In this the second part of this interview, editor Virginia S. Grenier talks about promotion, the most common mistakes she encounters while critiquing other writers' works, traditional vs. self publishing, and the future of children's publishing.
How do you go about promoting your magazine in the midst of all the competition?
I was very lucky about how fast Stories for Children Magazine’s name got out there. Being a student from the ICL was one of the best helps I had. I knew other writers and editors because of the ICL. Also I’m in a few different writers groups both online and locally. Word of mouth is the best way to spread anything you're marketing. Most people will trust a friend, relative, or co-worker before they will an advertisement. So by talking about the magazine within my writing groups and with my fellow writing students, the word just spread like wildfire.
The second thing that helped Stories for Children Magazine get its name out was actually making contacts with our competition. For example: I was first published in Fandangle Magazine, a free online magazine for children ages 6 to 12 years old. Nancy, the editor, wrote an ebook for teachers about how to use print and ezines in the classroom. Two of my publications with Fandangle were in her ebook. I asked Nancy if I could link from my site to her free ebook. She was more than happy and in return we have shared information on marketing with each other. And as you can see, here I am putting a plug in for her ezine now.
Having an author website, blog, or newsletter is another way to get your name out there. I have all three. On my author site you can actually download the past issues of Stories for Children Magazine. On my blogs I post who our featured guest of the month is with a link to the SFC site. Having interviews each month with children’s authors and illustrators is a great way to bring traffic.
I also send out media releases on our featured guests or if we have some fun news going on at our magazine. And again I always include the link to SFC’s site. You would be surprise how many media releases I get without one.
How does one subscribe to your magazine? Is it free?
Stories for Children Magazine is free for everyone. We do hope to go to print within the next year or two at which time the print magazine will be a paid subscription. However, I still plan to keep Stories for Children Magazine’s site free by publishing a smaller issue for our online readers when we go to print.
You’re also a published author, with many magazine credits to your name and several upcoming book releases. Would you like to tell our readers a little about your works?
My writing has been something of a surprise to me. The first submission I ever sent was inspired by my dad’s childhood. He’s a retired pilot and was born with wings. I had first written the story as my sample writing for the ICL to see if I really had what it took to become a children’s writer. After my second assignment I decided to submit a revision of the story to Fandangle Magazine. I guess I still didn’t believe I was cut out to be in children’s writing and felt I needed a rejection to make that clear to me. The funny thing was, Nancy, the editor, accepted the story. After that I had two more publications in Fandangle Magazine followed by publications at Vision: A Resource for Writers, KidsMagazine.com, Storybox On-Line, and most recently Pack-O-Fun bought a craft for the June/July 2008 issue. I’ve also written a few articles for my newsletter which has 100 subscribers to-date and for Stories for Children Magazine.
On the book side of things, well does anyone really ever want to say much before they have publication dates? I will say this much. I have two picture books in the works. They are in the revision stage and I’m working on a novel with another writer. It’s for young adults and my hope is that once I’m done with my part of the novel, my co-author will love it and we’ll see it in print.
Author, editor… and also manuscript critiquer as well. What kinds of manuscripts do you critique, what are your fees, and what can a writer expect from one of your critiques?
I critique only children’s writing. I look at short stories, articles, and children’s book in all genres. I’m in a critique group as well as editing accepted submissions for Stories for Children Magazine. I don’t think I ever take off the critiquer hat.
I don’t charge a lot for a critique. My fee is $15 for 1,000 words or less and then $2 per page after that. When I critique someone else’s work, I look at it two ways. The first way I read the manuscript is as a reader. I love to read children’s books. I hardly ever read an adult genre book. So when I read a manuscript, I look at it as if I picked it off the shelf at the local book store or library. I make my notes from that perspective and then I go back through as an editor. For more information about my critiquing service and testimonials, writers can visit my site.
What mistakes do you keep encountering over and over when you critique other people’s manuscripts?
Formatting is the number one mistake I see as a critiquer and editor. A lot of people want to use fancy fonts or colored text. As a critiquer or editor this is very hard to read. Times New Roman 12pt font is best. Grammar is another area where I see lots of mistakes. The most common is the usage of commas, dashes, semi-colons, or quotes. A lot of rules of writing change over the years and if you don’t read current trade magazines or newsletters, then you’re missing some pretty important information.
One discussion came up, in an online form I was attending, about the use of italics for thought instead of underlining thought on a manuscript. At one time publishers wanted you to underline internal dialogue, but now, a lot of them have you using italics as the preferred way to show internal dialogue or thought. When I critique someone else’s work, I look for all of this on top of spelling, plot, character development, etc. The other big thing I see is pacing. Once you hook your reader you don’t want to lose them with too much detail or slowing in the plot. I see this happening a lot with writers who are in love with descriptive words. Yes you need to be descriptive, but you also need to let your reader use their imagination to fill in some of those blanks. Remember to “write tight”. If I wanted to see all the detail to a story, I’ll go watch a movie instead of reading a book. I like painting part of the picture the author starts to draw for me.
The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self-publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?
I debate this same question all the time. Self-publish, traditionally publish, E-publish, or POD my works. I think you have to first research all avenues and then you have to look at your work and decide, “Why did I want to write this story?” Did I write it to share with my family and friends? Did I write it to be the next New York Times Best Selling Author? Did I write it because I just needed to tell the story? Did I write it because I want to see the smile on a child’s face as they read what I had to write? After that then you need to decide how important it is to get your work out there. POD is something I’m looking into for the Anthology of Stories for Children Magazine. This makes sense because I want to take the best of the best in the magazine and combine it. For my own writing, I’ve looked at E-publishing some of my shorter stories and a more traditional publishing for my picture books and novels. But that is me. Each writer has to do what they feel is best for them and their work. But make sure you research each publisher in any genre of publishing and read the testimonials by those who have used that publisher. And never be afraid to ask someone who has published with a publisher their thoughts about the process.
How do you see the future of children’s book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?
I know many younger writers and illustrators believe we are headed to a paperless world of writing. I’ve heard this even back when I was buying clothes for department and specialty stores some 10 years ago. We still have print to this day and I think it will be a long time before we are totally paperless as a society. However, I think a writer would be foolish not to have their hands in both print and E-publishing. I do think POD and self publishing is becoming more common place because it’s so hard to get your foot in the door at the big traditional publishing houses. There are a lot of talented writers who normally would never see their manuscript as a book if it wasn’t for POD or self publishers, but don’t forget the small publishing housings. I do feel all three will always have a place in the children’s book market.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Learn all you can to hone your writing. Never think you don’t have anything else to learn. Each day is a day to learn something new or share something to help another along the road to publication. Join one or more writing groups to network with others who have the same passion in writing. Through networking you become more confident in your work. Make sure to have your work critiqued before sending it out. Join a critique group, partner with another writer as critique buddies, or have a professional critiquer look over your work. Having others read what you have written and giving feedback not only makes you a better writer, but you start to understand how a well-written story’s voice captures the reader, drawing them into your world of ink.