Teachers as Published Authors

I have gotten so many emails asking me how I became a published author for Scholastic.  I have one Scholastic teacher resource book that was published in May 2010, 50 Just Right Reading Response Activities.  I have another Scholastic teacher resource book that came out in April 2012, 20 Super Spelling Centers.  I hope this verbose post answers your questions.  
I would like to start by saying that I do not consider myself an especially skilled writer.  I have never been the best of spellers and grammar was always a struggle for me.  I have a degree in Literature and Rhetoric from SUNY Binghamton, so I am more cognizant of my shortcomings.  The good news about writing professional resource books, is that you don't have to be perfect at grammar, you just have to be able to convey your great ideas.  One of the things I love about teaching a primary grade, is that I get to be creative.  I love blogging, TpT, and publishing teacher resource books because I am able to share with other teachers and be recognized for my creativity.  


My first book, came about through networking.  This is not the normal protocol for becoming published.  I took a professional development course with Mary Beth Spann (click {here} to check out some of the books she has written).  One of her editors at Scholastic had asked her if she would be interested in writing another book for them on reading response activities. She decided to pass on the job, but recommended me to her editor.  I had shared some of my teaching ideas with her in our class and she thought that I would be well suited for the job.  I sent ten sample reading response activities and I was hired! 


My second book, came about through the more traditional route.  I sent a proposal to Scholastic.  My proposal included a query letter, my resume, an outline, an introduction/front matter, and samples.  Click {here} for a link on the specifics Scholastic would like included in a proposal.  I sent Scholastic two different proposals, one on a Laura Numeroff Author Study (which I turned into a TpT packet) and one on Spelling Centers.  Scholastic then contacted me via email and expressed their interest in my Spelling Center book. Below, I will further explain the parts of a proposal.  These proposal tips would work with any publishing company, not just Scholastic.

A query letter is a formal letter sent to magazine editors, literary agents and/or publishing companies.  In the letter, writers propose their manuscript/writing in hopes of becoming contracted and published. For links on how to write a query letter, click {here} and {here}.

In your resume, be sure to highlight your areas of expertise.  Here is my resume:


An outline is basically your sample table of contents.  For my spelling center book, I included a list of the 20 centers and brief descriptions of each center.

Most professional resource books have an introduction or in literary terms, a front matter section.  This is the part of the book that tells you why and how to use the book.  To be honest, I never read the front matter of any Scholastic resource books until I became a writer of one!  Look at the front matter in other resource books for ideas.

Samples should be of your strongest and most creative ideas.  Make sure your samples are visually appealing and well edited.  Look at other books by the publisher.  Most books by the same publisher have a similar format or style.  For example, notice how streamlined and simple the Scholastic student direction pages are.  Don't worry about about what type of clipart you use, the publishers have graphic designers who will create their own graphics for the book.

Once you have proposed your book, it may be a very long time before you hear from the publisher.  You might not hear from the at all.  My mother has a children's book manuscript that she has sent to publishers in the hopes of getting published.  She could send out twenty proposals and only get one response back in the form of a rejection letter.  She actually gets excited when she gets rejection letters.  A rejection letter tells her that an editor took the time to at least read her manuscript.

If  the publisher shows an interest in your book, they might not sign you to a contract right away.  I was asked to scrap a few of my spelling centers and come up with new ones.  Then, I was asked to elaborate on the front matter.  After a while of back and forth via email, I was finally contracted.  As I did with my last book, I opted for an advance and royalties rather than a flat fee.  The standard writer's royalty percentage is 8% per book sold, for the life of the book.  This percentage decreases if books are purchased using bonus points or through discount markets.  It averages to about 80 cents per book sold.  I am happy to say that I have worked off my advance for the first book and now collect a royalty check twice a year.  I am nowhere near getting rich off these books, but it is a nice extra. 

Once contracted, you assigned a deadline.  You are also assigned an editor or two.  I had a freelance editor, who I work closely with through email.  She then reported to an editor who was employed full time through Scholastic in NYC.  I went back and forth with my freelance editor a few times a week reviewing ideas and formatting for the book.  Many of my original spelling centers were scrapped.  My editor became my sounding board.  Sometimes, I would lie in bed at night and a new idea would come to me.  I would scribble it down on a pad and email my editor in the morning.  She would either think it was fabulous or tell me that it needed more work.  When the book comes out, you will see there is a spelling center called Sailing Away with Vowels and Consonants.  I originally wanted to do Spelling Word Fractions, but the editors thought it would be too difficult for grades K-2.  So that center then morphed into Crustacean Vowels and Consonants, where the students were sorting vowels and consonants on crab and lobster legs.  Needless to say, that was not appealing to my editor and she asked me to keep on thinking.  Finally, I came up with Sailing Away with Vowels and Consonants.  I cannot share it with you, but I promise if you purchase the book, you will not be disappointed. 

Another interesting thing about writing a book is that it must be typed in Word without graphics.  Instead of placing graphics in the document as you would for TpT, you write directions for the graphic artists.  I wrote "WOL" every time I wanted a "Write On Line."

Once your manuscript is complete, the editors go over it.  My editor will email me with any questions she may have, but for the most part, it is out of my hands.  The editors then pass the manuscript on to the graphic artists.  Sometimes the editors will email me PDF files from the book and have my students test them out.  We want to make sure that there is enough room for primary students to write.    

