In the October 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest, National Geographic Kids is among one of three handpicked venues spotlighted in the Standout Markets column. In this special online exclusive, we share more Q&A with Editor Rachel Buchholz, who discusses the key to successful article pitches, and more.

National Geographic Kids: Q&A with Rachel Buchholz, editor and vice president

What is the target audience for National Geographic Kids?

We are writing for smart, curious tweens to inspire them to explore the world around them.

What makes NG Kids unique?

Many children’s magazines have niche audiences, but NG Kids is a general-interest magazine that appeals to all kids. We don’t just cover animals and science—we’ll [also] write about chocolate, movies, even LEGOs.

What is the key to successful submissions to NG Kids?

A good query letter should reflect the style of the magazine and show that the writer understands the kinds of stories NG Kids does.

What makes a submission to National Geographic Kids stand out?

One that’s funny! Humor is one of the best ways to really engage our audience and keep them reading. We strive to make our readers laugh on every page, and we want writers who can do that—and your query letter is the best way to show that. (And we’re talking “SpongeBob SquarePants” funny, not “Is your refrigerator running?” funny.) We also want to see ideas that are very focused—not just a general overview of a topic [that] kids would get in school. And even if the focus is serious (endangered animals), we want a positive story (how humans are helping them) that shows the world is an amazing, fun place. But above all, submissions must show why kids should care about a subject: Is it fun? Is it relatable? How does it affect them? We call it the “So what?” factor: If the idea makes us think, So what?, then the pitch isn’t for us.

What are some common mistakes, either in the submissions process or in the writing process, do you see?

It’s very obvious to us when a writer hasn’t researched NG Kids to find out what stories we’ve done in the past, and what stories we would never do. For instance, just a quick search of the past year’s issues will show that even though we’re a children’s magazine, we rarely, hardly ever, write about kids. But more often than not, first-time queries will focus around children. Another common query mistake is [with] our Amazing Animals department. This is a section about individual animals—a flamingo that tried to hatch a rock, a crocodile that stole a lawn mower, a dog that leads around a blind dog, etc. But often, the writer’s pitch will be about, for instance, why dung beetles are amazing. Granted, dung beetles are pretty cool, but Amazing Animals is not where that story would go. This shows us that the writer hasn’t really studied the magazine’s stories or style; he or she probably just quickly glanced at the writer’s guidelines. And that would give [NG Kids] editors pause when evaluating whether a writer can relate to our audience.

For complete submission guidelines:

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