After retiring in 2009 as president of Publications International in suburban Chicago, Richard Maddrell, who worked at that company for almost two decades and served as president for half of that time, decided to stay active by continuing to do what he loved: publishing children’s books. Last summer Maddrell launched Cottage Door Press, which specializes in books for ages up to three. Its debut list of 18 titles launched earlier this summer; six more titles are being released in August, for a total of 24 titles in 2015. This fall a line of gift books and a line of sound books will debut.
The press’s debut list includes six series of board books, called Sing & Smile Stories; Ana Davis Children’s Books; I Can Do It; Look, Look Baby; Babies Love Learning; and Love You Always Collection. Each series contains three titles to date.
Cottage Door Press currently employs 10; all but one has years of previous book publishing experience. Besides Maddrell, three of the company’s executives previously worked for Publications International prior to joining Cottage Door. The company, headquartered in Barrington, Ill., uses a nearby warehouse and has its own in-house distribution system. Commission reps will supplement the in-house sales force.
“I saw the opportunity to work again with a number of very competent former colleagues to create fresh, high quality books for the infant and toddler market,” Maddrell told PW, “There are any number of studies documenting the importance of reading a book to a child. Our mission is to create the best books possible to meet this very important early child development objective.”
Cottage Door is hoping to distinguish itself from other presses that publish books for ages up to three by including removable stickers on all book jackets, which it calls the Early Bird Learning Guide. The sticker informs the parent about the book’s appropriate age range and which skill the child is developing when having that particular book read aloud.
“ ‘Reading is learning’ is our driving philosophy, and we strive to help parents understand why reading aloud from birth is so important,” marketing consultant Melissa Tigges said. “The Early Bird Learning Guide is based on widely accepted milestones of childhood development. You see such stickers on toys; we’re trying to elevate it by taking the best practices from toys and applying [them] to books.”
Cottage Door is also trying to be a player in the gift market for infants and new mothers, with the creation of gift sets called Knitty Bitties, launching this fall: one set features books packaged with stuffed animals, and the other features books packaged with crocheted rattles. And Cottage Door is publishing books this fall with rings that attach to car seats and strollers called Tag-Alongs. In the spring, it is launching a line of books called Little Bird Greetings that it plans to market as baby shower gifts. Nine titles will launch the line.
“We’re trying to capture trends while they’re hot,” Tigges explained, noting that children’s books recently have become popular baby shower gifts, hence the baby greeting books line. Disclosing that merchandising is an important component in the company’s business model, Tigges explained that Cottage Door wants to “bring the book out of the book department and into the infant department” so that those shopping for gifts for new mothers and infants don’t have to go elsewhere. And, of course, the company wants to target impulse shoppers. “We want shoppers to see it and buy it, rather than having to go to another department,” Tigges said.
Cottage Door also is launching this fall its non-licensed Early Bird Sound books in two formats, both with wooden, rather than plastic, side sound modules. Two titles in one format will have one sound button and two titles in the other format will have 10 sound buttons.
Cottage Door is selling direct via its website as well as via baby-oriented stores and big box stores, such as Kohl’s, Target, MarMaxx, and Von Maur. “We’re being selective,” Tigges said, “We want to make sure where we’re selling matches the quality of our product.”