You’ve just finished writing your story for children, and you think it’s the best thing you’ve ever written. But before you send that manuscript to ABC Magazine so that I. M. Editor can read it, keep reading. It might surprise you to know that you might be sabotaging any chance of getting your story published–before it even lands on Ms. Editor’s cluttered desk. The following are five ways to completely ruin your chances of getting your story published.
1 Don’t include a SASE with your submission. What’s a SASE, you ask? If you don’t know what it is, you might want to sign up for Children’s Writing 101 before you mail that literary masterpiece. A SASE is a self-addressed stamped envelope. Whenever you send your story to a magazine or a publishing company, it’s a good idea to include a SASE with sufficient return postage. Why? Well, if the editor decides not to publish your work, you will get your beloved story returned to you along with a rejection letter. If you don’t include a SASE, you may never hear back from the editor–and I mean never! Editors are busy, overworked, and underpaid people. Most won’t take the time to mail your rejected work back to you unless you include a SASE.
2 Send your story about a kid’s first day of school to a magazine that only publishes nonfiction articles concerning dogs and how to train them. No matter how good your story is, the editor will not publish it if the magazine or publishing company never prints stories like yours. That means you’re going to have to do your homework–or in other words “market research.” Pick up the latest Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Visit web sites like www.kidmagwriters.com to look at writers’s guidelines. Better yet, get your ink-smudged hands on some actual recent children’s magazines. Study them as if you’re going to have a pop quiz the next day. Finding out what type of material each magazine publishes will give you an idea of what kind of stories and articles you can send them. The same goes for book publishing companies. Look at the children’s books you enjoy reading (and you should be reading them if you want to write children’s books), and take note of the publishing company that releases each. Visit the companies web sites, refer back to the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Then determine where you’re going to send your book manuscript. But if you’d rather sabotage your chances of being published, just forget I said anything!
3. Don’t proofread your manuscript. In fact, the more typos the better. Editors view a manuscript littered with misspellings, terrible grammar, and awful punctuation as the mark of an amateur. They probably won’t even read past the first paragraph. However, if you want your story to have half a chance, use Spell Check to proofread your manuscript. Read your manuscript out loud. If you’re lousy at spelling and grammar, get someone else to check it for you.
4. In your cover letter (and you should always include a cover letter with your submission), boast to the editor how you’re the next J. K. Rowling, Judy Blume, or Lemony Snicket. Be completely obnoxious in your letter, and be sure to tell the editor that he would be crazy not to publish your impeccable manuscript. However, if you really want your manuscript to have a fighting chance, find a book about how writers can write effective cover letters or query letters. Follow the advice, and tupe your letter. But please don’t compare yourself to Rowling, Blume, or Snicket…because your work is probably not nearly up to that level yet.
5. Don’t revise your manuscript. Just send a rough draft. After all, I’m sure you’re the literary equivalent of Mozart, who was said to write down the music exactly as he heard it in his head. He never had to make changes. Let’s face it, people. Most of us are not geniuses. Usually the first draft of a story is not worth the paper on which it’s printed. It takes careful revision, revision, and more revision before your book or story is ready to see the light of day. On the other hand, if you feel your writing is perfect, don’t change a word. Just don’t expect your story to be published any time soon. In the competitive world of children’s literature, editors only accept the best.
These are just a few basic ways the unexperienced writer jeopardizes any chance of success. In order to increase your chances of writing something publishable, study your craft. Just as a dancer or medical student has to study and practice every day, so does a writer. Find a critique group, enroll in a writing class, read writer’s self-help books. Dont’ forget to write, write, write. Find out how to submit your work in a professional manner. Only then can you avoid the pitfalls that many writers make when they first embark on a writing career