Creating the first book for a brand-new publishing house is always going to be a challenge.
In this case, we were working with a tried and tested book brand which was due for a re-brand, and at the same time, we had to establish the brand identity for the newly created publisher, Eden Cooper.
While Eden Cooper has a lot of synergy with the feel and values of Princess Poppy, it is not defined by that one book brand. After all, we will go on to publish other works by other people. So, there were two important jobs – to refresh Princess Poppy in the spirit of the historic brand and create a full brand identity for Eden Cooper.
For Eden Cooper, very quickly, Rachel came up with the tag: Independent Ethical Publishing, which is perfect. Of course, it’s a big deal to adopt the tag ‘ethical’. I see this as an extremely important distinguishing feature in times when there are already plenty of commercial mass market books available. By ‘ethical’, we mean values around production – FSC paper (Forestry Stewardship Council) for example, also the content of the stories and value system of the team. Compassion and humanity are central to the brand and the behaviour within the team.
Rachel and I came together early in the project, fortuitously for me. We had worked together in the past on the Princess Poppy books, and we shared an understanding of the ways in which the Princess Poppy brand should be changed. There was a lot that had to be cherished within the character, but in terms of art style and direction of the stories, new elements were added.
Sweet though the art was (and popular over the years), times have changed, and the internationally appealing style of Jennie Poh seemed ideal. Jennie had some brand-new samples in a French vintage style, and these looked perfect. It was also an opportunity to ‘turn down’ the pink. In fact, the concept had never been pink in the first place, but the simple fact was that the best-selling Princess Poppy books at one stage were the pink ones, so it became a thing!
Now, we were looking for a more naturalistic palette and a more whimsical approach. It seemed an ideal opportunity to infuse Poppy’s world with a uniquely timeless style which is reflected in the characters, settings, nature, fashion and accessories as created by the talented Jennie Poh.
Rachel and I endlessly discussed the new brand values for Princess Poppy. Reflecting the significant changes and ambitions in our society was important. As well as wildlife welfare and biodiversity, we have in mind childhood mental health, female advocacy, including girls in science and maths, and compassion to others with a difference, be they incoming refugees or those with disabilities, or those who feel different inside in ways we cannot know. Although Poppy is still the same girl, she has some new themes and central concerns, and I think this shows her better side more often than before! Undeniably, she’s grown up a bit. She always cared, but now she shows it.
In terms of story-telling, we discussed the need for factual accuracy around the scientific problems with the decline of bees, and the flow of the narrative, all of which had to be accessible to young children. This wasn’t an educational book per sae, so we had the challenge to balance fact and fiction.
I began by researching bees over many weeks, then distilled my main findings into a simple story. At this point, we asked for expert advice from beekeepers and those who work in biodiversity. From there, the story was refined. For example, I mistakenly thought the Queen Bee was a bossy monarch, but actually, she’s quite vulnerable in the system.
Rachel did a lovely job on layout design at scamps stage and organised the art brief for Jennie Poh. At this point, we took on a professional editor – Stephanie Stahl – who gave deep and thoughtful insight to more than this one story. She entered into the discussion of the way that the brand should evolve. Much valued.
Such exciting times, with a holistic approach and everyone sharing their vision and hopes for the Princess Poppy brand and Eden Cooper.
Rachel chose the fonts carefully for Eden Cooper, giving it a light elegance as well as a seriousness at once. We wanted an element of recycled love to it, so she used an old wallpaper type backing for the logo which is supremely effective. As soon as I viewed her work on brand identity for Eden Cooper, I thought, not only does she ‘get’ it, she’s managed to encapsulate it in an instant. This is the skill of a great designer, and it cannot be underestimated.
Now that we had established the Princess Poppy story and the brand identity for Eden Cooper, it was time to think about Advance Information sheets, the press release and the website. Rachel took care of all this for me, allowing me to start meeting with distributors, sales forces and PR companies. In addition, I have been buying ISBN numbers, registering with Title Editor and making sure our books are logged with main libraries. Another job is to register with Public Lending Rights – don’t forget that if you are self-publishing or running a new publishing company.
The memorable aspects of the branding – the retro and eco feel – are replicated in all the ways we communicate now. So the website and AI and press release have family resemblances which help to familiarise people with our new brands. As well as all this, Rachel created banners for social media and footers for e-mails. What a service and no tweak is too much for her. She also steered me through the legal clauses for data and cookies – no small job!
As we look forward to the bright future of Eden Cooper, we are working on Princess Poppy book 2 and considering submissions which have arrived via our new website.
If it sounds like a lot of work – it is! But if you love books and the world of books, then making books is the best fun out there.