While we wait to see who will win the Picture Book Cover Letter Contest, I feel that we can go ahead and move into the marketing portion of the book proposal. From here on out the rest of your book proposal is dedicated not to your actual writing itself, but how to ensure that others are made aware that your written word is out there to be read.
The first thing to consider (so not coincidentally it falls first in a book proposal) is the potential markets for your book.  Obviously the primary market for your book is whatever age range you wrote it for.  But there are lots of secondary markets for children’s books.  The other more obvious ones are:

  • The Adults in the kid’s life (guardians/parents/grandparents)
  • The Educators in the kid’s life (teachers & librarians)
  • Siblings just a little bit above or below the primary market

In fact some of these secondary markets are so important that they are actually primary markets themselves.  After all, a Newbery winner is marketed more towards the librarians than the actual kids that might someday read it.

And then there are the other secondary markets that may take some brainstorming to come up with.  These markets tend to be either seasonal or extremely niche, but they are still very important.  Some examples of markets like these are:

  • The Graduation market — Many year-round inspirational picture books experience an uptick in sales around graduation – the most obvious being Oh, The Places You’ll Go – when people buy this picture book not for the 5-6 year old it is normally intended for but for high school and college graduates.
  • Expectant mothers — Many people buy these women picture books for their future babies, but there are also several picture books that appeal more to these women than they ever will to their children.  Books that fall into this category would be things like Munsch’s Love You Forever.

So, how do you figure out what secondary markets your book might appeal to?
The easiest way is to find books that are similar to yours and see which markets that publisher is targeting.  Now, before you say your book is completely unique and there is no comparable book on the market, think again.  The particular idea you are using for your book may be unique, but most likely you are writing in an existing genre (even if that genre is Pop-up books or non-fiction guide to fictional creatures).  Find books in that genre that are most similar to yours.  Also, you’ll want to find examples that are not the absolute bestsellers.  I may have written a series about a bunch of kids at wizard school, but I’m going to compare it to the Charlie Bones series not Harry Potter.  After all, statistically speaking, my book is unlikely to become the cultural phenomenon Harry Potter is, and most likely the publisher will have a marketing budget for my book more comparable to Charlie Bones series rather than Harry Potter book 7.
Once you’ve determined your comparable books, see where they are marketed.  Periodically look for them in a bookstore and see where they are displayed.  Do they pop up on Mother’s Day displays? Then perhaps a good secondary market would be Moms.   Also, look online and see what markets the publisher is trying to reach. A Google search (once you’ve gotten scrolled past all the blog reviews) will get you that.
Finally, after you’ve determined your primary and secondary markets.  You type them up into a pretty little list with the name of each of your markets and the reason why you think your book would appeal to it.  Here’s an example for the Book of Nonsense:

  • Primary Markets:
    • Children ages 9-12 — Both of the main characters turn 13 in this book, making them an age children in this range can identify with.
    • >Fantasy readers — Fantasy is still the top selling children’s genre. Kids and parents are often looking for a new series to read. So, far there are four books planned for this series. 
  • Secondary Markets
    • Reluctant readers — One of the main characters has Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome which makes it almost impossible to read. He’s a character reluctant reader can identify with.
    • Parents — The twins do not get along at first, but eventually they learn to work together. Kids can identify with the sibling rivalry, and parents appreciate the children learning to cooperate.
    • Jewish readers — All of the books in this series are heavily grounded in Judeo/Christian mythology.
    • Teachers/Librarians — There are many different areas of discussion that this book could be used as a starting point.  They include bullying and various ethical dilemmas.
© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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