Sunday, March 22, 2020

Children's Nonfiction for Newbies: Trade, Mass, and Educational Markets

Are you stuck in the house because of Covid 19? Have you ever thought, "I could write a children's book? "

Well this is the time to start.

To help you along on your journey I will post some of the basic facts you need to know about children's book publishing, writing for children, and in particular, writing nonfiction for children. Because as my mother used to say, "Everyone has at least one true story inside of them."

Today, we'll talk about the three main markets for children's books: the trade market, mass market, and educational (or institutional) market. 

The trade market refers to bookstores. Trade books are typically hard covered and have a dust jacket (the paper covering with the front and back flap). Because these books are more expensive to produce, publishers tend to print a limited run. Perhaps a few thousand to start.  No topic is excluded, but the titles tend to be more literary.

Mass market books are found in big box stores. Think of a little kid flipping through a joke book. These books are usually paperback which makes them less expensive to make, and so can be "mass" produced. These titles are usually fun, eye-catching and made for a wide audience.

Educational books are made for schools and libraries. These publishers crank out hundreds of books in series on every topic and for every age group.  The books are usually hardcover or permabound which makes them extra sturdy for the wear and tear of a school library.

Over the years, these categories have shifted and blended, and sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. Some publishers specialize in one or the other. The biggest publishers usually have three different divisions so they can sell to all the markets.

What does this mean to a writer?  Not much until you get to the submission stage.  Then you'll need to know in which market your manuscript fits.  It will also matter financially.  A trade publisher usually pays its authors an advance and royalties (10%). Any advance you get is "against your royalties" which means your royalties must earn up to and past your advance before you begin to collect.

Mass market may give advances and royalties, or they may pay a flat fee - one agreed upon price. You never make more than that even if the book becomes a best seller. 

The educational publishers usually pay a flat fee. This is also called work for hire. Writers usually get assignments, and have to hit tight deadlines. You might have just a few weeks to write a picture book. 

When you are able to wander free again, see if you can spot these three categories of books.  Do you notice any differences?  Do you prefer one style over the others? 

Next time, we'll talk about books for different age groups.

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