Posted in It's Not Just Books, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Selling Photos to Magazines

photo courtesy of
camerabygaborfromhungary.jpgDo you have your own images that would make a great addition to your article?
Do you know if the magazine you’re submitting to accepts photos?
Since images are often purchased separately, offering photos can increase your rate of pay. However, just as there are rules and guidelines for writing, you’ll find the same for photo submissions.
First, consider:

  1. Do these photos add value to the article or short story? Do they help illustrate or demonstrate the content?
  2. Do you own these photos? You either took the pictures with permission in a private location or they were taken in a public place.
  3. Or, do you have permission of the photo owner to use these images? If so, note photos courtesy of “first name last name.” Your editor may want contact info to verify this permission.
  4. Are they quality photos? Do they have good composition, originality, good color and lighting? Are the images in focus or deliberately out of focus for effect? Are they cropped and/or modified well? Compare your images with pictures in the magazine you’re targeting. Be honest with yourself. Can you see your photo in this magazine?
  5. Do you have a photographer’s release? If the picture shows a recognizable person, the editor may need a copy of this form. Here’s a good site with information on release forms: You may also search online for model release or photo release to see similar forms.
  6. Does the photo format fit the magazine’s photo guidelines? You’ll find some information in market books, but check the magazine’s own submission guidelines, which are often available online.
  7. What rights you are selling.

How to sell your photos:

    1. Find out what format the magazine wants. Yes, it’s so important, I’m repeating it. Formats usually are:
      a. Digital, including number of pixels
      b. Color slides or transparencies
      c. Black and white photos, a size is often specified
    2. When submitting a query letter for an article:
      a. Send a sample of the best photo. This can pique an editor’s interest.
      b. Similar to a bibliography, list the photos available with a brief description of each.
      c. Communicate the format of your picture(s) to the editor in a way which shows you know what format the magazine expects.
    3. When sending the full article either on spec or by request:
      a. Send a list of the enclosed or attached photos. Include a label for each photo, a brief description, and if the magazine puts captions on photos, possible captions.
      b. When sending by snail mail, put photos in protective sheets, and protect them with cardboard. Don’t send your only copy.
      c. Send a photographer’s release, if the magazine indicates they want one. At least mention you have it available.
      d. Depending on the type of article, you may need to indicate where each photo goes in the article. This can be done simply by putting “(photo #)” in the text and including numbers on your list of photos.
    4. Some magazines may be interested in photos of children involved in activities or in photos of animals and plants. They would probably not purchase them outright, but have them on hand to use when needed, or contact you when looking for a specific type of photo.
      a. Send photocopies, tear sheets or other nonreturnable samples.
      b. Include previous photo publishing credits (where your photos have been published before, if any).
    5. Never send your only copy of a photo. Photos are usually returned but can get lost or damaged.
    6. Label any physical copies with your name and photo identification (name or number).

Sample photo guidelines–note how much they vary and remember they can change at any time:
U.S. Kids magazines: “We do not purchase single photos. We do purchase short photo features (up to 8 or 10 images) or high-quality photos that accompany articles and illustrate editorial material. Digital format is best with high resolution (300 dpi in an image size of at least 4×6 inches). We purchase one-time rights to photos but reserve the right to use the images on our websites. Please include captions and signed model releases.”
Nature Friend: “Photographs are selected, month-by-month, based on articles selected that need illustrations, along with a front and back cover photo. What this means to a photographer is that photographs are secondary to writings and cannot be anticipated and selected in advance. Photographic submissions that require us to return material in a specified number of weeks will likely not be useful to us. Photographs that are in our files the day we are making selections will stand the greatest chance of being selected for use.”
Dramatics: “Photos and illustrations to accompany articles are welcomed, and when available, should be submitted at the same time as the manuscript. Acceptable forms: color transparencies, 35mm or larger; color or black and white prints, 5 × 7 or larger; line art (generally used to illustrate technical articles); JPEG and TIFF files of high-quality scans. Unless other arrangements are made, payment for articles includes payment for photos and illustrations. We occasionally buy photo essays.
Just as it is work to sell an article or short story, selling photos takes effort. However, following the guidelines may give you the reward of seeing your own pictures in print.

