I’m a lot of fun on a school field trip (embarrassing is the word my children would choose). It’s not enough for me to visit Philadelphia and listen to the standard speech by the National Park Service employee. I ask weird questions. Who named the Liberty Bell? What did the men who wrote the Constitution eat for lunch? Did they order takeout or did they brown bag it? Did somebody from Philadelphia really invent the Philly cheesesteak? For decades I’ve waited but no one created a magazine “niche-y” enough for the tiny shards of knowledge I’ve gathered.
Then came my breakthrough: an online posting for non-fiction pieces about baseball. I played softball 25 years ago. My grandfather was a Phillies fan. As far as my knowledge about baseball went, that was it – except, didn’t I remember some player wearing the same clothes for a whole season for good luck? Some quick research revealed several players who stuck with ëlucky’ clothes when they were on a streak. I also found a few other weird baseball superstitions. Those superstitions became “A Recipe for Success: Pickled Eels, Dirty Shirts, and Lucky Sounding Wood” and I became a contributor to the trivia book Grand Slam Baseball.
As a freelance writer I was happy to learn that trivia books often come in series. If one is successful, the publisher will branch out into different subjects, using several contributors with an editor to oversee the entire project. Grand Slam Baseball was a member of the Armchair Reader series and I was soon contacted about a general trivia book they were doing. Send ideas! Suddenly I was a trivia writer, using all the weird facts I’d stored up for a lifetime. The research that I didn’t use in my regular articles found a new life in trivia articles. Things I learned while reading books to my five-year-old became jumping points for trivia articles. This was a fun change from articles about child drownings, choosing a home heating system, and missed tax deductions.
Most trivia book publishers rely on a stable of regular writers, not a single author, for their books. The key to success is getting on as many series’ “lists” as you can. I send a letter of inquiry asking about any titles in development, listing my subjects of interest, and including non-fiction writing samples (the quirkier, the better). Usually they will at some point send you a list of types of articles (lists, paragraph form, Q & A) and subjects needed. Don’t be impatient. Sometimes a year later they will be in development and suddenly contact you. Forget about your habit of sending one or two ideas to a magazine editor in a query. The last time I received an email from a trivia editor, I sent 24 article ideas. Thirteen of the articles were assigned with several more on a ëtentative’ list. Just make certain each idea is well thought out and matches the book’s theme, and that you can deliver what you promise (don’t promise an article on 12 drunken Civil War generals and then discover you can only find 4). And don’t forget the tone of the series. Although non-fiction, most trivia series want quick reads that are light, funny and not well-known. They want their readers saying “I can’t believe it!” in between laughs.
Contact the following publishers and you, too, may finally find a home for your knowledge of ice cream, Army boot camp, or the Edsel.
Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader – Both general trivia books and ones on more specific topics. They want a resume and writing samples from writers.
Blue Books – This Canadian based publisher has books on different geographic areas in Canada and the US, as well as more specific topics such as dogs and golf.
Armchair Reader – Both general books and ones on more specific topics such as history and sports.
Hill Street Press – They publish trivia books about southern universities. But if they’re successful they may branch out to universities in other areas of the US
Workman Publishing Company – Their page a day calendars contain information on each page. The calendars range from beer to cats to books.
Facts, Figures, and Fun Series – This series has each book written by one author, instead of general trivia books they are all specific: Christmas, rugby, vampires.
When she isn’t going on school field trips with her three kids to collect trivia, Jodi is working on contributions to an upcoming trivia book on the Armed Forces. The first book with her name on the front cover, Pennsylvania Trivia, was released this September by Blue Bike Books. She is also the online advertising representative for wow-womenonwriting.com and has had hundreds of articles published in magazines such as The History Magazine, Grandparents Magazine, and Grit. If you have any fun factoids for her ever growing collections, or are a fellow trivia junkie, you can contact her at webbJM (at) verizon.net