Thursday 6 March 2014

The Education Market and Chapter Books by George Ivanoff #ChaBooCha

The Education market is full of chapter books! It’s a great place for an author to gain experience, regular publication and maybe even earn a living.

The primary school education market is HUGE! Many books are published each year and marketed directly into schools. There is a considerable variety of books — graded school readers that kids take home to practice their reading; reference books; and fiction that ties in to the curriculum.

During 2013, I wrote a total of 14 education titles. There were three curriculum-based reference books of 3,000-5,000 words each; three non-fiction school readers of about 500-1,200 words each; six fictional readers of 250-900 words each; and two fictional chapter books that tied in to the curriculum, one at 2500 words, the other at 9,000 words.

What all these titles had in common, was that they were written to a brief. I did not initiate the creative process. I was told what to write. A lot of writers have a problem with this. They like the freedom to tell their own stories in the way they want — and that’s great. I like doing that too, which is why I write for the trade market as well (with books like my Gamers trilogy of novels, and the forthcoming You Choose series). But there are also many great things about the education market.

There’s the money, which is important if you’re trying to make a living out of your writing. Education titles tend to pay a once-off upfront fee rather than royalties.

Education titles are mostly contracted, so you know that what you are writing will be published and you will be paid. (Having said that, there have been a couple of instances where a publisher has cancelled a series. Although those books have not been published, I was paid for them.)

There is the knowledge that you are helping to educate kids and foster literacy. As someone who began school life as a reluctant reader, this is very close to my heart.

But the big thing for me is the challenge. I love the challenge of writing a book that fulfils the varied educational needs of the brief, but is still something that kids will want to read.

The specificity of the briefs can vary quite a bit. The brief for one of the chapter books specified that it had to be a story set in an alien zoo, so I wrote Escape From the Alien Zoo, about a shape-changing animal that breaks out and causes havoc as the staff try to recapture it.

A brief for a set of readers wanted five separate stories with the same central character or characters, and a fairytale theme. This was my favourite contract of 2014. I had a lot of fun devising the Fairytale Fixits scenario. In each of the five books, two kids are transported into a famous fairytale where something has gone wrong. It is up to them to fix the situation so the story can be finished.

Sometimes, there is more to a brief than just the basic setting. One of the more challenging projects I had in 2013 was a fictional chapter book that needed to tie in with the Australian Geography curriculum at Grade 3 level.

The specific topic was “protecting places”, with the following description: “The similarities and differences in individual’s and group’s feelings and perceptions about places, and how they influence views about the protection of these places”. Furthermore that story had to include information on the importance of protecting places of significance. It also had to include some cross-curriculum priorities such as indigenous Australian history and culture.

It needed to be 2,000-2,400 words long, with approximately 100 words per page. Yes, I had to submit the story broken up into its 23 pages, with a new paragraph beginning each page.

The language and sentence structure had to be appropriate for Grade 3 level. And it had to fall within that level on the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level test (For an explanation of the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level, see

The end result was Lost at Lake Mungo, a story about a school excursion to Lake Mungo, an area of both environmental and cultural importance, where two of the kids get separated from their group. Over the course of their adventure, these two boys come to realise the importance of the area and why it needs to be protected.

If this is the sort of writing that appeals to you, then the education market is a great place to work. I do most of my education writing for Pearson Australia and Macmillan Education, but there are other publishers out there as well. Do a Google search and check out the publishers’ websites to see what their criteria are for writers.

Now… get writing!

George Ivanoff is a Melbourne author and stay-at-home dad. He’s written over 70 books for kids and teens, won a couple of awards that no one’s ever heard of, and managed to get some books onto the Vic and NSW Premiers’ Reading Challenge booklists. He is best known for his Gamers books, a trilogy of novels set in a computer game world. His new interactive series of books, You Choose, will hit the shelves in May 2014. Check out his website:

George has many children books available, and I have chosen one from his popular Gamer's trilogy, "Gamer's Quest" for one lucky person to win. Comment on this post by March 13th (noon GMT), to be entered into the drawing for a paperback copy of George Ivanoff's "Gamer's Quest." Winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 13th at noon GMT. You must be signed up for the challenge to qualify. 


  1. I think I would struggle with the structure... Although I listen to these books all the time as my girls are reading them. Interesting post thanks.

  2. I would love to break into the education market, but what chance does a new writer have of gaining a contract. I have no idea where to start. Some information on that, with this post, would have been helpful and welcome.

  3. I love reading chapter books with my kids. And the fairytale-based books are right up our alley. Thanks.

  4. Wow, this post is full of info. Love it. I know someone who is thinking about chapter books versus novels. I tell her about this. Thank you, George. *rubs hands together*

  5. What sort of deadlines do you face when you are writing a chapter book for an educational market? How long are you given to write one?

  6. Great post! I would love to look further into this market!

  7. While writing to their prompts has some drawbacks, you also don't have to worry about writer's block. LOL

  8. Thank you for an interesting post! When I went back to college at 44, I went with the idea of writing textbooks but got sidetracked by retelling fairytales and then writing chapter books and middle grade novels. To be honest, I think I would have trouble being so structured

  9. re: Structure
    Honestly, although it's a shock to the system the first time, you get used to it.

    Sue, re: breaking in
    I broke into the education market by accident. It was a case of meeting the right person at the right time. In your shoes, what I'd be doing is choosing a publisher to pitch to... read some of their recent releases; write a sample reader; and send it to them as an example of your writing with a request to be considered next time they are commissioning.

    lindaschueler, re: deadlines
    Deadlines vary considerably. I had about two months for each of my recent reference books. With the Fairytale Fixits, I had about a week to come up with the concept and pitch which Fairytales I would use. Then, once I got approval, a bit over a week to write the first 3 and then a week to do the second 2. The "Lost At Lake Mungo" book was commissioned as an emergency replacement for an author who had dropped out — that was turned over in 8 days (But I had visited Lake Mungo a fews months before, so there was minimal research to do).

    1. Wow, George, this was such a fantastic post. I have been considering this market too and have just sent my resume to MacMillan and Pearson Australia, ( I am also a Melbournian) Loved hearing how quickly each brief and manuscript had to be written too. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Julie Anne Grasso

  10. Thanks for sharing :) As you may remember George I'm interested in writing educational books for children one day :) I have some ideas so hopefully I can find some leads later :)

    And I have this bookmarked :D

  11. It sounds as though readers have come a long way in the last few years... my kids went on strike in Grade One as the readers were boring and they were having a better time reading other books at home.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, writing for an educational market is one of the things on my wish ist too :)

  12. I don't know how I missed this post earlier! Great info and it's always neat to read another author's story. I'm not yet ready to write books this short. It must be incredibly difficult. It's great there are stories like this out there to challenge kids.

  13. Thanks for this information! I never knew how educational books were chosen. It sounds interesting, it's almost like they give you a writing prompt. Some of those deadlines you list are very tight, so that would be a concern. However, I've never written this type/length of story before, so perhaps since it's shorter the timing is less intimidating.

  14. a market I had not considered. I don't mind writing to a brief, I shall go explore thanks George.

  15. Thank you for your insight. I write chapter books but would love to break into the Education Market!