Successful Book Expands to Larger Market
BY MELANIE COUGHLIN
Special to The Pilot
A small doll robed in white fluttered her celestial wings into Barnes and Noble this year.
The angel is part of the book and doll gift set, "My Secret Angel and Me: How the Gift of Christmas Came to Be," co-authored by former Southern Pines resident Rachel Hernandez.
Hernandez and her sister-in-law, Ashley Adorno, are thrilled that the book they self-published last year is reaching mainstream distribution. Barnes and Noble is test-selling the book at 13 stores in the Carolinas; the chain hopes to expand to all its locations next year.
"I'm in awe. I never dreamed our book would get into a major retailer," says Hernandez whose mother and stepfather, Cathy and Bill Smith, still reside in Southern Pines.
"My Secret Angel" came to the attention of Barnes and Noble when one of Adorno's friends took the set into a Charlotte store and showed it to the manager. He read it on the spot and offered to test it in his store. Within days, word has spread to other stores, which led to the pilot program to test sales.
"Things like that just don't happen. Ashley and I continue to be in blown away and humbled. God truly has His mighty hand on this book," Hernandez says.
Hernandez and Adorno started with a modest print run of 1,000 last year and sold the gift set online and at boutiques, including local retailers Denker's, in Southern Pines and Cameron & Company, in Pinehurst. To the astonishment of the book's creators, their stock quickly sold out. Their surprise was perhaps unfounded
"I knew 'My Secret Angel' would be successful. It hits at the heart of what so many Christian mothers care about and think about this time of year," says Anna Smith, a Pinehurst friend of Hernandez's who looks forward to making the book a tradition with her 19-month-old son Rand. "We have needed a book like this for a long time."
"My Secret Angel" tells the story of Jesus' birth through the voice of an angel whose message to children is that God loves them dearly no matter what.
Like the "elf on the shelf," the angel watches children during the day and leaves each night to report on their behavior.
The angel, however, reports to God whereas the elf reports to Santa Claus. Hernandez and Adorno, both mothers of small children who enjoy the tradition of Santa, incorporated him into their book by explaining that Santa works for God.
The mothers worked together from a distance, Hernandez in Atlanta, and Adorno in Charleston, S.C. They had no experience in publishing, but both brought skills that are well-suited to creating a children's book. Hernandez is a writer whose credits include contributing to The Pilot. Adorno was an art teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
"It was amazing how Ashley's paintings matched what I was thinking, and she said the same of my words," says Hernandez. "The distance between us didn't matter. Everything came together seamlessly because we were doing this for God."
The pair plans to expand "My Secret Angel" with other versions of the doll to reflect various ethnicities. They are also developing a prototype for a plush doll that children can keep out year-round.
In addition to the 13 Barnes and Noble locations, "My Secret Angel and Me" is distributed at select Hallmark and Learning Express stores. It may also be ordered online at www.mysecretangelandme.com.
In the Sandhills, it is available at Denker's or Cameron & Company.
Melanie Coughlin is a local freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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