Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market Why write educational books?

Writing for the Children’s
Educational Book Market
Why write educational books?
Books have a long life
The pleasure of knowing that your books will be read many times in homes, schools and libraries, is one
reason you might choose to write for the educational field.
Other reasons for being an educational author include a defined readership, the challenge of writing
within vocabulary restraints, possible translations or overseas sales, merchandising and links to
multimedia.
Some educational authors enjoy researching new subjects and distilling the essence of complex ideas to
appeal to young readers.
However, your ‘name’ as an ‘education’ author may not be well known, as often readers remember
the school subject rather than the author of the textbook or the course material. Some authors write
simultaneously for ‘education’ and for ‘trade’ and these ‘trade’ books sell in bookshops, whereas
‘educational’ titles are mainly distributed through school library suppliers. But there is overlap and a
title can be sold in both. Some publishers operate in both fields.
Textbooks or education non-fiction series tend be commissioned, or you’re asked to write fiction to
fit a ‘slot’ of a specific length, theme or age group – so your work is more likely to be published than
‘literary’ trade children’s fiction written ‘on spec’ (speculation) by you in the hope that there will be a
space on the publisher’s list.
Definition
Even writers working in educational publishing vary in their definition of ‘educational books’. Many
assume it covers only those series books (such as reading schemes or maths programs) sold directly
into schools for primary and secondary aged students. Others claim educational writing may include
fiction and non-fiction, textbooks, magazine and newspaper articles, classroom playscripts, corporate
training-in-job competencies, online lessons or courses, scripting for CDs or audio books, as well as
educational tv and film such as documentaries and even song lyrics with a ‘message’. Ebooks which are
electronic rather than print published are being used more widely. Increasingly ‘textbooks’ are electronic
compilations available off-campus or with networked computers within a school. Then there is the ESL
(English as a second language) market for overseas students or newly arrived migrants. Adult literacy
is a growing area requiring writers who can create simple but topical material for new readers of any
age. That’s educational too. So the educational field is broad and some authors make a consistent living
by being versatile, or being commissioned regularly for a ‘niche’ market such as a reading scheme.
Sometimes authors may suggest a project to an educational publisher which is rejected, but later the
publisher approaches them with a commission for another book. Rejection may be temporary, not
permanent.
Qualified teacher or not?
You don’t need to be a qualified teacher, although many educational writers have taught or are familiar
with curricula requirements. Internet research and interviewing skills are needed to find facts, evaluate
sources and document those resources, especially when the ‘brief ’ has key learning areas to be covered.
Facts matter and attention to detail is important.
A logical mind which can structure material, and the ability to write within word limits and meet
deadlines is also important. Sometimes you may also be asked to provide photographs to accompany the
written material or suggest illustrations. You may need to chase permissions to use certain material, so
your records are important too.
Briefs
You may be asked to contribute to a series of books, or be supplied with a topic such as ‘dogs who work
for us’ and have to write within that framework. Like crossword puzzle fanatics, some writers enjoy the
challenge of creating drama within short sentences and with a limited number of simple words. Others
dislike the constraints of a vocabulary list in levels of difficulty and being asked to use only words from
those lists.
Stages
Beginning writers work ‘on spec’ or speculation, hoping to place their material with a publisher. The
next stage is checking curricula requirements and ‘suggesting’ a topic and getting an expression of
interest from the publisher. Being commissioned is the third and most desirable stage of gaining a
contract, based on the original brief, with a ‘kill fee’ clause in case policies change and your material is
not used in the eventual series.
Once you’re established, publishers will often contact you with a project and ask if you would be
interested in writing for them, by a deadline. Then, you can negotiate.
How can writers make money?
There’s no such thing as a standard contract. Negotiate your contract clauses. Royalties, rather than a
flat fee for service, enable a continuing interest in the success of the title, especially as it may sell again
later in many countries, or in different formats. And a rising royalties clause is preferable where after a
certain number of sales, the percentage is increased from 10% RRP (recommended retail price)
to 12%.
Educational publishers argue that because of volume sales and discounts to book distributors, book
clubs or overseas agents, they prefer to offer authors a percentage based on publishers’ receipts (PC)
rather than RRP.
Check the figures. You need to know the initial print run and the price in order to calculate a fair
percentage to the author if you accept PC.
Increasingly, existing illustrations and words may be used in as yet unknown multimedia formats. So
there’s a need for illustrators/authors to make an informed choice to negotiate royalty or flat fee, and not
just accept a flat fee. Negotiate an advance and insist on a specified time limit for reversion of rights.
Initiate book or series ideas, so that one piece of research can be used in more than one publication.
This increases your financial return as the time required for researching can be costed against several
projects. For example, you may use pyrotechnic facts in a novel, a playscript, a non fiction article and as
a fireworks safety instruction kit and these would be based on the same research.
