Focus on the Family’s director of parenting content, Sheila Seifert, wants to help writers prepare for submitting articles and increase their chances for being considered for publication in the various FOTF magazines. We asked Sheila the following questions:
1. What Focus on the Family magazine do you acquire for?
I acquire for Focus on the Family magazine and FocusOnTheFamily.com. We also create annual products that we may acquire or write in-house. Some of these special projects are our annual and summer adventure kit that releases in May, college guide that releases in August, and Advent calendar that releases in October. These themed downloads are usually free. They are directed at busy parents who want to spend quality time with their kids, even as they help their kids grow in the faith.
2. What type of articles are you looking for at this time?
Family Stages articles that range from 50 to 400 words. For example, how a parent can stop a child from whining or become motivated to serve others or do their homework in a unique way.
Also, Bible literacy is important, and most Christian parents want to interact with their children in this area. From those two felt needs, Bible Detectives was born. This free download is filled with puzzles that are clues to help kids figure out which Bible character they are studying. It is a fun way to teach kids about Bible characters. And that is what we are looking for in our special projects and in our articles.
For feature articles, you need an article with a bigger concept but that also includes practical take-aways.
I also need seasonal articles. I am currently working on Christmas and January articles. Most are already assigned. The next batch of articles I acquire will be relate to Valentine’s Day, spring break and Easter, especially in the Family Stages department of the magazine.
3. What makes an article stand out and rise to the top of the slush pile of unsolicited submissions?
Articles rise to the top when they are well written and structured, and offer unique insights or fun anecdotes that fit well with the topic. Articles that rehash the same old topic in the same old ways sink to the bottom of the slush pile. (And it helps if authors know how to send emails that are polite and structured well, too.) For example, you could write an article that says that parents should teach kids about the Easter story. Or you could hide the clues found in our Easter download, which was put in the magazine and then in the download, that gives the story of Easter to hide in Easter eggs and have kids put together.
We create various projects from small articles, if they fit our editorial needs. All you have to be concerned about is the article. If we want more from you, we’ll assign the additional work.
4. What common mistakes do you see writers making when they submit to Focus on the Family?
We receive many submissions that are not structured, meander without a point and offer no new insight. All articles start with attention to our audience. Then writers must find a way to serve this audience through their insights or by being entertaining on a parenting or marriage topic.
We are looking for writers who meet our audience’s felt needs.
It is important for writers to take the time to learn what we need and then send us well-written manuscripts. To learn what we need, simply study the publication, our foundational values, our submission guidelines and current needs.
There are many resources, such as SimpleLiterature.com, that will help you learn to be more audience focused.
5. How can writers pitch a project to you?
First, writers should review our Call for Submissions page to review our current needs. If their idea doesn’t fit into one of our interests, writers can read recent copies to better understand what we do and don’t publish. If their idea might fit, they can send a query letter (inserted into an email and not attached) to FocusMagSubmissions@family.org.
6. Please share the different Focus on the Family magazines that are currently open for unsolicited submissions.
At this time, Focus on the Family publishes Focus on the Family magazine, Brio magazine, Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine, Clubhouse Jr. magazine and Citizen. They all accept unsolicited submissions and offer writers guidelines on our site. The media sections of each are not open for unsolicited manuscripts, as PluggedIn.com are the experts we all use in that content area.
To best connect with our children’s magazines, find a Christian writers conference where one of our editors will be attending. Then pitch your idea.
The biggest need for Brio magazine: True stories of teen girls who are doing something original, creative or passionate that would be inspirational to other young women. Submissions can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org; use the subject line: Interesting Teen.
We look forward to considering your articles for publication.
Sheila Seifert, founder of SimpleLiterature.com, is the director of parenting content for Focus on the Family magazine, the content strategist for its online parenting channel, and book review editor for PluggedIn.com. She has written over 1,000 freelance articles, a script that aired on PBS, and co-written over 20 books, including Kidventures: Stories of Danger and Courage with Jeanne Dennis.