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How Helping My Daughter Write a Children's Book Created a Publishing Company

How Helping My Daughter Write a Children's Book Created a Publishing Company

It was the summer of 2021.

My daughter, Emmy, was 4-years old. She loved stories.

Every night, she'd ask me to make up a new story for her.

I'd start by asking, "What's the animal?"

Once she decided, I'd ask, "What's its name?"

Then, we'd be off to the races.

I told stories about dragons made of marshmallows, a puppy with the world's longest tail, and cats that broke into a mall.

But nothing topped the rainbow cheetah, named Chimay.

Good Lord, she loved that story. Maybe it was because I was bored with telling "kid stories" at that point. That wasn't Chimay's journey. I started with her being chased and nearly eaten.

The next night, she asked for another Chimay story. She sat up in bed, angry when I stopped. Interesting, I thought. The next morning, Emmy woke me up, asking what happened to Chimay.

For the next several weeks, I told her about this rainbow cheetah. Each night, Emmy would interject to add in details or twists that I'd have to work into the story.

We had a blast. At a certain point, I started recording us telling the stories on my phone. Finally, we hit a nice resolution for the character and stopped the story there. That was the end, so I thought.

A few years passed. Then, in the summer of 2023, I started experimenting more and more with ChatGPT. I'd stay up late, just to see what it could do.

One prompt yielded fascinating results:

"Take the transcript from this recording and turn it into a kid's story."

Wow. The proof was staring me in the face.

We could make Chimay: The Rainbow Cheetah into a book.

And so, we did.

The Aftermath

It's been awesome. Emmy's eyes lit up when she saw she was the author.

(I published it with Emmy as the author, and me as the editor, because that's how publishing works 😄)

She took the book around to our neighbors, toting it in her little red wagon and handing out free copies. Many of them gave her cash. She and her sister sat outside one day, and instead of doing a lemonade stand, they tried to sell her books.

Her teacher read some of the book to her class. When I picked her up from school that day, she told me "Dad, everyone kept saying 'Emmy's an author!'"

The next day, she told me her teacher had to stop reading because a character dies – apparently a faux pas in children's literature. Whoops! 😂

Update: Since writing this post, we've received some fun messages from friends:

How We Published The Book

A few readers asked how we put this book together, so here are all the details.

The project us took about 45 days to publish, and cost roughly $1,700 with the majority of costs (80%) attributed to ghostwriting and editing.

  1. Writing: Otter.ai for recording and Chat GPT for transcription processing.
    1. Time: 6 hours
    2. Cost: $30 per month
  2. Editing: Annamaria on Upwork for ghostwriting and some editing. I also did a few passes myself (free of course).
    1. Time: 40 days
    2. Cost: $1,342.50
  3. Cover Art: Wombo Dream AI iPhone app.
    1. Time: 15 minutes.
    2. Cost: $5
  4. Cover Boost: Let's Enhance Upscaler to increase cover art resolution to 300 dpi (i.e. print ready).
    1. Time: 15 minutes
    2. Cost: $9
  5. Cover Layout: My friend Erin Tyler kindly laid out the typeface, and I used Canva to do the rest.
    1. Time: 15 minutes
    2. Cost: $0
  6. Interior: Vellum app for Mac to design the interior.
    1. Time: 2 hours
    2. Cost: $250
  7. Illustrations: Aliya on Upwork for drawings in each chapter.
    1. Time: 4 days
    2. Cost: $150
  8. ISBN: Bowker for barcode and ISBN number.
    1. Time: 15 minutes
    2. Cost: $150
  9. Publishing: Amazon KDP for Kindle and Paperback (print-on-demand).
    1. Time: 30 minutes
    2. Cost: $0

Why I Did This Project

One thing I promised myself many years ago:

My daughters will be authors.

Because I met a woman who told me all the harassment and abuse she experienced in her career came to a screeching halt after she published her first book. Her identity as an author elevated and protected her, like a shield.

Any author will tell you this. That their book changed how the world sees them, and how they see themselves.

Yes, your book can make you successful. But the real benefit is the unshakeable knowing that you made something people value. That you helped others in some way, that's permanent and lasting. They respect you for it. They see you.

We had a lot of fun with Chimay: The Rainbow Cheetah. It was a great experience, and a nice memento for our family during that challenging period in history. And it happened to show me a better way to make books, which is what I help clients with now.

We have no plans of Emmy's book becoming anything beyond that. Because it doesn't need to be.

It made her an author.