One important lesson I’ve learned in these beginning stages of writing a graded reader is don’t start writing! That certainly was counterintuitive to me; after all, I have a brilliant idea 😉 and I’m eager to start tapping away on my keyboard. However, there are a few essential things that need to be done first.
Research the Market
First, I’ve looked through the catalogues of many publishers to learn which series they publish. Since my idea is a true story, I’ve been looking for a series that my title might fit with. Also, I needed to check that my story hasn’t already been turned into a reader, and thankfully, it hasn’t. Not yet!
After identifying a couple of series that publish non-fiction readers, I now have to contact the Series Editor or Commissioning Editor to a) find out if they are still looking for new titles in and b) ask for submission guidelines.
Cambridge University Press has listed its editors and provided submission guidelines at https://authornet.cambridge.org/information/proposaluk/elt/
Macmillian has tips at http://www.macmillanreaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/How-to-Write-a-Graded2.pdf
I’ve been reading a range of graded readers from different series and different publishers. I’ve been paying attention to many things:
– how the writers hook the reader at the beginning (or in some cases, fail to hook the reader)
– number of chapters and length of chapters
– range of vocabulary and grammatical structures
– illustrations / artwork
– interactive / online features
– writing devices that are effective (use of dialogue to advance the story; shorter paragraphs; cliffhangers at the end of chapters; interesting artwork; reduced pronominal referents to make it easier to know who the writer is referring to, especially for lower level readers; etc.)
– types of activities that accompany the reader
Research my Topic
My proposed reader is based on a compelling true story with universal appeal that took place on the west coast of Canada and the U.S. (sorry, I don’t want to disclose the topic at this point). It was reported in the media, and was the subject of a book and documentary. I am now in the process of researching the event and thinking about what information to include and what to exclude. Then I’m going to make a detailed outline of what will be included in each chapter. Any editor interested in my idea will probably want to see this outline in order to decide if it’s something they are willing to commission.
It is necessary at this stage to consider which level the reader will be pitched at. After reading quite a few graded readers, I feel that I am best suited to the B1 or B2 (CEFR) levels. I often teach these levels so I am familiar with the language these students can handle. Of course, the editor might set the level that he/she feels is most appropriate to the topic.
Back to work!