How one author's best-selling joke books for children are supporting ellenor's vital work
Children’s author Mat Waugh is a firm believer in giving back and our charity for those with life-limiting illnesses and their families, is fortunate enough to be benefitting from his generosity.
Mat Waugh knows all too well how tough it can be to make a living as an author. Through talent, persistence and knowledge of his chosen market, his series of books for children have earned their place in the best-selling charts. Mat’s understanding of the hard work involved means he certainly doesn’t take his considerable success for granted and is keen to ‘give back’ wherever he can. Our charity, which helps those with life-limiting illnesses and their families, has been one of the fortunate beneficiaries of his philosophy.
Having worked in publishing for years, first as an editor, then moving into digital marketing, Mat’s writing for children was initially a side-line. “I’ve always loved kids’ books and, as the father of three young daughters, I knew the sort of stories that appealed and the sort of stories I wanted to read to them.” His professional expertise, meanwhile, ensured he was ideally placed to self-publish. “Cutting out the middleman just makes things so much easier – I’ve never had an agent, nor a publisher and of course that means any profit comes straight to me”.
Mat’s Cheeky Charlie series – launched in 2015 and based on today’s idea of a naughty child, as opposed to those featuring in the sort of books he’d grown up with – sold very well but failed to fly in the US. “I realised belatedly that the word ‘cheeky’ doesn’t really exist over there,” he says. Undeterred, another idea, this time with universal appeal, struck Mat. “It came to me when I was in the shower,” he recalls. “It really is the place where I get all my best ideas!”
Noticing that there was an opportunity to make joke books more relevant for children, Mat produced a series geared to specific ages: “Awesome jokes that every 5-year-old should know”, up to the equivalent book for nine-year-olds. He launched them on Amazon in 2018 and, having seen sales take off worldwide, he was able to leave his marketing job and devote himself to writing full time. “It was extraordinary really – I was able to watch the books climbing up and up the charts.”
Mat’s titles tend to be bought by parents and grandparents as gifts for the children in their lives, and he relishes the interaction he has with his readers and their families. “It’s particularly rewarding when I’m told that titles have been instrumental in getting children who struggle to read to engage with books. Jokes are very accessible.”
When Mat realised the books were on the way to becoming best-sellers, he says it felt natural to consider giving some of the proceeds away to worthy causes.
“I discussed the situation with my wife, Kate, and we decided I’d donate the royalties I’d made on my joke book for five-year-olds to charity. We call it ‘hypothetical money’: you haven’t had it long enough to find uses for it for yourself, which means you won’t miss it when it’s gone. It’s actually a relatively
It's an easy way to give, because you don’t have that sense of self-sacrifice.” Mat might consider it “relatively easy”, but his generosity is undeniable – and greatly appreciated by us. So why did he choose it as one of the charities he supports.
“Although ellenor hasn’t touched my life directly, there’s an ellenor shop in my area of West Kent, so I was aware of the work the charity does, particularly with families and children. As a parent myself, I can’t begin to imagine what some of these families go through – having support from an organisation like ellenor must make such a difference to their ability to cope. And there seemed a real synergy in donating the royalties I receive from writing a book for children to a charity that’s in support of children,” he reflects.
Mat is a very hands-off donor – he contributes and is happy to let ellenor decide how best to use his donations. “I have met up with Jemma from ellenor’s fundraising team, simply because she wanted to say thank-you in person for my support and I wanted to know more about the charity. I would never suggest my contribution is used in any particular way, though. I trust the team to make the best decisions as to where to spend it and I know that, because ellenor receives no government funding, every penny is put to good use.”
Above all, Mat is happy to support us because he’s aware of his own fortunate position: “I’m earning money doing what I love and getting a good response to it, and I have a healthy family of my own. I know I’m lucky. This is an easy way for me to give back to children and families who really need the expert back-up that ellenor provides.”