Cecil the Centipede: 30 Years in the Making
Updated: Jan 7
There are two stories for every book we publish. The one on the pages and the writer's journey behind the scenes. We are fascinated with questions like: When did the author first have the idea? How long have they been working on it? How did it go from rough draft to final copy?
Our case studies are meant to be an encouragement to other writers and, to some degree, "How-To" guides with tips and tricks. I'm excited about Cecil the Centipede because this book perfectly fits the "Long Overdue" philosophy. In this case study, you'll see how David's story went from a bedtime tale 30 years ago to a finished book just in time for Christmas 2019.
The Origin Story
David's lightbulb moment for Cecil the Centipede took place about 30 years ago when his first grandchild was a few years old.
"When he was very young, I started making up short stories at bedtime," David Ovitt said. "I always made it a game type of experience too rather than a regular bedtime routine. We would do the coloring thing, do flashcards and he liked the challenge."
When preschool came along, David noticed so many kids were struggling with colors, counting, and basic math. He saw a need to make all of these experiences more fun and interesting. He thought there should be a better approach for kids that rewarded their efforts and encouraged learning without focusing too much on the pursuit of perfection.
"Learning can be a lot easier if they enjoy what they are doing," David said. "I believe the special needs kids inspired me more than anything but I tried to create something for all kids to enjoy and learn from."
The First Paper Copies
David wrote his story down and put together the accompanying cartoons. His first editions of Cecil the Centipede were simple, 8 x 11 pages stapled together. He would give printouts to friends, family, and other parents/grandparents at church.
Why the drawings are left blank
The book ends up being part traditional children's book and part coloring book. The cartoons were left blank so kids could practice using their colors and also practice drawing inside the lines.
Kids naturally asked their parents if they could draw on the pages, even before knowing if it was supposed to be a coloring book. Travis Haines, a friend of David's from church, describes the first time his kids saw the book.
"After David gave us the story, we read it to our kids before bed, and they loved it! I was pleasantly surprised how much they loved the story," Travis said. "They also kept asking if they could color the book. They thought it was also a coloring book. Which I thought was pretty cool. So I ended up making copies of the pages so they could color all the characters. They loved that."
The Idea Expanded
David had some more ideas for Cecil. He did research on how to create a toy version.
He had the toy certified by the Florida Department of Education back in 1992.
Wrote a TV pilot episode. Created cereal box concepts featuring the other characters. Put together math workbooks.
Then A Few Years Went By
Life is busy. Relationships. Kids. Grandchildren. Work. Retirement. Going from 1992 to 2019 seems like a lot of time, but it happens in the blink of an eye.
Plus, before Amazon, the publishing landscape was a lot more challenging. There were more barriers in the way without self-publishing or high-quality print-on-demand services.
Enter Long Overdue Books
David reached out to us via Facebook message. He wanted more information on publishing a book and gave us a few details about his story.
We had never worked on a children's book before, but figured hey, what better way to learn. In the immortal words of Captain Ron, "There's only one way to find out. If anything's gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there."
The Book-Building Process
David only had the physical version of the story, no Word or Google Documents. So we waited to receive the physical copy via mail.
Once we had the copy, the first question was how do you turn something from a physical page into a digital file then back into a physical book? And, as you can see below, what about the number 12 there in the top left corner. Or those little stray lines. Did we need to use some white-out and then head to the scanner?
First step: Scanned all of the pages at a FedEx Kinkos store.
Second step: Went to Fiverr.com, hired a freelancer with photoshop experience to get rid of the stray lines and page numbers in the top corners of each page.
Third step: Also on Fiverr, hired a freelancer to format the cartoons and text pages into an 8.5 x 11-inch book that fit Amazon's standards.
And How About the Book Cover?
A similar process, we reached out to the same freelancer on Fiverr who designed the cover for one of our previous books titled: Strawberry Moon. We showed the artist the original version:
And asked him to make a new version in the style of a children's book with instructions form David on which color to make each part of Cecil.
The result below. Formatted to the right size, that little white block is for the barcode.
Crowdfunding the Costs
We'll have more about this in another post, but one thing we tried out with Cecil the Centipede was having the pre-orders fund the production costs.
This isn't a brand new idea, some authors already do this with GoFundMe or UnBound. We also printed the names in the book of those who made pre-orders. We hope this creates a deeper connection between reader and writer, building a sense of community around each Long Overdue book.
"I'll Be Home for Christmas"
We were running up against the clock in late December. Once the files were submitted, we loaded everything into Amazon's KDP system and sent out the orders.
December 21st. December 22nd. December 23rd.
We kept waiting to hear from David. It wasn't a requirement to hit December 25th, but just makes for a better story than showing up a day or two late.
And sure enough, on Christmas Eve we heard some good news from David...
What Happens Next?
Every book is different. David wanted Cecil the Centipede to be a wide-release on Amazon. Your book may have that same goal in mind or you might just want to create 10-15 copies for friends and family. It could be a children's book, biography, memoir, novel, the list goes on and on.
But whatever the case, we're here to help take those first big and sometimes scary steps, no matter how many years it's been since the initial idea. Our specialty is getting the first completed version out there and creating a meaningful experience for your first 10-100 readers.
Do we know how to turn these books into bestsellers? Do we have any experience of making a TV pilot episode? Making cereal boxes or toys? Nope. But how cool would it be if Cecil one day ends up in the hands of someone who does? And then launches an exciting next chapter for David and his stories.
And, if not, it's still awesome to have the book out there, available for people to read and pass on to future generations in the Ovitt family.
We love hearing about big ideas and big dreams, but also love building the bridge between those two destinations. Our mission will always be to help people with their writing journey. We can't wait to see what's next for David and hey, maybe we'll discover the next children's book that's 30-years overdue.
The best ways to order a copy of Cecil the Centipede is either on Amazon or you can emaii us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll put together a box with the book and a thing of Crayons/colored pencils.