Sunday, 15 June 2014

QUESTIONS EDITORS ASK

© Rebecca Newman

 For over four years I had the pleasure of reading story and poetry submissions from
children’s writers. Every day my inbox was overflowing with manuscripts. While reading them was one of my favourite parts of working on a magazine, it was also the most frustrating because so many submissions didn’t meet the submission guidelines. These days I have more time for writing and submitting my own work to children’s magazines — and I know from experience that editors opening my emails are ridiculously busy. It helps to know some of the questions the editors will be asking when a submission is in front of them. Here are five:

 
1. Is this appropriate for our audience?

I always read the publisher’s submission guidelines before I submit work. If I’ve
submitted manuscripts to them before I make sure to read them again — guidelines can change. At the magazine I lost count of the number of submissions I received that were for younger (or older) readers than the guidelines stated. Other manuscripts were 200 words (or 2000 words) longer than the word limit. There’s often a long wait between submitting and getting an answer (did I mention that editors are ridiculously busy?) so I don’t waste my time (or the editor’s) by sending work that doesn’t meet guidelines.


2. Is this story trying to hammer home a message?

Editors are always looking for a good story and today’s readers are not after stories with a moral. Children are smart. If there is a natural lesson in the outcome, they will get that. There is no need to hammer home a message. (If a publisher is specifically looking for stories with a moral they will state this in their guidelines.)

3. Is this well-written with no spelling or grammatical errors?

A manuscript is not ready to submit if it is riddled with spelling mistakes and sections
that don’t make sense. Even if the plot is brilliant it’s likely that the editor will choose
another manuscript that is equally as entertaining but doesn’t require a lot of work before it’s ready for publication.

4. Is this original? Have we published something like this already?

Editors are looking for fresh material and a good story. A few years ago Alphabet Soup magazine published a well-known fairytale in verse and a few months after that another author submitted their own version of the same fairytale and even though it was beautifully written, we weren’t able to accept it. (Sometimes this is just plain bad luck and out of a writer’s control but it can help to be familiar with the publisher/publication before submitting.)

5. Has this been published elsewhere?

Some magazines will accept material that has been published before, others won’t. I
always check the guidelines before submitting. It’s important to remember that even if you have followed the submission guidelines to the letter, your manuscript may still be rejected. It could have the perfect home elsewhere — check the next set of submission guidelines and send it on. Persistence is vital in the journey to publication!
 
The former editor of children’s literary magazine, Alphabet Soup, Rebecca Newman is now the editor of Alphabet Soup’s blog http://www.alphabetsoup.net.au. In her spare time she writes children's fiction and poetry, runs writing workshops for children, and tends a tiny kitchen garden. The School Magazine has purchased two of her poems for future publication.

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