The secret to my future success as an author is clear. Pink. It’s the color pink.
How can I be so sure? I saw the magic of pink during a reading at last week’s Boston Books Festival. Draped in pink feather boas, the author and illustrator of the popular children’s book series, Fancy Nancy, drew adoring young fans to their reading. The series revolves around a little girl who loves tiaras, princess garb, and of course, everything pink. Several of the book series fans showed up wearing pink.
I prefer blue. And I confess, I had never heard of Fancy Nancy books. I was at the reading as a volunteer usher. I was dressed in orange – the color of the official festival volunteer T-shirt. I was at that particular reading by happenstance and could not be more thankful for the assignment. Author Jane O’Connor and illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser taught valuable lessons about how to attract and keep readers.
What did I learn from the Fancy Nancy duo?
- Lesson 1: Wear pink.
- Lesson 2: Give away pink – and purple – trinkets. Attendees at the reading received a pink pencil with a pink feather; a pink and purple coin purse; and a journal with pink lettering.
- Lesson 3: Stamp your brand on giveaways.
- Lesson 4: Have a wonderful stage presence. O’Connor, with her warm, energetic reading voice and theatrical tone, would have even kept my 2 ½ year-old son enthralled as she recounted Nancy’s attempt to find a birthday gift for her little sister. Glasser, who held up a super-sized version of the latest Fancy Nancy book, was an enchanting sidekick.
- Lesson 5: Bring bananas. The author and illustrator invited children on stage and showed them how to walk with bananas poised on their heads. Even one Dad tried to balance a banana on his head.
- Lesson 6: Don’t be a prima donna at the autograph table. Give each of your fans ample time. The illustrator drew hearts on the girls’ and occasional boys’ hands and played peek-a-boo with one fan. The author chatted away with one tiny fan after another.
- Lesson 7: Nudge the audience to sit as close to the front as possible, then urge the fans under the age of 10 to sit on the floor for story time.
- Lesson 8: Love what you do. The duo’s passion showed.
Yes, loyal blog fans, I diverge from my usual subject matter this week. But my blog title does include the word “writer” in it. Today’s post is a riff about writing or rather the business of writing.
That said, it may be difficult to apply lessons learned from the Fancy Nancy duo to my yet-to-be-published memoir about journeying through grief and getting closer to my Jewish faith. My tentative title is TWO TREES FOR KEVIN, A WOMAN’S JOURNEY FROM GRIEF TO FAITH. Trees? Maybe I could give away seedlings at readings. My readers, though, will not be young children. This is an adult nonfiction book. I doubt giveaways would have a huge effect. What I can hope for: People leave a reading with something intangible – perhaps the hope that they too can find a path to healing after tragedy. Or maybe they leave with something simpler – the feeling that they enjoyed the experience, that they got a taste of a book that will be a terrific read.
The Fancy Nancy pair sends an important reminder to authors who sometimes work in a vacuum. We are writing not just for ourselves but for an target audience. The Fancy Nancy audience is primarily little girls, many of whom love tiaras and the color pink. The author and the illustrator are savvy. They know what their readers like. They are a commercial enterprise, a term that often makes literary writers cringe. And yet, I saw something genuine in this pair – their smiles, their energy, and their laughter.