Tips for Breaking Into Children's Writing Through Magazines

Children's magazines offer great break-in potential: magazines can be hungry for contributions, and selling to a magazine proves that your a pro—a big step in breaking into book publishing.
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For those interested in writing for children, the magazine market may be a perfect starting point. Many children's magazines are open to unpublished writers and hungry for good material. Having magazine work under your belt may make it easier to get a book contract by showing editors you're professional and have experience meeting deadlines.

Magazines aren't just good for breaking in. Doing assignments for magazines lets you see your work in print quickly. Magazines can offer steady work and regular paychecks. The magazine market is also a good place to use research material that didn't make it into book projects you're working on. There are now a couple hundred kids' magazines found in homes, libraries and classrooms, diverse magazines aimed at children of all ages and interests.

Mary Lou Carney, editor of Guideposts for Kids, a bimonthly magazine with half a million young readers, talked to us about writing for children's magazines for Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. Here are Carney's 10 tips for writing a good children's magazine piece — and getting it published:

  1. Push the edges, not only of your topic, but of yourself. Accept and solicit new challenges. Be bold in your queries and projects.
  2. Study the market to be sure you have fresh ideas — see what's not there and write it. If you're interested in an overworked topic, approach it in a way no one else has.
  3. Publish something short before publishing something long.
  4. Show, don't tell with your writing. Lead a child to a conclusion — show the kids the facts and they'll reach the right conclusion.
  5. Have a clear kid's voice. Don't write the way you remember them or the way you wish they were — observe today's kids. Write to them, not down to them.
  6. Use expert testimony. Do the primary research and research carefully — an editor remembers when you're wrong.
  7. Be objective. Show both sides of an issue. Teach kids how to think, not what to think.
  8. Use humor and always offer kids hope.
  9. Be available for additional questions and rewrites.
  10. Be persistent and don't give up. Tenacity is the one true mark of a professional.

For more tips, and listings of hundreds of markets for children's writing and illustrations, check out the latest version of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.

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