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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch-Kincaid).
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: georgeivanoff.com.au
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.