Monday, January 28, 2013

The Market Within

by Cat Woods

Last week while collaborating with a handful of publishers on a project, a question was posed.

Who will buy this book?

It wasn’t a figurative way of asking who will read it, but rather, who will literally—physically—buy the book and why?

You see, there are two types of audiences writers need to consider, particularly when penning juvenile literature: those who will lovingly read each and every page, and those who will put the pages into the hands of the intended readers.

As writers, we should keep both audiences in mind.

School boards, teachers and librarians have tremendous buying power. It’s no secret that books which can be tied to a school curriculum have been used in the classroom. That’s a potential audience of roughly 135,000 schools in the United States alone. Furthermore, decisions on which books to read in the classroom are made by approximately 7.2 million teachers.  In the US alone.

This is true whether a book is fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or contemporary. If educators can use a book to enhance a lesson, they are much more likely to purchase it for their classrooms.

What does this mean for writers?

  1. Know how your book will reach your audience. Will your book be purchased by parents, grandparents, teachers, friends or kids themselves? Knowing how your audience will be exposed to your writing can make a difference in its marketability. F-bombs and gratuitous scenes will not endear your work to the gatekeepers, effectively whittling away at your sales potential.
  2. Know the current education standards and curriculums. Things have changed in the twenty or forty years since we graduated from high school. Heck, even my little boys are learning far more advanced material than their older siblings did, and that’s only a seven year span. My fifth grader actually had to write an algebraic equation from a word problem. Write it, then solve it. Back in my day, we just had to solve them—and that was in the tenth grade. Knowing what goes on in the classroom will up your chances of selling a book to school staff.
  3. Know how to handle tough topics with care. Schools have always used literature to help shape the social and moral landscape of the children entrusted in their care. Now more than ever, kids are turning to books to help them through the myriad problems they face. When we can write tastefully, truthfully and sensitively about these topics, the opportunity of finding our work on classroom shelves grows.
  4. Lastly, write one heck of a good book. Because the finished product matters. If we preach, we lose. If we teach, we lose. If we bore, we lose—big time. Kids don’t read what they hate. Above all else, we must write a compelling story that will interest the estimated 77 million students of our intended audience.
Those are big numbers, my writer friends. How do you plan to use the audience within to your advantage? Does your writing have an educational tie-in that can put your work on school shelves, or is your book for juvenile readers only? More importantly, how can we satisfy both of our audiences? And when do we want to segregate them?

Curious minds want to know.

As a juvenile lit writer, Cat Woods has been known to pen educational tie-ins from time to time, allowing her to present in classrooms. Her short stories can be found in Spring Fevers and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, while her writing journey can be found on her blog Words from the Woods.


Sophie Perinot said...

Great point and one I've never thought of.

Cat Woods said...

Sadly, I think about this every day!

And the answer can greatly impact the way a book is written.

Jemi Fraser said...

So true! One of my favourite parts of teaching is exposing the kids (and hopefully their parents) to great books. I know I've had kids borrow books from my class library so their parents can read them too - sometimes in advance of the kids so they know what it's all about!

Cat Woods said...

And yet another reason why I think you are an amazing teacher!

Thank you for chiming in. I think it is important for juvenilie lit writers to realize that books have two markets, even as the audience is ultimately the same.

Royce A Ratterman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Royce A Ratterman said...

Great piece!

Yes, the electronic age is expanding wonderfully.
It must be great for educators to have Kindle readers in the classroom that are used year after year instead of needing to fight for funding, various approvals, etc. for books on one's lesson plan.
And most all 'Classics' are free to download. I wish this avenue of literary acquisition was around when I was young and am sure glad it is now!

Matt Sinclair said...

Yes, an excellent post, Cat. Very much on my mind now.

Cat Woods said...

Royce~ Thank you for your comment. I agree that technology has opened the reading/literature exposure to our current generations. In the past few months, I have found myself drawn to rereading the classics we were "forced" to read as teens--and liking them a whole heck of a lot more now than back then. However, I would never do this if I had to pay for them.

Matt~ glad I could make you think!