Broad Appeal: Writing a Nonfiction Picture Book That Will Sell

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Publishers are buying picture books.
  To be marketable your nonfiction manuscript has to appeal to not only the young reader but also the adult buyer. 
Your reader is interested in all kinds of things from animals to how things work. They are eager to explore their world. Although they are interested in a wide variety of things they are still kids so your manuscript has to have a kid friendly slant. In their biography of Abraham Lincoln, authors Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer focused on his sense of humor. The aptly named book? Lincoln Tells a Joke. But kid appeal isn’t enough to sell your manuscript. Adults like the topic.  Kids like the slant.  
Parents and other adults stand between you and your audience. Picture books, especially durable hard covers, aren’t cheap and adults aren’t going to plunk down $16.99 to $19.99 unless the book appeals to them as well. How you do this depends to some extent on who the reader is.
Because teachers use picture books in the classroom, it pays to know what young readers are studying. Check the Common Core Standards for the appropriate grade levels. No matter how you feel about this educational initiative, it can help you see who is reading what and at what level.
In addition to their home in the classroom, picture books are read aloud at story times, in the classroom, at bedtime and more.  Many a parent knows that if a child really loves a book, this might mean reading it 15 times in just a few days. Don’t torment the adult buyer. Make this experience as fun as possible with language that is playful, lyrical or rhythmic. Lisa Wheeler does this in Mammoths on the Move, a fun to read aloud rhyming story that appeals to both the adult reader and the child audience.
I hinted at this above but to have broad enough reader appeal, your book has to be something the reader will want to experience more than once.  One way to do this is with a fun read aloud.  Another way is to create a manuscript with dual texts.
A manuscript with dual texts not only introduces a younger reader to a new topic, but also gives an older reader more information.  The main text is short and simple. It gives the younger reader what they need but also provides a framework for the older reader’s text.  This comes in the form of sidebars that provide additional, in-depth information. In Where in the Wild?, David Schwartz gives young readers a series of poem that invite them to find the camouflaged animals hidden in the illustrations.  The sidebars give in-depth information on each animal.
Create a nonfiction picture book with broad appeal and your work will find readers who want to experience it again and again.

Sue will be teaching one of our courses, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults, starting October 7, 2013.  


Sioux Roslawski said...

SueBE--Thanks for this post. I'm a third grade teacher (and I actually am welcoming the Common Core Standards) and I have several picture books with "dual text" but never knew there was a term for them.

Now I know, and perhaps I will be able to use the term in a pitch to a publisher some day...

Margo Dill said...

Sue, thanks for the three suggestions here. I think I would like to check all three out--I am even interested in the Lincoln book for myself. I'm a huge Lincoln fan. I love the book Lincoln's Hat for kids about the way he kept notes in his hat because he was forgetful and unorganized.

You also said a lot of smart things here. (Of course, right?) And things I completely agree with ESPECIALLY the read-aloud 15 times thing--except let's try the same book every night for a month at our house. UGH!

Unknown said...

Oh, thanks for this post. This is on my "to do possibly, maybe someday" list. I appreciate the ideas. Bookmarked!

LuAnn Schindler said...

Fairly certain I read "The Foot Book" to the grandboys 15 times in one night. :) Whew!

Great advice. I have quite a few ideas for non-fiction kids book. Thanks for the push!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top