You've written a children's book. Great work! Now, have you thought about marketing your children's book? Do you wonder if this is even important, or how to do it?
One of the most important considerations you, as a children's book author (or book author in general), need to address along with the creative side of things is: Who is your target reader? Or, who is your target market?
As a book writer, we like to imagine that everyone will love our book. But this is unrealistic, nonstrategic and a quick way to experience the disappointment of sluggish sales.
Truth: We don't want to be all things to all people. We want to be the choice for specific, potential readers.
If we write a book without knowing exactly who we're writing for, we end up writing for our own enjoyment. This is fine and good unless you wish to make money from your book writing efforts.
The Benefits of Knowing Your Target Market
When I first began writing for children, I wrote for people like myself, a young mom wanting to instill into kids the permission and courage to embrace who they are and to feel loved by grown ups.
E-mails started landing in my mailbox saying things such as, “How did you know how I feel?” or “You helped me have the conversation I wanted to have with my child.” Bingo.
My story intention was being realized, and I knew I was connecting with my target reader.
As I continued to write for this reader (70+ books and counting), I found four things happened:
- I became known for writing this type of book
- People started to look to me for this type of book
- Retailers knew what to expect from me
- My brand solidified
In this article, I will address how to find your target market with four questions you can yourself to gain clarity on who your customer is and how to reach them.
Four Questions to Ask Yourself To Find Your Target Market
There are four questions are the basics of getting your book into the hands of your intended reader.
- Who am I writing for?
- Where are my readers?
- How do I connect with my target market?
- How do I grow my audience?
Question One: Who am I writing for?
When you're writing books for children, you might think kids are your target market. The answer depends, of course, on what kind of children's book you are writing and the age range you plan to target.
In my first article, we discussed the various categories of children's books:
- Board book (newborn – 3)
- Illustrated picture book (ages 2-8)
- Easy reader and chapter book (ages 6-12)
- Middle grade book (ages 8-12)
- Young adult book (span the younger and older adolescent years of 12-25, depending on content)
If you are writing for most of these categories, your target customer is going to be the parent (or grandparent or friend) of a younger child, so you will want to focus on writing a children's book that appeals to both the child and the caring grown up who is:
- Reading to the child
- Reading together with the child
- Overseeing the type of books their children are reading.
Often parents make decisions about a book because they want their child to experience the love, lesson, humor or knowledge conveyed through a particular book.
Given that my expertise is writing board books and illustrated picture books, I can offer what I've learned from my experience. If you're asking yourself what topics your target readers care about, I recommend revisiting my article on Where to Get Ideas for Your Children's Books.
Two additional considerations here:
- Secondary Market: While you likely can identify your primary market, e.g., parents of children age six and under, you can also think about who else is interacting with a young reader. For example, I would consider grandparents and early childhood educators to be secondary target markets.
- Issue-Specific Market: If you choose to write a children's book about a certain issue (for example, diabetes, being differently abled), then your target market is not only young children but also young children and families dealing with diabetes and/or specific physical challenges.
Take a minute and jot down your thoughts on the target market and any secondary or issue-specific markets for your book.
Question Two: Where are my readers?
Now that you have a sense of who you're writing for, you can ask yourself where to find your ideal readers.
Using my illustrated picture books as an example, I identify my target market as moms of children six and under who are drawn to sentimental messages.
An article in Publishers Weekly states that women purchase nearly seventy percent of kids' books, which is no surprise. Think about your target customer's busy life with young children.
This is how and where you'll find them. Imagine their likes and dislikes.
Think about what's important to them as parents. What problem are you solving for them through your books?
- I want to help create a loving bedtime experience.
- I want to help create a moment of silly connection in their busy day.
- I want to come alongside them as a teacher and encourager.
You want to meet them where they are with your book as a solution. Consider the store, groups, and communities that already connect with your target market. This will inform you, too, where you need to be.
Take a moment now and brainstorm where you might envision your target readers to be hanging out. Here's an example of what your list might look like.
- Bigger retail stores — Target, Walmart, Costco
- Smaller grocery stores — Kroger, Whole Foods
- Book stores, children's book stores
- Online bookstores
- Gift shops
- Pediatrician's Office
- Nearby Schools, Preschools and early childhood centers
- Social media (Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, Twitter)
- Online parenting communities
- In-person mom groups
- Industry conferences (education conferences, for example)
Question Three: How do I connect with my target market?
This question is where the heart of marketing begins. How do you put your book where it can be seen by your ideal buyer and ideal reader?
