Let's say you have a new picture book coming out. Should you concentrate on promoting your book to parents? Librarians? Three year olds? All of the above? You need different approaches for different audiences which multiplies the time and effort you spend. Since authors generally don't know who most influences purchasing decisions, and how those buyers go about making decisions, it's hard for them to figure out who best to target and how. I don't know to what extent publishers already know this information and just need to share it with us or to what extent it's a question in need of research, but I'd love to find out.
Connecting with Some Readers Can Make Others Disconnect
Being a real person to your readers can entice some to pick up your books or help them enjoy them in a deeper way. But whatever personal details you reveal to make that connection may also alienate other existing or potential readers - because no matter how benign or inoffensive you consider some trait or group membership or experience you've had, it will offend someone.
Even if you don't offend anyone, knowing details about the author can change how readers view her work. For example, a huge proportion of children's book writers are middle-aged white women (if you doubt this, try attending any kids' book conference); I know several writers who have gone to considerable lengths to disguise their identities because they fear that kids will be turned off if they learn that their favorite book was written by someone old or white or female. But so many of the social media platforms that publishers urge authors to use make it impossible to remain a shadowy background figure. And that can be a shame. Because sometimes the book should just be about the story and characters, and not about the person who created them.
Don't get me wrong. I always work hard to promote my books; I've put a lot into them and so have lots of other people. Our efforts would be wasted if we don't get the books in the hands of readers. And many of the promotional efforts I've undertaken, I'd do again even if they didn't help my sales because I feel like I'm giving back or paying it forward in some way through them. I genuinely enjoy meeting readers and making friends and just generally being a contributing member of the book community. But I'd like to channel my resources where they'll do the most good toward those ends so I'm also free to keep creating new books.
So what has worked for you? Are there other issues that frustrate you? Do you have ideas for improving interactions between writers and readers?
And if you're someone who buys kids' books, what's the tipping point for you in deciding what to get?