So you have a great idea for a children’s book. You can envision the beautiful illustrations. You can imagine it in the hands of young readers all over the world. And you can hear the sound of book sales ringing up. But how to market your children’s book—that’s a different story!
After you outline your story idea, rough sketch your illustrations, and share your idea with a couple of loved ones—then what? There are so many illustrated children’s books competing for attention in the children’s publishing market. How do you write a children’s book that will attract an audience? Then how do you get that audience to notice your book? And how do you get the word out so that your book dreams transform into book sales?
To reach the children—and parents—who will love your children’s book, your first step is to know who your potential readers are. How old are they? What are their interests, challenges, and goals? What other books are they reading?
Looking for the answers to these questions is called market research. Market research reveals whether there’s a market for your book and whether that market is unmet or saturated. For instance, say you want to write a book about trains for eight-year-old girls. How many other books about trains for that age range and gender already exist? Is your particular story idea already covered by one or more books for your same target audience?
In other words, unless your story is unique or directed at an underserved target audience, there may be too much competition for your book to succeed.
To determine your target audience, consider the potential reader. Your audience’s age group is the most influential factor in the style, format, and content of your children’s book.
The age group for children’s books ranges from about two to eighteen years old. Within that age range are a number of genres based on age:
Picture books tell stories through illustrations. They ideally have fewer than three hundred words—sometimes almost none—and are written in a repetitive or rhyming style.
A picture book for toddlers is formatted as a board book. It has thick cardboard pages that make it very sturdy. And it is normally small enough for young children to hold on their own.
If your target age group is between four and eight years old, a hardback picture book with an eye-catching book cover is the ideal format. Picture books for these young readers usually have fewer than one thousand words, focus on one main character, and are heavy on illustrations. These books tend to be larger in size to optimize their illustrations.
If your story is longer, more complex, or has more characters than a picture book, consider an elementary school or middle school age group. Elementary school kids are beginning readers between five and eight years old. Books for these children include illustrations on nearly every page and have fewer than two thousand words.
A middle grade book is usually a chapter book with a complex story line and several characters. This type of book has a target audience of nine- to eleven-year-old kids. These children’s books can be up to 150 pages long.
Young adult books are geared toward a target audience of advanced readers in an age group of twelve years old and up. They are long chapter books—usually at least sixty-five thousand words—that deal with complex adolescent issues, themes, and emotions (hence the reason adults are a target audience, too). Young adults are technology savvy and may own their own Amazon Kindle or tablet.
The literary world is extremely competitive. Building a following—that is, a fan base—is another tool in your book marketing kit. For example, think of book covers where the author name is larger than the title. Consider books that sell before they are even published. These effortless sales occur for children’s authors who have already put in the work to build a following.
After you work hard on your children’s book, you want people to read it, right? But sharing the news with your email list of friends and family is not enough. In addition to your book, readers want to know about you. How do you have the knowledge or expertise to write about your subject matter? How do you relate to the personal circumstances of your character?
Readers buy into your “author brand” as much as they buy into your subject matter. Your author brand is your unique identity that is based on your special interests, passions, and expertise.
The work you put into building your author brand will pay off in book sales. You will earn fans and build a following—not just for your first book, but for a whole series.
If you’re really serious about getting your children’s book off the ground, get help from children’s literature experts before self-publishing or sending your manuscript to a publishing company. A literary agent can offer a great deal of support in helping you improve the quality and appeal of your book. An agent will offer the following:
What is an author platform? Think of your platform as the base from which you can market and sell your book. Your platform is made up of the following:
The next section explains how to share your author platform through social media and your online presence.
When marketing your children’s book online, you are only limited by your creativity. There are some tried and true steps to follow, but also make sure to look into what other authors are doing to create buzz and excitement about their books.
Get out there and get online! This is especially helpful to reach your online audience of young adult readers who communicate through online platforms.
Follow these steps to establish an online presence for both your children’s book and you as a children’s book author:
This is just a simple website that tells readers about you and your children’s book. Include a homepage, a book page, and an “about the author” page.
If you’ve created a picture book, share some of your beautiful illustrations. If you have an illustrator, link to their page for even more exposure.
Include an author bio, which is a biography about you, your life, and what inspires you. Keep it short and sweet.
Consider adding a blog page to your book website or your author website. Share blog posts that talk about who you are, what inspires you, and who is important to you. You can also share some of your other work, like poems and short stories.
Invite other book bloggers to write a guest post on your page and return the favor by guest blogging on their page. This not only increases your exposure but also builds connections with other children’s authors.
As opposed to a personal page, an author page is purely about you as a children’s author sharing your professional goals, plans, and accomplishments in children’s book publishing.
On your author page, you can engage with readers, respond to their questions, and get their feedback. You can post your book reviews and even review other children’s authors’ books—and ask them to do the same for you!
Social media is your best tool for getting your book noticed in the competitive market of children’s books for a number of reasons:
The back cover of your children’s book can make the difference between a book reader and a book rejector. The back of your children’s book should include these elements:
For the best results, enlist a professional to help you turn your back cover into a marketing tool.
Social media is important, but it’s not the only method of book promotion for children’s book authors. Meeting your target audience live and in person is still a powerful method of book marketing and also a rewarding part of your marketing efforts. You don’t need to plan a national tour—local gatherings are just fine.
Consider scheduling a simple event, such as the following:
To choose the best venue to promote your new book, determine where your target audience likes to read, hang out, or discuss books. Ideas include the following:
Preparing for a successful book reading will pay off in connections, book marketing, and book sales. You can reach more than just the people who attend in person if you follow these tips for success:
A writer’s organization is more than a sounding board and support group. Membership in a writer’s organization can support your book marketing efforts by helping you build professional connections that can guide you on the path to success.
When looking for a writers’ association to join, look for one that offers benefits. Some ideas of benefits include a group that will help you with the following:
If all these steps to publishing a successful children’s book seem daunting, remember that they are steps—that is, take them one at a time.
Step 1. Do your research. Make sure your book meets a need, tackles an issue, or addresses an audience that no other children’s book does.
Step 2. Create your online presence. If you are a first-time children’s book author who is self-publishing, take advantage of online tools to help you create a professional-looking website. Hire a professional photographer for a high-quality head shot.
Step 3. Grow your social media presence with a Facebook author page, LinkedIn author profile, or Instagram posts about your writing process and your self-publishing or traditional publishing process.
Step 4. Attend and hold events where you can meet your target audience face to face.
Step 5. Enlist the help of professionals along the way. This is an invaluable way to learn from seasoned children’s writers, make industry contacts, and ensure high quality text, illustrations, front cover, back cover, layout, and printing.
Step 6. Now write your book! Children of all ages will love it.
We offer several services to help your children’s book writing succeed. Find out more by visiting these pages on our website: