What Every Children’s Author Needs to Know

The most important question every author most answer is:

Who is most likely to read and buy my book?

The specific answer to this question defines your target audience. Knowing how to speak to and reach your target audience is essential for success in writing and book promotion.

children's authors and generation z

If you are a children’s author and write for children, then your target audience is in the Generation Z group. Generation Z is very different from the children of previous generations. As a children’s author, you need to know what is important to these children so that you can reach them with your messages.

Generation Z are those children born since 1996 (aged 22 and younger). This generation makes up almost one-fourth of the U.S. population. Experts predict that the population of Generation Z will soon outpace the other generations.

Some key characteristics of this age group include:

  • These kids are true digital natives. Technology is central to every aspect of their lives, from socializing to schoolwork, entertainment to exercise, relaxation to reference.
  • Tuned in and connected, this generation experiences almost no separation between online and real life. These kids are online 10+ hours each day.
  • This generation prefers to communicate through images rather than text.
  • Generation Z is the least churched generation in American history. They are growing up in a post-Christian, post-modern environment where many of them have not even been exposed to Christianity or to church.

Did you notice the characteristic that Generation Z individuals prefer to communicate through images rather than text?

Not surprisingly, the same is true for this age-group’s reading habits. These children are huge consumers of graphic novels. According to NPD Bookscan data from global information provider the NPD Group, the comics and graphic novels category in the U.S. trade book market has experienced compound annual unit sales growth of 15 percent over the last three years, making it one of the highest growth categories in the trade book marketplace.

graphic novels

As Barnes & Noble struggles to remain viable in a difficult market, this trend has not escaped their attention. In an effort to boost sales and gain more customers, the chain has announced plans to create dedicated sections for middle grades (ages 7-12) graphic novels in their stores this summer. These sections will be labeled with “Graphic Novel” signage and located adjacent to the Young Readers areas in each store’s children’s department.

Maybe at this point you are scratching your head and thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I write and publish children’s books?”

Knowing your target audience is key to success. Here are just a few takeaways from Generation Z characteristics for Children’s authors:

1. When communicating with children, include more images than pictures.
Even if you have written a chapter book, use pictures in your marketing messages to draw this generation in.

2. Rely almost exclusively on technology to reach this audience.
Remember, these kids spend 10+ hours online every day. They hang out on Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.

3. Consider converting your book to a graphic novel.
If you are struggling with sales for your children’s chapter book, consider converting it to a graphic novel. You can break a larger book into sections and publish a series of graphic novels, or you can publish a web comic (an online graphic novel) that ties back to your print book. If you are unfamiliar with web comics, check out WebToon.

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Photos courtesy of Americanvirus and Enokson.

Are You Relentlessly Pursuing Opportunities?

“Fortune favors the bold.” ~Latin Proverb

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~Milton Berle

These quotes speak to the need to pursue and seize opportunities. In marketing, an opportunity is simply a set of circumstances that makes it possible for you to promote your book and gain exposure for your works.

Successful authors don’t just grab every opportunity that comes their way to promote their books, they also relentlessly seek out opportunities for book promotion and exposure.

Are you relentlessly pursuing opportunities to promote your books? You can take the following eight actions to open doors of opportunity to promote your books.

  1. Follow and comment on blogs that speak to your target audience.

Join the conversation. Learn and network through becoming an active participant on blogs that your target audience tunes into to. Remember, commenting on blogs is not about “pushing” your books. It’s about connecting and providing information that is engaging and useful to others. Those who want more information will check out your website or books.

  1. Pursue openings for guest posts on blogs aimed at your target audience.

Most blogs feature guest posts. Using guests helps keep content fresh on a blog and also expands the exposure for the blog. You can query blogs on your topic that feature guest posts. Just be sure to offer a fresh article with great insight or tips.

  1. Chase media connections for interviews and more exposure.

Media need experts to interview. They need interesting stories to tell. Anytime news that ties into your books’ topics is breaking, you can pitch the media as an expert with useful information on the topic. You can also actively seek out guest interviews on television, radio, and podcasts. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) understand the importance of media interviews for exposure. We offer our Members a list of radio and podcast shows that interview authors.

  1. Seek out individuals to review your book.

Reviews provide more exposure for your books. Seek out individuals to review your book. You can learn how to get more book reviews by watching the MCB University on-demand seminar Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews. The seminar is free for Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA); all others pay a small fee.

  1. Look for speaking opportunities.

Speaking engagements are a powerful marketing tool. The number one reason people purchase a book is because they know the author. The reader may know the author because they have read other books by the author, or they may know the author because they have heard the author speak. Start by finding local speaking engagements with your target audience. All sorts of venues seek speakers. Local rotary clubs, schools, retirement centers and churches are a great place to start.

  1. Submit articles for publication.

Magazines, journals and local newspapers are always seeking new content. You can use excerpts from your book as stand-alone articles to draw people into wanting more information. Most publications allow an author byline where you can list your book. The Christian Writers Market Guide is a great place to find Christian magazines seeking articles.

  1. Exhibit at a local craft or book fair.

Many local fairs offer booth or table rentals at an affordable price. You can exhibit at these events and showcase your books to local attendees. One place to find a listing of local festivals is at www.festivals.com.

