Monday, May 7, 2012

Writing for the Educational Market

On Saturday, I presented at a workshop on Writing for the Educational Market at the Hampton Parks Library in Cumming, Ga. As usual, I never thought about photos.
This is from the library's website.
Heather Kolich, Southern Breeze local liason, set the meeting up and got the word out. I had a great time talking to this group of children's writers, all interested in writing for the educational market. They asked questions and participated and were just an all-around blast to interact with. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My goal is to begin posting some notes on my experience in this market once or twice a week. In my day job, I'm a sales representative for Delaney Educational Enterprises. I spend two to four days a week in schools talking with media specialists and literacy coaches about their needs. I attend two conferences a year where publishers come and talk about their company and their new spring and fall line up of books.  Sometimes it's a publisher rep who presents this information, but sometimes it's the owner or editor of the company. There are anywhere from 30 to 50 Delaney reps in attendance and usually about 15 publishers--a small setting where conversation and mingling is encouraged. I get a chance to pick a lots of brains. So I have a perspective that is somewhat unusual for a children's writer.

I hope you'll come along for the ride. Feel free to ask questions. I'll answer everything that I can.

What is the Educational Market?

Writing for the educational market spans everything from alphabet books to college texts. It includes
flash cards, educational puzzles and games, subject related magazines for students, Weekly newspapers for students, testing materials, materials for teachers and librarians, education films, text books, and leveled readers.

It includes fiction, as well as the standard nonfiction most of us think of when we say "the educational market."

Anything and everything written or designed for use to help educate students. For our purposes, I’m limiting the discussion to materials written specifically to meet the needs of teachers and students in the elementary or middle school market. I will touch a bit on high school books for struggling readers, but those are written at lower reading levels, and are more in line with elementary/middle school guidelines.

These materials are sold directly into schools. You will rarely see them in a book store with the trade publishers, although there are a few who cross over--Lerner, Scholastic, Penguin, -- and Capstone recently announced a trade line. They are sold by a publisher’s sales rep or by what’s called a book distributer, commonly known in the industry as a book jobber. This is a company that represents multiple publishers. I am a sales rep for Delaney Educational Enterprises, and we deal with over 150 publishers. I also have access to trade publishers through Ingram's iPage.

 Why write for the Educational Market? 

Nancy I. Sanders in her book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get them Published and Build a Successful Writing Career, talks about the reasons we write. We write because we love it, because we want to see our name in print, and because we want to make money. So often we try to make one manuscript fill all those desires. Nancy offers some excellent hints on how to divide your writing time and energy. My novel took years to complete, and it still has no home, but I wrote it because I loved the story. I have short articles published in both children’s and adult magazines, most of them didn’t pay much money, but my name is on them. The place I have made money, while waiting for the novel project to see the light of day (or die quietly), is in the educational market. 

If you know you're a fiction writer and that all you ever want to do, that's fine. You just have to realize that it may be years before you see your name in print or deposit a check in your account.

Most projects in this market are work-for-hire. The writer is paid a flat fee for the manuscript, no royalties. The publisher retains the copyright on the book. Most projects are nonfiction, but not all. It’s still hard work. You are still expected to develop your craft. You often have short deadlines, and you’d better be able to meet them or you won’t have work the next time assignments are passed out. 

Can you earn a living at it? I wouldn't give up your day job, but if you work at it, you can earn decent money here. I have one friend who put her son through college with work for hire projects. It's less competitive than the trade market and offers a way to get published work onto your resume. You're always learning something new. 

Is it worth it? Absolutely. 

I hope I can help you find your way into this arena in the children's publishing world. 


  1. What a great series! You have such a wealth of information to share. Thank you for making it accessible. Lucky writers, to get to hang out with you in person. xo

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.