SPAWN Market Update – February 2002


SPAWN Market Update – February 2002

By Patricia L. Fry

Going, Going, Gone
Here’s What’s New
Word of Warning
Research/Reference Site of the Month
Featured Writer
Author Notes
Editor/Publisher Interview
Coming Up
You Can Help

Going, Going, Gone

The following publications are reported to have gone out of business:

American Woman (Last month I gave you the new address for American Woman. A few weeks later, I received a response to a query that I had sent them in October stating that the magazine was no longer being published.)

MH-18 (We’re sorry to see this two-year-old, high paying magazine for young men slip into oblivion.)

Mightywords (According to a press release which I received just after Christmas, this popular ebook store no longer exists. and have stepped in to take its place. President of, John T. Nightengale, invites stranded ebook authors to go to ` )

Here’s What’s New

My Books Out

Susan James has created an innovated website for those of us who have books to market. I will feature Susan and her My Books Out site in the next issue of Market Update. In the meantime, check her place out at

Northwest Home and Garden

According to managing editor, Rachel Hart, “While NWH+G debuted in September 2000, we’re still establishing its frequency. The next issue is scheduled for March 2002.” Hart and her staff are looking for writers living in the Seattle and surrounding Northwest region who have a knack for home and garden topics and trends. She says they’re only interested in local stories and the best way to pitch one is to email the magazine’s editor, Shannon O’leary at

Those of you with books to publish may want to visit and see if they have what you need. They offer ebooks, print-on-demand and audio books services and they claim to offer 50% royalties.

TIP: If you use Writer’s Market even occasionally, I recommend making note of changes to the listings as you become aware of them.

Word of Warning

Here are a couple of great sites for keeping track of slow or non-paying publishers, those who don’t live up to their agreements with writers and even those who scam their subscribers. You can also report publishers with whom you’ve had problems.

I hope the contents of this section look familiar to you because this means that you’re reading our Market Updates. I’ll be repeating these sites frequently for those of you who need them.

This site issues warnings about literary contests:

Note: If you have a problem with a publisher and you’re a member of National Writer’s Union, you can file a grievance with them. Check it out at

Research/Reference Site of the Month

I hope you’ve been using SPAWN’s Metasearch (in the SPAWN member area) to locate the people and information you need for your writing projects. If you’re not currently doing research, looking for a date or a mate, trying to find just the right collectible or seeking information about a particular breed of cat, for example, have a little fun. Type in your own name and see what comes up. Not only is it entertaining and enlightening, it’s a good way to find out if anyone has published any of your work on the web without permission. To use this great search engine, go to the member area and click on Metasearch.

If you want statistics for an article or a book, go to In my experiences with this site, a real person emailed me with answers and additional sites to visit pertaining to my inquiry. Such service!

Also use for tracking trends.

Featured Writer

Do you recognize this as a new feature for the Market Update? If so, congratulations for paying attention. Our purpose here is to introduce writers who are doing something a little bit different. While some of our featured writers are earning a living (or at least making some money) from their writing, others are volunteers. And there’s a lot to be said for volunteering. I volunteer my time to write this Market Update, for example, to respond to the questions that come to the SPAWN site and to write the articles for SPAWNews. But I also write for a living.

While I agree with those who say we should not be willing to work for nothing, there are benefits in doing volunteer writing.

a. This is a good way to promote yourself and your books.

b. You’re helping others and that feels just plain good.

c. Volunteer writing is an opportunity to improve or expand in your craft.

Our featured writer this month is Lori Joyal who answers Santa letters for those children in her community. A newspaper reporter turned novelist, Joyal has been volunteering as one of Santa’s literary elves for the past five years. Among her list of benefits for someone doing this type of writing, she says, it could possibly be useful to someone who wants to write for children. She says, “What better way to understand what children of different ages think about, worry about, enjoy, etc?” Following is my interview with Lori Joyal who, by the way, sat down and answered 70 Santa letters this year.

Q. How did you get the job as Santa’s corresponding secretary?

A. The idea hit me one Thanksgiving. I asked my mailman what the post office did with the Santa letters. He said they try to get them answered, so I asked how I could be part of it. He said he’d give me all of the letters he picked up on his route and then I could leave the responses in my mailbox and he’d deliver them. From there, it turned into answering most of the letters for the entire town, though there are other volunteers who also enjoy doing it.

Q. So this is a volunteer job?

A. Yes, it’s volunteer work. I cannot imagine ever being paid for something like this. In my opinion, it is the essence of the holiday season; giving of yourself to bring joy to another. And what better recipient than a child?

Q. Is that the only reason you do this?

A. I do it for a lot of reasons. Mostly, because my husband and I don’t have children and this is a way to bring the pure innocence of the holiday season into our household. While I answer the letters, we both read them and giggle over some of the questions. It brings us closers together, too, which is something that I hadn’t even considered when I asked to be Santa. I also do it because I remember how steadfastly I believed in Santa and how devastated I was at age 8 when I found out there was no such thing. I figured by answering letters, I can do my part to help a child believe and remain enamored by the concept. I get so much out of it, but mostly I get hope, which sounds corny, but its true. When you see the world through the eyes of a child, it completely changes the way you view it and usually for the better. It’s completely uplifting.

