Though National Geographic once published a number of my stories, I couldn’t depend on it exclusively for a living. Besides, my interests stretched beyond what National Geographic publishes. And, to live happily, you can’t base what you do only on what one publication pays. So I also worked for other types of magazines.
In the last 12 or more years, most of those other magazines stopped paying for travel expenses. So, to be able to keep traveling, I had to find a way to pay those expenses myself and still make a profit.
My solution was to get at least three of my clients interested in something I could do for them in the country I planned to visit. It would often be a contribution to a photo book, some illustrated articles, or both (and, of course, I take stock photography, too, whenever I travel).
This was when I started to sell articles to kids magazines. I discovered there are hundreds of them out there whose editors are begging for great stories. I even contribute to a French one and a German one.
I shot this picture of the little Q’ero Indian siblings heading this article a few years ago in Peru.
On that particular trip, I did two adult and two children’s stories. A friend in Lima had e-mailed me about the recent discovery of pre-Inca Chachapoya ruins still buried under the moss of the cloud forest. So I planned my trip around them.
This could not have happened at a better time. I had broken some teeth and my dentist had to charge me $10,000 to fix the problem. A great Lima dentist would do the job for only $1,500, though not in equal luxury. There is no end to the advantages of travel once you learn how to combine opportunities.
For Archaeology and Junior Scholastic magazines, I worked on two different versions of the Chachapoya story (Archeology contributed $1,000 to expenses).
For Americas, the magazine of the OAS, no longer active, I did a story on the Q’ero, an Andean tribe, which I knew well for having lived among them previously. Later, I wrote a children’s version of that story for Highlights for Children. Naturally, that trip added considerably to my collection of stock photos, which keep selling.
Though some children’s magazines, like Boys’ Life, Junior Scholastic, and a few others pay very well, such writing will not make you rich.
But if you’re someone looking for extra income, or a stay-at-home mom looking for a hobby, or a writer seeking new challenges, or a photographer with stock pictures to put to good use, writing for children will help you “butter your spinach,” as we say in Belgium, my home country. And it will thrill you. You will earn much more if you can illustrate your stories with good photos, which is easy today, even with a small camera and sometimes a cell phone.
Children’s magazines offer stories as varied as adult magazines—in fiction and non-fiction. They also use games and educational material. Writing for children is not easier than writing for adults. It forces you to write shorter sentences and use a simpler vocabulary. Besides, and depending on their age level, kids have their own demands, as do the editors. But if you brought up children or are used to talking to kids, you already know the appropriate language.
Below you’ll find some links to get you started. The first one will give you a book-worth of magazine titles, what they are looking for, what rights they request, and what they pay. The other links are to the writers’ guidelines of a number of children’s magazines.
However, just as Jen instructs at The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, do not send stories to magazines you have not previously studied at your local public library.
Editors are busy people who can spare no time reading stories they can’t use. In fact, if you like the idea of writing for children, spending an afternoon at the library should be one of the first things you do.
It will immediately show you what sells and how it is written. And it will push you into action and inspire you.
Some resources to help get you started:
Highlights for Children (this magazine awards a pewter plate to their Writer of the Month (I won it twice) and one to their Writer of the Year (I won this once).
Crickets (more than a dozen magazines for different age levels and interests).
Junior Scholastic, one of many Scholastic magazines, covers headlines and history for the middle school social studies curriculum.
Again, do your homework and follow all the guidelines Jen teaches. And above all else, have fun!!