(You can purchase the “ASA Model Publishing Agreement Template” and Australian Book Contracts, 4th
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ASA: Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market
Edition from the ASA. The ASA also provides a contract assessment service for members.)
Corporate educational writing
Not all educational commissions come from publishers. Sometimes business or community groups want
a ‘children’s book’ to inform the public about their organisation. Often they get a shock at the work and
cost involved when they ask you for a quote. Your book proposal may include a costing for research,
trialing, conferring with the sponsors (especially if it has to pass the committee), drafts, illustrations
or photographs, permissions and the actual cost of publishing the book (as the writer this is not your
responsibility). Make clear which stages are your responsibility. It is advisable to have three stages of fee:
at signing of contract, completed first draft, and on publication or completed manuscript. Also build in
a ‘kill fee’ or cancellation fee of up to 75%, to cover the project being ‘pulled’ for a reason not related to
the quality of your work. Clarify if it is a fee-for-service/flat fee, whether you retain copyright and your
name is on the cover, if you will have royalties or whether you are ‘ghosting’ the project.
Collaboration
Often children’s books are co-created with an illustrator or other writers.
A successful collaboration can be a way of increasing skills as you learn from peers who have equal but
different skills. Have a letter of agreement clarifying contributions and who owns what. If the work is
later adapted into other mediums, or becomes a series character, copyright legalities of who controls the
concept or the image needs to be clear.
Playscripts
Educational scripting can include audio/radio, television documentaries and computer games on
subjects such as marine biology or nutrition. Classroom playscripts which can be performed in one
school period and have parts for up to 30 performers have a ready market, especially if the content links
with other subject areas, eg: the play deals with exploration or fitness as well as the students learning
drama and reading skills. Children’s theatre scripts acted by a professional cast of five or six for child
audiences are often linked to existing popular books.
Adaptations
So there’s overlap and sometimes an idea can be re-sold in different formats, earning more for the
originator. Some educational writers specialise in writing adaptations of others’ books into other media
or write teachers’ discussion notes as teaching aids. Acknowledgement must be made to the originator
and permission gained and/or fees paid for adaptations.
Getting started
Often ‘good’ teachers are contacted by publishers to write material related to the student level they are
currently teaching. Flattered by the thought of their name on a book, the enthusiastic teacher doesn’t
always check the contractual details.
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ASA: Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market
Twenty questions to consider
1.
Were you aware you could negotiate clauses of the contract?
2.
What options are you offered for payment of your educational book?
3.
Are you aware that there are options:
•
•
•
•
4.
Who will own the copyright? Is your name to be on the title page and the front cover?
5.
Do you know the price at which the book is to sell? The size of the print run?
flat rate
royalties and rising royalties
combination of royalties and fee
others?
6.
Do you know the difference between RRP (recommended retail price) and PC (publishers’ net
receipts)?
7.
Does the agreement include subsidiary rights such as:
•
•
•
•
8.
Does the agreement include publishing overseas?
electronic
audio
merchandising
licensing?
9.
Who fills in the PLR, ELR and CAL forms? Are you aware of why these matter for future
income?
10.
Who is responsible for obtaining and/or paying permissions?
11.
Will the publisher pay for illustrations? Or is the author expected to pay?
12.
Is the original artwork/manuscript to be returned to the creator?
13.
What is the size of your advance? Is it based on a proportion of sales of the first print run?
How is it worked out?
14.
Are you expected to undertake duties beyond the agreement, eg: contribute information on
other issues, translation, provide extra text, references etc?
15.
How many author copies were you offered? Can you buy extra copies at a discount?
16.
Are you to be consulted on the cover or proof reading or changes of content?
17.
Are any cultural changes for US (or other) markets likely to be made? Will you be consulted?
18.
Does this project require you to donate your work to a ‘charitable’ publication such as an
anthology or auction of artwork where the receipt for the donation is held by the buyer of the
artwork (for tax deduction purposes), there is no receipt or the publisher/printer (or others)
make a commercial profit on the publication and only the authors or illustrators donate their
work skills?
19.
Are you asked to speak at conferences for less than the ASA fee (see Rates for Writers and
Illustrators), or for NO fee, or asked to pay for your own accommodation, travel and
registration fee for the conference?
20.
Do you distinguish between being asked to speak as direct PR for your book (eg: at the book
launch) or being asked to provide unpaid, inservice training for teachers or librarians?
N.B Is your contract in ultra small print? Have you read it all? Do you understand it?
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ASA: Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market
If you are concerned about answering any of these questions, use the “ASA Model Publishing
Agreement Template” as a guide or use the ASA contract assessment service (ASA members only). The
creative business of writing educational books can inform and entertain the author as well as the reader.
