Monday, April 18, 2011

Boy Mayor gives back once more

I recently put up a post about how much I enjoy writing for magazines--there's a better chance of acceptance, and the process can move a lot faster.  Of course, once you've published the article, it's gone forever.  Right?

Actually, with the right magazine, your work can keep showing up.  Children's magazines often resell articles to educational companies to be used as test passages.  Some magazines, having initially bought all rights to the article, keep the money.  Some magazines, like Highlights, forward payment to the author.  So, apparently, does Boy's Quest.

I first published "The Boy Mayor of Texas" in Boy's Quest in 2005.  (Funny story: since the photo I'd found for the magazine was too expensive, they called me right before publication to warn they'd have to pull the story if I didn't find them the right photo fast.  You ever try finding a free photo of the 12-year-old unofficial mayor of an unofficial Texan town, who has since passed away, and whose parents have moved?  When you have an 11-day-old baby?  Luckily, thanks to a friendly clerk with a phone book at a nearby city hall, I managed to reach the father who kindly forwarded a photo, and have since learned to have my photos on hand when I submit.)  My story was probably read by a few thousand kids, and I thought no more of it.  But since then, the article has been resold four times for test passage use, and the initial payment, which at 5 cents a word seemed laughably low, has quintipled.  I just got another check.

So hooray for magazine writing, and hooray for magazine editors who treat their authors well.  And hooray especially for Brian Zimmerman, the onetime boy mayor of Crabb, Texas, whose story continues to reach children with every test passage sold.  May they all learn, as he did, to reach for their dreams.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On writing for magazines

I know many writers laboring away at the various drafts of their first book who don't want to take time away for short pieces.  More power to them--it probably means they'll finish their projects!  But for me, working for so long on something nobody sees can get really discouraging.  During the five (or however many) years it might take to get a book published, how will I know people love my writing?  Where's the ego boost?

That's why it's always nice to take a break and write something for a magazine.  While the acceptance letters might still be slow to come, at least you have better chances hearing back from an editor who has to publish dozens of pieces a year instead of just five volumes.  And it doesn't always take months to get accepted--I just wrote a piece for the Dollar Stretcher which was accepted in two days.  Mailbox, prepare for paycheck.

Money aside, since writing my way doesn't bring in much, it's good to know that there's an editor out there who thinks you do quality work.  It's even better to know that the idea you're so excited to share is going to reach an audience someday, maybe even someday soon.  Because if I weren't excited about the idea, I would never have bothered to write the article.

For anybody wondering about the new article, I'll give you a sneak preview.  It's how even a timid, self-conscious shopper afraid of bargaining--like me--can sometimes get the price down, just by presenting the right information and waiting for an offer.  To learn more, check the Dollar Stretcher.  Someday.