Friday, October 11, 2013

Query Letters to Editors of Nonfiction Books for Children


The nonfiction children's market is one of the easier markets to crack because editors of magazines and books are searching for good writers of children's NF genre versus the over crowded children's fiction genre. There is a scarcity of nonfiction children's books while more emphasis is being put on nonfiction reading by educators and parents. Teenagers, especially boys, have a disturbing dearth of appealing NF books. There are a very few NF magazine articles or magazines dedicated to educational NF topics other than dating, makeup or prom dresses. There is also a high interest in "low vocabulary," beginning readers materials in the nonfiction category. "Low vocabulary" is another term for books with lots of pictures that explain a nonfiction idea to preschool or emerging readers. Editors can pair you with an illustrator but it is much better if you can illustrate your own words via drawings or camera shots. It is one less person with whom they have to deal.  Being able to draw or provide camera photos of your writing also gives your more validity which makes it easier to sell your ideas.

Books or articles discussing ethnic diversity, trending activities (dirt biking, snow boarding, soccer, and photography), biographies and science are in special demand. If you can take a nonfiction topic in a new direction, provide a different twist on teaching an idea or use humor to challenge learning, you will have winners. Children like quirky facts about things and respond well to this type of learning.

Publishers want to know if you can write to a targeted age audience, if you can stay in the required word count and if you can make the information engaging and fun. Redundancy, wordiness, inaccuracies, and insufficient or outdated facts are verboten. You must include all information to document the facts and books used in your research in a bibliography included in your book. Go to to learn the correct bibliographic format for this. Do not use a creative nonfiction format to tell the information, e.g., "Brian Bear's Tips for Fire Safety," or  "Buzy Brianna Bee's Path to Her Hive." Follow submission guidelines precisely; each publishers has its own guidelines and they vary from house to house. Many houses publish books in a series ("How this Works..." or "Science Explained"). There are several web sites that show vocabulary words that are appropriate for specific age groups. Study those and use your thesaurus to find exactly the right words to help  a specific age group learn about your topic of interest.
In your one page query letter, state the title of your article or book and for what ages you wrote it. Give a two to three sentence synopsis. Summarize your approach and why you are qualified to write for them. If applicable, site figures showing the lack of resources on this subject. If you have not written nonfiction, start writing now and get published even if it is adult nonfiction. State you will send writing samples if desired. If you have not written for children, write a sample story following the publisher's guidelines and send it if asked. Give a short bio of your writing experiences, prizes won, blog site(s), and books and articles published. Thank them for their time and include your name, phone numbers, email address and post office addresses. If you used humor in the book or article, try to include humor in the query letter. Never call an editor to give a pitch. Attend conferences mentioned in the Oct. 9, 2013 post or others nearby.

Nonfiction for children of all ages is an increasingly in-demand field of writing. If you have an interest in nonfiction and think you have skills necessary to write appropriately on a subject that appeals to children, try it out and see what happens. This is a niche waiting to be filled.

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