I was so excited when, in the Mentors for Rent Community for Kidlit Writers on Facebook, Roxanne Troup announced the publication of her first books for the education market. (What? You’re not a member? Just go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/1685335651748235/ and ask to join.)
She’s got two brand new books out with Child’s World: Detection Dogs on the Job and Military Dogs on the Job. What fun topics!
Lisa and I talk with lots of writers who are interested in writing for the education market, so I asked Roxanne if she’d be willing to share a bit about her experience. [My comments are in red.]
What kind of writing/publishing experience did you already have before taking on this project?
I started writing in 2009. My first piece was for an education magazine, but geared for parents. I picked up a few copywriting gigs, some of which became clients, and started writing web copy for schools all over the nation. After my second magazine piece was published, I was approached to start ghostwriting–again for adults. Since then I’ve garnered more clients, written more magazine pieces, ghosted six books, and decided that while I appreciate writing for adults (it pays well) I really want to write for kids. [Wow–thanks for sharing the wide variety of kinds of writing you’ve done. That’s often what it takes to start building an actual writing career.]
No. I’d actually never heard of Child’s World before this project. Although looking through their website, I’m sure I’ve seen some of their books–they market mostly to schools and libraries, and I try to spend a lot of time in those places.
How many intro packets did you send out?
Had to go back through my database for that… [Hooray for databases and records kept!] When I first decided to write for the children’s market, I did a TON of research and discovered the educational market. With my background in education, it seemed like a perfect fit. After buying your book, Writing for the Education Market, I finally felt confident enough to start contacting publishers. I sent out four intro packets to the “big names” in educational publishing. I heard back from two of them, but never received any job offers. A few months later, tired of waiting, I tweaked my intro letter and made it my goal to send out one or two packets a month. A few months after that I had a job offer. *cue excitement!* [Whee! Good thinking. Persistence is key.]
How much time passed between your approaching them and getting an assignment?
Back to the database…Two weeks. I think I must have hit their season just right. [Nice. Perseverance, skill, and luck. It takes all three.]
What was the hardest part of the entire process for you?
Waiting. Waiting is always hard, but it seemed especially so this time. I just didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know when I’d hear from the publisher. I didn’t know how much editing would be required. I didn’t know what the finished product would look like (I really hoped it was professional!). I didn’t know when to expect the finished books (and when I could announce them). And I didn’t want to bug my editor–though they were super patient with me! I just felt like I didn’t know a lot.
The publisher wanted these books to be narrative. And I wanted them to be exciting (I have two boys). So for my first book, Military Dogs, I found a true story that I felt fit the bill to a T. I wrote it up and sent it to my editor. He loved it! Unfortunately, it was unusable. He felt the story was too graphic for our project age range (even though my depiction didn’t include any graphic details). Back to the drawing board. Do you know how hard it is to find an exciting true story about a military war dog that doesn’t include graphic elements? I mean it’s the military; non-graphic stories don’t get published… It took me a while, but I finally found one we could both live with. [That sounds like a real challenge–and a common issue. They want high-interest, but in a very sanitized way. Not Child’s World specifically–pretty much all publishers!]
Can you describe a favorite moment of the process?
After turning in the draft for my first book, I got an unexpected message from my editor asking if I’d be willing to do another. *Of course!* Apparently one of their scheduled authors had to cancel unexpectedly and they needed someone to pick up the slack. Only problem–this book needed to be finished in two-weeks. [Whee–and yikes!]
And something nifty that you learned about your topic?
Helper Dogs (the series my books fall in) was a super fun topic to research. I love learning new things, and I learned a lot here! Did you know that dogs can sniff out medical conditions and alert their owners to blood sugar changes? Some studies even claim that dogs can sniff out cancer! [This is one of my favorite side effects of writing nonfiction–learning so much cool stuff!]
What’s next for you?
I’m working on another ghostwriting project right now, but I’d love to get more projects like this under my belt…I guess it’s time to update my intro packet and start sending it out again! [You are doing this exactly right!]
Anything else you’d like to share?
For the most part, I don’t advocate buying books/courses about writing or the publishing industry (with a few notable exceptions). There’s just so much information out there that, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can utilize for free. That said, I highly recommend Laura’s book, Writing for the Education Market. (And no, she didn’t ask me to plug it for her!) As I said, I did a TON of research before trying to tap into this market. Laura’s book provided information and workable tips I just couldn’t find anywhere else. I wish every book about writing was so helpful! [Aw, thank you, Roxanne! That means a lot. I really appreciate that.]
Thanks, Roxanne, for sharing this with us. A huge congratulations on your two new books. and it truly sounds like you are going about this in just the right way! I bet you’ll have new books to announce before too long.