from the collected notes of children's author
Barbara Jean Hicks
As children’s writers, our stories need to appeal to several audiences. We’ve looked at the needs of the Child Audience and the Publisher Audience over the last four weeks. Today we look at the needs of the parents and librarians who purchase our books. Thanks to the staff at The Secret Garden Children’s Bookstore in Ballard (Seattle), Washington; Amy Walter, Selection Librarian, Children's and YA Materials, Seattle Public Library; and Kevin Wood, ELL Teacher, Seattle Public Schools, for their input.
- is beautifully packaged, illustrated and presented.
- has been well-reviewed in the popular media (The New York Times Book Review, local newspapers, Time magazine, NPR spotlights, etc.).
- has won awards.
- is highly readable and lends itself to multiple readings.
- addresses a developmental need in the child’s life.
- has meaning for the adult as well as the child.
A book that appeals to librarians:
- meets the needs and objectives of the library collection (current or historical significance of author or subject, timeliness, public interest, level of demand, audience for material, community relevance, diversity of viewpoint, effective expression).
- has been well-reviewed in professional journals (Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, VOYA, Kliatt, Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books, Hornbook, The ALAN Review).
- has been well-reviewed in the popular media (see above).
- has won awards.
- is marketed well in vendor pre-publication alerts (Children's Advance by Ingram, What's New and What's New in Paper by Book Wholesalers, Inc., Alert by Baker and Taylor).
- has been requested by library patrons and staff.
- is developmentally appropriate for the child audience.
- is properly bound for library use.
A book that appeals to teachers:
- is visually appealing.
- grabs and holds student interest.
- offers age-appropriate content and reading level.
- ties in with curriculum and state standards.
- is suitable for teaching content and/or reading skills.
- is suitable for basic literary analysis.
- offers insights into other cultures, time periods, and/or ways of life.
Some of these characteristics go beyond the scope of what an author can do for her book—unless she’s acting as her own publisher. If that’s the case for you, consider this post a “to-do” list for getting your book to market after the manuscript is finished!
The bottom line is that in order to garner the praise and reviews you need to help your book appeal to the market, you need to write the very best possible book you can write. Do your homework. Take classes. Join a critique group. Revise. Edit. Repeat!