Thanks for everyone’s answers last week to my question about reviewer etiquette! I really appreciate your input:>)
I was talking recently with Kate Hosford (terrific author of Infinity and Me, Big Bouffant, and Big Birthday) about book readings/signings. And all the ways they can go horribly wrong. Lack of an audience is one way (check out Tara Lazar’s lovely post about that here), but sometimes you have an audience–it’s just the wrong audience!
The most common one for me is that your book is for, say, 5-8-year-olds, but your audience ends up being four 2-year-olds, a 14-month-old who keeps toddling up to you and grabbing the book, and one 13-year-old big sister who’s longingly eying the Twilight books. Oi. I have been in this situation many times. If your picture book is not for the youngest listeners of 2-3-year-olds, you have been here, too.
So, what do you do?
Kate says, “Picture book events requires a certain Zen-like attitude. Authors? cannot control the size or age of their audience, and every event? brings its own joys and challenges.”
Kate is so tactful. And so right!?She described being?in the above situation recently:?”The children listened? to the story, and while we were not able to discuss the concept of the? book, they were still interested in the pictures. I decided that I? would have them find the birds on each page, which kept them? entertained. I did not do the drawing and writing activity that I had planned, but? decided to have a? book discussion with the parents instead. After? all, they are the ones who buy the books.”
That’s what I’ve ended up doing several times, too. With Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, I’ve had toddlers just do animal motions and sound effects while I read the most accessible poems. With BookSpeak, I’ve read the simplest poem or two while having a bigger discussion about books. “What do you like about them? Do you see a book cover you really like? What do you see in this picture?”
Kate says, “I made great contacts at the book store and met parents who bought the? book for their children to read when they are older. In these? situations, the most important thing for an author is to be able to? think on her toes and modify a plan quickly if need be.?In the end,?if there is goodwill on the part of the event organizer and the? author, the event will be a success no matter what age the children are.”
That’s great advice. I think the key things to remember are:
1. Be prepared for a younger audience, no matter WHAT age the organizer tells you will be there! Imagine the worst. What if the audience is totally inappropriate for the content of my book. What else can I offer the people who show up?
2. Keep smiling.
3. Try to connect with the people who do show up, even if they’re not your intended audience.
4. Always be gracious to the event organizer. She is probably as disappointed as you are.
It’s only a matter of time before this happens to you, so be smarter than me and think about it BEFORE that first event! :>)