Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Proposal for a Book Series in the Educational Market

Material written for the educational market is generally standards-based. Each state has its own standards of learning, but the Common Core is moving many states to a common set of of requirements.

One of the publishers I write for, State Standards Publishing, targets state history standards. Their initial focus was on Georgia, but they are now working on Virginia. It's a niche market. Major publishers don’t cater to local standards because they can’t sell most of them nationally.

BUT, when a publisher looks at developing a new series, they consider the state standards.
Two of the State Standards Georgia Biographies
I really enjoyed writing low level biographies for State Standards, so I looked around at some other publishers that might be open to a proposal. I sell Rourke books and  had the opportunity to talk to Jim Colandrea, the company's owner, at our Delaney meeting  last January . I asked if he would be interested. He invited me to send a proposal and suggest about 12 people to include in the set. He specifically asked for information on state standards in Florida, Texas, and California.

I did the research. 

First I checked the standards for those states. You can access the standards for all states here or here

I came up with a list of 12 people based on the first and second grade requirements for Florida, Texas, California, and Georgia (since it's home). Here's my list:
George Washington
Abraham Lincoln
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Barack Obama
Christopher Columbus
Paul Revere
Daniel Boone
Thomas Edison
Wilma Rudolph
Ellen Ochoa
Cesar Chavez 
Next I checked out the competition to see what was already out there. I used the Delaney database (you can set up an account for yourself), but you can use World Cat,, or Follet's Titlewave (set up an account as a parent). The good thing about a sales database like Delaney or Titlewave is you get the leveling information. You can also check Books in Print in your library's reference section.

I put it all together and it looked like this:

Proposal for Series of First Grade Biographies

This proposed series would provide biographies of famous people at a level that students in kindergarten and first grade could read. Very few biographies are available at this level. In my role as a Delaney sales rep, I receive many requests for them, both from librarians and from teachers and literacy coaches. I believe the series would be well-received and would fit into Rourke’s list of early level titles. My goal would be to write the books so that they could receive an AR level below 2.0. Low AR titles are always in demand in libraries. To be able to combine these needed AR resources with the academic content matching state standards would be extremely valuable in the educational market. Also, the most recent issue of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin includes a wish list from librarians. A request for low level biographies is high on the list.

(Here's where I listed my twelve people/titles.)

Potential Markets based on State Standards 

In California state standards, specific historical figures are named in kindergarten and second grade. First grade standards are more general in nature. If the proposed titles come in at AR levels below 2.0, many kindergarten readers would have access to them. They would also serve struggling readers in second grade. First grade teachers would be able to use them, also, based on their goal of helping children understand the past, historical figures celebrated in national holidays and honored in national monuments. Both Texas and Florida name a few specific individuals, but also leave room for teachers to have some choice in their lesson plans. Both states focus on citizenship and character in the historical and contemporary figures chosen. The specific people proposed for this series are named in many other state standards, including Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Missouri.

(Here I included the actual standards copied from the three states' websites.)

Competing Titles 

In researching the competition, I focused on low level titles that had AR tests and Lexile scores, if available. The following chart examines available material for the specific titles proposed. Library competitors include Child’s World and Capstone, although Capstone’s series is fairly old in publication dates, with few additions in the last five years. Teacher Created Materials/Shell Libraries came out with a new set of 16 titles this year. They are only available in paperback, do not have AR levels, but are geared to DRA levels from 9-20. First grade DRA levels reach 16. Children’s Press also has a series, but most of the AR levels are 2.0 and above. Heinemann’s First Biographies published in 2008, range from 1.9 to 2.3. I would consider this set the fiercest competition. There are only eight titles. The only two overlapping with this proposal are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

(Here I included a table with each name/title, publisher, publication date, accelerated reader level, Lexile level, and guided reading level.)

I included my author bio and one completed manuscript, sent it via snail mail, then I sat back and waited. 

Next time I'll fill you in on the rest of the story.

There was an excellent discussion of books proposals at the Writer's Retreat with Nancy I. Sanders and Chris Boch. Transcripts are posted as Part One and Part Two.


  1. Doraine, the proposal alone represents a great deal of time, no? Can you share with readers how much time this one took to research and to write? And I'm totally expecting a sale at the end of this story. :)

    1. Irene, I talked with Jim in January, but I didn't immediately begin working on it. January to March is my busy season for Delaney sales, so it was probably sometime in March before I really began putting it together. I sent it to him in on April 13. So realistically, about six weeks. But again, that's not steady. I was doing other things at the same time.