Sarah Walden, former chief operating officer of The Book People, has launched a new creative consultancy and book packager called Noodle Fuel.
The outfit, which is currently engaged in a new project offering kids’ lockdown activities, will help publishers with developing content, including books.
Walden, who was group buying & merchandising director for five years at TBP before moving up to c.o.o., and was made redundant from the Book People in January, before it shuttered for good at the beginning of April after going into administration at the end of 2019, said she was determined to launch the new venture in spite of the pandemic.
"After working for other people for 25 years there comes a point when you need to take control of your own destiny," she said. "Noodle Fuel is the result of reaching that turning point and needing to create something for myself. I have sold hundreds of thousands of children’s books to millions of customers over my career and I know what makes a book special. I’m looking forward to translating that knowledge into physical books that I have helped create."
"It’s a ridiculous time to be launching a new business venture," she conceded, "but I am really confident in our concepts – we will find a home for them soon I’m sure."
Walden will be pairing her commercial nous and experience with the creative expertise of her husband, Mark, who is a children's author, building a brand together called Pop Doodle – a non-fiction list split into four age ranges 0–9, focused on finding engaging, humourous ways of conveying different information to children.
"The Pop Doodle brand is very much about combining non-fiction facts and information with humour that helps facts to stick and also makes it interesting and entertaining," said Walden. "We're basically saying, 'boredom-free guaranteed'."
Accepting that prospective publisher clients have "needed to focus on their existing commitments" in recent weeks, Walden in the meantime has been working on rolling out activity cards to help entertain children and adults during the lockdown.
Her first project, "Not Rocket Science Playing Cards for Clever Clogs", helping children to remember key figures and events in history whilst playing Patience or Snap, was developed with author Dulcie Swanston with the support of Mark Bennington, an illustrator and cartoonist who has worked on many children’s comics including The Beano. They are currently available for pre-order from toprightthinking.com and a portion of profits will benefit The Big Issue Foundation.
"We were trying to launch Noodle Fuel before [the pandemic] happened," Walden explained. "Things were looking promising, positive conversations with a number of publishers meant that we could see that we had developed some really engaging and different content that would stand out in the market. That gave us the confidence to go to concept artwork. We had planned to attend Bologna and London Book Fair to showcase our ideas. But then the world changed. Bologna was postponed, then cancelled. LBF was no longer on the cards. Publishers rightly needed to focus on their staff, authors and existing commitments.
"I thought we may as well get the word out there so people know it's there as a service. Then my friend and I got bored and we decided to make some playing cards ... if the initial print run goes well, then we'll look at broadening that out into bookshops, giftshops and other retailers."
Looking ahead, Walden has her sights set on being able to offer "a one-stop shop" for publishers.
"Ultimately, we are see ourselves as being able to provide a one-stop shop, delivering complete books into publishers in a cost-effective manner," she said. "They can then go straight into production and start selling, and we can work in conjunction with them, or give us a brief and we can provide concepts for them to approve before we move forward. It's an agency but we are very aware they will want to own the IP and they will want it to work globally, and my knowledge of the industry and background should enable us to do that."