For the typical elementary-aged student, writing short stories and spending the day imagining other worlds and characters is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact for some, those tasks can be a dreaded homework assignment. But two Carmel Valley brothers didn’t just want to share their fictional story with their classmates and family members. Instead, with the help of their father, they brought the story of Nimpentoad to life and all the way to Amazon’s top sellers list for large print science fiction & fantasy books. At ages 13 and 10 respectively, Josh Herz and Harrison Herz can add the title of accomplished co-authors to their resumes.
The Herz’ journey to self-publishing Nimpentoad began when their father, Henry Herz drafted a story to get his sons interested in reading fantasy books. Having grown up on classics like The Lord of the Rings and Where the Wild Things Are, he saw a great benefit in keeping his boys’ imaginations alive.
“They started to give me feedback and make suggestions about the plot and the names of the characters, and it evolved into collaboration,” Herz said.
Nimpentoad is a children’s fantasy book which tells the tale of a character, Nimpentoad, who leads a tribe of Niblings through Grunwald Forest. The group encounters much adversity and obstacles along the way, but their strong leader is able to guide them. Some of the main takeaways from the book are the importance of teamwork, creativity and perseverance, and how to handle and discourage bullying. It is appropriate for children ages 5–10.
After sharing the story with close friends and relatives, many told the trio how much they enjoyed the story and encouraged the elder Herz to look into publishing the piece. As the encouragement built, the journey to self-publishing began.
For Josh and Harrison, finding an affordable artist who could bring their story to life proved to be difficult, yet rewarding. They went through several artists before finally finding a professional who could get the job done.
“My favorite part of publishing the book was receiving the pictures on the computer,” Josh said. “I liked receiving the illustrations and giving feedback.”
It took about one year for the Herz’ to receive their finished product and see it on bookshelves. However, the work didn’t stop there. Josh, Harrison and their father have worked tirelessly to promote the book both locally and nationally. They consistently offer readings at local elementary schools and bookstores, including Warwicks in La Jolla, and feature the book at farmers markets and other local events.
For Josh and Harrison, performing public readings have become second nature.
“Most of the time I don’t really get nervous,” Josh said. “We talk to the kids about the lessons in the book and we let them ask questions about the book or about publishing their own book.”
It appears that their promotion efforts have paid off. Nimpentoad currently has 62 Amazon 5-star ratings, has ranked 8th in Amazon Best Sellers for large print science fiction & fantasy, and has illustrations that have been recognized as semi-finalists in Warner Bros.’ Treasures of Middle-earth Design Contest. In addition, a recent Kindle giveaway distributed more than 1,600 copies in just two days.
“They’ve been really good and I’m very proud of them,” Henry Herz said. “[The book publishing process] is a great learning experience. It is helping to prepare them for being adults and they’re learning important lessons. That has been the intent all along; to turn this into a real learning experience, not just an entrepreneurial one.”
For Josh and Harrison, the takeaways from the book-writing experience are similar to those that are taught in the story of Nimpentoad.
“I learned that it takes perseverance, creativity and teamwork,” Harrison said.
His brother echoes those sentiments.
“A lot of kids my age like doing something at first and then get bored, but you have to stick it through,” Josh said. “It takes time, effort and perseverance.”
To date, Nimpentoad has sold more than 1,000 copies. The Herz’s hope that their continued promotion efforts will capture the attention of a large publishing company, allowing them to share their story with even more children. But don’t expect the trio to just sit around and wait for that to happen. They are already working on a second fantasy book, which they hope will see the same or more success as Nimpentoad.
The Herz have several upcoming promotion events for Nimpentoad, including a reading at Sunset View Elementary School in Point Loma on Dec. 5 and attendance at the Solana Beach Farmers' Market on Dec. 16. You can stay up to date on the latest events on their Facebook page.