Extra resources
Web sites
Major educational publishers and some innovative new ones maintain web sites which list submission
requirements, author details, recent publications and links to other author web sites, writers’ centres
nationally and on-line writers’ magazines. Type in the publisher’s name at a search engine such as
www.google.com
If you don’t know the publisher’s name, type a category such as education + scripts + primary.
Check for magazines and journals as well as audio or multimedia producers of book adaptations in the
educational field.
Some specific sites which may be helpful are:
www.scbwi.org
SCBWI Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This has an international email link relating
to markets. Local Australian membership is available.
www.ijb.de
Internationale Jugendbibliothek Muenchen This is the largest collection of children’s books, awards and
translations and is centred in Munich, Germany.
www.magpies.net.au
The site of Magpies – a magazine of children’s book reviews and articles which also issues The Literature
Base containing suggested lesson plans for teachers.
www.writerswrite.com
This is an internet writing journal.
Further Reading List:
Edwards & Alexander The Business of Writing for Young People, Hale & Iremonger.
Rhonda Whitton and Sheila Hollingworth, A Decent Proposal: How to Sell Your Book to an Australian
Publisher www.booksonwriting.com – a ‘how to’ guide, including fiction and non-fiction book
proposals.
© Hazel Edwards
Australian Society of Authors Limited, 2009
(2nd Edition)
Originally published in 2005
The author: Hazel Edwards (www.hazeledwardscom) has written many children’s books and scripts for
the educational and trade markets, locally and internationally. In 2001, as the Antarctic Division’s
humanities berth recipient, she researched books, plays and a children’s television animation series in
Antarctica. There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake is her best-known book.
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ASA: Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market
AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN’S BOOK PUBLISHERS
We suggest you use this list as a starting point. Publishers’ submission policies will change from time
to time, therefore it is advisable to contact each publisher to establish submission guidelines (including
changes of address and changes in corporate ownership) before sending unsolicited manuscripts. Please
note that some publishers on this list will only accept manuscripts through recognised agents. Details
were correct at the date of publication. The ASA accepts no responsibility for changes made since.
A&A BOOK PUBLISHING
PO Box 449, Leichhardt NSW 2040
Ph: (02) 9564 6808
Email: [email protected]
Web:www.aampersanda.com
ABC BOOKS
GPO Box 9994, Sydney NSW 2001
Ph: (02) 8333 3963
Fax: (02) 8333 3888
BLACK DOG BOOKS
15 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Ph: (03) 9419 9406
Fax: (03) 9419 1214
Email: [email protected]
Web:www.bdb.com.au
BOYER EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES
PO Box 255, Glenbrook NSW 2773
Ph: (02) 4739 1538
Fax: (02) 4739 1538
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.boyereducation.com.au
CENGAGE LEARNING AUSTRALIA
Level 7, 80 Dorcas St, Sth Melbourne VIC 3205
Ph: (03) 9685 4111
Fax: (03) 9685 4199
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.cengage.com.au
DISCOVERY PRESS
218 Pakington St, Geelong West VIC 3218
Ph: (03) 5223 1660
Fax: (03) 5223 2313
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.discoverypress.com.au
6
ERA PUBLICATIONS
PO Box 231, Brooklyn Park SA 5032
Ph: (08) 8352 4122
Fax: (08) 8234 0023
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.erapublications.com
FORD STREET PUBLISHING
2 Ford St, Clifton Hill VIC 3068
Ph: (03) 9481 1120
Fax: (03) 9481 1123
Email: [email protected]
Web:www.fordstreetpublishing.com
FREMANTLE PRESS
PO Box 158, North Fremantle WA 6159
Ph: (08) 9430 6331
Fax: (08) 9430 5242
Email:[email protected]
Web: www.fremantlepress.com.au
FUTURE TRACK AUSTRALIA
PO Box 369, Mount Hawthorn WA 6915
Ph: (08) 9444 5458
Fax: (08) 9444 6698
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.futuretrack.com.au
GREATER GLIDER PRODUCTIONS
8 Rees Lane, Maleny QLD 4552
Ph: (07) 5494 3000
Fax: (07) 5494 3284
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.greaterglider.com.au
HACHETTE AUSTRALIA
Level 17, 207 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 8248 0800
Fax: (02) 8248 0810
Web:www.hachette.com.au
ASA: Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market
