Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Be an Awesome Freelance Author

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I've worked with some great authors on work-for-hire projects aimed at the school/library market. I would like to work with even more great authors. It's not hard to become a standout work-for-hire author. Besides writing skills (of course), the magic ingredients are super simple: patience, diligence, and some self-awareness. If you're thinking about giving it a try, especially in the kids' school/library market, here are some basics to keep in mind.

9781467718837fc_Medium.jpgKnow your range. Are you comfortable writing for middle school kids? Kids in grades 3-5? Younger than that? Are you better at writing about science-related topics or social studies content? What's totally over your head? Don't try to write about it. Just don't. Focus on your strengths, especially when you're starting out. Be flexible, but don't take on a project that's out of your depth. Trust me, an editor will thank you for passing up a book you're not qualified to write. And as you gain more experience, you can always expand the range of projects you're comfortable taking on.

Craft a really good writing sample. This is about as obvious as "Have a really well-put-together resume" and about as frequently ignored. Seriously, work on that sample. Proofread it. Format it in a way that makes it clear it was intended for a human readership. (The old high-school essay look--Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced--works just fine. No need to get fancy.) And before you send it to a potential employer, make sure it actually matches what that employer is looking for.

9781467752220fc_Medium.jpgWhen you get a project, research your topic thoroughly. Sure, a publishing house worth its salt uses fact-checkers and content consultants to verify everything, but your original manuscript should be pretty airtight. We play the written version of "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" every day at Lerner. There's probably actually plenty you don't know about your topic, or at least plenty that you need to double-check with reliable sources. And you have to cite your sources anyway if you work for us, so you might as well find good ones that will hold up against a robust fact-check and a picky editor.

Don't plagiarize. Like, make sure you don't plagiarize. Keep your notes separate from your manuscript; put quotes around any material you're taking word-for-word from a source; double-check as you go to make sure your wording hasn't inadvertently veered queasily close to a source's language. If this all seems incredibly, stupefyingly obvious--good. You are author material.

Revise when you're asked to. An editor's job is to edit; a writer's job is to write. If an editor asks you to add or substantially rework material, it's usually because it involves additional research that the editor herself doesn't have time for. Tackle it with gusto, and win that editor's appreciation.

Be chill. Your editor is going to change stuff in your manuscript. Possibly a lot of stuff. If you've written a good manuscript, you will probably see fewer changes--unless the specs for the book have changed, for any of myriad reasons I won't get into, in which case, that's not your fault. But your work belongs to us now (insert sinister laughter), so roll with it. If a change confuses you, feel free to ask about it. But if the editor has a good reason for making that change, or if she decides to exert her arbitrary whims upon your manuscript (hint: it's usually the former), continue to roll with it.

9781467757959fc_Medium.jpgBe personable. This makes a world of difference in any career path, but honestly, I'm more likely to remember whether you're a pleasant person than how much work your manuscript needed (unless it was a total disaster, or the best thing since zipper-equipped snow boots). We want the book-creating experience to be a positive one for everyone involved. Going in--and staying in--with a polite, respectful, upbeat outlook makes the whole process more enjoyable and leaves a good impression on the people you work with.

This isn't a comprehensive list by any means, but it's a roundup of "seemingly so obvious that we don't think about them and therefore sometimes actually forget about them" tips. I hope they serve you well if you're pursuing or contemplating freelance writing--especially with us!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Free Book Friday: Locked Out

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Enter to win our new Locked Out high-low series by acclaimed author Patrick Jones. Bridge, a book in his previous The Alternative series, earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

This urban fiction series features diverse characters and is set in cities around the US. Locked Out explores the complex ways that parental incarceration affects teens, from physical absence to family histories of crime to stigmas and emotional health.

Research has shown parental incarceration to be associated with poor academic achievement, involvement in delinquency and gang-related activities, violence, and eventually adult criminal behavior. These books offer accessible, relatable stories of teens dealing with the significant challenges that an estimated 1.7 million children of incarcerated parents in the US face.

