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I don't like Sundays…

Children's author Natalie Reeves-Billing talks about the bittersweet feeling of releasing her latest children’s book Ben and the Bug before its original planned release date.

Sunday was once a day of rest. That was when days differed from each other, and pyjamas in the afternoon were a novelty. Today, my Sunday has unexpectedly become yet another launch day. This time, for my Covid19 inspired children's book, Ben and the Bug. A book that aims to lessen fear and anxiety in children in the current climate.

I uploaded the files a few days back, to ensure I'd ironed out any creases. I ordered a copy to check for errors and scrambled to make a plan to bring another book into my launch-filled life. But sometimes, it just is what it is.

I had a book range I'd been thinking up for years. A series of monsters hiding inside us. The idea of 'two sides to every story' I'd prepped and planned for what seemed like an eternity, but with the book launch came the Lockdown, and it completely changed the global landscape. I decided to press ahead amid uncertainty and launched 'The Monstrous Me collection' on May 5th. It was utterly bizarre. Celebrated far from friends and family. Each of us raising a lonely glass across the Net. But, we have to make the most of things. Everyone says so. After a few mantras, I  made myself feel proud.

Now, I should be working on 'My Teachers are Monsters,' the next book in the series. But that wasn't the book that wanted to be written. 'Ben and the Bug' was elbowing its way to the forefront, demanding an audience.

The book follows the story of a little boy who makes friends with a curious creature called Bug at the swing park. Bug is a germ and doesn't know he is making people ill. It is an engaging, funny, but clear and precise little read. Although it made no sense at all, I called my trusty illustrator, Lisa Williams, and set the wheels in motion.

And so, you can imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to discover it had got to Number 1 in Amazon's new bestsellers chart. Without any push of any kind. Pre-launch. Unplanned. Unprepared. I was utterly dumbstruck.  I hunkered down to figure out a marketing strategy to capitalise on this extraordinary turn of events. My mail came in. One was from Amazon. Are they offering their congratulation?

No. They are pulling my material altogether. Corona related content must now be validated by health authorities. Even the make-believe ones about giant green germs and superhero doctors…

Bittersweet. That's how it feels. A salted cherry. The zest in your marmalade. On the one hand, ecstatic. The reaction to the book so far has been unbelievable. On the other, utter disappointment.  The timing is dreadful. So near and yet so far. I saw the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. An inglorious end to my joyous little book.

How I wish these decisions were made by living, breathing, common sense humans, and not code reading supercomputers. Especially those that take away the livelihood of people working night and day to develop products at their own expense, when times for the self-employed are already tough.

But for now, I am at Number 1. I will focus on that. I will feel proud and seek out as many sales as I can while the door is open. And when it starts to closes on Ben and his bug friend, I will knock on many others, and hopefully, someone will answer.

'Ben and the Bug' is available to buy on Amazon Follow Natalie on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.

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