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Writing for the Educational Market

A lot of people want to write books. Few have the persistence it takes to study the industry and then draft, revise, (and revise again and again) a manuscript (all after years of learning the craft) that will hook a publisher into paying for the book.

It sounds discouraging, but that's not the only way to write books for children and get paid. (I know lots of people like self-publishing, but I would rather get paid than pay.)

Work-for-hire (WFH) writing opportunities are available, too! That's when a publisher comes up with an idea for a book and hires a writer to write about their topic for the audience the publisher has in mind.

Are you a children's writer or teacher? Would you like to break into the publishing world? Or earn additional income writing? Then consider the educational market. Most educational market books are written as WFH projects. Then the books are sold the to libraries and schools.

My first five books were published with the educational market. (My sixth book, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, will be published with Chicago Review Press next year.)

What is the educational market?

Educational publishers like ABDO and Capstone create books, curriculum, assessment materials, and more to be used in educational settings like schools, libraries, and churches. They pay writers--like you--to write about their ideas for their audience. It's called work-for-hire (WFH) so the copyright typically belongs to the publisher. (WFH assignments are also available in the trade market.)

A publisher/editor might contact a writer and invite them to write a book. The editor will likely provide subject matter, age level, word count, due date, and payment information. If the writer accepts the project, they'll get more details and a contract.

This is different than the trade market. The books you find at your local bookstore? Those are all part of the trade market. Though there might be curriculum tie-in, trade books are just meant to be enjoyed. A reader may learn a lot from them, they aren't designed for schools and libraries.

What types of assignments are available for the educational market?

There's a need for nonfiction, fiction, books, curriculum, assessment passages, and more for kindergarten through twelfth grade students.

Who are WFH opportunities good for? 

Curious writers. Like many other nonfiction writers, I enjoy learning about new topics. I appreciate the opportunity to explore new topics and break it down for children to understand. If you write fiction you may or may not need to research for an assignment.

Unpublished writers. Many educational publishers work with new writers for curriculum materials and even books. It's a great way to build your resume. Seriously.

Working writers. It's not easy earning a living as a writer and especially as a children's writer. I only write part-time, but WFH still helps me to earn a paycheck. Many writers supplement their income with WFH. Others do WFH exclusively.

Teachers. A lot of teachers already write their own curriculum. And teachers know children. So teachers make great educational writers. Definitely include teaching and volunteering with kids on your WFH resume.

How can I find WFH work? 

You'll want to create an introductory packet to send to publishers. It typically includes your resume, cover letter, and two writing samples.

If you think you need some help with this, I'm available for consultations and critiques for children's writers, including WFH packages.

What else should I know about Work-for-Hire and the educational market?

UPDATE: I'm teaching an SCBWI webinar about work-for-hire with Benchmark editor Judy Dick. Learn more about the WFH webinar here.

If you want to write for the educational market, be sure to read recently published children's books from publishers in the educational market. Study them.

I highly recommend Laura Purdie Salas's book, Writing for the Educational Market (affiliate link- no additional cost to you).  Evelyn Christensen's website is another treasure. I also have tips and resources for children's writers here at this website.

Just like anything else you plan to submit to an editor, be sure your writing samples fit the publisher. Also, have them critiqued by other writers. (I offer a WFH critique package for those without a critique group or who just want feedback for this specific market.)

How can I learn more about the educational market? 

There's a lot more to understand about the educational market than I can cover in just a blog post. I love to teach workshops on the educational market and work-for-hire.

After such great feedback after my spring ed market webinar with SCBWI, I created an on-demand video course (with lots of hands-on opportunities). That's with KidLit Creatives! (See if we have a current coupon code here or check my most recent author newsletter.)

If you would like to gather a group together, I can do a live webinar for your private group or just for you (but that won't be as budget-friendly as the educational market recorded video course.

Another option would be through Highlights. The Highlights Foundation typically offers a multi-day workshop on the ed market each year.

The most budget-friendly option is to buy Laura Purdie Salas's book called Writing for the Educational Market (affiliate link). You'll find lots of information there to get you started writing for the ed market!
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  1. Hi Annette,
    Thank you for this information. I am definitely interested in learning more. I am not able to participate in the webinar so I will definitely be checking out some of the other resources you've mentioned and I signed up for your newsletter!

    1. You're so welcome! The other resources will give you a great start! :) Good lunck!