Freelancers are among the most wonderful people on the planet! We appreciate you very much. It will not surprise you that I was once a freelancer myself and have shared all the joys and agonies of this life. I wish you well in placing your article ideas with editors of like mind. That is the key to successful publication: having the right topic in front of the right editor at the right moment.
The following is compiled from various email messages sent to free-lancers and others who want to write for Parents & Kids. Consider these random thoughts. If you have further questions, feel free to contact me, the editor, Gretchen Cook.
If you are submitting a reprint article, feel free to email the entire article. Pasting it into the body of the email message is fine. If you have a topic you would like to write an original article about, please contact me (gretchen (at) parents-kids.com) before embarking on the research and writing stages. Just because your submission fits our editorial guidelines does not guarantee publication. So please do not go to all the trouble to write and article just for us, without first ensuring that we have an actual need for the article.
January- Know & Go
February- Heart Health & Women’s Fitness, Special Needs Directory
March- Ultimate Summer Fun & Camp Guide
April- Summer Travel, Pets, Grandparents
May- Metro School Guide
June- Birthday Parties
July- Back To School
August- After School Activities
September- Sports & Play, Family Fitness
October- Halloween & Fall Fun, Pediatrics Health & Maternity
In addition to the topics below, we also accept seasonal submissions. So we are always interested in a Valentine’s story for our February issue. Submit seasonal things well in advance. I really don’t mind looking at your Christmas ideas in May. Really.
Our tone is conversational. Write as if you were telling a neighbor all about the topic of the article. “English Lit” language is a little stuffy for us. If you use “laceration” when you mean “cut,” you’re over-doing it!
Is it ever appropriate to use rhetorical questions? No! Never. Especially as a mechanism to move your article to the next topic. If your article is a series of questions and answers, please send me a draft early on, so we can discuss other ways of approaching the topic. It may be a pure Q&A piece is the best presentation. But let’s talk about it first, unless you have been asked specifically to write a Q&A.
Avoid “personal essays.” Our columnists write from a first person view-point. But you shouldn’t. Our feature articles should almost always be third person. Thus, do not write about your own experience, but interview other people who can tell the story. If there’s a mix, contact me and let’s discuss it. I can almost always find ways to get other people quoted as well as the authorial voice.
ALSO: Decide on your point of view before the article. It’s not good to write in 3rd person and then suddenly I inserted an author’s first-person point of view. Did you hear that? Very disconcerting for the reader. (And the editor.)
Don’t describe the writing process, such as, “After interviewing several moms and emergency room physicians for this story, the answer became clear, child-proofing a home is critical.” Simply start the story.
Articles must be very tight–never to exceed 6000 words, but 400 is even better. Fewer than 400 words will thrill me.
To increase your chances of acceptance, think in terms of your topic and our readers–what are the local implications for parents sending their children to day care, school, summer camp? What local programs/assistance can make life better? What does the average area parent need to know on this topic?
We are necessarily biased toward local writers. Thus if two writers submit similar articles and one is from Brandon, Mississippi and the other from Branson, Missouri, I will prefer the local writer.
However, a local writer is not always available. And we do review and accept a number of reprint submissions. Whenever possible, make your article relevant to Mississippi. For article reprints, take a few moments, Google your topic adding “Mississippi” and see if you can locate a local person, organization, etc., to contact for your story. You don’t have to localize the story before submitting it, but if you are willing to do so, and indicate this, it will raise your chances of acceptance considerably.
Submitting an Article
Always put your by-line just beneath the title of every article you write. But you think, “Of course Gretchen knows my name. And besides, it’s on the email I attached the file to.”
This may be true. I assign many articles, sometimes on related topics, such as “money” or “women’s health.” Also, your attached file is immediately removed from your email message and drug into a folder relevant to the month or topic. Thus, five days/five hours later, when I open your file, I have no idea who wrote it without going back to my very full email folder.
You should also put your complete address, including zip and phone number. Your submission may languish in a folder on my computer for months and then suddenly I need to use it. (This does happen.) If I can get you quickly (email or phone) to review terms I can use your article. If I can’t get you, I will have to pass and move on to another submission. This will also help you get your check. In fact, it’s useful to have your complete mailing address as part of your signature on your email messages.
For those of you simply “too modest” to put your name on the articles, please ask yourself, “Why am I ashamed to put my name on this?” If it’s that bad, maybe P&K doesn’t want it either!
At the end of your article, please put a one-line bio. “Bella Cook is a Jackson, MS, miniature rat terrier who enjoys eating.” If you are a parent, please say so. This is required. Again, if you are inhibited for some reason from doing this, we’ll need to explore that reason before we can run the article.
Other Things to Know
I maintain a very firm line between articles (editorial) and ad sales. Thus “advertorials” are not accepted as articles, but may appear as “special advertising sections” when paid for by the advertiser. I mention this because many free distribution magazines have a habit of running articles about their advertisers–which I believe undermines the objectivity of the magazine.
(Actually there are a number of publications that do this as well….but I digress!)
I favor stories with a local slant (quote local experts, local kids, local parents). Have I mentioned this before?
I do not pay for stories written by “local experts.” Thus, when a college professor or doctor writes a story about a subject they specialize in, I do not compensate, in that the publication of the article itself is the compensation.
Parents & Kids pays upon publication plus 30 days. If an article cannot be used, we will not pay for it. If you are working on assignment and are uncertain about the story as it develops, please send drafts so we can work out problems before the editorial deadline.
We love “for more information” side bars. Please locate a book or two on your topic, or a local organization, etc. to direct readers to. Your article may so excite a reader that he or she needs more information immediately. Please help us by including this.
Editorial Checklist for Parents & Kids
Please do not send in your article until you have verified the following:
- Did I include a proposed headline or title? (Subheads are good, too.)
- Did I put my name directly below that?
- Did I put my full address, email address and phone number somewhere in the article?
- Did I include a one-line bio at the end of the article?
- Did I keep my article to less than 700 words? (600 is better, unless instructed otherwise.)
- Did I write in third person, rather than first person? (If your article can only be written in first person, please call me and discuss it before submitting it.)
- Did I interview at least three people? Local experts, parents, kids?
- Did I include at least one recommendation for the “More Information” section? A book, a business, a website, etc. Readers should know where to find out more.
- Does each paragraph logically lead to the next paragraph?
- Are there transitions, sub-heads, etc. to guide the reader if these are necessary?
- Is this 100% my own work? Please ensure you are not accidentally lifting content from other copyrighted sources.
- Eliminate automatic spacing after paragraphs. Use only double hard returns to indicate a new paragraph.
- Side-bars are always welcome and a good way to save space with tight writing.
- Submissions should be in Word or .txt files only.
- Please refrain from using a font or color that is difficult to read. We prefer Times New Roman, 12 pt., in black print.
Pay begins at $25 per article.
If you have read this far, pat yourself on the back. I know it is unfair of me to tell you, “Aim for 400 word articles,” and then take 1,600 words to explain myself. If you have read all of this and manage to create submissions that are locally relevant, quote experts and parents and are written in the third person you are well on your way to being published.
I wish you the very best in your writing and look forward to reading about your ideas.
Editor | Publisher