Kate Gaynor established Special Stories Publishing four years ago to produce children's books on complex topics, ranging from disability and illness to social problems and the care system. Special Stories' first book series, published in April 2008, covered adoption, asthma, childhood cancer, diabetes, foster care, speech difficulties and wheelchair use. Gaynor's aim was to educate young readers, but in an entertaining way.
"The first book I wrote was about foster care and I printed a small number of copies and sold it to social workers. The more I sold, the more I realised there was a business it. When I researched the area I realised the books that were available were inadequate.
"I had a background in telecoms marketing so I didn't know anything about publishing or printing. It was a steep learning curve," she said.
Funding from Louth County Enterprise Board helped Gaynor to establish her start-up. She turned to third level institutions like The National College of Art and Design and Institute of Art, Design and Technology, to source illustrators, and employed other staff, including editors and accountants, on a contract basis.
Reasearch and Development
To researching her stories, Gaynor worked with parents' groups, teachers, lecturers, psychologists and doctors. "We're dealing with sensitive issues so we have to be so careful about what we do. That takes quite awhile," she said.
Gaynor also joined professional associations to market her product, selling the first series directly to parents via websites, conferences and personal contacts. Retailer Easons subsequently contacted her to buy the books, which now have several stockists around the country.
Gaynor has also brought two sales agents on board to drive trade sales in the Irish market and she is working with relevant charities to promote the second Special Stories series of books, each dealing with a specific disability.
Gaynor sells to foreign customers on www.specialstories.ie and via retailer www.amazon.com. She is planning further expansion overseas and has meetings lined up with publishers in the US, Britain and Argentina.
"The model we operate here is very simple and very straightforward. We will work with other publishers in the US and UK and different illustrators to establish it in those markets," she said.
"Our mission is to make Special Stories a recognised brand so that, when parents, teachers or professionals are looking for books about special issues, they will think first of us.
"In order to do that, we need to expand into other countries and work with organisations and translators there. The Irish operation is running itself now so my next focus is to grow the business internationally."