Author-illustrator Diane Alber self-published her first children’s book, I’m Just a Scribble, in the fall of 2017 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Fifty titles and nearly one million print unit sales later, she has partnered with Surge Licensing to expand her brand and characters globally.

The plan is to sign a traditional publisher to help expand distribution, formats, and geographic regions, and then move into other product categories such as toys, arts and crafts, school supplies, bedding, apparel, and more. The sweet spot for both publishing and products is kids ages 5-7.

“Diane has these incredible sales numbers, and it’s solely from Amazon,” said Elan Freedman, executive v-p of Surge Licensing, the agency Alber retained to find a publisher and handle consumer products licensing. “The success she has achieved and the audience she has captured through Amazon alone is indicative of a larger audience. She has this base of teachers and parents who love what she does, and she deals with social-emotional issues that kids need answers to right now and that parents need help in giving them those answers. We see an endless runway to grow this brand.”

Alber’s publishing program includes three series, Inspire to Create, Inspire to Create a Better You, and Never Let A…, which feature recurring characters including Scribble, Little Spot, and Unicorn. Most titles focus on themes of art, creativity, and imagination; individuality, diversity, and inclusion; and social-emotional topics such as kindness, empathy, anxiety, and anger. “The books, especially on emotions and feelings, are conversation starters for parents,” Alber said.

Each storybook comes with a sticker sheet, and Alber has developed sticker, coloring, and sketch books tied to some of the core titles. Several of her books have hit number one on Amazon’s specialty bestseller lists in the U.S.; A Little Spot of Emotions Boxed Set is currently number one on the Children’s Moving list, while A Little Spot of Life Skills Boxed Set is at the top of the Children’s Woodworking list.

Right from the start, Alber’s books had strong backing from teachers, especially kindergarten and art instructors, counselors, and school psychologists. “I got a huge following with art teachers and it spread like wildfire from there,” Alber said. While many of her ideas come from the interests and experiences of her two young children, she turns to her following of educators for feedback on the books and ideas for new themes. “That’s been super beneficial,” she said.

The books have attracted an international following, which is one reason Alber wanted to work with Surge. Teachers from Canada, Australia, and other international territories are requesting books, and U.S. teachers are not always allowed to purchase from Amazon. A publisher will help her expand to retail and into global territories.

Surge is just about to start pitching the brand to publishers and licensees, but the property has already received interest, Freedman said.