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Monday, May 30, 2011

Steps for Publishing Nonfiction Articles for Children, Part I

As Nonfiction Editor for a children’s e-magazine, I often receive submissions that need a little help.  A number require revision.  Some miss the mark completely by submitting fiction.  So how can you join the ranks of those who succeed?  Think of publishing like climbing a staircase.   You’re at the base of the steps looking up at the landing:  publication.  You’ll need to take eight steps until you reach the top.                                                                                                 

Step #1:  Review the magazine’s guidelines 
Guidelines help you give an editor what she wants.  Guidelines may specify the word count, font, formatting, and the wording of the subject line of an email.  Yet, a good number of submissions that I receive fail to do just that.  Adhere to the guidelines when you write your article and review them once more before you submit. 

Step #2:  Read the magazine
Order back issues, checkout library copies, or read articles online of the magazine for which you wish to pitch.  Get a feel for the content and tone.  Do you feel confident that you can produce a similar piece?  Will your topic have kid-appeal?  Will it keep you interested?  After all, you’ll be spending lots of time reading and researching the topic. 

Step #3:  Use Reliable Sources        
Lean on primary sources, trustworthy websites, and up-to-date books for your research.  Wikipedia can be used as a starting place, perhaps to help you produce an outline; but, it should not be used as a source.  Consider conducting an interview with a person connected to your topic.  Once, I interviewed a famous horse trainer to understand how he felt about working with a Derby horse.  His experiences brought a great personal perspective to my article. 

Step #4:  Add a Little Extra
Nobody can top you when you write from personal experience—though it’s not always required for publication, it can give you an edge.  If you’re writing about an event, try to attend it.  If you want to write about an unusual animal, try to meet one.  Allow the reader to share what you’ve seen, heard, and felt.  In addition, consider offering photographs that you’ve taken.  That way, you’ve done the footwork that an editor would have had to do herself.

You're halfway to the top.  Tune in Monday June 13th for steps 5 - 8.

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