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Narritive Nonfiction PB proposals

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A book idea ruthlessly attacked me the other day and now I’m juggling a transpacific move with research on nonfictional narratives.   :bewildered

I live half a mile from an aquarium and spend a lot of time there sketching.  I’ve gotten to know some of the animals and staff there, and I’ve been following the progress of a penguin that was found paralyzed last year.  I realized I want to tell her story.  I talked to the main biologist that has worked with her and he approved the idea.  I guess now I’m not sure how to proceed. 

I’m wanting to write and illustrate the story in a linear picture book format, like Jean Marzollo’s “Pierre the Penguin: A True Story”.  I’ve never written nonfiction before and a lot of what I’m reading seems to deal with longer fact-filled books and chapter books. 

So! My questions:

1.) Do publishers usually choose the illustrator for nonfiction pbs or are author illustrated pbs possible?

2.) For a narrative nonfiction pb with no sidebars (but possible backmatter) is a proposal and outline still required or can the full ms be submitted?

Any input is appreciated and thank you for reading my ramble.
#1 - September 12, 2018, 06:11 AM

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Hi,

For the project you describe I would treat it the same as a submission for a fiction PB. If you are an illustrator or artist then go ahead & submit as author/illustrator. I'm not sure of your art background... It would be helpful to have a portfolio together for the publishers to look at in addition to a rough dummy with 2-3 "finished" samples. Rather than a proposal you'd submit the complete manuscript/dummy/samples. Occasionally the publisher might ask for more so check each house's guidelines.

Be sure to write in your bio paragraph exactly what you've written above - that've spent the past year sketching the penguin & have contact with the expert at the aquarium (this is why YOU are the right person to write the story!).

It's sounds like a great story... I'd love to read it. Feel free to drop me an email if at some point you'd like some feedback on your ms/dummy. I'm sure i'll have something to swap - I usually do. :)

Editing to add: if you're not sure about illustrating it your sketches could still be useful (in place of or in addition to reference photos).  But if you have art skills just go for it!
#2 - September 12, 2018, 06:31 AM
« Last Edit: September 12, 2018, 06:34 AM by marla-lesage »
https://marlalesage.com/
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Just chiming in to say that most NF PBs are submitted fully written, not as a proposal like MG or YA.

And yes, include your time at the aquarium and your conversations with the biologist in your query letter when you submit. And yes, author/illustrators for NF PBs are entirely possible. I suggest you read lots and lots of NF PBs about animals to get familiar with the genre, but I LOVE your idea and definitely think you should go for it. '

To get more familiar with recent titles and writing about science in general I highly recommend these websites:
Melissa Stewart, NF guru at http://celebratescience.blogspot.com/.
http://www.nonfictiondetectives.com/ (This website covers a lot of history based PBs, but also science related ones.)

I'm drawing a blank on some titles, but I know there are definitely several books that deal with animal rescues, etc. If I think of them, I'll come back here with those recommendations.

Good luck!!!!!
#3 - September 12, 2018, 07:04 AM

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I'm drawing a blank on some titles, but I know there are definitely several books that deal with animal rescues, etc. If I think of them, I'll come back here with those recommendations.

Good luck!!!!!


You have great advice above. I'd bet a search of Amazon for animal rescue stories will turn up some options. Even a Google search may help. Just add picture books. Good luck with this.
#4 - September 12, 2018, 09:23 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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Also,  If you're willing to have someone else illustrate your book, mention that in your cover letter.
#5 - September 14, 2018, 05:14 AM
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Sophie, I'm coming late to this but just wanted to say what a great topic for a kid's book. You've rec'd wonderful advice already. Even if your pictures aren't professional quality, they can be used as a guide for the illustrator. I hope you have a picture of yourself with that penguin--it'd make a great author photo. So write that story! And good luck. :clover I hope your move goes smoothly as well. :clover
#6 - September 14, 2018, 07:42 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
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I love this idea! For a look at how other people have treated true-animal-stories, here are some books I've seen recently. I am not approving or disapproving of the quality, just a few I remembered from our bookstore shelves:
Inky the Octopus (note that the author partnered with the aquarium...can you do that? Also there are other pbs about Inky, so if you find those, maybe they'd be good to compare and see what works or doesn't for you.)
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781492654148

Goats of Anarchy
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631062858
The Goat with Too Many Coats
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781633223332

Rescue and Jessica (I've noticed a lot of pb animal rescue stories are told from the animal's POV...)
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763696047

I hope that helps. I'm excited to see your story in stores! :-)
#7 - September 14, 2018, 08:46 AM

Thank you everyone for your input and suggestions!  I found a handful of books at the library that fit the style and/or genre I was imagining.  I've also hunted down a few newspaper articles written about Victoria the penguin's injury and recovery.  I'm hoping to get back down to the aquarium this weekend for more sketching and possibly further conversation with her keeper. 

marla-lesage  I'll gladly do a ms swap in the future :)

dkshumaker -- I found Melissa Stewart's website very helpful, thank you!

Nevin -- Thank you for recommending Inky the Octopus, that's right up my alley!
#8 - September 14, 2018, 02:53 PM
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 03:27 PM by sophielynette »

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