I've not written any children's non-fiction before so I'm excited to learn something completely new as I arrive for today's SCBWI Author Masterclass in a room above a pub, five minutes walk from Trafalgar Square.
|Afternoon Tea Time as We Listen To Some Hints & Tips|
The first hour is a joy for a learning junkie like me as Judith gives us plenty of excellent advice and top tips on bringing the real world to children through non-fiction. She suggests we need to think about the following four elements:
● The subject: is it popular and universal or more geared towards the national curriculum, or maybe niche, new or topical? Knowing where your concept fits is crucial for your pitch, including whether it’s for the education, trade or crossover markets.
● The reader: the child, parent and teacher. Whether we agree with age banding or not we should know how children’s ages are grouped since almost all publishers will think in these terms.
● The market: the buyer, it's either education buyers, such as schools and libraries or trade buyers , including parents and grandparents. Publishers, unsurprisingly, like to be able to capture both markets.
● The angle: doesn't need to be wildly experimental. Understand what you're bringing to the table that's a little different. This could be being reassuringly trustworthy in tone or that your story rhymes or being design-led or other ways you can think of to engage your young reader and encourage them to read on.
● Informative - be the expert
● Interesting - use all the senses
● Accessible and interactive - to support learning and engagement .
After lunch we get straight into the workshop, working in small groups to bring fiction- inspired narratives to information-driven concepts through the development of a book proposal for publishers.
The template Judith provides focuses on, among other things, the market, reader age, subject area, unique selling point, and, gulp, why we’re the best person to write it. Some of the braver writers share their proposals and this leads into the final Q&A as we think upon all we’ve learned and what we all need to go away and get on with!
|Non Fiction Titles from Judith's library.|
● You don't have to secure an agent to get your non-fiction picture book published. It's very normal to approach and work directly with a publisher. Key non-fiction publishers include Walker, Wayland, Franklin Watts, Scholastic, OUP, Bloomsbury, Barefoot and Flying Eye.
● Non-fiction is rarely in verse , though there are the occasional examples such as The Beeman by Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis. T his was a one-off title so very much niche but lovely all the same.
● A publisher may commission work from you off the back of a pitch. This was the case with Judith's first pitch. The publisher didn’t want to pursue her initial proposal but was impressed with it so asked her to write something else. You never know where a non-fiction pitch might lead!
Judith’s energetic and fun masterclass has certainly boosted my interest in writing for this alternative market and my critique group will be seeing some non-fiction from me very soon.
For upcoming masterclasses and other SCBWI British Isles events check out the calendar here: https://britishisles.scbwi.org/events/