Finally, the book is sent to the printer. As the author, I receive 10 free copies in the mail and the option to buy more at cost.  Along with these books, I receive a release date.   This is when the book will be available for purchase.  Here is my posts on my just released 20 Super Spelling Centers book.

Many teachers aspire to be Children's book authors.  If this is your goal, I recommend purchasing the book The Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.  I also recommend joining a local writers' group or taking a class taught by a published children's book author. 

I hope you have found this post useful and/or inspiring. Happy teaching and creating!


21 comments:

  1. Wow...that is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found your post very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing.
    Jenn
    http://finallyinfirst.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Erica... That is amazing! I'm not sure if I have your stick-to-it-ness! I really admire your accomplishment. I bet you can really talk to your kiddos about the writing process like very few can. OUTSTANDING! I can't wait to hear about the release date!
    Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this post! I was glued to every word you wrote and would love to publish a book too!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for this post Erica. I have contemplated sending a manuscript to Scholastic many times!

    ReplyDelete
  6. WOW!!! Thank you so much for sharing, I have copied your post and printed it so I can have it as a handy reference. I have always dreamed of writing, not a reference book, but writing, nonetheless. So again, thank you for this, it is priceless.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Erica! So much great information!
    ~Holly
    Stay and Play

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for this fabulous information. You are a wonderful resource. I would absolutely LOVE to have something published someday!!

    Thanks again!
    Jodi
    www.fun-in-first.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Scholastic hit counts went up by a ton! Thanks.

    Primary Graffiti

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for sharing, Erica!!! What an accomplishment!!!

    Anna
    Crazy for First Grade

    ReplyDelete
  11. Do you get a copyright on your manuscript before submitting?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for much for the informative post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for your insights. I have been a freelancer for The Education Center (better known as The Mailbox) for years, and it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two publishers. You have excellent ideas. It's wonderful to see you sharing them with other teachers!

    ReplyDelete
  14. What an informative post Erica! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and inspire the rest of us! You should be very proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished! -Yvonne :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Erica, thanks for sharing this valuable information! Congratulations on being a Scholastic author! I am a published author as well, but my experiences were a little different. I first published with Kagan (think Kagan Cooperative Learning) and the process was similar to yours, although I had been trained as a Kagan trainer prior to writing for them so that was how I came to their attention. More recently, I published Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide with Brigantine Media, and my experience was completely different. With Kagan, they took on all the risks and produced the book with very little input from me, but I only receive a small percentage of the profits. With Brigantine Media, I had to contribute 50% of the money for producing the book (after they approved my my manuscript), but I now earn 50% of the profits! What a difference that makes! I made more off one book with Brigantine Media in a month than I did with 6 books from Kagan in a quarter! By the way, Brigantine Media is looking for more educational authors to work with. If you are interested, email me at lauracandler@att.net with a link to your blog and/or teacher store and I'll pass the information along to them. Erica, that goes for you as well, unless you have a deal with Scholastic to publish your future books!

    Laura Candler
    Teaching Resources Website
    Corkboard Connections Blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on being published! I know my readers will be interested in different publishing venues.
      I am going to take a break from writing, to focus on my TpT products. I might look into it in the summer again, but I think I will stick with Scholastic. They have been very good to me :)

      Delete
  16. Congratulations. You're accomplishments are inspiring! :-)

    Cynthia

    www.2ndgradepad.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Erica!
    I remember when you first stepped in to my "How to Become a Published Professional" Workshop at the OWL Teacher Center in Lindenhurst, NY. There were a bunch of wonderful teachers in that group, but you stood out from the rest. Maybe it was because you were lugging a 4" binder bulging with ideas, (LOL) or maybe it was your enthusiasm or your energy--or the fact that you were attending my class in addition to teaching full time AND teaching still other teacher workshops of your own! I remember thinking, This kid is a dynamo!!!

    And now you are standing out in a different way: Your work on TpT and on this blog represents the deep and admirable sense of support and caring you continually offer to me and to your TpT colleagues. You could keep your methods and your insights to yourself, but instead you easily reach out to help beginners like me without asking anything in return—all in the spirit of helping children learn!

    I am honored to have been a small part of your great success—and appreciate all the help you have given me as I move from more traditional publishing venues to the digital publishing world—a true case of the student becoming the teacher! Thank you for mentioning me in this blog and for providing a link to some of my publications. So sweet!

    I so appreciate all the help you have given me as I have been working on creating and launching my own teacher Membership site: Learning with Puppets.

    As I move ahead here, creating and selling my own products to teachers and parents online, I will remember your kind, generous spirit and I promise to pay it forward.

    Love,
    Mary Beth
    marybeth@learningwithpuppets.com
    www.learningwithpuppets.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have been looking for information about publishing children's books for years now and nothing helped me as much as this post! Thank you so much Erica! Congrats on becoming a published author on Scholastic. :)

    I'm your newest follower!
    Yara

    Www.yarasseaofknowledge.blogspot.com.au

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love the "Reading Response Activity Sheets" from Scholastic! I love using graphic organizers in my classroom because it helps the students keep their thoughts organized. One of my goals is to become a published children's book author!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Erica,
    I have been trying to gather information about publishing through Scholastic. Can you answer a few questions for me? My email is carrienolan@yahoo.com. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...