Q. What is the hardest part?

A. When I get a letter that has no return address. I hate not being able to respond to a child. Most of the mail carriers are good about jotting down the address on the envelope, but some slip through every year. I have been known, if a child includes his/her last name in the signature, to call every household with that surname to track down the right address to send a return. That’s how crazy over it I get.

Q. Do you notice any trends or themes in the letters from year to year?

A. Kids do ask for whatever the “hot” thing is that year. For example, this year, I got a lot of request for American Girl dolls, Harry Potter stuff and Xboxes. But some things are perennial—hamsters, puppies, sporting equipment, music CDs, computer games… As far as questions, they are precious and the best part of the job. The most common is, “How are you?” Others include, “How is Mrs. Claus?” “Do you have any new reindeer?” “How was your vacation?” “Why do we drink eggnog at Christmas?” “Is there really a pole at the North Pole?” and “How do you go down the chimney without getting hurt?”

Q. Describe a typical letter.

A. There are two types of letters and I have to say they come in 50% as one type and 50% the other. The first is the child who just jumps right in without any fanfare. “Dear Santa, here is my list” – followed, usually, by more than a dozen items. The second is the child who has a real conversation with Santa. “Dear Santa, Hi, it’s So and So. I’ve been pretty good this year. School is going well (insert any number of the questions here)” – then this is followed by a list, which ends with something like, “but anything that you give me will be fine because I love surprises.” Lots of children include drawings or elaborate sticker arrangements on both the letter and the envelope. A few send along homemade ornaments. The envelope is almost always addressed by the child in huge crayon letters. “Santa Cluase (sic,) North Pole.”

Q Describe your most memorable letter.

A. This is touchy because there are so many. Honestly, the most memorable came this year from a mother. Her daughter had written a few weeks earlier and I had answered. This note was a thank you card and it went something like, “Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my daughter’s letter to you. She was so thrilled to hear from you. The joy you have brought to my 8-year-old and to our house this holiday season will forever be cherished. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” The reaction this girl had after hearing from Santa is exactly why I do this.

Q. Did you notice any differences in the letters you received this year?

A. You know, I thought there would be, but with the exception of one letter, which I’ll tell you about in a moment, there wasn’t. It occurred to me, however, that most children who still believe in Santa, or at least those that still write to him are really too young to understand fully what happened on 9/11. Thus, why would their letters be any different? I did get one letter, however, from a young boy who I assume must have been at least 8 – perhaps older. He wrote and told Santa that he wanted all of his presents to be given to the children who lost parents on 9/11 and to the orphans and the poor children in Afghanistan. He ended it by writing, “It’s not that I don’t want anything, because I do. It’s just that my eyes have been opened up after Sept. 11 and I now know that there are a lot of people who need things worse than I do.” It broke my heart to read it, knowing that their is a whole little generation of children who will have the horrors of what happened hanging over them at such a formative time in their lives.

Q. Can a volunteer project like this help develop your writing skills? How?

A. Well, I’m not sure that it does, except that it does allow you to be a character, both in your writing and frankly in your spirit as you play the role as Santa. If you have an inkling to write for children, then I think the experience would be tremendous—what better way to understand what children of different ages think about worry about, enjoy, etc? The whole position is one of fantasy and creativity and dreams, so I suppose in that sense, it is helpful overall. Any form of artistic expression encompasses all three feelings. It’s a nice break from worry about what an editor will think or what a reader will think. You know who your audience is and you know that what you are writing will make a difference to that audience if even for just one season.

Q Is there anything you would advise to those wanting to do what you do?

A. I would say that people who want to answer Santa letters should, of course, refrain from promising anything to a child. Usually I will comment on one or two of the items the child has requested (such as “Little Women is one of my favorite stories” or “Did you know that Santa likes Harry Potter, too?”) But never ever would I tell a child that he/she will get something specific. I also like asking the kids questions, such as, “If you get a hamster, what will you call it?” “Do you hope that it snows before I come on Christmas eve?” I like being interactive with them and making it obvious that this response has been customized for that child. If he/she has drawn a picture or done some sort of artwork for me, I comment on how nice it was or how he/she used my favorite color in drawing it. Again, keeping that spirit alive, making him or her convinced that Santa does exist. Some people may not agree with that and may think that it is harmful to advance a myth and in effect “lie” to a child. To that, I always answer the same, “Children grow up so fast, what is the harm in fostering their childhood fantasies just a little longer? They will become disillusioned soon enough.”

Author Notes

We’re now publishing the Q & A section in SPAWNews. If you have a writing/publishing-related question for Patricia Fry or Mary Embree, send it to Patricia also responds weekly to questions for the National Association of Women Writers newsletter.

