I once read that children books should also be designed to target parents since they are the ones buying the books. I would think that there is some truth to that since parents probably look at content and often times decide for their kids. Do you have any words of wisdom on this?Yes, that's absolutely something we consider in publishing, especially in picture books.
Picture books are most often bought by the adult for a child. Once you get into books with chapters, it's a more even mix of kids shopping with adults who pay vs adult shoppers alone. But yes, even then, the adult holds the purse strings and may refuse to buy something they disapprove of.
Is it possible to write a bestselling book that by far appeals mostly to adults and leaves children cold (or even creeped out)? Yes. Favorite examples include Love You Forever and The Giving Tree. You may have noticed that many people who are serious about children's books abhor and detest those books for their wildly dysfunctional relationships, but lots of adults get all mushy over them. So the authors (and their estates) can feel in need of therapy all the way to the bank.
Is it possible to write a bestselling book that by far appeals mostly to children and which outrages and disgusts adults? Yes. Favorite examples include Captain Underpants and Junie B Jones. You may have met upright people who abhor and detest these books for their bathroom humor and bad grammar, but lots of children will read them because they're funny. So the authors can feel juvenile all the way to the bank.
But here's what we're mostly shooting for: books that serve children-- their needs, their tastes-- and that will get by the gatekeepers with a minimum of fuss.
A certain amount of sympathy for parents is not out of place-- it's a tough job raising kids; a heroic job. That doesn't make laziness acceptable, and I'm one of many who think that if you know how to discipline your children, no amount of undisciplined-character exposure can undo the training your children get at home. But it does make tiredness acceptable, so I'm sympathetic to parents' preference for shorter bedtime reads.
A huge amount of sympathy for children is always appropriate. Being a child is a tough job; a heroic job. One of the things we fight in slush all the time is people who want to write for children and really don't know much about children at all. (Why do they do this? I would never decide to write for wombats. It perplexes me.)
In terms of audience, my recommendation: Children first, always. Adults advisedly.