Posted in Craft, It's Not Just Books, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Plodding or Plotting

photo courtesy of Don Ford
rootbeerfloat_1.jpgAre you plodding along in your short story or plotting your story?
Plodding stories are often preachy stories. For example, a disobedient girl finally gets in so much trouble she has to get help. Or a small animal learns he can’t do what he wants at the expense of others. Or a child who is different from everyone else finds out it’s okay to be who she is.
Does that mean you can’t ever teach something in a short story? Of course not. But it can’t be the whole point of the story. It can’t be something that only adults are interested in (i.e. children minding or having clean rooms). Nor can the lesson learned be a moral tagged on at the end. Instead the child character must have a problem that is important to him to solve.
Plodding stories can also be a day-in-the-life-of-the-main-character or what we call slice-of-life stories. First this happens, then that, etc. etc. But the child does not have a problem, nor does she solve it. Often these start with the child waking up in the morning and end with going to bed at night. There’s no plot.
Following a child through imaginative play or a dream is also usually a plodding story. Again, no problem or solution is involved. No plot. In a blog post, freelance editor Mary Kole compared these to having to listen to someone’s fantastic dream. It’s really only interesting to the teller.
So how do you turn a plodder into a plotted story? It’s fairly simple: you need a problem, an obstacle or two, and a solution. Sometimes, the obstacles are a failed solution, so another solution, and maybe even another is needed.
Think of a situation or a problem appropriate for your main character’s age. Yes, I mentioned age. A problem that a five-year-old experiences is not the same as one a ten-year-old experiences and definitely different from a teen’s. Think of mistakes made, fears, etc. for that age. These are not usually major life issues, but are a big deal for the child. What does your main character want right now? And what is preventing him from getting it? What can he do to get it?
Having trouble with ideas? Think back to that age when you were a child. Can you remember your fears, disappoints, mistakes? Do you remember getting in trouble? Remember wishing you’d done something different? Take one of your problems and win with it. Mine those memories and feelings for your characters. Examples often help me learn so here’s one for you:
Once as a teen I gave into peer pressure and regretted it. I wrote a story with a character in the same situation; she also gave in and had the same regret, but instead of doing nothing about it as I did in real life, my character goes back to her friends and does something to make it right. Was my goal to say “don’t give into peer pressure?” No. Did the story perhaps help some teen when they were facing peer pressure? I hope so. It might have also encouraged a teen who’d made another mistake. But mainly, it presented a story of a teen with a real life problem and her solution.
Okay, so what if you can’t remember anything from your childhood? Do you have children, nephews and nieces, grandchildren, friends with children? Pay attention to what is happening with those kids.
My daughter told me my middle grandson got to learn a life lesson recently. His second grade teacher gave them an optional homework assignment. Each student who did it, would get a root beer float the next day. Our second grader has quite the sweet tooth and a root beer float was motivation. However, despite Mom’s reminders that he’d better start on the assignment, he kept playing and putting it off. Dinner came–another reminder. Bedtime came and he still hadn’t done it. Uh oh! There’s his problem–no finished assignment, therefore, no root beer float tomorrow. Could he solve the problem? Yes. His solution: he asked his mother if he could stay up late to work on it. He did for a while, then got too tired. That’s an obstacle. His next solution: he asked if his parents would wake him up early. They did, he got the assignment done before school and got the reward. Notice whose idea it was to stay up late and to get up early. In real life often the adults give these ideas, but in your story, the kid needs to come up with the idea(s).
Life is full of problems. We can’t always solve those problems, but are encouraged when we hear how others have solved a problem. It gives us hope. Hope is part of the purpose of a short story. When the main character resolves her problem, the reader feels hopeful and the writer has accomplished something important.
Perhaps this article has given you hope about turning plodders into well-plotted stories.

Posted in It's Not Just Books, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Theme List Tactics

magazines.jpgHave you had trouble following through on magazine theme lists or editorial calendars? If you’re like me, the answer is a big YES!
I’d request theme lists and, sometimes when they arrived, they’d spark an idea or fit a story I’d already written. But, too often I left them to look at later. By the time “later” came, I had missed deadlines. I’d wail, “but I had an idea for that topic!” Sometimes in my stack, I found editorial calendars and theme lists that were months or even a year out of date.
One day I decided I’d had enough. There had to be a better way. So I gathered together all my theme lists and began organizing. Here’s what I devised:
For each magazine/take home paper, I record the name of the magazine, audience age, word length, topic deadlines, and a summary of the topics. I use a table in my word processor and have the computer sort the information by deadline date, but it could also be done on 3×5 cards or on separate pages of a notebook. Each magazine in my table has an entry for every deadline date on the theme list. This could mean one topic per entry or many topics. The final entry for each magazine is a reminder to order the next theme list. (And, I still file my theme lists–I might need more detail than what’s in my table.)
Here’s a selection from my original chart:
Theme list info *those marked with an asterisk buy all rights
When a deadline is past, I delete the entry. And, of course, when new theme lists arrive, I add the new information and resort the table.
I knew organizing would help me focus on topics with earlier deadlines, but what I didn’t realize, was that looking at all the topics together would have other benefits.
First off, it was easy to see which magazines were looking for similar material. Ah ha, maybe that story on will work for two or three or four editors.
Secondly, I now have a reminder to write for a new theme list. It’s nice to get new theme lists before half of the deadlines are passed!
But perhaps most important was how it freed me up for inspiration. For at least a year, I’d had a note hanging around my desk that said “a story on mailbox bashing.” I knew I wanted to write something on this form of vandalism, but each time I looked at the note, it got reshuffled into the stack. But the day I organized my theme lists, one of the topic suggestions combined with my mailbox idea and immediately I wrote the first draft of the story. The very same day another theme list topic jumped out and I knew I could use my daughter’s recent fear for a springboard for that story.
I still don’t always meet theme list deadlines with this method, but now that lists don’t just gather dust on my desk–or stay in some forgotten directory in my computer–my chances have improved tremendously.
Anyone else have methods they’d like to share?

