Don’t you find it annoying when you see a dress you love in a shop, pick it up and see, with horror, the size ‘One Size fits all’ label? I’ve never understood this. People are completely different shapes and sizes – how does someone go about making clothes for all, AND, most importantly WHY would you want to?
It got me thinking about my job, and books, and publishing. Sometimes, very occasionally you get those books that EVERYONE reads. Those ‘one size fits all’ books. They are the books that publishers dream of (and in many cases, books that explode the book buying market and create mutual reading experiences). Everyone has had that experience of sitting on a train looking around and seeing at least five other people in their carriage reading (*delete as applicable) HARRY POTTER / DAN BROWN / TWILIGHT / HUNGER GAMES / FIFTY SHADES OF GREY at some point in their life.
But, most of the time, with most of those books, they wouldn’t have started their life as ‘one size fits all’ books, I can assure you.
From a sales and marketing point of view when we’re thinking about how we should reach as many people as possible, we have to think of the most likely reader of whatever book we are trying to sell and start there. As much as we’d like to write the word EVERYONE for every book we publish, the reason we don’t is that every book resonates with a particular audience to begin with, and then the hope is those people get obsessed, and start telling all their friends and family and everyone they know that they HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. You hope to start with small niches, and grow to bigger ones. You must remember the famous stat that the first print run of Harry Potter in HB was only 500 copies? That book is often referred to as a ‘playground success’ book (ha, and what a success…)
So from our point of view, and working in children’s/young adult publishing means we have to think about our readers at all times. And some are very different from each other, and like totally different bands, and TV shows, and magazines than their friend down the road. And different from us in this office too. It might be that in some publishers you happen to sit alongside the perfect reader for a military history novel set in the First World War, and are able to quiz them about what would make them buy it. But for us, it’s mostly unlikely that any of us sit next to a 13 year old who likes computer games (to quiz them about INSIGNIA), or a 10 year old who’d like to shrink things (yes, that’s right SHRUNK).
So we have to think differently about what reaching our readers. We have to get out there and talk to them as much as possible, in real life and online (starting with places like this). We also have to occasionally immerse ourselves in things they might like, and take a trip to a newsagents and buy lots of copies of sparkly pink magazines, or magazines with gunge on the front. Even if you’re not someone who likes gunge, or sparkly pink things, you have to try to remove yourself from the thought process and think, but perhaps reader of said magazine/website/comic WILL like this book.
[AN ASIDE: okay, so you’re imagining strange days where grown adults all sit around watching cartoons, reading comics and making things aren’t you? Hmm…maybe that should be a regular Friday in the office?]
But anyway, what I’m saying is we all like different books. Just like we are different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, there are those books that do transcend everyone’s likes and dislikes and become books that everyone reads (like that one lucky moment when that dress…fits!), but a lot of the time we need to think of the best way to get to the best people for the best books.
This month we have the launch of two WONDERFUL but extremely DIFFERENT books on our list:
…about tiny sheep, and tiny squirrels and angry tiny bullies…AND…
…about a boy, who is different, trying to battle against an oppressive regime and his fight for survival…
We’re definitely not expecting the same readers to pick up these books – just like on our website book sorters they are opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of content. But what we often think and say about our list is there is something for EVERYONE on it, because everyone likes different things, right?