This past fall my colleague, Allyson Valentine Schrier and I gave a talk about writing-for-hire to CWILL(Canadian Writers & Illustrators) in Vancouver, British Columbia. We had a great time but one thing I came to realize that authors have very disparate views and understandings of the READING (or TEACHER'S) GUIDE that may be written for their book. Some authors had been asked to create their own. Others felt it was their publisher's role to develop such an item. Some felt the guides were primarily of promotional value while others saw them as providing a sort of educational community service function. Largely as a result of my conversation with my delightful Canadian colleagues, I'd like to address the topic of the READING GUIDE. Then, we'll head back to the topic of School & Library Appearances--there's a lot more to discuss but sometimes a change of pace is good, too!
The Reading Guide (sometimes known as a Discussion Guide, Educator's Guide, etc.) can be created as a stand-alone document, often in pamphlet or newsletter style which can be used as part of a bookstore display or distributed at educational and sales conferences; bound into the final pages of an actual hardcover or paperback book; or provided as web content on a publisher and/or author's website. They can be slick, four-color productions or basic, photocopied pages. Publishers decide to create Reading Guides for individual titles or book series based on such factors as sales statistics, a desire to promote or brand a given author, and identification of a book's subject as conducive to book group discussion or educational purposes. Large trade publishers produce guides in-house or hire writers to create such materials. Smaller publishers may do the same, or they may invite authors to create guides for their own work.
In upcoming posts, I will discuss strategies for developing quality reading guides for hire or for your own titles, and then cover ways to use these materials to market your books.