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Which genre for my STEM-type book about a forgotten woman scientist?

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I have STEM-like book about a woman scientist who was sort of forgotten by history but she make significant contributions to her field.  Her story is vaguely similar to Rosalind Franklin, but I think that the subject matter would be of more interest to young readers.   I have about 3,000-4,000 words.  This is a non-technical book and the science is straightforward.

What genre would this be and what age demographics should I target?
#1 - November 06, 2021, 10:11 AM
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The word count is well over what a picture book would be. It's about half of what a chapter book would be. The Junie B. Jones books come in at about 7-8000 words. It also depends upon the complexity of the content. There are publishers for hi-low books. This is where the content is complex, but the reading level is lower. These books are usually geared to teens. Off the top of my head, that is where I think this would fit best. However, others may have other suggestions and ideas.
#2 - November 06, 2021, 02:39 PM
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Have a look at the books on the Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing website. They have junior nonfiction and middle grade nonfiction biography books. They would provide a good comparison for your title. Best of luck with your project.
#3 - November 06, 2021, 02:59 PM
Odd Bods: The World's Unusual Animals - Millbrook Press 2021
Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths - CSIRO Pub. Nov. 2021

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The word count is well over what a picture book would be. It's about half of what a chapter book would be. The Junie B. Jones books come in at about 7-8000 words. It also depends upon the complexity of the content. There are publishers for hi-low books. This is where the content is complex, but the reading level is lower. These books are usually geared to teens. Off the top of my head, that is where I think this would fit best. However, others may have other suggestions and ideas.

Thanks, this is good advice.  I have no idea where to go with this project; I am new to this type of book (although I am a nature/science writer).  I think I could expand the book to 7-8000 words or chop it way down for a picture book.   What do you think publishers are looking for in such a STEM book for girls?

There is a lot of interesting ancillary stories associated with the field that this woman was involved in.  A lot of it is non-technical and a lot of really fun stuff for kids.
#4 - November 06, 2021, 04:16 PM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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Have a look at the books on the Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing website. They have junior nonfiction and middle grade nonfiction biography books. They would provide a good comparison for your title. Best of luck with your project.

Thanks!  I looked at Millbrook and there are indeed some comparable books.  I ordered "The vast wonder of the world : biologist Ernest Everett" and "Classified : the secret career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee aerospace engineer" from my library.

I looked at two Rosalind Franklin books for girls, but they were rather dry, but I guess x-ray crystallography is a tough subject to spice up.   I think I can make a more interesting book about my scientist hero.

#5 - November 06, 2021, 05:16 PM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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Chapter books usually publish as part of a series. You'd have to find a publisher with a series that fits or propose your own series.

A nonfiction picture book usually falls under 2000 words or so. (Look at books by Smithsonian Press also.) Try retyping one of these books to see who it really lays out.

If you're targeting ages 4-8, you're writing a picture book and would need to tell the story in as few words as possible. Remember that illustrations or photos would carry some weight in telling the story and cut anything that can be shown that way. Publishers do make non fiction picture books for older readers through age 10 or 12. Sometimes you can find a concordance with a word count on Amazon or find it at https://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx. This also gives reading levels and other stats.
#6 - November 06, 2021, 07:28 PM
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Thanks Debbie,  this is exactly the information I need.  I am science / nature geek and inexperienced in this market.  [I did publish a sequel to The Wind in the Willows, but it was self-published, and it is really an adult book.  It did very well, but my current book would work better being traditionally published.]

BTW, I used that Accelerated Reader Search Tool to look for Ada Lovelace books for kids and got 14 matches!  However I did not find a single hit on the woman I am writing about or even her subject matter.  This is either a really good sign or a bad one, ha.  Maybe her field is too technical or too obscure. Maybe her contribution was not significant enough, but at least to me the story seems very exciting.  Of course all authors feel that way about their books.
#7 - November 07, 2021, 02:48 AM
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HMH published Lori Alexander's NF chapter book about Van Leeuwenhoek, inventor of the microscope. You might check that out as a comp title.
#8 - November 07, 2021, 04:51 AM
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Thanks Jody!