HARDIE GRANT EGMONT
Private Bag 1600, South Yarra VIC 3141
Ph: (03) 8520 6444
Fax: (03) 8520 6422
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.hardiegrant.com.au
HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS AUSTRALIA
PO Box 321, Pymble NSW 2073
Ph: (02) 9952 5000
Fax: (02) 9952 5555
Web:www.harpercollins.com.au
HINKLER BOOKS PTY LTD
45-55 Fairchild St, Heatherton VIC 3202
Ph: (03) 9552 1333
Fax: (03) 9558 2566
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.hinklerbooks.com
INTERACTIVE PUBLICATIONS PTY LTD
Treetop Studio, 9 Kuhler Crt, Carindale QLD 4152
Ph: (07) 3324 9319
Fax: (07) 3324 9319
Email: [email protected]
Web:www.ipoz.biz
NEW FRONTIER PUBLISHING
Suite 3, Level 2, 18 Aquatic Drive Frenchs Forest
NSW 2086
Ph: (02) 9453 1525
Fax: (02) 9975 2531
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.newfrontier.com.au
PAN MACMILLAN AUSTRALIA
Level 25, 1 Market St Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9285 9100
Fax: (02) 9285 9190
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.panmacmillan.com.au
PASCAL PRESS
PO Box 250 Glebe NSW 2037
Ph: (02) 8585 4044
Fax: (02) 8585 4052
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.pascalpress.com.au
PENGUIN BOOKS AUSTRALIA
PO Box 701, Hawthorn VIC 3122
Ph: (03) 9811 2400
Fax: (03) 9811 2620
Web:www.penguin.com.au
KOALA BOOKS
PO Box 626, Mascot NSW 1460
Ph: (02) 9667 2997
Fax: (02) 9667 2881
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.koalabooks.com.au
PICK-A-WOO WOO PUBLISHERS
PO Box 178, Nannup WA 6556
Ph: (08) 9756 1818
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.pickawoowoo.com
LITTLE HARE BOOKS
8/21 Mary St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: (02) 9280 2220
Fax: (02) 9280 2223
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.littleharebooks.com
RANDOM HOUSE AUSTRALIA
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway Nth Sydney NSW 2060
Ph: (02) 9954 9966
Fax: (02) 9954 4562
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.randomhouse.com.au
MAGABALA BOOKS
PO Box 668, Broome WA 6725
Ph: (08) 9192 1991
Fax: (08) 9193 5254
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.magabala.com
SCHOLASTIC AUSTRALIA
PO Box 579, Gosford NSW 2250
Ph: (02) 4328 3555
Fax: (02) 4323 3827
Email:manuscriptenq[email protected]
Web:www.scholastic.com.au
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ASA: Writing for the Children’s Educational Book Market
UNIVERSITY OF QLD PRESS (UQP)
PO Box 6042, St Lucia QLD 4067
Ph: (07) 3365 7244
Fax: (07) 3365 7579
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.uqp.com.au
MANIA
78 Renwick St, Redfern NSW 2016
Ph: (02) 9699 0333
Fax: (02) 9310 2012
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.nextmedia.com.au
WALKER BOOKS AUSTRALIA
Locked Bag 22, Newtown NSW 2042
Ph: (02) 9517 9577
Fax: (02) 9517 9997
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.walkerbooks.com.au
PEARSON EDUCATION MAGAZINES
3 magazines, for different age groups:
Comet (5-7 year olds)
Explore (8-10 year olds)
Challenge (11-14 year olds)
PO BOX 1024, South Melbourne VIC 3205
Ph: (03) 9811 2800
Fax: (03) 9811 2999
Email:[email protected]
Web:http://www.pearson.com.au/Schools/
Magazines/
WORKING TITLE PRESS
33 Balham Ave, Kingswood SA 5062
Ph: (08) 8271 6665
Fax: (08) 8271 0885
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.workingtitlepress.com.au
THE SCHOOL MAGAZINE
4 magazines, for different age groups:
Countdown (8-9 year olds)
Blast Off (9-10 year olds)
Orbit (10-11 year olds)
Touchdown (Advanced primary readers)
The School Magazine, Private Bag 3 Ryde NSW 2112
Ph:
(02) 9886 7754
Fax: (02) 9886 7769
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.
au/services/schoolmagazine/
AUSTRALIAN JOURNALS
FOR CHILDREN
DISNEY ADVENTURES
GPO Box 4088, Sydney NSW 2001
Ph: (02) 9282 8000
Fax: (02) 9267 3625
Web:www.acp.com.au
JUST KIDDING
PO Box 303, Yarra Glen VIC 3775
Ph: (03) 9730 2393
Fax: (03) 9730 2120
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.justkidding.com.au
K-ZONE
35-51 Mitchell St, McMahons Point NSW 2060
Ph: (02) 9464 3300
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.kzone.com.au
SCIENTRIFFIC
PO Box 225, Dickson ACT 2602
Ph:
(02) 6276 6017
Fax: (02) 6276 6641
Email:[email protected]
Web:www.csiro.au/helix/scientriffic
Correct as of November 2009
Australian Society of Authors
ABN 26 008 558 790
PO Box 1566, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012
T: 02 9318 0877 | F: 02 9318 0530
[email protected] | www.asauthors.org
Copyright © 2010 Australian Society of Authors
Detail from ASA Medal design by Darrell Sibosado