Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dual Text Helps Broaden the Market

As the market for nonfiction children's books shrinks, authors and publishers need to get creative about finding ways to increase sales of every book they create. In the past, I've often written two books on the same topic - "Looking at Dolphins and Porpoises" for younger children, for example, and "Dolphins and Porpoises" for the older crowd. Today, that strategy just won't work any more--we need to give customers the best "bang for the buck" possible in order to broaden the market for what we write.

One excellent method that is gaining in popularity is to make the books useful to more than one age level by having dual text for the same images. In my book, "When the Wolves Returned - Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone," for example, each spread has two separate text areas along with several informative photos, mostly by Dan and Cassie Hartman. A box that's set off from part of the large image that covers the left-hand page contains one or two sentences in large type telling the story of Yellowstone's wolves. This text makes for a quick survey of the topic for the busy reader or a "read to" for young children. On the right-hand page, below two or three smaller images, a text of one or two paragraphs expands on the information in the short text, for older or more skilled readers. In this way, this one volume is appropriate for grades 1 through 8. I recently heard from a high school teacher that she uses this book in her classes, too.

Dual text is accomplished in a different way in "About Habitats - Mountains," by Cathryn Sill (Peachtree, 2009). Here, each right-hand page shows a painting by John Sills, with a large-type sentence on the facing page giving the information about the image and smaller text that identifies the locale of the scene and the living things illustrated. At the back of the book is a section labeled "Afterword," where an informative paragraph gives the more detailed higher level text for each spread, along with a snapshot of the accompanying plate.

If you are an author contemplating a topic for your next creation, think about whether there's a way of providing two text levels for your topic. If you're a parent, this type of book can be enjoyed by your children of different ages. And if you're a teacher or librarian, you'll find that children of different skill levels and grade levels can enjoy the same book equally, giving you more 'bang' for the bucks in your book-buying budget.

1 comment:

Loreen Leedy said...

It’s a great technique, and I bet the younger kids end up reading the higher level text or having it read to them sooner rather than later. As a kid I used to read the Time Life books and National Geographic by looking at the pictures and captions, and skipping most of the main text.