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What are the rules for leveled readers?

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I've been asked to prepare a sample leveled reader for a well know publisher. The thing is I have no clue where to start. Or even what questions I should ask to get the information I need to make a good sample to be added to their stable of authors to supply readers.

Is there anyone here who creates leveled readers from scratch? Is there a vocabulary list of words appropriate for each level? Do you have a preferred method of working? How do you decide on the theme or focus of the story and then tell it within the very limited work count that leveled readers require.

In your experience, what would be your advice on creating a good leveled reader? Do you have any favorite links to web sites that go beyond the basics or are just selling leveled readers and go into more depth on what goes into their creation?

Nothing is too basic at this point since I don't know what I don't know. LOL  :dragonchase
#1 - April 13, 2017, 06:15 AM
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I took a workshop on this a few years ago from a HarperCollins editor.  Basically every publisher has different requirements, so your best bet would be to study some books from the publisher you are hoping to work with.

I hope someone will chime in with more detailed information but I wanted to at least give you that much.

Anne Marie
#2 - April 13, 2017, 06:27 AM
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
VAMPIRINA AT THE BEACH (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
PIGLOO (Henry Holt, 2016)
among others

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My experience is similar to AnneMarie's. I took a workshop from an editor at Penguin who handled their leveled readers. They had very specific guidelines for each level (they were using guided reading levels) -- number of sentences and number of words on the page, for example, as well as what punctuation could be used.

As AnneMarie suggested, your best bet is to study a few of the publisher's books carefully for the level you would like to write. Look at how many sentences are on each page, the types of words used, and the types of sentence structure/punctuation. Also look at how the illustrations and texts interplay. Then write your sample accordingly.

Good luck!

Kirsten
#3 - April 13, 2017, 08:02 AM
Kirsten W. Larson

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Wendy, I've written a lot of leveled readers and as AM and K point out, the specifications vary from publisher to publisher. My favorite book for this is Alijandra Moligner's Word Book. It's an excellent overview with examples but the best part is the dictionary where you can quickly find synonyms and she lists the grade level. Another useful tool is the Lexile. You can make a free account online and analyze your text.

How I work: Sometimes the publisher gives me the topic and sometimes I have an idea. But the first thing I do is write the story. After that I revise and edit with the specifications in mind. It's fun, a little bit like working on a puzzle. I've been writing these for several years now so a lot of it is going by the gut but when I was starting out, I read a lot of leveled readers from different publishers.

It's a busy time so I can't write much but feel free to PM me. And good luck! Vijaya
#4 - April 13, 2017, 08:37 AM
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Find out all you can about the level you're writing for and ask the publisher if they have topics in mind. Read book on the level from that publisher. If there are sentence and word count limits, etc, I find it better to know them up front.

Unlike V, I write to them in the first draft. This doesn't mean I never go over. Some publishers are stricter than others on this. Reading their books will give you an idea if it's okay to have one or two extra words in a sentence once or twice in the book. Of course, my first drafts will still need revision for story. Story comes first. A book without a good story won't be read again, if at all.  I've also found that a twist or payoff at the end is very important. With so few words, most of the story is set up. The end needs to count and be fun because story is everything.

Ask the publisher about word counts, vocab lists, and sentence counts. If they don't have a list of topics they're interested in, think about common experiences and how you can twist them up. Also, consider the curriculum for the age reader you're writing for and try not to duplicate what the publisher already has.

I hope this helps. Good luck.
#5 - April 16, 2017, 08:52 PM

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Spent an hour in the local library hunting through their leveled readers. Got about a dozen for this pub. Sadly, most titles the library had were older. The newest one was from 2013. I have guidelines to word and sentence count for each level but nothing more. Seems the best readers are character driven. The others are all licensed characters, which I don't think I should attempt as a sample. Thanks all.
#6 - April 17, 2017, 06:25 AM
http://patreon.com/wendymartin
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The Story Circle 2016
Color and Conjure 2017 (Llewellyn)

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Wendy, I am heading into my first work-for-hire project (for a non-fiction PB) and doing a ton of research too. My library has limited titles in their collection from my publisher, so I search their web catalog and request books from other libraries. I can search by just publisher and also narrow the search range to the past five years. Just about everyday I have a new stack of books to pick up!
#7 - April 17, 2017, 04:02 PM
Lisa Katzenberger
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Wendy, Sometimes you can "look inside" on Amazon to look inside books or get a peek inside at the publisher's site. This should give you an idea for newer titles. I occasionally order used copies off of Amazon as well. Sometimes you can get them for 1 cent with 3.99 shipping. It's a deductible expense if you are doing business taxes.
#8 - April 18, 2017, 09:35 AM
Kirsten W. Larson

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It depends on the publisher. I have an early reader coming out with Step-Into-Reading from Random House. They had a specific guidelines document. Certain number of words per line, etc. Other than that, I tried to think of it as a rebus I might write for Highlights. I just tried to use easy words and consider how the illustrations might help interpretation.

I have also done freelance for a publisher/software company that wanted a list of specific words incorporated with a specific theme. Totally different.

So basically, just ask for their guidelines and ask if they can send you examples of what they've published before (or get that yourself).

Have fun!!
#9 - April 18, 2017, 01:18 PM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
CITY SHAPES, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, ONE SNOWY DAY, PIZZA PIG, and more...
http://www.dianamurray.com

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Thanks!
#10 - April 19, 2017, 06:37 AM
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Your local bookstore, if you have one, may have titles in the series as well. These will be more recent. Good luck.
#11 - April 23, 2017, 08:50 PM

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