Self-Publishing Non-Fiction Books for Kids

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MaryLennox

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I've been making and publishing preschool activity books - things like basic math and learning to print. I wanted to branch out and include more information - such as an activity book that includes facts about insects, for example. I would need to do research (proper book research, not wikipedia) to find the facts to put in the activity book. I've been having trouble finding articles on-line about how to do this. I understand I would include a bibliography if I was submitting this as a project to a publisher, but what about self-publishing? I never see a bibliography included in the actual books I've looked at.
 

Chris P

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Hi Mary, I'm not sure precisely what you are asking. Do you need kid-level information on insects? Or how to determine sources for a bibliography for information in general? Or a question about self-publishing?

If about whether a bibliography is needed for self-publishing, I am no expert on that but it seems to me you could do what you want and "buyer beware" regarding the quality of the information.

I am an expert on insects, though :) (entomologist by education and experience) You might start off with 4-H, which I suspect they have in Canada as it has an international office. I found entomology resources through their webpage. When I was associated with the ent department at Mississippi State Univ., Bug Camp was one of the most successful outreach events of the year. 4-H was involved with MSU bug camp, although I don't see them mentioned on the Bug Camp site. For that matter, most of the "land grant" universities in the US (and more specifically usually those with "State University" in their name) have a cooperative extension service that does youth outreach, and in some ag states the ent extension is very active (Iowa State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon State, and Colorado State all come to mind immediately). In Canada, I think University of Guelph might be active in agricultural outreach. You could also look to Scouting BSA (formerly Boy Scouts) or Girl Scouts to see what nature education they do.

[Just to add, my mobile device TWICE ate this message, and the "Restore stored content button" works across devices! The genius of AW never stops amazing me.]
 
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MaryLennox

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Thanks for the info about insects!

I am mostly concerned with the fact that I will need to learn the information from other sources and then use it in my books. I don't know what the copyright rules are for this kind of publication. I've tried googling information about publishing children's non-fiction but all I can find is advice about writing and where to look for information, but not how to legally use that information in your book. I won't be copying things word for word, but I'd still be using the information I learned.
 
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Chris P

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Ah, that helps! In general, you can restate in your own words (important: in your own words) anything factual from other sources as long as you cite the source, and don't use any of the original language unless it is clear it is a direct quote and the source of the quote is provided. Direct quotes require permission of the copyright holder (or at least assume it does to cover yourself). If you're using a secondary source that is quoting or rephrasing a primary source, I suggest going to the primary source and only include the secondary source if it provides more information to explain the primary source.

I don't know where the line is between common knowledge that doesn't need a citation ("insects have six legs and three main body parts--head, thorax and abdomen") and specific information that needs to be cited ("Unlike bird wings, which are derived from legs, insect wings are thought to originally have been the insect's 'heat pumps,' allowing them to soak up sunshine when they are cold or to get rid of heat when they get too hot") (this is only one of several hotly contested theories, by the way). When it doubt, cite. If it looks highly specific and you can't cite it, don't include it.

The format of the citations can be variable. Look at similar publications and see how they do it for the age level you are writing for. I would suspect, but don't know for sure, that footnotes would probably be fine for older kids, but might confuse younger ones who might not need specific, citable information anyway. I think it would be helpful if the citations were from publications at the same reading level, especially if you are using the bibliography as a "further reading" list. Don't send eight year olds to Journal of Impossible Chemistry! :)
 

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It's a kids book, so you might want to include further reading with your audience in mind; you don't need actual citations.

Facts are not copyrightable; the way you express those facts, the words you use, is.

Find solid reputable sources; keep track for your own use and for your publisher of where you got specific facts, with full citations in a separate resource document that isn't part of the book itself.

Find your facts, double check that they're accurate, and use your own words to express them.

Look at similar books, perhaps not about insects, but at the genre/general kind of book you want to right, and use them as models.
 

MaryLennox

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Thank you! That's very helpful. I'm eagerly waiting for the library to re-open in my area so I can do better research on this. I only have a handful of children's non-fiction books at home.
 

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