Friday, February 4, 2022

Writing for the Educational Market—A Research Junkie’s Dream

 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.

 It's much better to start with just enough research to create an outline. Wait to go deeper until you start writing. You can better target your research, which is much more efficient and effective. Believe me, it will save you a lot of time. 

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.






41 comments:

  1. Carol Kim, thanks for the reminder not to over research--I've written a few work for hires and that is always my temptation. Love learning about new things though!

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  2. I've not considered writing for the educational market before so I appreciate learning more about it from Carol!

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  3. Thank you. I'm currently researching School/Edu markets and preparing my resume and samples. I appreciate these tips.

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  4. I endorse your tips, Carol! I've done quite a bit of writing for the educational market, but not for a few years.Maybe it's time to dive back in.

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  5. I've written a handful of educational books - and they are fun to write. I agree, if you like learning about a lot of things, they are a good way to go. For me, they were a good bridge from journalism and feature articles into the world of kid's books.

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  6. Thanks for this helpful post! Now on to researching these publishers!

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  7. I don't write for this market, or at least haven't yet, but I do know the pitfall of the over-researching trap. I also use that as a procrastination tool, of which I'm Queen! Thanks for the inspirational information!

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  8. Ohhhh. This is a great idea! Thank you!

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  9. Thanks for guiding us into looking into this educational market.

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  10. This is a great topic. I wanted to add a note that many publishers contract authors through book packagers. They often pay less than the publisher would (because they need to take their share), but can be great for people breaking in. I've done quite a few. I love seeing my name on the books. I learned my topics, how to write nonfiction, how to write graphic work, and how to work with an editor and got paid to do so.

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  11. Thank you! You've inspired me to update my WFH info with the publishers I've submitted to.

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  12. Carol, thank you for your helpful article and congratulations on your recently-published book!

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  13. I, too, grew up loving to read our set of Encyclopedia Britannicas! Your post has peaked my interest to look into the educational market - thanks for the inspiration and tips!

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  14. Thanks, Carol! Great tips for writing for the educational market!

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  15. Carol, thank you for these tips to explore the educational market.

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  16. CAROL: THANK YOU for the INSPIRATION to look into the world of WFH. I hadn't thought about doing so, but now I'm EXCITED about such a venture. I should really have said: "adventure" instead of "venture," because (like you said) writing for this market allows you to learn ALL kinds of new things you might never have considered otherwise. To me that equals ADVENTURE! THANK YOU!!!

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  17. Thank you for the great advice. I went overboard on the research on an assignment.

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  18. Great post! I'm a fellow research junkie who's written many WFH books, including "How Do Dolphins Sleep?" And don't be afraid to turn down WFH assignments that don't offer a living wage--we are professionals and deserve to get paid fairly!

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  19. Looking forward to reading your book! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with WFH.

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  20. Thank you, Carol, for the many tips and for sharing your thoughts.

    Suzy Leopold

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  21. Carol, thank you for the research tips, and for the educational publishers to look at. :)

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  22. Thanks for sharing, Carol! I fall into rabbit holes daily. Researching small facts makes the writing more enjoyable. But it's time consuming.

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  23. Great pointers on WFH researching. My fav is not to over-research until you start writing. Thank you Carol!

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  24. Thanks, Carol! I'm actively working on breaking into this market so your advice was very relevant for me.

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  25. I'm glad I decided to pursue this market a few years ago. I have steady work and it is wonderful getting paid to learn new things!

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  26. Thanks for this post! I'm interested in learning more about the educational market. Like you (and a lot of us reading the NFFest posts), I love the research process!

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  27. Thank you, Carol,
    It is fun to go down the research rabbit hole. 😊

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  29. Thanks Carol. WFH is really lovely!

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  30. So interesting, thank you! I hadn't really considered the WFH market before. Now I'll be looking closer into it.

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  31. I'm exploring new WFH publishers to write for and will look at the ones you've listed. Thank you!

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  32. Thanks Carol for a very helpful post. This is an avenue I've wanted to explore for a while. I too love researching. I appreciate your tips.

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  33. Time to dig into the possibilities of this market! So grateful for your tips, Carol.

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  34. The educational market is so much fun to write for. Thank you for this post!

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  35. I especially appreciate your tip on how to not over research, something i can be guilty of.

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  36. Someone throw me a rope- I'm stuck in the over-researching trap again! Thank you for the reminder to not research for a novel when I'm writing a picture book.

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  37. This was information I have never seen before. Thank you.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. I trust you post again soon... The Gray Man Jacket

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