Thursday, March 13, 2014

Writing for Kids’ Magazines, Part 1: Ruminations and Fulminations -- by Christy Mihaly



Welcome to today's GROG post, where our Thursday theme is submissions.

Have you considered submitting work to children’s magazines? Maybe there's some little gem in your files that just doesn't fly as a book; maybe you'd like to try something new. After several years of writing for magazines, I'm developing some book ideas, but plan to keep on submitting to magazines too.  Here's why:






Three Great Aspects of Writing for Kids’ Magazines:

1.  Possible Publication.  You CAN hear back from an editor within a week – with an acceptance. This has happened to me. (Not often, but just enough to keep things interesting.) That "YES!" means that kids – lots of kids – will actually read something you've written. And isn't that why we write?

2.  Excellent Experience.  Like book publishers, magazine editors want great hooks, intriguing ideas, kid-friendly approaches, drama, and beautiful language. Writing for this market means practicing your craft and polishing your skills. I write primarily nonfiction, so it also means researching markets and topics, identifying unique, kid-friendly subjects, conducting interviews, and crafting queries and/or cover letters. Once your piece is accepted, you get to work with an editor and publishing staff, to make your work the best it can be.

3.  Renewed Inspiration.  Are you getting sick of that YA novel you’ve been writing for three years? Bored with your endless research project? You can complete a short magazine submission in a manageably short time. Doing so always reminds me how much I love to write. And often, I come up with book ideas while working on an article. Why not try a short story, poem, puzzle, or joke – kids’ magazines are looking for all of these.

By Tim Pierce (originally posted to Flickr as lost) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sound good?  Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out:

Three Not-So-Great Aspects of Writing for Kids’ Magazines:

1.  (Lack of) Money.  Some magazines pay on acceptance.  Some don't pay at all. One magazine sent my (tiny) check more than a year after the article was published. You won't get rich.

2.  Rejections. You’ll get rejections. Some magazines don’t respond; many send form letters. My favorite is, “We love this article but can’t use it, because we've just taken a similar article.” Arggh. I try to think of all the rejections as good practice for when I'm ready to send out those book manuscripts.

Here’s my rule: if a magazine rejects a submission without identifying something wrong with it, I resubmit to another appropriate magazine, ASAP. (Obviously, if an editor said something needed fixing, I'd fix it.) And keep writing and submitting. I've had magazine acceptances in response to queries (more on queries in Part 2); and on the first, second, and third try. As with any good manuscript, the secret is to find the right home for it.

3.  Slow responses and far-off publication dates. I usually follow up on a magazine submission if I haven’t heard back after four months. I’m no longer surprised if the magazine then asks me to re-send it, because they've lost it! "Highlights" can take eight months or longer to respond (though they'll send out a prompt postcard asking you to “bear” with them – with a cute bear illustration). And even a quick acceptance won’t mean immediate publication. I sold an article in 2013 that’s scheduled for publication in 2017.

Bottom Line: Why am I still writing for kids' magazines despite these frustrations? Because I want to be a children's author. I love writing, and I want kids to read what I write. And, of course, having those submissions pending makes my daily trip to the post office much more exciting!




Stay tuned for Part 2:  Some Nuts and Bolts of Submitting to Magazines

18 comments:

  1. Well done, writing friend. And I love the added artwork. Very appealing and eye-catching.

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  2. Well thanks Christy. I I haven't written for magazines before, but I will give it a try now thanks to your encouragement!

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    1. Well Todd, they really look for nonfiction so if you've got a topic that doesn't seem right for a book -- an article for the right magazine might be just the thing!

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  3. Christy, this was very helpful.I like the fact you included pluses & minuses to writing for mags. Can't wait for part 2 & how a query goes,

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    1. Thanks, Kathy -- I'm working on that now!

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  4. This post really tells it like it is. I saw an article in Highlights recently by a friend and when I asked her about it, she said she had sold it to them nine years earlier! But they do pay on acceptance. Thanks for a useful post.

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    1. Rosi, Nine years is the longest I've heard! But I know it can happen. This all requires plenty of patience, doesn't it?

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  5. Your enthusiasm is contagious! Great post!

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  6. Such a great reminder that we all enjoy writing for children. Kids enjoy reading magazines, so considering writing articles for children's magazines is encouraging. Thank you for sharing, Christi. I look forward to Part II Nuts and Bolts of Submitting. ~Suzy

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  7. What a nice introduction to the magazine biz, Christy. Looking forward to part 2.

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten -- I caught your webinar and I'm pretty sure you know all this stuff . . . but I'll try to come up with something new!

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  8. Got to take the good with the bad in the writing industry! But I think writing a story that children will love is worth it :) Thank you for the intro and I look forward to part two :)

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  9. Thanks for writing about this little addressed topic. I've wanted to write for magazines, but there's not much information out there about it.

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    1. I think most people like magazine's to improve their knowledge. It's so much easier to start anew with a fresh story that inspires creativity than one you've already been working on for a while. The new always pulls you along.
      Article Writers

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  10. This is really encouraging and helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!

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