Posted by: nancyisanders | November 4, 2014

Writing Opportunity: Nonfiction Sidebars

In a previous post here on my blog, we talked about writing the main nonfiction story of your manuscript.

Today let’s talk about writing the nonfiction sidebars that many of Kaeden’s nonfiction books feature.

For starters, let’s talk about how to format a sidebar in your manuscript. Here’s how I like to do that, based on their book THE BIRD FEEDER:

Page 4 Blue Bird
One blue bird is
on the bird feeder.
Page 5
Male and female Blue
Jays are the same color.
Acorns are their favorite
[End of Sidebar]

Basically, put the words in brackets:
[Sidebar] at the beginning of the sidebar.
[End of Sidebar] after the sidebar is done.

Anything in [brackets] tells the editor it is something for the editor to know.

Now is the time, if you haven’t yet done this, to go back in the nonfiction story you’ve been working on and add sidebars based on how your mentor text does it.

For example, you can look at how THE BIRD FEEDER has sidebars by seeing where the words are on the photographs.

You’ll notice that the sidebars are a much more advanced reading level than the actual story. Higher level vocabulary words such as “dull” or “warbler” are used.
Also, more complex sentences are used and they don’t repeat sentence structure as the main story line does.
You’re a little more free to write the sidebars than you were when you wrote the main story text. Just keep it simple, still, based again on the example of which mentor text you’ve chosen from Kaeden Books to use.

For a nonfiction book manuscript such as this, I like to have 3 reliable research sources for each fact I state. By reliable I mean that I’ll use info from the Smithsonian site or the online Britannica Encyclopedia and not someone’s personal blog. Here’s the standard format for citing internet sites that some of my publishers use:

Author’s Name of site. “Name of page.” Accessed Month, Day, Year. URL.

Here’s what that looks like:

Eccleston, Jim. “Chronology of the Siege of Yorktown.” Accessed March 21, 2014.

I document these in footnotes on my manuscript. Then, after I have all my footnotes documented, I save this file as the FILE NAME WITH FOOTNOTES.

Next I go back through and save a new version of the file WITHOUT any footnotes.

So if you haven’t yet done this on your own manuscript, go ahead and write your sidebars and plug in your footnotes. If you have any questions, just let me know!


  1. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for all this information.

    I have a few questions. Do you footnote all three sources? If I submit a nf manuscript, should I send one copy with the text, sidebar and footnotes and one with text and sidebars only?

    thank you,

  2. Hi Viji, so sorry I didn’t see this post sooner or answer your questions. The answers are a little tricky…it depends on your publisher usually. For my own personal records yes, I footnote all 3 sources. Usually though, when I submit a manuscript, I don’t submit it with the footnotes unless the publisher specifies that in their submission guidelines. But in my cover letter I mention that I can submit a ms with footnotes if they’d like. And sometimes I submit a selected bibliography listing the 5-10 main research books I used for my project to show them the valid sources I’m using. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi Nancy. I’m working on a nonfiction ms in which I have included sidebars. I was wondering how to submit them within the manuscript. Thanks for this explanation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: