One of the best aspects of the Writing Away Retreat is the opportunity it provides for writers to pick the brains of all those lovely keepers of the keys in the New York publishing industry. Or the LA publishing industry, as in the case of poet/editor/publisher/(unofficial) stand-up comedian Kate Gale.
Kate was one of the two folks I asked to critique my nonfiction children’s books projects…a conversation that quickly evolved into a discussion of the future of the children’s nonfiction book market. Since I’ve devoted years of my life to working on these two nf projects, you can imagine this is a subject near and dear to my heart.
See, here’s the deal: I started on the nf projects years before because nonfiction, theoretically, is easier to sell; I have a science background; and I actively enjoying researching and writing about my latest obsession in the nf world. The problem is this: now I’m a bit farther along in my writing career, and I’ve done quite a bit of market research, I’m realizing that the children’s nf book market is actually much smaller that I’d first believed. And most of the nf market is educational publishing, which is fun and all, but my two pet nf projects (the almost-finished, I’d-like-to-send-them-out-soon projects) definitely don’t fit most educational publishers’ lists. And I’m not sure they appeal to a wide enough audience to appeal to many trade publishers.
Wisdom from Kate: the future of children’s nf lies in online content associated with the book. Science teachers want the kind of stuff I’m writing—but I have a much stronger platform if I can offer online content to augment material in an actual book. For instance, can I include additional info on the books’ topics in my website? How about a choose-your-own adventure approach to expanding the material? An hour critique appointment transformed into an hour-and-a-half brainstorming session and ongoing conversations throughout the weekend on ways to add value to my book concepts.
What’s the blogging connection? Well, Kate authors a smart, funny blog that covers everything from her latest speaking engagement to her thoughts on news, education, and nude beaches. It also includes pieces that will appear in one of her own nf book projects. She sees the blog as a way to discipline herself to produce the material for her book as well as building a platform on the topic.
Hmm. One of my ongoing blogging concerns is what value I add to the blogging community. I mean, sure, I love blogging, I love reading about other writers’ ups and downs in their writing lives, and I love collecting my thoughts on how the heck we thrive in the crazy writing life some of us choose—but I also want to reach beyond my circle of writers to the folks who might, someday, become my readers. I want my writing to reach a wider audience. I’ve never had a good idea how to do that.
Thanks for the food for thought, Kate! And for my fantastic readers, I’ll add this: someday, somewhere, find a time and place where you can ask smart people in the publishing industry smart questions about writing, career, marketplace, and so on. Those conversations are valuable beyond measure.
Plus people who share this weird writing life have GOT to be the best, most interesting people in the world, so you’ll have a darned lot of fun, too