If you make this claim for your book, you set up two virtually simultaneous reactions in the agent or publisher:
- Of feckity feck, here comes another one.
- Where's my delete button?
You should pitch a children's book as aimed at a specific age range spanning no more than three years (eg 9-11), although you can say "pre-school" or "teenage" or "young adult" if that's what you're writing.
Note this: if we say our book is aimed at children of 9-11, we are not saying that a child of eight or a teenager of 13 or a grandparent of 65 wouldn't enjoy or appreciate it. We are simply trying to say something relevant and focused about our core reader and something about what sort of book this is and what, most importantly, it is not. A book aimed at an eight-year-old is a very different kettle of fish from one aimed at a fourteen-year-old, or even an eleven-year-old, and you need to have a strong sense of what works and what doesn't, what is allowed and what is not, before you can confidently write for them.
So, whoever might happen to enjoy them, children's books do need to be aimed at a particular age group and the expert children's writer knows how to make correct judgements about content, theme, vocabulary and style. In exceptional circumstances, a book is genuinely worth marketing at a wider age group than the "7-9", "8-10", "teenage" etc groups, but this is really not for you to judge, and not at this stage. So, if you harbour a feeling that your book is going to be one of those Coraline-type stories that a publisher decides transcends all age limitations, keep this ambition to yourself. Pitch your book at the age for which it is most "suitable". And if you don't know, then you don't know your market, your genre, the sort of book your book is.
And that's bad.
Next Monday, I will be blogging about the dreaded claim that your novel is a cross-over... *makes sign of cross*