2012 Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award!

On June 25th, 2012, we received an e mail from the Gelett Burgess Center advising us that we had won one of the 40 book award categories! Wow! All good comes to those who have faith in their abilities to try and succeed! As previously noted on our Home Page, I have been humbled by such an Award - especially as this is our first published children’s book!

I must thank my amazing illustrator Lisa Fox for her wonderful work to bring my story to life. Teamwork and commonsense, a loveable character, a cute story with life lessons to learn and illustrations second to none by a dedicated artist, all blended into a wonderful memorable little book... that won an Award for Excellence in Children's Literature.

Our original goal to make sure “Little Happy” was not ever forgotten has passed a few hurdles and with new books coming on line we have confidence that we are well underway to achieving this goal.

With success also comes responsibility to those children that will be looking to read our next book and the entire series. Happy's Christmas Gift has become our flagship and minimum standard of quality presentation, level of interest and entertainment and excellence in writing and illustrations: a tough act to follow, but a challenge which we will take on with great enthusiasm.

The Gelett Burgess Center requires that children’s books must stimulate the child’s imagination, as well as inspire them creatively. They want to know that a book will make an impact in a child’s life by helping them grow: socially, emotionally, ethically, intellectually and physically. Books for children need to be entertaining and teach with an energetic and creative approach. We hope to rise to those challenges as the Happy Books Series evolves over the next few years.

UPDATE: October 2013 - "Happy As A Fox" wins the Gelett Burgess 2013 Award for Excellence in Children's Literature in the 'Education Category' "Pets & Farm Animals". Back-to-back awards prove that we must be doing something right! Now... the challenge is to get these wonderful books into the hands of the children of the world!

This has been a little history to give encouragement to others that have an idea, want to write a story but are turned off by the lengthy and seemingly hostile process. We had been hesitant for many years having written several novels still sitting in a dusty drawer. Yes, we have written and had published national magazine articles for waterproofing and concrete protection products and we have had our turn at a lengthy period of writing a political column in our local newspaper…. but… that is a far cry from writing a Children’s Storybook!

I am very ‘Happy’ to be writing fun and positive stories for our children of the world, giving them some traditional life lessons that will hopefully be useful in becoming good quality citizens in the future. In our materialistic world of computers, TV and instant messaging I think it is important to teach and encourage our children to read and to develop the desire to want to hold and read actual BOOKS! To use this medium to stimulate their own imaginations and inspire creativity.

"If you walk past your child’s bedroom door at night...
and see a flashlight under the covers with a book, please keep walking...
we are winning the battle!"

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