Guys, for about 2.5 months at the beginning of this year, I worked on a project I couldn't talk about with anyone. It was a secret book. It was a special book. It was a book about butts.
I just got my copy in the mail today of The Alphabutt Book and OMG, it is sooooooooo cute! I am really happy with the way the book turned out. Can you tell from this picture?
But let's back up a moment: In late January, I was contacted by one of the co-founders of award-winning advertising agency Quality Meats Creative (AdAge's Small Agency of the Year, 2022). They wanted to publish a picture book alongside the launch of a huge ad campaign for the biggest diaper brand in the world. The CCO got wind of the fact that I was a children's book project manager and editor who could possibly take their wacky idea of publishing a picture book in a couple months and turn it into reality.
The brand: Huggies.
The concept: an ABC book about baby butts written in-house and to be illustrated by 26 different acclaimed artists, one for each letter of the alphabet.
The hook: a body inclusivity book for kids, showcasing the many different shapes and sizes of baby butts.
The charity: National Diaper Network, an organization working to end diaper poverty for families in the U.S.
Publication: May 2023
Was it an enormous ask in a short amount of time? Yes. Would it take a lot of sweat and effort? Yes.
Would I do it? Absolutely, yes.
So in early February, I started working alongside the awesome and hilarious team at Quality Meats to bring this project to life. First, we worked together to refine the text and choose an amazing list of artists - some children's book illustrators, some advertising and editorial illustrators - to reach out to.
Then I emailed and called and swayed 26 diffrerent illustrators (and their agents) that, yes, they could go from sketch to final art in about 3 weeks. What was amazing is that (apart from a few artists who were just flat-out booked solid) these 26 illustrators said "yes":
Teresa Bellon, Gemma Correll, JooHee Yoon, Zachariah Ohora, Christoph Niemann, Mathias Ball, Jasmine Floyd, Christiane Engel, Sarah Andersen, Tyler Feder, Flavia Z Drago, Erika Lynne Jones, Tisha Lee, Heegyum Kim, Elise Gravel, Jeremyville, Jana Glatt, Keith Negley, Grand Chamaco, Jason Grube, Juan Molinet, Chaaya Prabhat, Craig & Karl, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Alice Piaggio, Brosmind
And I am so glad they did! I was also completely awestruck by their incredible talents, professionalism, good nature, and dedication to the project. Superstars, all of them. We did some back and forth notes on the sketches and final art pieces until they were all ready to drop into the layout designed by the awesome Headquarters Studio.
While the artists were sketching and refining their pieces, I helped Quality Meats get some quotes from printers in the US and Canada (since printing/shipping from overseas in such a short amount of time would be impossible) and hook them up with people who could help them either get into brick-and-mortar retailers or strike a co-publishing deal with a traditional publisher.
Eventually, in just under 10 weeks, we had final files ready to print of The Alphabutt Book: An ABCs of Baby Butts and Bodies. Phew!
It was a very fast turnaround on a 56 page, full-color picture book. But we did it!
Just to give you a sense of how things usually work in publishing: the timeline between acquiring a project and publishing a book is anywhere from 12 months to 3 years (and more, as sometimes there are unforeseen delays). Especially when I worked in traditional publishing, I used to think you couldn't possibly publish a quality book in a short amount of time. And, it's true that some book projects really do need time to realize their full potential.
But sometimes, it needs to happen fast!
It seems I've gotten used to doing quick turnarounds on picture books without sacrificing quality. You might remember, we took A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo from first draft manuscript to finished files in . . . oh . . . 6 weeks? And, in true fashion, I have another one of this quick-turnaorund projects on my desk right now. Just yestersday, I got the greenlight to start producing a book with the good folks at Wonderbly, which is meant to be finished by the end of the summer and launch in October. So, here we go again!
I guess like the pace and excitement of a speedy children's book project, and I really really like seeing the final book in my hands quicker than usual.
Getting to the end of a project like this is bittersweet. It's so intense for a period of time, and then it's over.
But then . . . the book arrives and it's like a party!
And I'll be dining out on this testimonial for AGES: “You are a book-making superhero. Thanks for all the hard work and helping bring this together. Couldn't have done it without you.“ —Quality Meats Creative
Have you bought a copy of The Alphabutt Book yet?
If so, please tell me what you think of it below!