Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Behind the Books: Finding Photos for Nonfiction Books

In many cases, nonfiction authors are responsible for the photos as well as the words in their books. This means finding the images, securing the rights to use them, and paying any associated fees. Since this process can seem daunting to people doing it for the first time, today I’m turning over my blog to award-winning author Sarah Albee for her best advice on photo research.

Sarah, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

Hey Melissa! Happy to be back. I love talking about image research!

Authors, it can be a shock to learn that you are responsible for your own image research and rights clearance. And—horrors—that you are expected to pay for the pictures, too.

But don’t despair! Finding great, print-quality images that are free or low-cost has gotten easier in the last few years. Plus copyright holders can be quite understanding if you explain that you’re an author with a limited budget.

For some basic tips about photo research, please read this Q & A post intended to help young writers working on reports. If you’re a professional writer with a book contract in hand, here are a few more things you’ll need to know.

In addition to the public domain photo sources listed on the edtechteacher website, here are some that I use a lot as a history writer.
·         Flickr/The Commons
·         Wikimedia Commons
·         The Wellcome Library
·         National Library of Medicine
·         Library of Congress
·         National Archives
·         New York Public Library

When you’re selecting images for a book, remember that they need to be print-quality, or of a high-enough resolution that they will look good when published.

To determine if an image is print-quality, check the file size. For instance, here are some images of Marie Curie from Wikimedia Commons.
This image is just 15 KB (kilobytes). In print, an image with such a small file size would look pixelated, so it’s not a good choice.

This image is 3.19 megabytes. It’s a much larger file, which means it contains more detail and would probably look just fine on a printed page.

If in doubt, your publisher’s art department can help you figure out if an image is high enough in quality for printing.

What if you find the perfect public domain image, but it’s not print-quality? You may be able to find a high-resolution version through a museum or image house, though you’ll probably have to pay a usage fee (even if the image is in the public domain).

Some image houses, also called stock houses, charge fairly reasonable usage fees. Others are more expensive. The upside is that all stock house images come with the assurance that rights are cleared and the quality will be high.

Most image houses will negotiate with authors once they learn you’re paying for the images yourself. Here are some image houses I’ve used a lot.
·      Shutterstock
·         Granger
·         Mary Evans
·         Bridgeman
·         Getty
Of these, Getty is most expensive, but sometimes you don’t have a lot of flexibility when you need that perfect picture.

Once you know what images you want to order, be prepared to give a stock house this info:
·         Size of the image (ie ¼ page, ½ page, etc.)
·         Black and white or color
·         Print run of your book (you probably have to estimate this)
·         Cover or interior page
·         Language(s) the book be published in
·         Countries where it will be distributed
·         Do you need e-rights?

I recommend clearing all-world, all-languages, e-rights from the get-go. It can be more expensive, but it means you won’t have to go back to all your image sources if your book gets sold in a foreign country. 

Library of Congress
Sometimes you can find your own, original images. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. has a super-cool machine that takes print-quality photos of an open book. (Other big libraries may have this technology, but I love that LOC lets researchers do it themselves!)
Recently, I spent a day in the New York Public Library’s microfilm room, learning to brighten/sharpen images from old newspapers and save them to a thumb drive as PDFs that are of good enough quality to use in a book.

Need a specific image? Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. I’ve written to photographers and requested permission to use their images, and they’ve almost always said yes. A few asked for a small fee. Others requested a copy of the published book.

I know I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, but there’s one more thing that I think it’s important to say: image research is really, really fun. It’s one of my favorite stages of working on a book!

Disclaimer: I am not a copyright attorney. Copyright law is full of ambiguity. The information I’ve shared is what I believe to be correct. Please feel free to comment if you see something that you think is inaccurate.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS PE 3-LS4-3. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Try these book pairs:
For more suggestions and full lessons, check out Perfect Pairs:

Friday, February 17, 2017

In the Classroom: Choosing Photos for Nonfiction Projects

Back in October, I wrote this post about the importance of visuals in nonfiction writing and described an activity students can do to model how authors and illustrators make sure that the artwork in a nonfiction book is accurate.

With Sarah Albee (right) at nErDcamp LI
Because people liked that post so much, I thought I’d talk to my friend Sarah Albee about ways students can model the process she uses to find photos for the books she writes. After all, photos can enhance any kind of nonfiction report or project.

MS: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about how you get the images that appear in your books. Do you just cut and paste photos from the internet?

SA: Hey Melissa! Happy to be here!

No way do I cut and paste photos from the internet. That would be unfair to the photographer, and also illegal. I need to find out who owns the rights to every image I use.

