Posted by: nancyisanders | April 3, 2017

Nonfiction Biographies

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Thanks to all of you who have purchased my audio class on how to write a nonfiction book. And thanks to one of my cyberspace writing friends who purchased the course and has asked me for some tips on writing a nonfiction biography on a current personality.

Years ago when I started writing, before I ever published my first book, one of the first things I did was interview an author and submit it to a writing magazine that published author/editor interviews. It was one of my first acceptances ever! So I continued to interview fellow authors as well as editors, eventually becoming a Contributing Editor to the writing magazine myself. Over several years, I built up experience with interviewing skills and was able to eventually interview TV and musical personalities, too.

Learning how to interview someone is a learning curve in itself. Learning how to interview a famous person is an even bigger learning curve. And learning what it takes to get that person’s interview published can involve copyright issues, permissions, and journalism/research skills.

So, what happens if you want to interview a current personality and get it published as a children’s nonfiction biography?

First of all, know your publishers. Most current picture book biographies are published by educational publishers. These publishers usually do entire series on these biographies. They often offer work-for-hire contracts and expect to hire you and have you sign a contract with them before you write the book.

For example, Scholastic published this book on Taylor Swift as part of its easy reader series. And National Geographic published this book on Barack Obama.

If you’d rather write a chapter book or a YA nonfiction title about a celebrity, that would include a different list of publishers as well. Find out which publishers publish these types of books. Look on their submissions guidelines to see if they prefer to sign a contract with you before you write the book or want to see the finished book.

You don’t always need to go this route, however. There are some publishers who publish individual titles on current personalities. If you would rather go this route, but don’t have any experience with this type of project, you can start with baby steps:

  • Contact this celebrity person and ask if you can interview her on  your blog.
  • Then after that is published, ask if you can interview her for a small magazine or local freebie magazine that most likely publishes anything people submit.
  • In the meantime while you are developing a relationship with this personality, you can be working on your book writing skills. Eventually you can ask her if you can write her story up as a picture book or other book for potential publication.

If you’re apprehensive about any of this, however, you can save this particular goal of yours for Nonfiction Book #2.

Start instead writing a nonfiction biography with an old dead guy like Alexander Hamilton or Bach. It will make your life much much easier and let you focus on learning how to write a nonfiction biography without all the extra work, copyright issues, permission requirements, journalism skills, and interview skills you need to learn to navigate through to write about a current living celebrity.

Then, after you get your Nonfiction Book #1 published, ask your editor if she’d like a book on your favorite celebrity. It will make your writing journey so much easier!





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