Using our list above, you can ask yourself, “How do I get my product (your children's book) in front of (and hopefully into the hands of) my target audience?”
The “how” is known as your “distribution channel,” which is dictionary-defined as: the paths that products and services take on their way from the manufacturer or service provider to the end consumer.
Sometimes these paths are long and complicated (when a book is distributed to Walmart or Costco stores nationwide) and sometimes the path is very simple when an author sets up a shelf of her books at the local coffee shop.
Where and how you distribute as an author largely depends on if you are traditionally published or self-published.
- A traditional publisher handles distribution efforts on behalf of an author. They often have an internal sales force calling on all types of retail accounts OR they have relationships with the intermediaries getting books into a retail customer like Target, Walmart or larger grocery store chains.
- A self-published author will need to spearhead their own book distribution and how far and wide you're able to sell your books will depend on the time, effort and resources you have to support your efforts.
In a future article, I will offer more in-depth ideas around marketing your children's book. For now, figure out how to define your target market. Consider ways to help you clarify who this is.
If you are confused as to who your target market is, you can ask yourself this one important question:
Who is interested in what I'm writing?
Depending on your story, your answer might be one of the following:
- Parents with kids who have separation anxiety
- Parents who wish to share a funny story about dreaming big dreams
- Grandmothers who wish to convey love to their grandchild
- Parents who are potty training
- Grandparents who live far away from their grandkids
- Parents who wish to teach their children Biblical stories
- Single-parent households who wish to teach that families come in all shapes and sizes
- A teacher who wants to teach his or her classroom about racial diversity
What is your answer to this question? Take a minute to write this down.
Question Four: How do I grow my audience?
For most children's book authors, novice and experienced authors alike, our time is divided between three things:
- Creating new ideas and books
- Marketing our books, and
- Growing the number of people who know about our books
This has kept me busy for twenty-five years!
I feel confident saying you'll never get to a point where everyone knows about you and your books. There is always more book marketing you can do to grow awareness.
14 Ways to Grow Your Audience
Here is a list of fourteen ways to start growing—and keep growing—an audience for your children's books.
- Create an author website and begin to grow an email list of fans and followers to whom you can do online marketing via a newsletter.
- Have a book launch party when you release a new title. Can be virtual or in person.
- Host parties for your books that speak to big ideas in your book.
- Create business cards that have pictures of all your book covers. Hand them out generously!
- Create a video book trailer for your new book. Share to YouTube and of course add it to your website. People are quick to share digital content.
- Create an author profile and page on any social media accounts you wish to use.
- Attend local events (farmer's markets, art fairs) and do book signings in your booth.
- Author visits/school visits and story time at bookstores where you'd do book readings and, of course, sell your books, too.
- Ask for book reviews from customers and offer to give reviews in return
- Connect with and share your books with book bloggers. You can research them on Instagram with hashtags such as #bookblooger, #bookbloggers, #bookbloggersofinstagram, #picturebookblogger
- Research parent bloggers and offer to do some guest blogging.
- Submit your books for book awards. This list from ReadingRockets.org is a great one to peruse to get a sense of how much acknowledgement might be awaiting your book!
- Use your current book cover to promote your previous books if you have multiple titles. Include photos of your book covers on the back or inside jacket.
- Get creative. For instance, stop into bookstores carrying your books to say hello and sign stock.
Success Begins with a Well-Defined Target Market
All good and effective marketing begins with a thorough understanding of your target market.
Once you're solid in that, you can open the floodgates of inspiration around marketing your books to your market.
People love to hear directly from the author about your inspiration and why you are passionate about what you do!
How do you market your children's book, or want to? Let us know in the comments.
Let's spend our practice time clarifying your target market.
In the practice box below, state the working title of your book or your book's concept (for example, a kids book about cultivating kindness and empathy). Then, name your target market, secondary market and issue-specific market, if applicable.
This is a real-life example for a Christmas book I have coming out later this year:
My children's book, Little Bird Finds Christmas, is a story about a little bird who goes looking for the true meaning of Christmas and finds it in her heart. The target market for my book is parents of young children, five and under, who wish to impart to their children a Christian message around Christmas.
When you’re done, I’d love to give you some feedback in the comments. Perhaps some other target markets will jump out at me.
After you share your idea, be sure to share feedback on other writers’ ideas, too!
I'm Marianne Richmond—writer, artist and inspirationalist. My words have touched millions over the past two decades through my children's books and gift products.
Basically I put love into words and help you connect with the people + moments that matter. You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter (@M_Richmond21).