Some images are in the public domain. That means they aren’t copyrighted and anyone can use them free of charge. Most images published in the U.S. before 1923 are in the public domain. Some more recent images are too, but I have to do some research to find out.

MS: About what percentage of the photos you use are in the public domain?

SA: For both my books and my blog, about 80 percent. That’s because I’m writing about history. Many of the images I need are pre-1923. The percentage would be lower if I were writing about science.

MS: If an image isn’t in the public domain, what do you do?

SA: Most of the time I buy it from a photo stock house—a company that sells the rights to use images taken by many different photographers. Some of the money goes to the photo stock house and the rest goes to the photographer.

Once in a while, when I see a picture I want online of a hard-to-find image, I track down the photographer myself. For my upcoming book Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines (Crown, 2017), I needed a picture of a venomous snail called Conus magus. I spotted a photograph of one in this NPR story. But NPR didn’t own the rights to the photo. See the photo credit below the picture?

I tracked down the people credited and emailed them. It took a while, but I finally heard back. The photographers gave me permission and sent me a high-quality version of the image.

MS: Wow, that sounds like a lot of work!

SA: It can be a tedious, time-consuming process, but it’s important to me that my books include the best possible photos.

MS: How could teachers have students model your process in the classroom—so that they learn to respect copyright law at an early age?

SA: After explaining the importance of using images legally, a teacher could give her class a list of websites with photos that are solidly public domain and recommend that the students use only those sites to find photos. This list from the edtechteacher website is a good place to start.

MS: Let’s say a student is doing a report on frogs and wants to include a photo of a poison dart frog. What would he or she do?

SA: Wikimedia Commons would be a good source for this kind of image. The student would go to the website and type “poison dart frog” in the search box in the top right corner of the screen. Here are the results of that search:
Then the student would click on the image he or she liked to get more information:
The description at the bottom tells us the name of the frog, where and when the image was taken, and the name of the photographer. It also verifies that the image is in the public domain. Students should give the photographer credit in their report. They can use the photo credit section in any photo-illustrated book as a model.

MS: Thanks for this great information, Sarah. It will really help teachers show their students the right way to choose images.

Disclaimer from Sarah: I am not a copyright attorney. Copyright law is full of ambiguity. The information I’ve shared is what I believe to be correct. Please feel free to comment if you see something that you think is inaccurate.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Behind the Books: Five Ways to Strengthen Student Questioning

Not long ago, I saw this book announcement in Publishers Weekly and got VERY excited:
Alyssa Mito Pusey at Charlesbridge has acquired Did You Burp? How to Ask Questions (Or Not), a picture book about questions and answers—how to form them and when to ask them—by April Pulley Sayre, for publication in fall 2018. Charlie Eve Ryan will illustrate, marking her picture-book debut. Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt represented the author and Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency represented the artist for world rights.

I know this is a book I’ll love because April Pulley Sayre is one of my favorite authors, and, well, anyone who reads this blog knows how passionate I am about the importance of encouraging kids to wonder and be curious and ask questions.
Asking questions is a great way to generate ideas for a report. It can and should guide research on nonfiction projects. It can also help writers find the best way to present the amazing ideas and information they uncover.
So imagine how thrilled I was to read this terrific article “Five Ways to Strengthen Student Questioning in the January issue of Education Update, which is published by ASCD. I highly recommend that you read it and think about ways to integrate some of the ideas into your own teaching.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS PE 3-LS4-2. Use evidence to construct an explanation for how variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.

Try this book pair:
For more suggestions and full lessons, check out Perfect Pairs:

Friday, February 10, 2017

10 STEM Picture Books to Pre-order

I created this post as part of the annual Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 (#nf10for10) event started by Cathy Mere (@CathyMere) and Mandy Robek (@mandyrobeck) in 2013.

My list includes ten STEM picture books that I’m really looking forward to in 2017, including one that I wrote. J Here they are in alphabetical order:

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart; Illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane/Simon and Schuster)
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan)

Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins; Illustrated by Stephen Biesty (Candlewick Press)
Feathers and Hair, What to Wear by Jennifer Ward; Illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong (Beach Lane/Simon and Schuster)

Newton’s Rainbow: The Revolutionary Discoveries of a Young Scientist by Kathryn Lasky; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner; Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle Books)

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World by Allan Drummond (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)

Round by Joyce Sidman; Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Shell, Beak, Tusk: Shared Traits and the Wonders of Adaptation by Bridget Heos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

What Makes a Monster? Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures by Jess Keating; Illustrated by David DeGrand (Alfred A. Knopf Books/Penguin Randome House)