by Carol Kim
From a pretty young age, I loved doing research projects. I would hunker down in our home “library” surrounded by two sets of Encyclopedia Britannica and an entire series of Time/Life books that covered every science and nature topic imaginable.
Despite my love of exploring facts, I didn’t end up in a profession that involved doing research.
Why? I think it’s because I didn’t want to specialize; I enjoyed exploring and learning about EVERYTHING. But being so unfocused didn’t really lend itself to a profession.
Until I discovered writing for the educational market.
It’s a research junkie’s dream job!
What Is the Educational Market?
The educational market refers to books written primarily for schools and libraries. These books are often referred to as work-for-hire (WFH) children's books. The publisher determines the subject and then hires writers to create the content according to their specifications.
Most WFH books for the education market are nonfiction. They focus on science, math, and social studies, but can cover a wide range of topics. Details such as word count and reading level are set by the publisher.
Some of the biggest differences between the trade and educational market involve payment and creative freedom. In most cases, writers are paid a flat fee for their work, but no royalties. They receive a byline, but the publisher owns all the rights to the book. All parameters (e.g. topic, word count, reading level, and structure) are set by the publisher.
Get ready to research a wide range of topics!
Tips for Conducting Research for Your WFH Assignment
If writing educational books sounds appealing, then I highly encourage you to explore breaking into this market. And once you do, here are some of my best tips for researching your books.
It’s not necessary to dig deeply into your topic
This is not a dissertation you are writing. It is a children’s book, and many are written for elementary school-aged kids. Most of the books I write are in the 1,500 to 2,000 word range. That does not allow for extensive exploration into your book’s topic. Think about it– if the book is to include four chapters, plus an introduction, that only leaves you around 400 words per chapter.
Keep your audience in mind
Every typical WFH assignment will include specifications about the target reading level of your audience. This means your research should be focused on information that would be both understandable by this age group, and be interesting to them.
Try to find some informational gems
This kind of goes against my earlier advice of trying to avoid going deep down research rabbit holes. But finding and including something about your topic that is not widely known can surprise and delight your reader. Recent sources can be the way to find these treasures.
Avoid the over-researching trap
One mistake I made with my earlier WFH projects was spending hours digging deeply into the topic before creating an outline. I ended up with a lot of unused research.
If you are a research junkie, WFH can be a great outlet for your love of unearthing facts. While the monetary rewards are somewhat modest, I like to think of this work as getting paid to explore topics you previously knew nothing about. And who knows? Maybe your next book idea will come from some of that research you had to leave out!
Give It a Try
For those of you who want to examine this market further, start by exploring educational books. Visit a range of educational publishers and take a look at their catalogs. Here are a few to get started: Capstone, Lerner, Enslow, North Star Editions, and Amicus. See what kind of books they publish, topics they cover, and grade levels. Try finding some at your library (including ebooks) to take a closer look. If they seem like books you might enjoy writing, then study their WFH submission guidelines.
Meet the Author
Carol Kim believes books and words have a magical ability to change the world for the better, and she writes for children with the hope of spreading some of that magic. She is the author of the picture book biography, King Sejong Invents an Alphabet as well as dozens of fiction and nonfiction books for the educational market. Carol relishes unearthing real-life stories and little-known facts to share with young readers. Learn more at her website: www.CarolKimBooks.com or her website on the craft and business of writing for kids: www.MakeaLivinginKidlit.com.