The single most crippling obstacle all new authors face is invisibility. No one has ever heard of us before. Our work is untested, unfamiliar. Why would anyone chance good money on a newbie? That highlights the single most advantageous reason, in my opinion, to land a contract with a major publishing house—the marketing team. It’s their job to convince all those would-be buyers to part with their money. We indies must take the mantle of marketing upon ourselves. But a secondary problem soon presents itself for those of us in the children’s genres: Who to market to?
See, children’s authors like myself are in a unique pickle. The kids for whom we write do not own credit cards. They don’t have jobs. They can’t buy our books for themselves. They depend entirely on adults to purchase literature for them.
In addition, most children don’t have ereaders; therefore, they have no way of reading ebooks, the mainstay of most indie publishers. How many kids do you know who own a Kindle? A Nook? Not many. These gadgets are expensive, and kids tend to be irresponsible. Not a good combination. My kids don’t have ereaders, either.
Not only can kids not purchase or read our books, they don’t even have a way of hearing about them! Not many kids hang out book blogs or bookish sites like LibraryThing, Shelfari, or Goodreads. Technically, they’re not even allowed to participate on most of these sites.
So what’s a children’s novelist to do?
1. Obviously, we have to tell the adults. Most of them don’t care a whit for children’s literature, however, so we have to hunt down the ones who do. These include parents, teachers and librarians. We can find them on homeschool sites, on teacher’s blogs, on librarian book review blogs. They’re in forums on Amazon, in groups on Goodreads. They are out there.
2. We also have to keep a sharp look out for kid bloggers, reviewers, and writers. They’re out there, too, just not in the same numbers as adults. After all, kids are our target audience. They’re a great source of information, feedback, and contacts. They are a unique window to the kids “out there.” (Not to mention, they’re the up-and-comers, and I think it’s our job, it’s our pleasure, to encourage them. Guess that’s the teacher in me again.)
3. Next, we have to make our books available in many formats and inform our readers. Kids may not have ereaders, but a good percentage of them have ipods or cell phones. Do they know about the Kindle app? Do they have a home computer which will open a book in pdf format? It’s also a very wise idea to have paperbacks versions of our work available for those who simply can’t do digital.
4. Last and perhaps most important, we have to make sure our work is absolutely the best it can be. Only then will our efforts have a chance of snowballing. No one will pass on a recommendation for slop.
I know this post is a little shy on specific solutions. In fact, it probably prompted more questions than it answered. This time around, however, I mostly wanted to point out some basic challenges facing indies, specifically children’s lit indies, and let them stew in your minds for a time, as they’ve been stewing in mine. As the series continues, I’ll be arriving at more answers.
In the meantime, I’d welcome your comments on this catch-22. I’m curious, do you market to kids or adults? What has been your best strategy? What hasn’t worked at all?