Earlier this month, I hosted an SCBWI Rockford Network guest speaker who really resonated with me. Michael Leali, the Children’s Department Manager for Anderson’s Bookshop in La Grange, presented Beginning at the End: Informing Today’s Writing By Considering the Future Bookstore Shelf. Michael gave us a behind the scenes look at what’s flying off the bookstore shelves, what customers want but can’t find, and how that information can help writers craft first lines and first pages that hook a reader.
The item that most surprised me: nonfiction picture book biographies are still hot, hot, hot in bookstores. Last October at my Highlights retreat, I learned they’re equally hot with nonfiction writers. To the agents and editors I’ve spoken with recently – they’re not.
An interesting dynamic occurs within the publishing industry. Agents and editors acquire picture book manuscripts two years ahead of the bookstore release. If picture book biographies are flying off the shelves now, there are likely another two years worth of books in production. The acquisitions market can already be saturated while the trend is still hot at the bookstore.
I’ve heard hints that the next big thing in KidLit nonfiction is non-biography STEM Narrative Nonfiction. I struggled to picture what that engineering picture book might look like.
What came to mind first: Fiction engineering picture books.
Looking through my collection of engineering nonfiction picture books, it quickly became apparent I’m biased toward structural engineering and bridges. I found . . .
Informational Texts (which are nonfiction books without a narrative story):
Nonfiction Biographies of a Structure Instead of a Person:
And now for the hot new acquisitions trend:
Non-Biography STEM Narrative Nonfiction!
That’s it. I only own two non-biography narrative nonfiction books about engineering, and one is a board book for very young readers.
The Highlights vow I previously blogged was refined: I must write a non-biography STEM narrative nonfiction picture book.
After my Highlights workshop, I also took a six-week online class through The Writing Barn. Beyond Biographies: Creative Nonfiction & Informational Fiction Picture Books by Miranda Paul.
If you ever have a chance to attend one of Miranda’s classes – take it! She really helped me understand what a non-biography narrative nonfiction picture book is and gave me the tools to start writing one. I recommend reading lots of these picture books to get a feel for the wide range of formats and tones that can be used. None of the class example books were about structural engineering, which gives me an exciting market gap to play in. There were many great STEM examples using other areas of science and math:
I already have two non-biography STEM narrative nonfiction story ideas coming to life. Of course they are both about structural engineering.
How about you?