If you'd like to win  Locked Out, please leave a comment on this post (including your first and last name), or tweet this line: "Free Book Friday! RT to win LOCKED OUT by @PatrickJonesYA from @LernerBooks."

We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 27, so check the blog then to see if you've won!

Good luck!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

FREE Teaching Materials: STEM Trailblazer Bios

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Who hasn't dreamed of being an astronaut? Maybe a famous inventor? In our new STEM Trailblazer bios, students can read about many of the big names in science, technology, engineering, and math today.

This week, I'm so happy to share the standards-aligned teaching guide for this new series. This teaching guide, aimed at grades 2-5, covers NCSS and Common Core Reading and Writing standards. With four full lesson plans and aligned printables and handouts, the guide will make teaching this series a breeze.

Check out the biographies currently on sale on our site. Then download the completely FREE teaching guide here.

And keep your eyes open for more STEM bios in the coming months!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sneaker Century Outtakes

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I invited Amber J. Keyser to say a few words about writing TFCB’s Sneaker Century, just out this spring. Reviews are glowing, and Booklist points out, “This [book] will be popular.”


Here’s what Amber has to say:

I wish you could see my pile of research notes for SNEAKER CENTURY: A HISTORY OF ATHLETIC SHOES. (It’s pretty astonishing!)

One of the hardest things about writing nonfiction is deciding which juicy historical tidbits get to go in the book and which ones get left out. (Sometimes I gnash my teeth and weep!)

Here’s a list of some of my favorite research findings that never found their way onto the pages of SNEAKER CENTURY.

• Still-visible toe imprints in the oldest moccasin ever found

• Roberta Gibb, who registered for the male-only Boston Marathon as “Bobbi” and ran with a team of protectors who kept race officials from dragging her off the course in 1966

• Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ black power protest at the 1968 Olympics, complete with Pumas on the podium

• Bo Jackson’s dominance in professional baseball and football

• First WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes and her Nike Air Swoopes

• Michael Johnson’s gold-plated track cleats

• Biomechanics of barefoot running

• Grit, guts, and focus of top ultra marathoner Ann Treason

• “Make pain your friend and you’ll never be alone.” — Ken Chlouber, miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100 mile race

IMG_0098 (2)

Working on this book turned me into a trail runner. I am lucky to live near a huge forested park with great trails. I run all year long in sun, rain, or snow. I’ve got a new puppy, and I’m looking forward to when she is big enough to run with me. (And in case you were wondering… I wear New Balance!)

Recently my daughter and I have been entering 5K races together. Our favorites are mud and obstacle runs. During this one (photo above), our team wore angel costumes. (Our sneakers never recovered!)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Welcome to Lerner, #LastListEgmont!

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First, congratulations to Michele, who's won The Bunker Diary! Email with your address and we'll get your book in the mail.

And now for an Egmont update...

It's been a crazy past few weeks for us here at Lerner! On February 25, we announced via this press release that we had purchased around 100 titles from Egmont USA, including the twelve final titles that were due to be released this spring.

The authors of ten of those books have been engaging in a tour de force social media whirlwind. If you don't know what I'm talking about, type in #LastListEgmont into your Twitter search feature and feast on more than 100 guest posts, reviews, interviews, and advice columns (Sarah McGuire's Things to Remember When You're Facing a Giant comes to mind).

Last week Monday, March 2, the Last Listers, with the help of Cuddlebuggery's Kat Kennedy, embarked on a 60+ post blog takeover. All of the posts can be found on the Egmont's Last List Tumblr account here.

The Last Listers also interviewed each other on Teen Librarian Toolbox last week.

Each day, more #LastListEgmont goodies pop up; for example, earlier this week, Matt Myklusch talked to Ilsa J. Bick (whose book The Dickens Mirror was released on Tuesday) about publishing, differences between imprints, and the double-edged sword of talking to fellow writers in this fascinating podcast.

Plus, boxes of Egmont titles appeared in the office this week! We're all so excited to read the backlist and better acquaint ourselves with our new Lerner books. Welcome, Egmont USA!