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Church Children's Talk Becomes Picture Book Series 

Fiona Veitch Smith explains how her children's talk a couple of years ago is now in bookshops across the country

Church childrens talk becomes When the children of Heaton Baptist Church in Newcastle were called to the front to listen to a story, who would have thought that two years later a series of children's books would have been launched and that children all over the country would have a chance to enjoy the same story?

Although I am a published writer, I never thought my story of David and the Hairy Beast, about the time when the young King David scared away the wild animals attacking his father's sheep, would go any further than that Sunday morning in 2010. But when I saw the reaction of the children as they all cried out with young David 'I can do it!', I knew this story would have a life beyond the four walls of the church.

The idea to take the stories further and publish them as a series of picture books for 4 - 7's began to come together when my husband (Rodney Smith) and I saw the stunning illustrations that Amy Barnes, the church's administrative assistant, had done to accompany the powerpoint.

They were easily of book standard. So, as we had a little bit of spare cash from a redundancy payout on hand, we approached Amy to see if she would like to take the project to the next stage. She did.

By then I had written two more stories in the series and conceptualised a further three. I had written picture books before (for the Myro the Microlight series created by Nick Rose) so I understood how they were constructed. I had also edited books. The thing I hadn't done was oversee the full production and distribution of a book (and eventually a series) from concept to shelf. That has been a huge challenge.

I did my research and found a local printer (QNS Printers) in Newcastle gave us the best price for production. Picture books are very expensive to produce with a very low profit margin, so it was important we got the best price. However, as we were not printing in huge volumes, it did not benefit us to have the books printed abroad as most of the bigger publishers do.

But working with a local printer has had lots of benefits. Firstly of course, there is the chance to just pop in and check out the work in progress. Secondly, it's an opportunity to help stimulate the local economy. Thirdly, it's a chance to build relationships and talk about God. The printer brought his young daughter to the launch of the first and second books held at Heaton Baptist Church.

As the books are 'made in Newcastle' I was invited to give readings at the 'Made in Newcastle' summer fayre this year, and have been booked in for the Christmas fayre too. This is a completely secular event and it's been a privilege to tell stories about God to children and their parents who may not normally hear them.Church childrens talk becomes

David and the Giant, at CLC Bookshop in Newcastle in August 2012As Crafty Publishing is a small indie publisher, we do not have the distribution channels that the bigger publishers have. In other words, it's hard to get the books into shops.

We sell one-to-one at launches, readings and fayres and have an online shop where people can order themselves (http://www.craftypublishing.com/shop/) but getting the books onto retail bookshops is a challenge. We had a major breakthrough when I took the first book in to our local CLC Bookshop and the manager Brian Taylor loved it. He ordered some on the spot.

With this confidence booster under my belt I was able to phone other bookshops around the country and ask if they wanted to stock the book. It also helped that we were planning a series so there would be more books to come.

Within a short time ten bookshops across the country were stocking David and the Hairy Beast. Then we got our biggest breakthrough when the manager of the largest Christian book distributor in the country - CLC Wholesale - read an article about us on the UK Christian Bookshops Blog http://christianbookshopsblog.org.uk/ and a review of Hairy Beast and Kingmaker on the Good Book Stall review site http://www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk/section/43/children-pre-school/.

Since CLC Wholesale has started stocking the Young David series, you can go into any bookshop in the country and order them.

The books so far are:
  • David and the Hairy Beast, about the time David scared away the wild animals stalking his father's flock, helps children face their fears and teaches them that God can be called upon in time of need.
  • David and the Kingmaker, about the anointing of David by Samuel, is about feeling valued and knowing that God has a good plan for our lives.
  • David and the Giant is the classic story of Goliath, with some hysterical twists in the tale. It encourages children to not try to be anything other than who they really are.
  • The fourth book, David and the Lonely Prince, is due out next year. David and the Grumpy King and David and the Never-Ending Kingdom, will be released after that. 
The books retail at £5.99. Discounts are available for bulk purchases for Sunday schools.

And to think this all started with a little children's talk in an ordinary Baptist church on an ordinary Sunday morning not too long ago ...

Fiona Veitch Smith is available to visit churches and schools in the North East of England to give interactive readings with big-screen illustrations. She is also happy to give readings in bookshops. Please contact her if you would like to discuss this further Fiona@veitchsmith.com.
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