Last spring a publisher contacted me about a brand new nonfiction children’s book project. They asked if I’d be interested in writing it for them. There was just one hitch. Each book had to be written in less than one month.
Well…that took a little bit of time to get all the negotiations figured out and the contract signed, but that night after I heard from the publisher, I spent several hours creating a list of research books I would need to have in order to work on that new nonfiction project.
First I went to Amazon and searched for encyclopedias, reference books, hefty adult nonfiction books, and children’s books on that topic.
I made a list of lots and lots of possible books I might need.
Then I visited my local library’s online site and ordered in as many of those books as I could find there.
Then I went back to Amazon and did the “Look Inside” feature for the books on my list that my library didn’t have. I created a “Must have” list of books I’d need.
Then I figured out a budget for what I was willing to spend to beef up my own personal research library of books I wanted to own. For contracts where I’m offered $3000-$5000 advance I usually budget in about $100-$250 for purchasing research books. Especially on Amazon I’ve been able to get encyclopedic reference books for less than $5.00 so I can usually make this go quite a ways.
(I didn’t purchase those books yet but later, the second it looked like I’d have a signed contract, I was ready to buy them so I did.)
And then I did one more thing.
I spent time at Amazon and at my online library’s site looking for mentor texts. These weren’t books that I could research for facts. These were books I could research to help me learn how to write my upcoming project.
So, along with research books you need to order in and have ready for when you start next Monday, you also need at least one nonfiction picture book that you’re going to use as your mentor text.
For the next two picture book projects we’ll be doing here on my blog, I got a big stack of current nonfiction picture books and historical fiction picture books from my library to go through to consider using as my mentor text.
Last time, I used Those Rebels, John and Tom. This time I want to use a different mentor text. My favorite in my stack so far is Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library, but I haven’t totally decided yet.
That book is current and it’s nothing short of awesome as far as nonfiction picture books go. (Those are the main reasons I’m considering using it for a mentor text. You might want to consider it as your mentor text as well.)
So while you’re gathering potential research books, also gather potential mentor texts of current nonfiction of historical fiction picture books you want yours to be like.