That seems like a great match for the type of book that I wrote.  I just ordered it from the library.  It is 96 pages, but I do not know how many words that is.  It must be a LOT more than my measly 3,000 words.   Maybe I need to expand my text, but I don't want to turn it into an adult book.
#9 - November 07, 2021, 05:00 AM
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If you want to cut down the words, look at any of my #WomenInSTEM titles (including one of the Ada's, although mine was the first trade pb). My CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER is especially long at 48 pages and 2,200 words, but usually they're shorter to fit into 32 or at most 40 pages. Also, you need to leave room for back matter.
#10 - November 07, 2021, 05:32 AM
Laurie Wallmark
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Numbers in Motion
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If you want to cut down the words, look at any of my #WomenInSTEM titles (including one of the Ada's, although mine was the first trade pb). My CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER is especially long at 48 pages and 2,200 words, but usually they're shorter to fit into 32 or at most 40 pages. Also, you need to leave room for back matter.

Wow oh wow, Laurie. CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER seems like a wonderful book!   What a great story.  Just perfect and a good match for the genre I am working on.  So it would seem that I can go with 2,000-3,000 words; that is a relief.  In the meantime I will get a copy of CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER; I cannot wait!

BTW, I was going to mention Grace Hopper as a possible subject of a STEM bio, but it looks like you already have that covered (and probably others did this subject also).  Hopper came and talked to our computer science class.


#11 - November 07, 2021, 06:28 AM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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It sounds like you need to focus on NF books as comparison titles. I feel like NF can be longer, and that the thing with the 300 word pb is more of a fiction thing than a children's NF book. I would go find the new NF book in the kids' section of the library and browse for things that are similar.
#12 - November 07, 2021, 07:05 AM

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Sorry to break this new, but I don't think you can get away with 2-3,000 words. Code Breaker, Spy Hunter is an anomoly. My others are 1,300-1,800. CB, SH was my fifth book, so I think they gave me a little more leeway, plus the 48 pages. Usually you only get 32.
#13 - November 07, 2021, 07:09 AM
Laurie Wallmark
lauriewallmark.com @lauriewallmark
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Sorry to break this new, but I don't think you can get away with 2-3,000 words. Code Breaker, Spy Hunter is an anomoly. My others are 1,300-1,800. CB, SH was my fifth book, so I think they gave me a little more leeway, plus the 48 pages. Usually you only get 32.

No problem.  I can chop it down.  What is your target age range and what is the genre of the books?


#14 - November 07, 2021, 07:11 AM
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Thanks Jody!

That seems like a great match for the type of book that I wrote.  I just ordered it from the library.  It is 96 pages, but I do not know how many words that is.  It must be a LOT more than my measly 3,000 words.   Maybe I need to expand my text, but I don't want to turn it into an adult book.

Yes, Lori's book is 6,855 words.

If you need to know the word count of most published books, try https://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx and follow the prompts. Great resource.
#15 - November 07, 2021, 04:29 PM
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Frederick, you've rec'd good advice already. NF has a lot more leeway. There are shorty short PBs like Verla's (Rough Tough Charley) with backmatter to illustrated books that are longer--I've seen 40, 48, 64, 80 page books. Scientists in the Field series are also longer. You might want to visit your library and check out a few from different publishers and see which ones fit your vision and submit to them. Suzanne Slade's COUNTDOWN is 144 pages and it's gorgeous! Big book too. Since your wife is an illustrator, I thought of BRILLIANT: 25 Catholic Scientists, Mathematicians, and Supersmart People by David and Jaclyn Warren. I hope you take a look. There are lots of options for great stories!
#16 - November 08, 2021, 12:09 PM
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Thanks Vijaya.   I will check out those books.  This is exactly the information I need.  Everyone has been so helpful!

