Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Proofs Are in the Mail

By Nichole Giles

I recently learned something new about submitting articles and short stories. They can act as a lesson, showing you what it might be like when you actually sell a book. I know I have mentioned before how wonderful it feels to find in your mailbox an envelope with a contract stuffed inside, but this was different from a contract.

This new discovery came in the mail the other day, and took me quite by surprise. My most recent magazine contract was with “Highlights for Children.” The article was short,—about 450 words—included pictures, and I received my check from them last fall.

Now, I should probably mention that the short stories I have sold to other publications have worked about like this, and once the check was received, my work was done. Oh, they let me know when my story was scheduled for publication and asked to change a few words or names, then I got my contributors copies and all was well.

But this magazine is a big children’s magazine. In fact, from what I understand, one of the biggest on the children’s magazine market, at about 2 million readers. And they do things a little differently. Let’s back up. A couple of months ago, the copy editor sent me an email to inform me that my article is scheduled for the November issue. To which I thought, Woo hoo! November is only a few months away. Cool. And though I set that month in the calendar of my mind, I went back to work on my other writing projects.

Last week on my daily trip to the mailbox (yes, I admit to anxiously watching for the mailman to arrive every day, usually to be rewarded by junk mail and bills, rather than something really good) I was surprised to find a large white envelope from Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania is where “Highlights” prints.) Shoot, I thought. Another rejection—and it was so bad it didn’t even fit in my SASE. Then, I hesitated to open it. But, since I have several submissions circulating, I figured I needed to see which one it was, and decide where to send it next.

So, I opened it. It was a letter from Highlights, but not a rejection.

It went something like this, “Dear Ms. Giles, here are the first proofs for your article entitled…. Please understand some editing has been done in order to fit our space requirements. More may be done to fix any errors. Please look these over and let us know if you have any comments….” And the Highlights copy editor signed it. Enclosed in the envelope were photocopies of the layout of my article, with it’s new—although in my opinion not so improved—title, with spaces marked for my pictures and a sidebar, which I also wrote.

Imagine my pleasure at seeing my article laid out, seven months before its actual publication, and having the editor of a popular magazine asking for my approval.

Well, pleased or not, I don’t love all the edits. I’ve set the proofs on my desk, and read through them three or four times a day, trying to make myself believe I’m okay with the changes. The thing is, my name is on the top of that page, and this is going to be one of my publishing credits, so I have to live with whatever ends up being printed.

So, since they so kindly gave me the chance, I believe I’ll take the opportunity to make those comments. It’s something I wasn’t allowed in the past, and I think I could probably use the practice.

If I keep this up, by the time I sell a book, I’ll already be a publishing pro.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on selling to Highlights. I can't seem to figure out how to do that! Is it fiction or non-fiction?

Rebecca Talley

Tristi Pinkston said...

Fight for what you truly believe in and be willing to waggle on the rest. Way to go on that sale!!

Nichole Giles said...


This one is nonfiction. I've discovered for a writer trying to break in, nonfiction is a great way to make those first few sales.

Thanks for commenting.

Nichole Giles said...


I figure I can live with everything except the very last line, which I'll fight for.

Thanks for your support!


Josi said...

I've gotten into articles this last year, having never done any before and it is addicting! I find that the rejections are a little easier because I didn't spent SO MUCH time, not like a novel. It still stings, but not as back and the acceptances are invigorating! But Highlights, holy cow, Nichole, that's awesome! They are very very big time. Super congrats.

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks, Josi!

You are right, magazine writing is addicting. The only problem is, I tend to get so addicted to doing short things, that I ignore the longer book length things I need to work on. Still, it is a great way to break in.