When you think of a children’s writer, trade books often come to mind. These royalty-generating books come with an advance and are published by traditional houses. Working with a big publisher is a terrific way to become an author, but there’s a counterpart to trade writing that fills libraries and schools with books alongside the better known trade books.
The educational market is a curriculum-driven sort of writing, open to new ideas and series. It allows writers to explore specific topics and write many books and covers both fiction and nonfiction.
The pros and cons in educational market writing may be the same things. Educational writing is mostly work-for-hire, which means you’ll get a flat fee with the publisher retaining all rights. The money comes fast, but there’s no income from royalties and no large advance.
Quick turnaround times mean the writing must be done right away. No time for writer’s block here! As a freelancer, you don’t control your schedule and can’t plan when you’ll be working.
This market is a great training ground, too. Word counts and writing to a specific reading level teach you how to write tight and choose the best words to convey information. It allows you to hone your research and writing skills, and often leads to better organization in your writing.
The books are useful for a school visit platform, and open the doors to school visits with their additional income, too.
So how do you get started in this market?
Look up the publishers and read their guidelines. Study the books they publish and their style and choose one that produces books you like.
Book packagers (they produce books for publishers) and educational publishers work with freelance writers, and they need to see that you can write. That means they want to see a cover letter expressing your interest in their company, a resume that includes writing credits, and writing samples.
Writing samples don’t have to be from a published work. Choose a topic and research it if it’s nonfiction. Then write a page or so on the topic or write a fiction sample that shows the range of your writing. Make sure it aligns with the Core Curriculum or state or national standards for that genre. Write the sample at a couple of different grade levels to show your ability to write to a specific reading level. If you send nonfiction, include your bibliography to show your research.
As with any kind of writing, staying with it is part of the way to success. With perseverance, you’ll be able to get involved with this kind of writing. There’s a satisfaction that comes from seeing your name on a book kids will be reading.
These resources to help you get started:
- Writing for the Educational Market
- Anastasia Suen’s Online Workshops
- American Book Producers Association (What packagers do?)
- ABPA Member Directory
- Book Packagers: Unexplored Terrain for Freelancers from Harold Underdown