Posted in It's Not Just Books, Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Do You Remember?

girl w pic of boyDo you remember? The agony of that boy or girl not “liking” you? Arguments with your parents about homework, or who you were going with, or curfew? Zits and feeling awkward? The joy of getting your driver’s license? If you answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps you should consider writing short stories for teens.

Teenagers still have the same basic problems: wanting acceptance, striving for independence, peer pressure, etc. The trappings may have changed, but it doesn’t take much to get up-to-date.

The first important thing to do is: hang around with some teens. teen coupleIf you have teenagers living in your home, this should be easy. But if you don’t, there are many places you can observe and listen to teenagers:
– Organizations such as clubs, associations and church youth groups
– A local middle school or high school
– The mall or a local fast food restaurant
– Sporting events
Making friends with teenagers, will get you an even closer look at the problems in their lives. In addition, talk to adults who have teens in their lives: your neighbor, a school counselor, a youth pastor, etc.
Next step, check out the magazines written for teens. There are high paying ones such as “Seventeen” and “Boys’ Life” and ones like “International Gymnast” and “Thrasher” aimed at a specific audience. Religious publications for teens vary from glossy magazines to skinny church take-home papers. Read the magazines, get their guidelines and, for some, request theme lists.
When you look at these magazines, notice the following:
– The audience.
Is this magazine for younger teens or older teens? For boys only? Or girls? Is it for sports enthusiasts?
– Does it do fiction? If so, how might you need to tailor a story for this market?
A teen magazine may want an inner city setting. Another wants no reference to dating. Let sample copies, the market book and guidelines be your guides.
– Morals.
Is this magazine avant-garde or conservative? In the religious market, be aware of how much “Godly living” or “religion” each magazine shows. In any case, don’t preach.
– Rights each one buys.
Some magazines purchase “all rights,” but many buy “first” or “reprint rights” and others buy “one-time rights” or “simultaneous rights.” A story written for one place may be salable to another and another depending on rights purchased.
– Themes and deadlines.
Some theme lists are very specific; others are more general. Either way they can kick off story ideas for you. Just remember, stories to fit an entry on a theme list must make the magazine’s deadline to be considered.
After you’ve finished your research, your mind will probably be brimming with story ideas. Choose one and get down to writing.
Keep focused on one problem per story. I have to ask myself, “what is the major issue I want to deal with in this story?” And then not let myself get side-tracked.
boy on tracksAs you write, think teenagers! Is this a problem a teen would have? Is this a place a teenager would be? Is this how they would say this? If you get stuck, ask a teen for help. Ask them what they would say or do. If you want to use slang, either use what’s current–and know what it means–or use something that sounds slangy but doesn’t come from any specific generation.
Also, as you write, think which youth magazines might like this story. Make yourself a list of the potential markets for each individual story.
A lot of work writing short stories for teens? Yes. But there are opportunities for sales and satisfaction in doing the job well. The ultimate reward though is teenagers reading your stories.

