While your book is percolating in your mind, in revisions or sketches, or under the scrutiny of your crit group buddies, you can explore ways to build your publishing credentials. Magazines and other media can be valuable, shorter-term ways to get your work seen.
Here’s a more-or-less “out there” example that’s pretty cool. Michelle Clay, a new member of one of my critique groups, won second place recently for her work of 3 minute future fiction in a contest run by Wisconsin Public Radio. As part of the stations’ “To the Best of our Knowledge” programming, they ran the sci-fi challenge “Imagining Possible Worlds,” looking for submissions set in the near future, using plausible science, and 500-600 words long. They received over 750 submissions. Not only was Michelle’s story Food Production posted as a winner on the station’s website, they also had it produced as a short radio play. Go here to read her story – number three on the list – and see what intriguing literary company she’s sharing space with (including Junot Diaz!). Then you can click “listen” to hear her flash fiction in 3D audio. Be advised that this story is not for the squeamish, but it’s tightly written, believable, and puts a subversive twist on a current trend. Since Michelle’s writing focus is sci-fi YA novels, the range of exposure for her work – all those public radio listeners and web surfers – is terrific. Looks great on her resumé, too.
Contests are one way to gain exposure. Magazines are another. Children’s magazines offer a wide gamut of options to submit work for writers, photographers, and artists. Look for magazines targeting the age group and subject areas you prefer by digging into the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books), which comes out every year. The section on magazines lists submission preferences and payment for more children’s magazines than you might think exist. Go to your local library to study actual issues of the ones you are interested in. Read submission guidelines on each magazine’s website, too. Highlights and the many magazines within the Cricket Group (now Cricket Media) are good ones to look into. You may submit story ideas or be assigned illustration/photography projects after showing samples.
You might think that YA writers won’t find options in the magazine market, which usually publishes short works, but you’d be surprised. Cicada Magazine for teens, which is in the Cricket Group, is running an excerpt from my historical YA novel, I Am Gudrid, as a novella. Look for it in the May/June and July/August issues. Years ago, I pitched an excerpt to Cricket (or Spider?) from the book Giants of Smaller Worlds, which I had written and illustrated for younger kids. After looking at several copies of the magazine, I cut and pasted a layout I thought would work for them and sent that in along with a standard manuscript version. They liked it. It gave me a bit more exposure and money for little effort, since the work already existed. One thing to know is that due to the current economics of life, you may have to wait quite a while to be paid. You can find your preferred age group, area of interest, and submission guidelines on their list of many magazines here: http://www.cricketmag.com/submissions
Some children’s magazine groups also publish their own books – offering additional opportunities for writers and artists. Their books may include reprints or anthologies of features already published in the magazine (which can earn you a small return too), but some also publish original works. In addition to receiving assignments to write and illustrate for Cricket Media’s (formerly Carus Corporation) many magazines, I have also illustrated three large-format paperback books published by Cobblestone Publishing, also owned by Cricket media. These came along as a result of the magazine work.
The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market contains a section on contests, grants, and awards. Contests and other competitions also exist on the web. Check out Kristine Asselin’s post The Truth About Twitter Contests in which she reveals that her entry in a Twitter pitch contest lead to her book contract for Any Way You Slice It, coming Fall 2014. It doesn’t get better than that!
Have you published short works as a writer or illustrator? Share your experiences in the Comments section.
Related post on Writers’ Rumpus:
Let the Marketing Begin by Carol Ekster