Guest Post: Marketing Classic Children’s Books

22 Oct

In my quest to conquer reading all the Top 100 Children’s Books in one year, I have started to consider the issues and concerns surrounding said books.  As I read classics such as Caddie Woodlawn and The Little House books, knowing that most children these days haven’t even heard of them, I am pained knowing these books are not getting into the hands of the kids that need them.  It is for this reason that I have invited Adi Alsaid to The Literary Wife today, to give his thoughts on marketing these classics.  Adi is an up-and-coming independent author with a degree in Marketing from UNLV.   Enjoy!

The term “children’s classics” is relative to what you were exposed to as a child, how long it’s been since those days when you chose your first favorite book, first favorite TV show. As soon as I hear the term I’m instantly harkened back to mornings spent watching Rugrats and Rocko’s Modern Life and reading Goosebumps to get extra credit points in my first grade class. But of course, these don’t quite qualify as classic children’s literature (or even literature, for that matter…).

I’ve been graciously invited by Amber here at The Literary Wife to explore the topic of classic children’s literature and to try to come up with a few ideas on how to get today’s youth to read classic titles like Charlotte’s Web and The Secret Garden.

The easy way, of course, is to force them. Children tend to do what adults tell them to, especially if you threaten them with poor grades and public embarrassment if they don’t complete their reading assignment. Obviously that’s not the ideal situation, since sucking the joy out of reading is not the goal here, so we’ll shelve the option for now.

I won’t spend too much time introducing myself (you can visit my site to get to know me a little better), but for the purposes of this post, you should know that I’m a soon-to-be-published literary fiction author and I hold a Business Marketing bachelor’s degree. I’m going to try to use my writer-ly creativity and educational training to come up with a few ideas that may either just amuse you  or hopefully actually get more kids to read some of the classic book titles that children have been reading for several generations.

Movie adaptations are one of the most oft-employed ways that classics become relevant to a new generation. They are a way to generate interest and at the very least create awareness of books written long ago that kids today can enjoy. However, movies can be a part of the problem by fulfilling the need for entertainment and substituting for books instead of leading to them, especially if parents don’t actively encourage reading.

So, how do you market books that were written eons ago (as far as today’s children are concerned) to a young audience with decreasing attention spans and increasing interest in technology? One option is to modernize the classics to make them more relatable, as seen in the recent phenomenon of literary mash ups (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and such).  I’m not against the idea. It’s kind of like a song cover; it usually pales in comparison to the original, sometimes destroys the feeling and mood of what the artist had in mind when creating the work. However, every now and then a new version can be unexpectedly refreshing (think Joe Cocker singing With A Little Help From My Friends).

I’m not sure how I would feel as an author if in a hundred years, someone re-writes my book to include the very amusing social fascination on goldfish, or whatever may be equally as trendy in a hundred years as zombies are now. But at least a reinvention could bring a new audience; one which might discover that if an amusing mash up is interesting, maybe the original is worth a shot as well.

One more option is to try to incentivize parents to purchase classic children’s books. How? For those that already encourage some kind of reading, classics can be packaged with new releases. How about including a coupon for X-amount off of a copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda with each copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

From my time volunteering with children, I know that they’re all about interactive games online. So maybe there can be games that follow along with a book, but to reach the next level, kids have to answer a few questions about the accompanying chapter.

When I was a kid, a lot of my reading happened during breakfast, staring at the back of cereal boxes. How about publishers partnering with Kellog’s and putting a bunch of interesting book covers and coupons for children’s classics on the back of popular, sugary cereal?

So, there you go, Literary Wife readers and children’s books fans. Take your pick: marketing partnerships with companies and current bestsellers, literary mash-ups, selling out to Hollywood or adult intimidation.


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