Sunday, December 23, 2007
Why I write picture books instead.
Just saw this listing for a children's magazine seeking submissions:
"Publishes ideas, activities, crafts and tips for different ages. No fiction, prose, or poetry. Feature articles 1,000-2,200 words - payment $75 to $400. Teacher and Parent Tips 200 words - payment $40. Games, crafts, and activities 200-500 words - payment $40."
Holy cow! Talk about slave wages. And, from my perusal of the Children's Writer's Market, this is a fairly standard offering.
The last picture book I sold is about 575 words. I was paid thousands for it. (None of your biz exactly how many thousands, but more than ten times the top pay above, let's just say.) The one before that was about 225 words. Also paying WAY more than the measly 40 bucks offered above for 200 words.
And I'm a new, mid-list writer, not a superstar. My earnings are measly compared to theirs.
I know not every story fits as a picture book. I know new children's writers are often told that magazines are a good way to break in. But are they? I've heard of people waiting as long for their $25 poem to appear in a magazine as it takes for my books to land on bookstore shelves.
Maybe that's not true about smaller mags. Maybe with them, the time from sale to print is only a few months. And there's something to be said for the instant gratification of a quick query and sale. But my 3rd book was bought about 2 or 3 weeks after I queried my editor. (Granted, it was a query to an editor with whom I had a pre-existing relationship, not a slush pile submission.)
And even from the slush pile, with my 2nd sale, the editor replied to my query in 7 days. She bought the book about 10 weeks later. Not such a bad wait.
I know there aren't as many places to sell a picture book as an article. But these insulting wages are just... well... INSULTING. So my radical opinion is, if you're going to write, write for a venue which compensates you properly for your labor and inspiration rather than arrogantly assuming you'll be thrilled with the pittance they're paying just to see your byline in print.