One foolproof way to close a door, a cyber door or any other publishing door in your face, is by sending an editor a query with the following: “My story/article is suitable for all ages.” Now, why would this annoy a magazine editor? Well, here goes:
• You are now forcing this editor to read the entire thing (if you’re so lucky and don’t get a rejection slip right off) and judge for himself what age group you intended it for. Mind you, this is a neat trick to get them to read the entire thing but is this the reaction you want from them? Annoyance? I don’t think so.
• By being so ‘vague’ in your target age you are giving them the impression you haven’t done your homework…that you’re hoping they might be able to ‘fit it in somewhere’…that your ‘for all ages’ will go undetected and he’ll love it after the article/story is read.
Your best way to approach this ‘age appropriate’ area when querying an editor is to make sure you have done your homework, studied your target audience, written a piece that immediately zones into this specific target group and prove it to the editor with the answers to WHO/WHAT/WHY. By focusing on WHO your target audience is you will explain WHAT your story/article is about and WHY you believe your audience will be interested in this and WHY you are the best person to write this piece. Another area to go with is WHO is your immediate competition in the same topic.
The reason why many magazines specifically mention: middle grade, young adult, picture books, adult, fantasy, mystery, etc. is because they have done their research into this demographic area and pinpoint all articles/stories to suit this target age group. So, if you send in a picture book manuscript to a publisher who targets young adult, what do you suppose their response will be? I think you know - REJECTION! Their young adult audience will not be very enthusiastic with a picture book suitable for ages 2 – 5.
Each children’s magazine primarily targets and sets up their magazine in such a way to appeal to a specific age group. For this reason you need to carefully research the market you will be submitting to. Read their guidelines like your life depended on it because in a way, your writing life does depend on it. If you want to get out of the slush pile, recognized for following all the guidelines, then stop sending them vague submissions.
Age Level Guide:
2 – 5 years old: considered the ‘Pre-reader’ stage, children who might not be able to read on their own, parents read to them - Interests in this age group might be:
• holidays/events (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.)
• going shopping with mom and/or dad.
• First day events like ‘at school – at the doctor – on vacation – meeting a new babysitter – etc.
This age level has a short attention span so word count can be anywhere from 100 to 500. These books have plenty of pictures/illustrations to bring the story alive and allow the child to follow it easier. Check each publisher’s guidelines.
6 – 9 years old: vocabulary is expanding meaning they can handle harder words as long as the meaning is clear within the context of the sentence.
8 – 12 years old: This age group does not like to be preached. They are fluent readers by now and some of the genres they might be interested in are:
This age group loves books they can associate and bond with the main characters, especially if the character is 2 -3 years older than them. The protagonist’s struggles should hit a key with this age group, struggles that kids face in the present times.
By knowing your target audience you can better adapt your stories/articles to suit their needs. But better than that, you will have shown the editor you did your homework and possibly end up with an acceptance letter.