Watadventure is a publishing company that specialises in producing personalised children’s books, with custom avatars and tailored elements, to incorporate any child into the story itself. They’ve just released the first book of the series, Watabus, that takes the reader on an expedition to India. We catch up with company owner, Mark Gray, to dig deeper into this unique concept and find out more about their newest book.
Please fill us in on some of your background and how the company come to be?
The idea for Watadventure partly stems from owning a printing and binding company, gaining insider information about how digital printing is progressing and working alongside book authors. Also, from my personal experience with children, I noticed they are much more likely to be interested in a book if they’re actually involved in the story somehow, considering the most popular books have always transported the reader to a place full of fantasy and excitement. As technology progresses, we now have the ability to give every child the chance to star in our stories. We saw this as an opportunity, since there’s nothing on the market that fully does this, and ran with it.
Where did you gain inspiration from for Watabus?
I’m not completely sure where the idea for the story came from but I wonder if my memories, from the distant past, watching Mr. Benn may have loosely influenced it. I think an idea for a story develops, as you think more about it and expand it to fit in characters and places. My desire to visit India is probably part of the reason for the country’s central role in the story; hopefully soon I can fulfil that dream.
Starting a new business venture can be complicated. Did you overcome any obstacles in the process of reaching the point you’re at now?
I knew going into this, I’d need to look into the logistics and possible limitations to ensure it was done properly. A common problem associated with personalised books is that they’re printed as one-offs, and only certain machines can give you the quality and flexibility you need. As a starting point, I fixated on the actual size of the book, ensuring that it was big enough for children to handle in all situations, such as in bed and on the floor, as well as being comfortable enough to hold. I then focused on the personalisation of the front, back and spine of the book itself – something that would be handy for when further adventures are released. Next steps included the contacting of various authors to find the perfect story that best suited the feeling I wanted to come across in my book. Once the story was tested in nurseries and chosen, I then discovered Ilana, a very talented illustrator who I asked to be a part of the Watadventure business going forward. She loved the idea of her work being featured within a book and all credit to her, she stuck with the influx of work to create a wonderfully bright and exciting book that’s totally unique.
What charities have you partnered with? Can you tell me about them?
As we further Watadventure as a brand, it becomes more important to define our principals, which are essentially to bring joy to children through literacy. We do this through our creative storybooks, hosting events and partnering with charities to help further their objectives. Recently, we’ve partnered with Once Upon a Smile, a local charity that assists bereaving families and Rainbow Trust, a national charity, that supports families with children that suffer from life-threatening or terminal illnesses. We provide a financial contribution to both of these organisations with every Watadventure book sold. It is important to give back and we chose these charities for the hard work they do and that they make a massive difference to the people they help. When all hope feels like it has disappeared, they are there to hold a hand and be there at a family’s worst time. Having daughters in the nursing profession and one who solely looks after children, the stories and times these people go through is touching in the extreme.
What’s next for Watadventure? Are there any new books coming out that we can keep an eye out for?
Right now, we’re looking to further develop our branding and website to enrich the reader’s experience, creating and reading the book, by providing even more functions to personalise the story. We’re also looking to add several stories to the Watadventure series. To give you a hint of what is next, there are so many wonders of the world for a Watadventure. Thinking more long-term, I want to keep progressing the books. I am looking towards augmented reality where characters come out of the page, with the use of a smartphone or tablet, as well as personalised cartoons. My dream would be to have portals in large stores where people can experience virtual reality, as they create characters of themselves and putting them into stories and printing the books there and then. I’m just making sure to take one step at a time, but I won’t say never, dreams are for chasing. Not too long ago my dream was to produce Watabus and now I can hold it in my hand.
Every book is truly hard-covered front and back, 38 pages long and printed on high quality 170 gram satin FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper. All books are personalised to order with the individual’s name on the spin, front cover, inner page and cover. Their avatar is also included on the front cover and throughout the story.