Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Writing Nonfiction for Children: Magazine Market Research

Last week I discussed Why You Should Write Magazine Nonfiction. This week let's explore magazine market research. The following is excerpted and adapted from You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

A lot of people are intimidated by nonfiction but then find writing articles fun and interesting once they try a few. As a bonus, it can be easier to sell nonfiction because there’s more demand for nonfiction articles, but fewer people write them. Most children’s magazines use some nonfiction but not get many submissions. For example, Highlights publishes about equal amounts of fiction and nonfiction, but I’ve heard the magazine receives about 90% fiction submissions. And then there are many magazines focused on topics such as science and history, which only publish nonfiction.

Plus, if you are fairly new to modern children’s lit, studying magazines is a way to learn more about writing for different ages. The Cricket Magazine Group is a great place to start. They publish 14 magazines. Some are fiction and some are nonfiction, and they cover age ranges from birth to teen. You can read an online sample of each magazine on their website.

You may have a good idea of what you want to write; for example, maybe you are primarily interested in fiction for ages 4-6. But give the other magazines a look anyway. You may have a great idea that would be better for a different age range.

Magazines Everywhere

With some digging, you can find hundreds of other magazines targeted at children, or at parents or teachers. Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers and Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market have listings. (You can see if your local library has a copy, though it's nice to have your own copy so you can add notes.)

A search for “children’s magazines” will also bring up lots of links. Many are sites selling magazines, but they give you an overview of what’s being published. If you are interested in writing about a particular sport or hobby, you might find a children’s magazine that addresses it. Most religious groups also have their own magazines for children.

Learn from Reading

Once you identify a couple of magazines that interest you, check out their writer’s guidelines. An internet search for the magazine’s name plus “writer’s guidelines” or “submission guidelines” usually does the trick. It’s important to study those guidelines, and also actual copies of the magazine, before you submit work.

Even magazines that seem similar can be quite different in their requirements. For example, some religious magazines focus on Bible stories, while others want modern true anecdotes. In some, the message can be subtle and God need not be mentioned, while in others, the focus should be on God providing guidance.

You might also get ideas for how best to craft an article or story that will appeal to that magazine’s editor. Studying National Geographic Kids several years ago, I noticed that most articles were broken into short bites of information, such as “10 Cool Things about Dolphins.” If I wanted to pitch an article to them, I’d try to do something similar.

Study the magazines and submission guidelines, making a note of the type of content and target audience. Here are some questions to ask:

·                     What is the target age level?
·                     Do they use both fiction and nonfiction? If so, what is the rough percentage of each?
·                     What is their maximum word count? Do most of the stories/articles seem to be at the longer end of the range or at the shorter end?
·                     Are they open to submissions? What do they want (e.g., a query letter, a proposal, the complete manuscript, a writing sample)?
·                     Do they list any topics or genres they don’t want? (e.g., no articles about insects) Note that some magazines may use their own staff for certain items. For example, they may publish puzzles, but do them all “in house” so they don’t take submissions of puzzles.

Explore the Magazine Markets:

The SCBWI “Magazine Market Guide” is in The Book, included with membership:

Get magazine samples at your library, school, or house of worship; requests sample copies from the publisher; or visit publishers’ web sites to see if they have online samples.

A list of children’s magazines with links to their websites:

Stop by next Wednesday for more advice on analyzing the magazine market – or subscribe to get posts automatically and never miss a post. You can use the Subscribe or Follow by E-Mail buttons to the right, or add to Feedly or another reader.

You can get the extended version of this essay, and a lot more, in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

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