Posted in It's Not Just Books, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Ready, Set, Goal

goal.jpg“Writers, it’s getting close to the new year. Do you set goals? Forget dropping pounds. Pound out more words.” James Scott Bell
His tweet is so apropos. Just Tuesday on #kidlitchat people were discussing their 2011 goals and it reminded me that I needed to assess my 2010 writing goals and create 2011 goals. Last year I was fortunate to have a writer friend challenge a group of us to come up with a list of goals and due dates and bring them to a meeting. (Thanks again, Heather!) We learned from each other and revised our goals. Here’s the general outline of mine, post meeting:
– Don’t read until afternoons – Monday through Friday
– Keep my two completed novels out until someone is willing to represent one of them. I listed novels and had lists of agents I planned to submit to
– Finish rewrites on mg mystery and get it out by end of year
– Complete first draft of YA WIP by certain date
– Complete first draft of boy mg WIP by certain date

– Get pb revised and submitted by certain date
– Submit 2 magazine pieces each month
– Post minimum of 1 article per month
– Post 2-4 book reviews each month

– Make the following changes to my website
I could have added my twice a week writing appointment and my monthly critique group meeting, but those have become engrained through years of habit. I also am an instructor for ICL and have weekly student assignments, but since they come in email and by UPS, they are hard to forget.
The Whys and How My Goals Worked
Email, Twitter
– I’m strongest and best at writing in the morning, so besides a quick check on when/where my writing buddies and I are meeting, I wanted to cut down the time spent on those easier tasks. Not as successful as I’d like, but at least I had the frequent reminder of my goal.
– I’m not a speed novel writer. Probably because I work on too many projects at once. But I know from my years of experience that works for me. Still I thought goals might speed me up and keep me on task.
– I determined one novel needed lots more rewriting, so I quit submitting early in the year. Haven’t gotten to rewriting.
– The second novel kept going out until I heard Deborah Halverson (aka Dear-Editor) talk in LA at the SCBWI conference. Now I’m going through it with her Ultimate Novel Checklist. (If you get a chance to hear her speak, jump on it!)
– Finish rewrites on mg mystery – not done
– Finish two WIPs – neither is done, but I definitely made more progress
Picture Book
– Got it rewritten and sent out. No response. Got professional critique at conference in September and was told I had two stories. Light dawned. Must rewrite. When I get good idea on how best to do so . . .
– In November I got an opportunity to submit a picture book based on a fable on spec to a Korean publisher doing ESL. Wrote, submitted, revised by specifications, got contract. Still working on revisions. Asked to do other projects for them on spec – in progress.
Short Stories, Articles and Blogs
– I’ve been more successful in the past selling short stories and articles than I have in the last five years. If I don’t write and submit, I can’t sell them. I have stories written that have never been submitted. That needs to change.
– I created charts of the months where I recorded the number of submissions/posts in each category. Was I 100% successful in 2010? No. Was I more successful than in 2009? YES!
– I blog on my website for several reasons – it’s a good way to add content, I have things I like to share about writing (they make a great place for me to refer other writers), and I enjoy sharing books I like/love. Oh, yeah, and it’s fun. This one is the most easily measurable. I increased posts by 16 in 2011. Some book posts mentioned multiple books.
This was at the bottom for a reason. I made more pressing changes. Asked for help on harder ones from my computer experts in the family. Some are done and some aren’t.
Was I over optimistic about how much I’d get done in 2010? Unfortunately, yes. Will I continue with goals in 2011? Oh, yes. After revising.
I learned for my Works-in-Progress that I need to make those goals more tangible. For 2011, I plan to list where I am in the novel at the start of the year–probably by word count since chapters get combined or inserted. Each month I plan to see where I am in word count. I think it will point out how much I am progressing or not.
I didn’t write it down, but I also had weekly schedule goals. Usually they were:
Monday – finish up student assignments
Tuesday – write or revise WIPs
Wednesday – get ss and article submissions ready and/or sent out, work on blog posts, do general writing recordkeeping
Thursday – write or revise WIPs
Friday – work on student assignments
This year I think I’ll write those down, too.
Some writers have word or page count goals per day. Others have a goal of finishing a chapter in a certain amount of time. Illustrators might have a number of paintings or sketches to accomplish in a certain time. What matters is to have what in the business world of project management is called a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. A goal such as “get an agent” isn’t really under your control. A goal of “submit so many queries to agents by this date” is under your control and measurable.
I also think we writers need to be flexible in our goals. Writing a picture book on spec was not one of my goals at the beginning of the year. Revising the two novels yet again were not my goals. But the former resulted in a sale and the latter is going to make them so much better.
Another goal I may include for 2011 is which craft books I plan to read this year. I have this list, but don’t get to many. Writing it down will give me a better chance. I already read some helpful writing magazines and list serves on a regular basis. If you don’t, you might want to put that on your goals list. Speaking of lists, a new article was recently posted on goal setting for the new writer. Check out “Lists That Motivate!” by Amy Houts. It’s specifically aimed at ICL students, but definitely has some good points.
So are you ready to set your own goals?
Write them down and share them with someone. Throughout the year share how you each are doing on meeting your goals. Don’t use it as a chance to beat yourself up at what you’ve missed, but an opportunity to encourage yourself to press on.
You’re welcome to share your goals here, too.