When David Heredia took his children to storytime at the library, he couldn’t help but notice that the heroes in all these stories were not ethnically diverse. So, he sought to remedy that by creating his own children’s book.
Inspired by the success of his own educational cartoon series “Heroes of Color,” the Santa Clarita resident and first-time author wrote a book for preschool and kindergarten students called “Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a Big Difference,” which will be published by Scholastic on Dec. 26. The book highlights 50 historical men and women of color from all across the globe.
“The animated series is a bit too heavy for preschool children, but I feel that any time you’re trying to teach kids a topic that is heavy, it’s better to introduce it to them while they’re young so that they’re used to it as they get older,” Heredia said.
Though he initially got the idea in 2013, Heredia did not begin work on the book until 2015 when a woman he met at a business conference heard about his idea and connected him to someone at Scholastic. When he first pitched the book to Scholastic, his pitch was denied so fast that Heredia though that it had just bounced back to him.
The rejection was discouraging, and though he began to doubt the quality of his work, his own children were interested in his drawings and the stories behind the historical figures. Heredia then took the next few years to create an interest in the “Heroes of Color” brand and create some legitimacy behind his name. When he next pitched the book in 2018 and included his previous media coverage, his contact at Scholastic was now interested in meeting to discuss a publishing deal.
“I sent the exact same manuscript that I did in 2015 but it was much more appealing to them this time around because there was more credibility behind who I am and what my mission is,” he said.
The initial contract offering did not grant Heredia the right to merchandise and animation and only gave him a royalty that he felt was “offensive,” so he pushed back against the company and said he was comfortable walking away from the deal and self-publishing if he was not granted those rights. His Scholastic contact told him that it was unlikely that his terms would be met due to his status as a first-time author.
“You truly have to believe in your product because it’s going to help you out when you’re negotiating,” Heredia said. “After I did that I got off the phone and thought, ‘Did I just possibly blow the biggest opportunity I have ever had?’ I was a wreck but I started researching different printing houses. Then I finally got the call from Scholastic that they would agree to all my terms except the triple royalty amount, though they did give a bigger royalty. My contact at Scholastic said that she respected me so much more for fighting for my rights.”
The most difficult part of the process for Heredia was the research and writing, especially when making sure that different industries and cultures were getting equal representation. He did not rely on the internet due to the amount of inaccurate information and either purchased books or went to libraries to do his research. He also used his own children as a test audience.
“My daughter asked me why there were so few women in the book, which was something that I had totally not realized,” he said. “Originally I had 10 women and 40 men, so I went back and split it so that the book is now equal and has 25 women and 25 men. From a girl’s point of view that’s really important and what they’re looking at, so it’s important to listen to your audience.”
Heredia’s son, also named David, said he was excited when the first sample copies of the book came and at first his friends thought he had written the book since he and his father share the same name. The younger David said his favorite part of the book is how colorful it is and he thinks other children will appreciate learning the stories of the different people featured in the book. The 7-year-old sees his father’s success as an inspiration and has begun writing his own books at home.
Heredia has already begun pitching the book at his children’s school and has received messages from fans who have already begun to preorder the book. Scholastic invited him to a conference in June to pitch his book in front of different schools and educators.
Looking forward, Heredia wants to continue to use the “Heroes of Color” books and animations to continue to work in schools. He has already started work on a potential sequel to “Little Heroes of Color,” is preparing to create more episodes of the animated series using a $60,000 grant he was recently awarded and is looking into creating a toy line based on the “Heroes of Color” characters.
“I can’t tell you how this makes me feel. It’s just so rewarding,” Heredia said. “It’s hard to put it into words because it’s the most incredible moments in my life aside from getting married and having kids. I’m excited to see the kind of response that children have to it.”
“Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a Big Difference” is scheduled to be released by Scholastic on Dec. 26 and can be pre-ordered for $10.99 on Amazon.com. To learn more about Heredia and to see some of his other work, visit heroesofcolor.com.