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How to Start a Kids Magazine
If you enjoy young people and are as enthusiastic about hearing their views and stories as you are about imparting gentle advice that will help them make smart decisions as they grow up, starting a magazine targeted to their interests may be a venture that will accomplish both.
Decide what age group you want your new magazine to appeal to. Decide whether your content will be geared toward girls, boys or both.
Survey the competition. Sample titles you will want to take a look at include "Highlights for Children", "Jack and Jill," "American Cheerleader," "Boys' Life," "Hopscotch," "Stone Soup," "Turtle," "Tiger Beat," and "Plays." If your friends, neighbors and coworkers have children, ask them what their kids are reading. Better yet, ask the kids themselves what they really like about the various magazines they're hooked on.
Determine what kind of content you want your magazine to have. Examples: short stories or serialized fiction, puzzles, jokes, contests, interviews, cartoons, celebrity gossip. Compare your list to the content in the magazine titles you researched in Sept 2. Identify a slant that will make your magazine stand out.
Decide whether your content will be written by adult writers or by your target readers. You will also need to assess your budget and determine whether you will be able to pay your writers for their work. If not, the very least you can do is provide 1 to 2 complimentary copies of the issue in which their work appears.
Determine whether your magazine is going to be presented in an electronic format that can be accessed via the Internet or whether it will be printed and either distributed by regular mail or made available at various drop points (i.e., schools, libraries, after school programs).
Decide how your magazine is going to pay for itself. This is generally accomplished by attracting advertisers and/or by selling subscriptions. You'll also need to decide how often it is going to be published. This will be predicated on how much content you want to deliver in each issue. Note: the younger the reader, the shorter the magazine.
Familiarize yourself with what your target readers are interested in. A great place to learn this is with a subscription to "Children's Writer," a monthly newsletter that not only covers the craft of writing for pre-K to teen audiences but also discusses how to handle a wide variety of themes and issues. Likewise, you may want to become a regular visitor to websites such as TeensReadToo (and its companion link KidsReadToo), N2Arts, and Kids.Com to see what the younger generation is talking about.
Acquire a business license. You will also want to give your new enterprise a unique name and register it as a business entity with your Secretary of State's Office. The website of the Small Business Administration (see URL) can walk you through the steps necessary to accomplish both of these tasks. If you are going to be collecting money from subscribers and advertisers, you'll need to set up a business checking account specifically for this purpose.
Design a website. This will either be the website by which readers directly access your magazine's content or it will contain highlights of past issues, a teaser table of contents for the current issue, and a sign-up mechanism for subscribers.
Invite participation and feedback from your young readers. Kids totally love seeing their names in print. Whether it's a letter to the editor, a joke of the day, or the winning story in a fiction contest, there's no such thing as making too big a fuss about young talents. You may even want to appoint young editors to special sections and put them in charge of seeking out fun stories, doing interviews, or coordinating photographs and art. The more "ownership" they feel in the work product, the more excited they're going to be to tell their friends at school to read it.
Unless you have the start-up capital to print and distribute a magazine, you may be better off testing the waters first as an ezine. If your magazine's content is targeted to a unique population (i.e., middle school students with diabetes), you may want to check into the possibility of getting a grant.
Ensure that your content is age-appropriate for your target demographic.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.