Editor/Publisher Interview

This month, we’re featuring two Christian publications. First, here’s what Marvin Moore, editor of Signs of the Times has to say about their editorial needs and requirements:

Q. Please describe your publication, your audience and the type of articles you’re looking for.

A. Signs of the Times is a Seventh-day Adventist publication that is prepared for members to share their faith with their friends and loved ones. We publish articles on doctrine, prophecy, spiritual life and practical Christian living. We also publish a number of stories each month. Some articles are staff-written, but the majority are by free-lance authors. Many are assigned, but we do accept a significant number of unsolicited manuscripts. The categories in which we are most likely to accept free-lance submissions are those having to do with spiritual life and Christian lifestyle. (As an aside, Signs of the Times has published my articles on the importance of friends in our lives, how to maintain a family budget, how to endure Christmas alone, the importance of the “thank you,” gifts from the heart that are easy on the pocketbook and others.)

Q. What is your word count and pay scale?

A. Articles vary in length from 650 – 700 words for one page to 2000 for a four-page article. Authors submitting on speculation are most likely to find acceptance in the range of either 650-700 for one page or 1200-1300 for two pages. (They typically pay 10 – 20 cents/word.)

Q. What is the best way for a writer to break in to Signs of the Times?

A. Read a few back issues of Signs and send us something you think we might be interested in.

Q. How do you prefer folks contact you? Email? Phone? Mail?

A. Email or snail mail

Q. Do you accept reprints?

A. Yes. For reprints we pay half the rate for first rights.

Q. What type of writer do you most prefer working with?

A. The best authors write well and, when we request changes, they follow our instructions and respond promptly.

Q. Do you have room for more columns?

A. No.

Q Tell me a little about your filler requirements. Where do contributors usually find these anecdotes, etc?

A. Fillers of 350-450 words are useful. We get them off the Internet (all those stories you keep getting—we publish some of them), from anecdotes in magazines and books we read, from pieces of articles that authors submit to us. Occasionally, an author will send in a short piece that is acceptable. Read our “Living Parables” department (on the back page) to get a feel for the kinds of fillers we’re looking for.

Q. How can writers get a copy of the magazine?

A. Send us a 9 X 12 envelope (SASE) with postage for two ounces. Don’t pay attention to prophecy articles or doctrinal articles because you almost certainly won’t sell us anything in those areas. Look for the stories and lifestyle articles.

Note: Signs of the Times buys approximately 75 manuscripts each year.

Contact information:

Marvin Moore

Signs of the Times

POB 5353

Nampa, Id 83653-5353


Roger Schmurr is the senior editor for Christian Home and School magazine. Here’s what he has to say about his publication.

Q. Would you describe your publication, your audience and the type of article you’re looking for?

A. Christian Home and School is produced by Christian Schools International for parents who send their children to Christian day schools in the U.S. and Canada. We promote and interpret Christian education while encouraging parents to improve their parenting skills as a form of discipleship. So our features deal with education and parenting. We also assign reviewers for film, books, Web sites, videos, music, etc.

Q Do you have any current needs we can talk about?

A We publish a suggested list of topics, but we are open to most topics dealing with education and parenting. In fact, we go back to some topics every few years.

Q What is your word count and pay scale?

A Our features range from 1000 to 2000 words. We pay by the length of the edited, laid-out copy; that results in payments of $125 – $200 per article.

Q You prefer folks send the complete manuscript. Any tips for preparing that ms for you?

A Send the manuscripts as Word attachments to an email (otherwise the formatting gets lost).

Q What is the best way for a writer to break into Christian Home and School?

A Send us your best article on education or parenting. If it’s a reprint and we like your style, we may get back to you for an assignment, although we probably won’t use the reprint. You could also request to be a reviewer of books for adults.

(Note: I’ve sold Christian Home and School features on such topics as: How to celebrate Valentines day with your family, grandparenting issues, how to make organized sports a positive experience for your child and tips for creating a happier outlook on life.)

Q You don’t accept reprints? Is there a reason for this?

A. Reprints sometimes cover the same readership and may be dated.

Q what type of writer do you most prefer working with ? What qualities does your favorite writer have?

A Writers shouldn’t send what appear to be sermons or devotionals or quotes from the Bible mindlessly. Our guidelines for writers suggest that “articles should reflect a mature, biblical perspective. Use an informal, easy to read style rather than a philosophical, academic tone. Try to incorporate vivid imagery and concrete, practical examples from real life. You may wish to suggest a sidebar that contains further information or resources related to your subject.”

Q How do you prefer folks contact you?

A email.

Contact Information:
Roger Schmurr
Christian Home and School
3350 E. Paris Ave., SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512

Coming Up

In the next Market Update, I hope to have an interview with another book publisher for you. Let me know if there are any specific publishers/genres you would like me to cover.

I will also feature the profession of proofreader. So far, I’ve interviewed 2 people who include proofreading as one of the services they offer authors and others.

I’ll talk more about My Books Out (see this mentioned under “Here’s What’s New” this issue). And I want to introduce InstantPublisher – a new online POD service for authors.

You Can Help:

Since we can’t be everywhere, we’d like to recruit our members to notify us about any information, news, tips or opportunities that might be of interest to the working writer/publisher. Or let me know if there’s a particular editor or publisher you’d like me to interview for this column. Send your requests and information to me at