Like many authors the idea of having a plush toy character from your book to accompany the book is very appealing! And I am one of those many authors! I love the idea of seeing the character come to life in this way and for a child to have the character to move about as the story is being read to them.

To get a plush toy to market there are a few considerations which can be confusing and take time to investigate. I therefore wanted to write a post to give my journey to possibly help any other author considering plush toys or starting the journey themselves. This might not be 100% accurate for your toy or position so your own research is needed, but this might give you a starting point and an awareness of what to expect.

I am based in the UK, and I will be selling the plush within GB, so this is based on this. Also as mentioned please do your own research and check with a testing lab/Trading Standards to name a couple of options, so you are confident you are following the most up-to-date legislation and guidelines, along with the right guidance for your plush toy and book.

Ok, so I wanted the characters from Lucy Lamb’s Most Curious Adventure to be made into plush toys, both Lucy and her brother Harry. The book is a 32-page picture book that was originally aimed at 3 – 8-year-olds.

So, after looking into who to approach for quotes I decided on GotaToy based in China was the one I would try, this was based on many other posts by other authors mentioning they have used this company and good reviews. David who I have been in contact with has been brilliant with communication from the start and throughout.

I sent book pages to David at GotaToy, which gave a good view of the characters for the samples to be based on.

David sent through an initial sample without features so I could agree the initial shape. Once this was agreed the features were added and we worked together until the final sample looked to what I had in mind. The samples were then posted to me so I could check the material and quality. Both of which were just fine, and I was very happy with both samples. This was the fun part seeing the character come to life, and I was very excited to open the sample package when it arrived. To send a plush toy sample was 120 dollars.

Now comes the not so easy stage. The label! You would think this was straight forward however you do need to ensure you have everything stated on the label to conform to the legislation.

On reaching out to a testing lab with a mock-up of a label (I will come onto testing in a bit) and my local council Trading Standards the information was confirmed as ok if I changed CE to UKCA, UKCA marking will replace CE within GB from 2024 so I was advised to use UKCA.

So, on my label I have:
– My logo and name
– A contact GB address (I use a forwarding mailing house rather than my own address, which is an annual cost)
– Copy right logo
– Website
– Handwash only (Wording only as you need to be careful with the washing logos as these are copy righted)
– You need to ask the maker of the plush to add the batch number of the label – trading standards said this is optional but advisable in case any plush have to be recalled so you don’t need to recall all batches, just the applicable one should there be an issue
– I am adding made in China
– Then the UKCA mark which needs to be at least 5mm

To get to this stage I was also directed to the following two documents to read through:
https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/5847/attachments/1/translations/en/renditions/native
This document was written in 2013 but gives a clear indication that a book a long with a toy is classed as a toy.

And also
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/toys-safety-regulations-2011/toys-safety-regulations-2011-great-britain
I was directed to obligations section of manufacturer/importer. It was confirmed I would be classed as the manufacturer by the testing lab.

Now comes the lab testing part. So, to confirm to the toy safety legislation the plush needs to be laboratory tested to ensure the materials are safe to name one. There are various checks. However, as the book and the plush are classed as toys together then the picture book also needed to be tested.

I used a company called MTS Ltd who I have used before and are great at explaining the testing. All tests are per component/colour basis so depends on the plush design. A lab will test against EN71 and gives you presumed conformity to the toy legislation. However, there are other elements in the legislation not covered by EN71 to consider too.

Here is the breakdown:
• EN71-1 – General requirements for under 3’s.
• EN71-2 – Full flammability assessments.
• EN71-3 – CAT III. Additional testing will be needed for any components with elevated levels of tin or chromium.
• Toy legislation labelling review – Labelling outside of EN71-1
• Toy legislation safety assessment (required as part of the technical file) – As per toy legislation (You can compile this yourself)
• Toy legislation chemical requirements for under 3’s – Additional testing as requested not covered by EN71

Each of the above has a cost.

The lab requires me to send two of each plush toys with the labels on. I am currently waiting on these to arrive to send off. In the interim I have sent two books off for testing.

I didn’t anticipate the additional testing cost to get the book tested so this was a surprise however this does make sense. The plush toy costs are also higher than I expected as you pay per component and number of colours, so it is best to keep your plush as simple as possible.

You also need to have a declaration of conformity. There is other documentation you are required to have and keep for 10 years for example a technical specification document. This should include a risk assessment and mitigations. The testing lab can also provide this at cost however it was mentioned that there is no real format for this as long as you are demonstrating that you have risk assessed the toy and mitigated this. It was recommended to write one for each batch of toys. You will also need to consider periodically re-testing the toys.

Look out for great support groups on facebook CE & UKCA Soft Toy Support Network is one I follow.

I believe I have captured all relevant information that I discovered but as mentioned this is a guide. So do your own research and contact a testing lag and your local Trading Standards. There are also some great support groups on social media.

I decided to continue the journey and work through each stage step by step. The sample is so good I can’t wait to be able to have this accompany the book. I have however decided, for now, to have plush toys for one of my books. Maybe in the future I can expand this to my other books as there are some great characters to turn into plush toys! The illustrators did a fab job!

Hopefully some point over summer 2023 I should have the plush toys for sale on my website – Look out for the blog to announce they are for sale. They are super cute; I hope you agree :0).

I also hope this information is of use, it would have certainly helped me to have this to hand when I started.

Goodluck with your plush journey!! Be great to hear anyone’s experience and anything else in addition to what is in the blog that you discovered, if you do, I would also love to see your plush toy so include a pic!