For educational books, a publisher's brief stage or level will always tie in with the age of the children, their reading ability and recognised levels within the curriculum.
A publisher’s brief for a new educational series generally consists of the following:
● the general aims of the series. These should include its target audience, their stage/level and any speciﬁc aspect – such as the kind of reading programme (phonics, guided reading, reluctant readers and so on) – required to meet the curriculum.
● a detailed table of how many stages or levels there are in the series. This refers to age/reading or interest level.
● the general layout; how many books per stage, the number of pages per book, the number of words per book, and the number of words or sentences and illustrations per page.
● a vocabulary list. (I usually try to ignore the list after a ﬁrst glance, at least until the story is written, but then go back and edit. Otherwise you can get too focused on the vocabulary to the detriment of the story and your writing.)
The brief tells you everything you need to know to get writing.
If you've been briefed to write a short, illustrated text, you are told how many pages will be in the book. I ﬁnd it easiest to lay out a template page with the number of pages given, similar to writing a picture book, as this helps ensure that the story is 'paced' across the book so that it doesn’t end too quickly or, conversely, over-run. It also reminds me to include some kind of illustration brief, and shows where the double-page spreads will be so I can keep the reader interested, making the story more exciting by creating suspense where the page-turns will be.
The illustration brief is not meant to be a complete description, just an indication of what the picture should show to guide the illustrator and make everything clear to the editor.