A devoted dad's self-published bedtime story, about a hot air balloon, a rabbit and an owl, has got off to a flying start after receiving an order for 2,000 copies from Virgin Atlantic airline.
Stephen Holmes, who describes himself as "just a dad making up stories for his kids", decided to self-publish The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure on the insistence of his eldest daughter Madison, aged seven, to sell at local fairs and festivals.
After enlisting Devon-based picturebook author Kev Payne to illustrate it, Holmes finalised the book and ordered a print run of 1,000 copies and quickly sold 500.
Buoyed by the response, he decided to "try his luck' by sending details of the book to Virgin Atlantic - highlighting the link between his story and Sir Richard Branson - and was "astonished" to receive a positive response within a day.
The team at Virgin Atlantic then placed an order for 2,000 copies of the book, about two best friends' night balloon ride with a "well spoken rabbit", to give away to children on selected night flights.
Holmes said: "I thought Hot Air Balloon = Richard Branson. I was trying my luck. I was amazed to get such a quick response, and absolutely bowled over when they said they’d like to make an order”.
He added: “I'd certainly never thought of myself as an author, just a dad making up stories for his kids. But what's happened with Balloon has been incredible. I've definitely got the bug now and I'm testing out new stories all the time with my two biggest critics/supporters - my girls."
Matt Webster, senior customer experience manager at Virgin Atlantic, said: “We were instantly charmed by Stephen’s endearing book, as well as the story behind it, and felt it would be a great hit with families on night time flights. It was the icing on the cake that Stephen is based in Haywards Heath, just around the corner from Virgin Atlantic’s HQ; we always like to support up-and-coming local talent where we can”.
The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure is available from www.greatballoonadventure.co.uk, priced £5.99. For each copy sold, Holmes has pledged to make a donation to the Make a Wish charity, devoted to enriching the lives of children fighting life-threatening conditions.