Magazines: Just Starting Out

Antique Writer's Friends

I’ve been feeling really blessed lately. Today I received an assignment from a new (to me) magazine market, meaning I’ll have at least six articles coming out between December 2013 and March 2014 in three different children’s magazines, provided all goes well. Wahoowa!

I’ve received so much help along the way in my burgeoning writing career, and I finally feel like I have something I can offer to other writers. I’ve been inspired by Nancy Sanders’ recent series about her efforts to break into HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN with a nonfiction article, as well as some questions I’ve received from a fellow writer. So, I’ve decided it’s time to share some tips and tricks for breaking into children’s magazines with nonfiction articles.

I’ll admit, I floundered around for a year before my freelance career got off the ground. I wrote a pretty terrible article about capybaras and sent it to a number of children’s publications. I came up with recipes and crafts and flung them far and wide. I tried to submit to nonpaying markets and parenting magazines, which people advised were easier to break into. I amassed more than a dozen rejections before I figured out what worked for me.

What works. The first thing I would suggest is to play to your strengths. Are you a master gardener? A former teacher? Were you a lawyer in your past life? If you are trying to break into children’s nonfiction, you have a better chance if you write about something that you’re an expert in.

I spent six years doing public relations for NASA. Aviation and space are my areas of expertise. My interests, however,  are pretty wide-ranging. The first articles I wrote were NOT about aviation and space. And those articles were roundly rejected. I’m sure it had a lot to do with my writing and my knowledge of the magazine markets, but I also didn’t have the credibility to back up the articles.

The bottom line is that having some knowledge of a subject makes it more likely your article will be picked up, especially if you are submitting a query instead of a full article. Your expertise doesn’t have to be work experience. If you’ve quilted for 20 years, you’re an expert. If you’ve taken courses in a subject or had a volunteer position in a field, that qualifies you as someone who knows what they are talking about.

I would encourage you to write about something you know for your first submission. Once you’ve had one success, you can build upon it and write about other subjects. As a mini homework assignment, make a list of your hobbies, education and work experience. What kinds of related articles might you write?