Writing for the Right Picture Book Audience

Write for the Right Audience

Are you an aspiring picture book author? Perhaps you are an author / illustrator with a passion for children’s books. In either case, if you don’t know your audience or how to target them, you won’t win any love from agents, editors, buyers, readers, or listeners! Read on below so you know who you’re writing that picture book for.

Evaluate Your Target Audience

The complicated answer to this question can be figured out with the following step-by-step guide.

  1. Who, specifically, is reading or reviewing your manuscript to provide feedback and constructive criticism?
  2. Who is acting as a gate-keeper for your book’s ultimate success?
  3. Who needs to love your manuscript?
  4. Who will invest in your future book?
  5. Who will illustrate your manuscript (if not an author / illustrator)?
  6. Who will approve your illustrations (if an author / illustrator)?
  7. Who will distribute your book?
  8. Who will sell your book?
  9. Who will buy your book from a book store (brick and mortar or online)?
  10. Who is your book intended to delight, teach, or provide some satisfying experience?
  11. What are the demographics of your intended reader (Age, location, background, etc.)
  12. Who, ultimately, needs to be pleased with the book as a whole?

You can likely come up with a few other questions that relate to the publishing of your children’s book and what person or agency has to support it in some way for it to be successful. The ones I’ve listed are the absolute key personnel necessary for you to be successful as an author or author / illustrator. Were you able to answer each question? Did any confuse you? Here are some possible answers for the questions I provided.

  1. Critique partner. Critique group. Friend. Family member. Beta reader. Professional critique service. Myself.
  2. Literary agent. Traditional publishing editor who accepts unsolicited manuscripts. Self-publishing platforms or editors. Myself.
  3. Me. Literary Agent. Editor. Sales team. Buyer. Reader. Listener.
  4. Me. Literary Agent. Editor. Publisher. Buyer. Reader. Listener.
  5. Illustrator.
  6. Art Director. Publisher. Editor. Me (sometimes).
  7. Publisher. Me (sometimes).
  8. Book stores (brick and mortar or online). Me (sometimes).
  9. Adults. Older kids. Friends. Family. Libraries (through catalog databases or direct sale)
  10. Children. Parents. Adults. Youth.
  11. Boys and girls 3-8 years old. Rural environments. Farming background.
  12. Me.

The Single Most Important Audience To Target

You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. That’s normal. Re-read the above and it’ll make more sense to you. As you go through the list, think about one of your manuscripts. Or, if you haven’t written a manuscript yet, use the above to guide you in story and plot selection. In order to create an incredible children’s book or picture book (note there is a difference) you must tailor your manuscript to meet all the needs and expectations of the various audiences noted above. However, there is a single audience target you must focus on.

The listener. The listener is the most important audience target on the planet. Bar none. Not joking. You may be wondering how that is possible when agents, editors, and sales teams wield such incredible power. Here’s the secret. But don’t tell anyone…

Everyone, and I mean everyone, keeps the listener in mind. You, your agent, the editor, the illustrator, the art director, the sales team, the publisher, the buyer, and yes, even the listener themselves, cares primarily what the listener will think. The single most important person to focus on when you author or author / illustrate a children’s book or picture book is the eventual listener. Sometimes, the listener and reader are the same person. This often happens with older children who enjoy early readers or have strong reading skills.

Most of the time though, with children’s books, everyone wants to know what the child listening will think. Will they laugh? Cry? Be bored? Wander away halfway through? Ask to have your book read to them again and again and again? Ask that your book be returned immediately or thrown in the garbage? Clutch your book close to their chest for the remainder of their life?

These are the things EVERYONE is focused on. What will the child listener think about this book. There are lots and lots of books out there. Some of them are very, very good. Some of them are not picking up any momentum (politically correct way of saying terrible – oops, ah well.) Many books are good but struggle really winning the child listener. Parents may love it and buy it only for it to sit on a shelf never read twice. Others may enter the classroom and be forced upon children for generations.

But you, you want to delight the listener. If everything you do as an author or author / illustrator is for the overall satisfaction of the listener, you’ll not only be a huge success with book buyers, you’ll win over publishers, editors, agents, and illustrators.

So, how’s your manuscript check out? What will the listener think about it? Leave your comments below!

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