When my daughter was born, my husband travelled a lot for work and I wanted her to know how much her dad loved her even when he couldn't be there in person. I put together a book with all the photos I had of the two or them together and wrote on every page, "I Love Daddy Because…" and then a caption that related to the photo, "He Makes Me Laugh." for example. My daughter would smile and smile when she saw the photos and at the same time she was hearing the words, I Love, I Love, I Love, on every page. The book concluded with "I Really Love Daddy Because… He Loves Me. " It was the perfect story book. She asked for it every night.
When friends and family learned of my daughters favourite book, they said I should try to get it published. For some reason, I decided to 'shoot for the stars' and I submitted to over twenty publishers… and I was rejected by every single one. They loved the concept but it didn't fit into their publishing criteria. With help from friends and family, I formed my own publishing company Barbamel Books in 2001 and I published my first books.
It was a challenging process. I learned new computer programs to illustrate the books. I printed in China where most board books are printed. "I Love Daddy Because…" and "I Love Mommy Because..."were my first two books and had great success. At the time I was distributing with a large company called Stoddart Publishing. My books were selling across North America at all major outlets. At one time, my books covered the two story staircase wall above Harry Potter at the Toronto flagship Indigo/Chapters store.
My success was short lived. In 2002 Stoddart went bankrupt, taking with them all my profits. It was so unfair. I took a few years off and enjoyed raising my children. During that time people would send me emails from all over North America asking for my books, especially the Grandma and Grandpa books which were next in the series to be printed.
In 2008 I decided to get back into the business again, with a few changes and more control. It was a learning process. One of my favourite moments was when the books were ready to be delivered to my house (all 20,000)…I couldn't afford a warehouse. The shipping company called to ask if I had a dock. My response was, "No. I don't live on the water." I had no idea they meant a loading dock.
I started distributing myself and only to children's stores. I had full control. I inspected every single case and every single book. Being my own distributer lasted only a short time before a children's company picked up my books and now sells to stores across Canada. My company is growing. I have hardly 'touched' the US market and this is the year.
Who knew the children's book business could take you to Hollywood? I was invited to a few gifting suites before the Grammy and Academy Awards. My husband and I have had a lot of fun meeting celebrities and giving them my books. I have even had some celebrities order books on my website. They may be a success with celebrities because my books are very private. You print your own photos at home and insert them into the books. No downloading worries for celebrities as moments with children are very private.
The best part about this business and the creation of these books is knowing that children are reading with their families, smiling at photos or drawings and hearing those magical words, "I Love, I Love, I Love" and they know they are loved. In this crazy world we live in, it is so important for children to hear those words.
As I head into my eleventh year, I'm working on "I Love My Brother Because..." and "I Love My Sister Because...". I'm trying to work into the US market and I know it will be challenging but I hear these words that my daughter told me very early on when days were long and frustrating trying to compete with big companies when, I'm a very small company (for now), my daughter would say to me when she saw I was frustrated, "It's ok Mummy, believe in yourself and you can do anything." And…I will keep trying.