Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Sells in the World of Children's Publishing?

That's an easy one — the books that kids actually read.

CNN.com has an article today called "Kids Are the Experts in Reviewing Children's Books." It reminds us that even children's-lit heavyweights have faced rejection, and that publishers can't always predict what will sell. And trust me, what will sell to a publisher's target market (and every publisher has one; that's just good business) is much higher on the agenda than what's special or unique or "good."

From my acquisitions and reviewing experience, I know firsthand that what I think is good differs from what others think is good. Good is so subjective. And as an author, I know that one publisher can hate an idea while another loves it; or an agent can think a book is so-so even as it becomes a steady seller and garners more reader fan mail than anything else I've done.

In the final analysis, it always comes down to the books children read. Not just what parents, teachers, and librarians buy for them because they like a book or think it's appropriate — but what keeps a child's interest, awakens her imagination, speaks to her real-life experience, gets her talking about reading (and sneaking extra chapters after bedtime), and inspires her to recommend that book and seek others. Kids know what they like to read. And those books become the biggest sellers, the classics. Fad and celebrity-penned books may open with strong sales, but they won't go the distance if lots of children aren't really, really reading them.

The point to this post? Oh, I don't know. How about, "Enjoy seeing real children reviewing books, courtesy of the CNN.com article."

And consider my advice —
  1. Take rejection, reviews (good and bad), and shiny bookstore displays with a salt lick.
  2. Continually work on developing ideas and techniques that will help you speak to your intended audience.
  3. And — by all means — take a page from Theodore Geisel's career (that's Dr. Seuss to you, buddy) and keep traveling your own best writing path. In other words, write what feels right to you, do the best work you can, seek out publishers who produce the types of stories you're really, really writing (hmmm, think there's a connection to what kids are really, really reading?), and hope that after 27 rejections your work will make it into the hands of generations of delighted youngsters who will never get enough of your timeless books.

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