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Kim Wilson
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E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Theme List: A Publisher's Gift to Writers
by Marilyn Freeman

A Valuable Gift:
Would you turn down a gift from a friend? If someone handed you a gift, would you just put it in a drawer or cabinet never to be used? What would you do if someone came to you and said, “I have an idea that could help you sell your work”?  Would you tell them you’re not interested? No, of course you wouldn’t. You want to sell your work. How many times do you sit down to write a story or article and then spend months trying to find a publication for your work?

The publishers are offering you a special gift. This is a gift that will take you a step closer to getting your work published. This gift is called a theme list. Take this gift and use it to help you make your next sale.

What is a Theme List?
A theme list is a calendar for publishers. They plan out their publication for a year or years in advance. They list topics and themes for upcoming issues for a specific date. They go beyond the obvious of holiday issues. Many magazines put out a theme list for projected publications. The magazines list subjects they want to publish in future issues and the date the issue will appear in print.

Why bother to send for a theme list? How can this list be a valuable writing tool?

Importance of a Theme List:
When I first started writing, I was aware of theme lists, I knew they were available for the asking. A simple letter with a SASE enclosed was all that was required. Did I send for them? NO! Why would I want such a list? I was sure once the editors read my manuscripts they would want to buy. It didn’t take me long to discover I was wrong. After many rejections stating, “Does not fit our editorial needs“, I questioned my selling tactics. How many times have you said, “I know this is a good manuscript? I wish I knew what they are looking for?” Well a theme list would tell you exactly what they are looking for.

With my very first submission, (which was sent out after much encouragement from my writing instructor) I received a rejection. Of course, I knew it was more a possibility to receive a rejection than an acceptance. After all it was my first time out in the real world of submissions. I was not upset with the rejection. I was upset because of timing I missed a good chance of being published. I received a handwritten note from the editor saying,

“We regret we don’t have an opening for your manuscript. It would have fit in with our doll theme issue, but it is full. Thank you for submitting.”

If I had taken the time to write the publisher first and request the theme list, I would have known when to send in my doll article. I would have known I didn’t have a chance because of the issue time. In short, the truth is, I did not do my homework.

To increase your chance of making a sale:

1. Take the time to research your market.
2. Write a letter requesting a copy of their theme list and guidelines.
3. Always include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE).

Two years later, I noticed the same magazine (Hopscotch) that rejected my doll article had once again posted “Dolls” as a theme for their February 2007 issue. I quickly wrote my cover letter stating the issue I was targeting, and sent the same doll article I had sent two year before. This time it was accepted in less than two weeks. I made the sale!

You may be thinking: Who wants to waste all that time for a magazine years away?  Don’t look at it as a waste of time. You will have a wonderful credit to add to your cover letter while you are waiting for your work to be published.

Finding Ideas:
Many writers complain about finding ideas. “What should I write about?” Writers go to great lengths to find something to write about yet don't go a step further to get the theme lists. Why not make it easy on yourself? Write to several magazines and request a theme list?

Giant Step:
Why not take a giant step towards acceptance before you start writing? If you know the subject that is being solicited, wouldn’t it be to your advantage to write on that subject? For example, if a magazine is planning a dog theme, why bother sending anything else but material about dogs? Other animal stories would be a waste of time for you and the editor. When you have the list of topics at your hand, you have an advantage over other submissions. You will be writing something the editor wants. Your manuscript will stand out from the others. Your manuscript will be considered carefully and not just scanned over.

Too many writers write first then think of markets. Why not turn that process around? Think of how successful you could be by knowing the market and the subject before you start writing.

Submitting for a Theme:
It is very important to state in your cover letter that you are going by a theme list. Let the editor know the topic and issue you are targeting. This gives the editor a heads up on your submission. You are sending something they want and need.

A theme list is the next best thing to having your mom in the publishing business.

Marilyn Freeman is married (40 years), a mom to two daughters and has nine grandchildren. She has completed both the basic and advance writing course at the Institute of Children's Literature. She prints a critiquing newsletter From Dolly's Desk for other children's writers designed to share and critique stories and articles. Her work has appeared in Once Upon A Time, Wee Ones, Wee Parents, ICL Web site, Simple Joy and Rainy Day Corner. She will be published in the future by Writer's Digest Writer's Forum Publication and Hopscotch.

Marilyn has her first children's book, SummerAdventures With Grandma posted at http://www.iuniverse.com You may reach Marilyn by sending e-mail to: bwfmef@bellsouth.net or dollydsk@bellsouth.net.









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