How to sell picture books for people of all ages

The picture book is first and foremost a format. And one with immense potential for communicating ideas and narrative. Many picture books are created specifically with a child audience in mind because the format lends itself to that. This often leads to the assumption that picture books are only for children. But some picture books explore the possibilities of the format with no specific audience in mind. 

So, where in a bookshop does one stock picture books that were created with no specific audience in mind? Or that might have a larger adult audience? If it is stocked solely in the children’s section, adults who never go to that section won’t see it – even though it could really appeal to them.

To address this question, Dymocks Eastland, a large bookshop in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, reports stocking copies of Unforgotten in Gift Books, Self Help and Australian Literature – sections that they say have also worked for Shaun Tan’s books. Unforgotten has reportedly been doing well in these sections, with the most success so far coming from being stocked in the Australian Literature section. A result that may or may not come as a surprise.

What this considered approach to bookselling illustrates, however, is that picture books for people of all ages can find their natural audience if there is some flexibility and experimentation in the way these books are stocked in a shop.

Tohby Riddle signing copies of Unforgotten at Readings, Carlton in Melbourne (23 November 2012)

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