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NF Book about Cancer, Finding an Illustrator, More on Publisher-Suggested Books

The Purple Crayon Blog for January 2005

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Writing an Informational Book about Cancer

I'm a [medical professional] and recent cancer survivor. I'd like to write a book (I guess you'd call it a combination picture / non-fiction book) that explains a little bit about what cancer is, does in the body, etc., for very young children. It would have simple language, some cute stuff  (like “baby cells” and “grown up cells”), and hopefully great illustrations by someone other than me.  It could be for children who have cancer, and the children of adults with cancer.

If I'm lucky enough to get published I'd want hospitals and cancer foundations to know about the book. I'd probably want part of the proceeds to go to a cancer organization. Are there certain publishers that handle not only this type of a book, but also special markets and donations?

Yes, there are publishers that do this kind of book, and that know how to market it/distribute it. I don't know any names to give you, though, because this is not an area with which I am very familiar. Find some similar books, either on Amazon or in a bookstore with a large children's section, and see who publishes them....

I've also seen books like this distributed for free in doctor's offices. I believe they are produced by medical organizations. But these, of course, are usually inexpensively produced, not the kind of book I think you envision.

I suggest that you join the SCBWI, or at least attend one of their local conferences, and start to learn more about writing for children. It's not as straightforward as many adults assume it is.

Whatever you do, good luck!

Finding an Illustrator

I really enjoyed your website. It was full of information. Here is my dilemma. I have written a children's book about a loved one passing away. I need to have it illustrated and then published. I can not locate an illustrator in my area. Can you put me in contact with an illustrator? I am in [city]. Thank you!!

Thanks. I'm glad you like my site. Unless you are planning to self-publish your book, which is more work than you might realize, you do not need to find an illustrator for it. The publisher signs up the illustrator after signing up an author. This question, and other basic ones, is actually addressed in this article. There's so much on my site it must have been hard to find!

You might also find my Idiot's Guide, about which you'll find more information on my site, to be helpful.
Good luck,

Finding a Printer to Self-Publish a Board Book

This question and answer are now part of an article called Writing and Publishing Board Books.

A Comment About Publisher-Suggested Books

On the latest installment of your blog, I think that the questioner who wondered about the change in approach toward publisher-suggested books is right on the money in the school and library market.

Despite a number of successful single titles that resulted from my proposals, I find that school-library publishers now are becoming exclusively series publishers. Not only do they have titles to suggest but also a fully developed format. Of course, as you might expect, they offer largely work-for-hire contracts. Some will offer royalty contracts and let the author keep the copyright, but they warn authors not to expect much more in the end than the work-for-hire agreement would pay up front.

Work-for-hire is reasonable for such books because the publishers need more control over the series. Of course, since they have done much of the planning, they offer about 30% less than I would expect for the same book if I had developed the proposal myself.

I have the feeling that the educational market has been parceled out into grid squares, and publishers are trying to cover each one with a title to match. It is an effective business strategy, though it removes some of the literary originality. This is very discouraging to me, because I have an idiosyncratic voice and like to write books that fit between the usual subjects, covering parts of several squares but not necessarily filling any one of them.

I received this interesting comment from an author in response to a question about publisher-suggested books that I had posted and answered in the previous installment of the blog. It's useful information but doesn't fully explain the situation, since the earlier question had been about trade publishers.

This installment is based on emails I sent out in late December and January in response to questions received at The Purple Crayon.

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Copyright 2005 by Harold Underdown. All rights reserved.

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