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Marketing Margaret Mouse: The Adventures of a Great-Grandmother Turned Publisher

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Never give up on your dreams!
I didn’t. I have twelve grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and I
created my own company to publish my children’s books in 2005.

 

I had written five stories about <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Adventures of Margaret
Mouse
many years before, and then, a few years ago, I was
introduced to a talented artist who worked for Disney, drawing such classics asThe Little Mermaid
and Aladdin,
to name just two. We spoke on the phone, and I sent him my manuscript, “School
Days,” which describes how I felt my little mouse looked—buck teeth,
thick-rimmed eyeglasses, stringy hair, long nose, not pretty at all. His
drawings came back with my Margaret as she is today. I bought them, but they
sat in the filing cabinet for the next three years, untouched.

 

In 2004, my husband encouraged me
to get the books printed and “out there for the kids.” I knew I needed an
illustrator, and I simply could not afford the Disney artist. By chance, I was
introduced to Angela Redmon, an aspiring cartoonist who babysat two of our
grandsons. After that, things just started rolling along.

 

As a pen name, I chose Cherokee
Wyatt because I have a Cherokee heritage, Wyatt is my maiden last name, and I
liked the way it flowed from the tongue. When I sat down and searched for a
publisher, I found Trafford Books, a POD company, in Canada. I sent them the
first two books, and they published them in softcover, at a pretty high cost to
me. The books had a page on Trafford’s Web site and appeared on Amazon. I
bought 100 copies for marketing purposes

 

While the books were at this
stage, I decided a little Margaret Mouse doll was what I needed to market them.
We sent pictures to our manufacturer in China. They sent samples. Those first
samples are tucked safely away in my display case. Finally, we got the right
look and ordered 2,000 Margaret Mouses. That would be another
story—import. Whew! What an education that is.

 

Meet My Mouse

 

To get my name out in my local
area, I called the newspapers and told them about my books and what I had done.
I got interviews on local radio and local TV. I had a costume made and hired a
“live” Margaret who began making appearances at charities, schools, and events.
We donated a live auction package to a children’s charity, which garnered
$2,200 for its use. I hired actors and found a recording studio, and I recorded
the first two Margaret
Mouse
books with talented voices and background sound effects. A
DVD is forthcoming for sale online.

 

During this time I set up my
company and also began sending sample books to major publishers, knowing that
at least one of them would think it just the greatest story and would snap it
right up. Wrong.

 

The 100 copies purchased from
Trafford went very quickly. I knew the price I was paying meant setting the
retail price too high, and I wondered how I could get books for less. On an
impulse, I emailed my Chinese manufacturer and asked if he knew any printers.
Yes, he did. We got a price quote. But wait! I didn’t have an ISBN or an EAN
barcode! So I searched and found Bowker. I purchased my own ISBN Logbook,
issued numbers to the first two books, sent a sample mockup and CD. I wanted
hardcover books with full-color inside covers, much like my 1940s copy of <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Heidi
. The
new printer sent samples; we corrected, approved, and ordered the minimum.
After a few weeks (it takes almost a month for shipping and import clearance
from China), we received our 100 cartons of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>School Days
and <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Picnic
and about 25 huge boxes of Margaret dolls.

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>(Page 1 of a four-page, full-color newsletter. The
company displays its newsletters at signings and similar events, and sends
them—as well as News Flashes that announce publicity and
promotion—to its lists of customers, family, friends, media people, and
others, as appropriate)

 

The next thing I knew I had to do
was get them out into the public eye. I devoured Internet leads. I joined many
good organizations, including PMA; I needed the information and encouragement
these organizations give small publishers and authors. I found a list of
newspaper reviewers across the United States and sent many sets of books. No
answers. Not to be deterred from my goal, I also sent copies to celebrities
such as Dr. Phil (because of a program he had on morals not being taught),
Maria Shriver (through our local assemblywoman, who hand-carried them to her), and
Phyllis Diller (because I know her). Those last two sent me nice personal notes
that I intend to use in promotional materials.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>( Along with a variety of distinctive colorful releases
featuring the logos of booksellers that offer <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Margaret Mouse
stories, the author
creates posters like this for bookstore events.)

When I searched for the largest wholesalers
for books of this type, I learned of Baker & Taylor, made contact, and sent
the samples they requested. They agreed to list me in their database and sent
me the paperwork to fill out. I also wrote to Ingram, was contacted, and
arranged to have my books listed in its online database.

 

Wal-Mart Weighs In

 

I then personally went to the
local Wal-Mart manager with a set of books, the plush-toy Margaret, and my
marketing plan, including material on media coverage. He was excited enough to
take them to his district and regional managers. All were eager to have both
the books and the dolls.

 

Getting into Wal-Mart is a wild
adventure all on its own. As I write this, we are awaiting the final paperwork.

 

Next, I began contacting Barnes& Noble stores on my own to set up author signings featuring the three
books and the four plush character toys that I have now. Margaret Mouse, the
costumed character, continues to appear at local functions and at schools and
churches. I have turned the book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>School Days
into a play that will be
performed this year for the first time by a fourth-grade class in California,
and we are hopeful that we will be presenting it at the <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>L.A. Times
Festival of Books in April in Los Angeles.

 

After we place books in all the
local Barnes & Noble stores and Wal-Marts, and after we target Target, our
plan (my husband/manager says) is to get into a camper van loaded down with
books and toys and start hitting Barnes & Nobles and Wal-Marts across the
country. We have sold about 500 books so far, and I won’t quit. I’m too
old—or, perhaps, too stubborn.

 

Pat Arnold spent her early
childhood in the mountains of Tennessee and says she began writing <span
class=8StoneSans>Margaret Mouse
stories as a reflection of her own fondly remembered childhood.

 

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