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"You Asked!" #36: Target Audience

brimfulcuriosities.com asked: So many books include praise from various kid lit experts and authors (all adults). While your book is in the ARC stage, do you also try to get a view point from your target audience and use that in your promotions?

2K9 authors answered:

Suzanne Morgan Williams: No, I didn’t try to get kids opinions for promotion of Bull Rider but I did use kid experts in writing my skateboard portions of the book. I sent those sections to four skater volunteers who read them for accuracy. And now that the book has come out and I have responses from readers, I sometimes share those as part of my presentations. I think the difficulty with using kids for blurbs is somehow “this is the best book ever – Bobby M. sixth grader” just sounds like, who is this and does he love everything? Of course the same can be asked about adult blurbers too, but generally they are from people whose names readers recognize and presumably trust. So give me a teen celebrity to blurb my book and we’d have something!

Lauren Bjorkman: Yes!! First off, I always hand over the second or third draft of my WIP to a teen reader to make sure I'm connecting with my audience. And when I got my first ARCs in the mail, I sent them to YA book bloggers. Many of these bloggers are teens. I love their reviews because they are honest, personal, and heartfelt. I posted many of them on my blog and website. Yay for bloggers and their passion for books!

Donna St. Cyr: I did not send ARC’s out to kids, but I did get plenty of kid feedback while writing. Mostly I had my son read my chapters and comment – he was pretty honest when he didn’t think something worked – and didn’t hesitate in telling me. I was very grateful for the honest criticism.

J.T. Dutton: I share drafts with my college-aged creative writing students. Most of them aren't teens anymore, but they are helpful. Maybe they only pretend to know when to laugh. Maybe they know the grade book is in my hands. In any case, it's been my tradition to make my last class a group reading and social event. I usually bring doughnuts.

I'd consider using their feedback as promotional material if I didn't think I had slightly coerced them (with the doughnuts).

S. Terrell French: I read drafts of Operation Redwood to my kids and had several kids read it, mostly just to see if they were absorbed enough to finish. But I didn't send ARCs to kids or use them for publicity. I have occasionally seen books with quotes from kids on the jacket -- "I love this book!" (Sarah W., age 10). It would be interesting to know if potential buyers find this compelling!

Joy Preble: I didn't actually plan to get feedback from my target audience when I was drafting Dreaming Anastasia, but it ended up that way. I had a wonderful group of girls in my lunch time class that year, all of whom loved to read YA. That year, we had an extra 30 minutes of "flex time" tacked onto that class. So one day without giving it too much thought beforehand, I shared the first chapter with those girl readers.To my pleasure and surprise, they wanted more. And so it was that these 5 girls read the entire first draft of what was still called Spark. Their enthusiasm - and their love of Ethan - truly did spur me on to keep querying agents. I've even thanked them in the acknowledgements. And many of them were there for my launch party. I think they look at Dreaming Anastasia as "their book." This makes me very happy!

Ellen Jensen Abbott: My publisher does send ARCs to various library groups to get some feedback from the target audience, and I did put a quotation from one of the readers on my book jacket. These responses have been really wonderful--often more meaningful than the "expert" critics. One of the tensions in writing for kids is that you are writing for *kids* but virually all of the reviewers are adults! The blogosphere has been great for getting kids' opinions on books written for them.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: My editor would send me what people were saying about the book from time to time, but she didn't include a quote on the back of the book from anyone who was in my target age of 9-12 years old.

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This is the last "You Asked!" of the year. I hope you've all enjoyed reading our thoughts on your many questions!