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Do you write what you want for non-fiction?

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I have been mostly learning the fiction ropes but I have an idea for a kids non-fiction book and I wondered if it was worth my time to write it. Do you write what you want and then sell it, as in fiction? Or do you only write for publishers what is assigned for non-fiction.

Thanks!
#1 - May 12, 2018, 01:39 PM

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It works both ways. I say go for it!
#2 - May 12, 2018, 02:19 PM
PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, IT'S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS!, EMERGENCY KITTENS!
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What Jody said. Good luck with it. And I've discovered that NF is easier to sell too.
#3 - May 12, 2018, 03:10 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Hi Charlotte,

Welcome to the nonfiction world!

Others have given you great advice. I would just add that with nonfiction picture books, you write the whole book before you query. However, nonfiction for older readers (middle grade and YA) is often sold on proposal, much like it's done in the adult market.

Hope that helps!
#4 - May 12, 2018, 03:59 PM
Kirsten W. Larson

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What Jody said. Good luck with it. And I've discovered that NF is easier to sell too.

Hi Vijaya,

When you say easier, do you have an average number of times you submitted?

Thanks,

Rani
#5 - May 12, 2018, 04:02 PM

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I would say that it's certainly easier to break into the school and library nonfiction market (work for hire). If you've got strong writing samples, it's not overly difficult to break into series nonfiction.

I wouldn't say that it's easier to break into trade nonfiction though. I think the market's tightened in recent years as it's attracted more attention thanks to the Common Core and a host of fantastic writers.



#6 - May 13, 2018, 05:57 AM
Kirsten W. Larson

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WOOD, WIRE, WINGS (Calkins Creek, 2020)
http://kirsten-w-larson.com
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Rani, yes. My NF sells much quicker (fewer subs to hit the right target) than fiction. But like Kirsten says, trade books are still tough to break into, but I keep at it.
#7 - May 13, 2018, 07:03 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Just a little two-cents addition here - if you find a publisher you'd like to submit to, just look at their submission guidelines for proposal vs finished project. Finding out which publishers have similar books to your idea could help clear it up quickly!
#8 - May 14, 2018, 06:07 PM
Twitter: rebeccaefbarone
Website: www.rebeccaefbarone.com

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Thanks everyone!
#9 - May 15, 2018, 11:50 AM

Hi, sorry if this is a very basic question, but Kirsten (and everyone on this thread), can you explain the difference between school and library nonfiction market and books for the trade market? Can you site a good example of each that  I could read? My writing background is in journalism and I love research, but the children's books I've published until now are all fiction titles for 3-5 graders. I have a couple of ideas for nonfiction stories, mostly for younger readers, but I don't know exactly where to start. Thanks!
#10 - May 22, 2018, 07:05 AM

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Faygie, almost all my NF books are for the school/library market though some look like trade books.
See: http://vijayabodach.blogspot.com/p/books_20.html

This is the distinction I make: trade books are what sit on store shelves; the ideas come from me whereas school/library market ideas come from the publisher and sold directly to schools and libraries. They are generally in a series tied to curricula. I have several books coming out that are trade NF but they will be marketed to schools predominantly.

You should try to write the book that's calling to you and look for publishers like Charlesbridge, Holt, Boyds Mills to see who might be a good fit. Think about a book like Dianna Aston's An Egg is Quiet, illustrated by Sylvia Long. It's a trade book, but used heavily in schools. This team has also written A Nest is Noisy, A Seed is Sleepy, and many more, all published by Chronicle.

Good luck!
#11 - May 22, 2018, 08:10 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Hi Vijaya, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to point me in the right direction! I'm so glad to now at least have a place to start.  :thanx
#12 - May 22, 2018, 08:40 AM

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School and library is exactly what it sounds like for fiction and non-fiction. Trade is for bookstores but is certainly purchased by schools an libraries. Mass market books are sold at other types of stores as well, like Target and some grocery chains. They are rarely used for lessons although the price point makes them common in classroom libraries.
#13 - May 22, 2018, 08:07 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Thanks Debbie! I think the terms were also throwing me off because in adult fiction trade and mass market refer to paperback book sizes and are available in the same retail spaces - though with different audiences in mind. Do you have a  favorite example or two of really well-done nonfiction for kids?
#14 - May 23, 2018, 04:22 AM

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Trim size is also part of the definition for kidlit and you'll find overlap within stores, especially with very popular titles. But in general this holds.

I don't have any books to recommend but I do like Smithsonian Press. They seem to gear to older picture book readers: 6-10 years old maybe older. V may have recs.
#15 - May 23, 2018, 06:22 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

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V may have recs.

Hah! Always :)  Candlewick and Boyds Mills also make beautiful NF PBs. I definitely gravitate towards the larger trim size for beautiful and detailed art. Oh, Laura Salas has some beautiful NF poetry books. One is around water and the other leaves.

Faygie, I think the best way to get a really good feel for which publishers you like would be to spend a few hours at your local library in the children's NF dept. to see who would be the best match for the type of book you're writing. All best, V.

#16 - May 23, 2018, 06:47 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

Thanks again Debbie.

And Vijaya, that’s exactly what I did today! Flipped through a whole ton of books, brought a stack of others home to look at more closely.

I appreciate you both taking time to respond!
#17 - May 23, 2018, 06:55 PM

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And Vijaya, that’s exactly what I did today! Flipped through a whole ton of books, brought a stack of others home to look at more closely.

:yay  I love this part, discovering new authors and publishers to drool over. Happy reading and writing!

#18 - May 24, 2018, 06:38 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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