Guest blog by Meg Lysaght Thacher
When people ask how I found a publisher for my debut book, SKY GAZING, I say “It’s a long story.”
Because I didn’t find a publisher. A publisher found me.
In June, 2017, this appeared in my inbox:
Okay, this does not seem like a short story: publisher contacts me to write a book. I write a book. The End.
But why did they contact me in the first place?
Storey publishes exclusively nonfiction; they seek out specialists who also have writing experience. I teach astronomy at Smith College, and by 2017 I’d written 19 articles for Cricket’s nonfiction magazines Ask, Faces, Odyssey, and Muse. Their issues have a theme and a content editor, a few of whom work at Sky & Telescope. Thus, my magazine writing led directly to my book.
If you’re intrigued by magazine writing, the first step is to find magazines to write for. There’s a list in The Book, available to members on the SCBWI website. Parents’ Choice Award-winning magazines are listed on their website (https://www.parentschoice.org/product-category/magazines/). If you are really serious, get an account on submittable.com, where you can Discover and Follow magazines, get on their email lists, and keep track of your submissions.
Next, go to a magazine’s websites and click on “submissions” (often cleverly hidden in the “contact” section). There, magazines list how to submit material, what format they want it in, and most importantly, what the magazine is currently looking for.
Finally, read a few issues. Get an idea of the tone of the articles and what kinds of topics they cover. Check your local library or request a sample issue.
If you write fiction, you’ll submit a full article. If you write nonfiction, most magazines ask for a query or pitch.
A pitch consists of a paragraph or two describing the scope of your proposed article, an outline, and a list of references you will use. Write your pitch in the format requested by the magazine. Your cover letter (or email) should include your qualifications and a hook: why are kids interested in this? Why is this piece right for Magazine X? As with querying agents and editors, your pitch and cover letter should be your best work and reflect your voice. When you’re starting out, submit pitches that are aligned with your career, hobby, or education.
If your pitch is accepted, make sure to meet your deadline (say no if you can’t) and write the number of words asked for, in the agreed-upon outline.
If your pitch is rejected, remember that most magazines are fewer than 50 pages, and there are other writers submitting their work. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and submit some more pitches. Or submit the pitch somewhere else!
Not only is magazine writing a great way to get published before you get published, but you will also gain an understanding of the publishing process. You’ll experience working with an editor, meeting deadlines, writing to spec, researching, and writing concisely. All skills that editors and agents appreciate.
For a more detailed look at the children’s magazine market, check out The Book, the SCBWI Non-Fiction & Work for Hire blueboard thread, and http://evelynchristensen.com/mags.html.
Meg Thacher’s debut book, Sky Gazing: a guide to the Moon, Sun, stars, eclipses, and constellations (Storey Publishing) comes out on October 13, 2020. Find her—and more magazine info—at megthacher.com.
To purchase a copy of Meg's debut book click here.
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