  1. Hold an event or contest.

You can create your own opportunity for exposure both with readers and with the media by holding an event or a contest. Be creative. Then make sure you use the opportunity to grab as much publicity as you can.

Rarely do great opportunities fall into your lap. Rather, opportunities follow action. Little actions produce small opportunities while bold actions produce larger opportunities. Now go create and pursue opportunities for more exposure for your books.

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Photo courtesy of Mauro Paillex.

Will Someone Catch You Reading This Month?

Will you get caught reading this month? I hope so. As authors and publishers, I believe we need to set an example by reading! After all, if people don’t read, our books will be worthless.

May is “Get Caught Reading” month! So, go out and get caught reading this month. Encourage reading. Share with your family, friends, and fans what you are reading.

Each year, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) puts together a cooperative catalog featuring products from our member publishers. This year’s catalog features 46 titles from 28 of our members.

I invite you to click on the catalog cover pictured below to check out the great Christian titles CSPA member authors and publishers produce! I am sure you will find within the pages of the catalog a new book to read this month.

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Book Buying Trends in Canada

Our northern neighbor Canada likes to emphasize that they are different from the United States. After all, Canadians are not “Americans”. The most popular sport in Canada is ice hockey. Canadians use the metric system. The legal drinking age in Canada is 18 years. Shoes are not worn inside the home. The quasi-national dish in Canada is poutine—fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.

However, in many ways, Canadians are similar to Americans. After all, they speak English (for the most part). They drive their cars on the right side of the road. Both countries were founded on Judeo-Christian ethics. And Canadians read books, most of which are published in the United States. The top-selling books in the United States are often the top-selling titles in Canada as well.

I like to pay attention to the Canadian book market because I think it frequently mirrors the U.S. book market. A recent report on the Canadian book market by BookNet Canada reflects the input of over 2,000 book buyers and sales data from 4,700 book purchases.

In addition to breaking down sales performance for books in over 50 subject categories, BookNet’s report also covered what drives book purchase decisions and where Canadians buy books. Following are two nuggets from the study.

Book Purchase Decision Factors

The BookNet study asked respondents to identify the reason for their most recent book purchase (either for themselves or as a gift). Close to half of all respondents (55% for self-purchase and 46% for gift) reported that the reason they purchased the book was “reading for pleasure”. The second strongest book purchase motivator was self-help/improvement.

Interestingly, Canadians purchased more adult nonfiction books (32%) than adult fiction (26%) in 2017. While close to half of all books bought in Canada last year were children’s books (40%).

Where Canadians Buy Books

Online book purchases accounted for 52% of overall book sales in 2017, an increase of 5% over 2016. The most frequent brick-and-mortar place that Canadian residents purchased books was in retail chain stores, which made up 26% of book sales. Only 9% of book sales were made through bookstores in Canada in 2017.

The trend in Canada is clear, and the same trend is evident in the United States. The percentage of books purchased online continues to grow while the percentage of books purchased through bookstores continues to dwindle. As the percentage of books “discovered” in stores dwindles, your marketing focus must shift to aiming the majority of your promotional resources directly at your target audience and increasing online discovery of your books.

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Joseph Petty.

Expecting Fast Results: What A Mistake!

We live in a fast society. A Boeing 787 can fly around the world in 42 hours and 27 minutes. With Google Fiber, Internet connection speeds reach up to one gigabit per second. FedEx allows you to have a package delivered the very next day to almost any location in the world. China’s new Fuxing bullet trains travel at 350 km/h (over 200 m/hr).

We have become so accustomed to fast, that we expect it. Except not everything delivers fast results.

This is true of promotion and marketing efforts. Rarely, do these activities deliver fast results. After all, research shows that it takes on average:

  1. Seven to twelve exposures of a product before a person decides to purchase it.
  2. Nine months of regular blogging to develop a strong, loyal readership base.
  3. Seven contacts to secure a media interview.

I recently received a call from a woman who heard about a book that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) represented at the CBA Unite International Retail Show last summer (in July 2017). The woman had recently talked with a gentleman who attended the show and told him of her need. He informed her that he had seen a book that met her need in CSPA’s booth at the trade show last summer.

The woman looked up CSPA on the Internet and gave us a call. She did not know that name of the book, but was able to tell me her need and I immediately identified which book the gentleman was referring to. I gave this woman the information on the book and the contact information for the publisher.

It has been six months since the 2017 CBA Unite show. Six months after viewing a book, a show attendee told this woman about a book he saw at the show that met her need.

Here’s the deal. Marketing activities usually don’t reap fast results. However, they do reap results for those who are patient.

Even though word spreads fast in today’s digitally-connected world, personal word-of-mouth can still take time. At the right moment, when faced with a need, a product or book is remembered and passed along.

Remember, marketing is all about exposure. It’s about introducing people to your books so that they know they exist. Your job is to get the word out. God’s job is to bring the harvest.

I have always said that promoting a book is a marathon, not a sprint. So, keep marketing. Keep spreading the word that your book meets a need that someone has. It may take months, but the people who need your book will hear and respond.

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Are You Expecting Fast Results?
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