Warning: array_key_exists() expects parameter 2 to be array, null given in /home1/vbordeau/public_html/kingdomofpaidalot.com/wp-content/plugins/mycred/addons/sell-content/includes/mycred-sell-functions.php on line 195
Turning Your Expertise and Creativity into Cash
In week 2, you took your two expertise lists and compared them to magazine guidelines to see which publications may make sense for you to query.
In week 3, we’ll dissect a magazine’s guidelines so that you can prepare yourself to create an attention grabbing query letter to send to the publication’s editor.
Let’s say that you’ve decided to query Cobblestone, which is a history publication for children aged 9 to 14, because your spouse is a history teacher and you love to read about history. By reading the guidelines, you’ll discover that they do not yet accept email queries; this is getting to be more and more unusual, but it still happens. You’ll also notice that they specifically state that you must create a separate query for each idea; that’s good practice, whether the magazine says that outright or not. You want to give each idea your full attention so you can make each query as good as possible.
Cobblestone requires the following for each query (directly quoted from the website):
- a brief cover letter stating the subject and word length of the proposed article,
- a detailed one-page outline explaining the information to be presented in the article,
- an extensive bibliography of materials the author intends to use in preparing the article,
- a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Other pieces of important information from the guidelines include (paraphrased):
- use primary sources (diaries, letters, autobiographies and the like) whenever possible
- use up-to-date scholarly resources
- include a writing sample if you haven’t written for the magazine before
- if you want acknowledgement that your package arrived, include a self-addressed stamped postcard
- 700-800 for feature articles
- 300-600 for supplemental nonfiction
- Up to 800 words for fiction
- Up to 700 words for activities
- Up to 100 lines for poetry
The magazine pays 20 to 25 cents per word for content that falls within the first three bullet points, with no indication of payment for the other two. Additional payment for photos is also included in the guidelines. Cobblestone creates themes for each of its issues and you’ll need to query appropriately (both theme-wise and deadline-wise) to be considered.
I have published an article with Cobblestone, titled “Fanny Ricketts to the Rescue.” You can read the opening couple of paragraphs to get a sense of the tone and vocabulary level desired by clicking on the link provided (if you have a Highbeam membership, you can read the entire article). For all magazines – but perhaps especially for children’s publications – it’s very important to use the appropriate levels of language, both vocabulary-wise and tone-wise. So, be sure to read issues of the publication, or at least some articles, before you query.
Note that Cobblestone purchases all rights to the content they buy. This means that, if you sell a piece to them, you cannot sell it elsewhere (although you can write about the same topic again, if done in a fresh original way). It also means that they can sell it elsewhere, because they own it. That’s how my article about Fanny Ricketts also ended up in a library database. I don’t often write for publications that require all rights, but I wanted to write for this publication badly enough that I agreed. Typically, I have sold first rights (giving the publication the right to be the first to publish something) or one time rights (giving the publication the right to use a piece, without specifying whether it’s been published before or not) or reprint rights.
More about rights
Deciding which rights you’re willing to give up in exchange for publication (and for whatever fees you’ll be paid!) is something that each writer must decide for himself or herself. Perhaps you’ll be willing to give up all rights if you’ll be paid especially well or if getting published in a particular magazine will open up a new writing specialty for you. Or, maybe you won’t! Your decision.
Then there are first time rights. If Magazine A wants to buy first rights for an article you wrote, that simply means that you can’t sell the article to any publication that wants to publish it ahead of Magazine A. But, after your article appears in Magazine A, you can sell it to Magazine B – as long as Magazine B is fine with publishing a reprint (meaning publishing something that has already appeared elsewhere!). Perhaps Magazine A will say that you can’t sell the article to anyone else for 6 months or perhaps they will want first North American serial rights – which means that you cannot sell your article to any publication in North America that would publish it ahead of Magazine A, but you could sell it immediately to any publication outside of North America that doesn’t need first rights or all rights. Again, it’s your decision if you sign a contract under any of those terms or not. I typically would, but maybe you wouldn’t.
If you sell an article to a magazine that simply wants one time rights, you can keep selling the article to any other magazines that don’t require first rights – and with no waiting period. Some writers, for example, write articles about parenting issues and then sell the articles to multiple regional parenting magazines that simply want one time rights or reprint rights. That’s a winning strategy for many writers, and maybe it will be the one that works best for you.
For even more information about publishing rights, see Know Your Publication Rights by Allena Tapia.
It’s important to carefully review writer’s guidelines and sample issues so that you can determine whether or not you are interested in pursuing publication with a particular magazine; and whether you have the expert resources at hand to create a persuasive query letter. I know that one selling point of my query for Cobblestone was that I had a photocopy of Fanny Ricketts’ diary text, obtained from the US National Parks Service. That met their criteria of using primary sources.
Analyze writer’s guidelines until you find one that interests you enough to query the publication. In session 4, we’ll work through writing the actual query letter.