#17 - November 08, 2021, 02:19 PM
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Yes, Lori's book is 6,855 words.

If you need to know the word count of most published books, try https://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx and follow the prompts. Great resource.

Hi Jody,

I just got Lori Alexander's NF chapter book about Van Leeuwenhoek from the library.  It looks wonderful!   It seems like a great match for what I have written.  Thank you so much!!!!  My book has grown to about 4,000 words so I am getting close to Lori's book as far as size.

So this book ("All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World") is considered a "Chapter Book", right?  It is for grades   3-7 (ages 8-12) so that makes it a Middle-Grade book, right? 
#18 - November 09, 2021, 03:12 PM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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Chapter books are for the same age group as picture books. The readership is "kids who have graduated from leveled texts."

Ages 8-12 is middle grade. So the  Leeuwenhoek book is middle grade nonfiction.

In my experience, the length of a first draft is only vaguely related to the length of the final manuscript.
#19 - November 09, 2021, 06:44 PM
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Yup, Lori's book is definitely MG. Also, lots of PB biographies are used in middle school, even the standard 32-pg ones. It's all about the subject and how it's presented.
#20 - November 09, 2021, 07:00 PM
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Yes, MG. Good luck!
#21 - November 10, 2021, 04:15 AM
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I just got "CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER" by Laurie Wallmark and WOW!  This is such a great book!  The subject is exciting and the delivery is perfect.  This is the best book of this type that I have read so far.  Kudos to Laurie for discovering the Elizebeth Friedman story and executing the book so well. 

How would this book be classified?  PB?  MG?
#22 - November 11, 2021, 05:32 PM
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I'm pretty sure all of Laurie's Women Scientist books are PBs.
#23 - November 11, 2021, 05:55 PM
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The Amazon blurb says PB bio. A Google search can tell you if everyone lists it that way. It's 48 pages, so I'm betting they do.
#24 - November 11, 2021, 05:59 PM
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Yes, Frederick (thanks for liking my book), my CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER is still a picture book bio. When you get into bios for older kids, there may still be illustrations, but the text isn't part of them like in a pb. The illustrations might be a sidebar or a separate page or to start a chapter. Oh, that's another difference. Books for older kids have chapters.
#25 - November 12, 2021, 05:15 AM
Laurie Wallmark
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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter
Numbers in Motion
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Grace Hopper

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Thanks all.  "All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World" and "CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER" are both wonderful books and pretty close to what I am working on.   The text to my book keeps creeping upward so I think I have a MG Chapter Book about the size of Lori's book.  My book has a lot of interesting related facts and diversions which might go into the pages as side notes.
#26 - November 12, 2021, 06:36 AM
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Glad ALL IN A DROP has been helpful! The publisher, HMH (now Clarion), calls these "middle grade" which at first I confused with middle school ages. But the reading level and word count is targeted a bit lower, more for 4th-6th grades. My second chapter book bio (A SPORTING CHANCE) was with the same editor and is closer to 10,000 words. And I have two more coming out with Clarion in the 7000-10,000 range (still for the 4th-6th grade readers).
#27 - November 12, 2021, 08:53 AM
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Yes, Frederick (thanks for liking my book), my CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER is still a picture book bio. When you get into bios for older kids, there may still be illustrations, but the text isn't part of them like in a pb. The illustrations might be a sidebar or a separate page or to start a chapter. Oh, that's another difference. Books for older kids have chapters.

It is interesting that Accelerated Reader Bookfinder lists your book as "Middle Grades (MG 4-8)". 

I am starting to think that my book should be PB.  Maybe later I will do an in-depth MG Chapter Book on the subject, but it starts to get pretty technical at that point so I will need to to do some deeper research and work with some local experts (at Brown University) first.

My wife is an illustrator and knows how to dummy layouts so that will help, but PB is a long-haul!


#28 - November 16, 2021, 11:17 AM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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