Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Top Ten Tips for Getting Published

Hi everyone!! I thought I'd do a little blog post today about some tips I use for getting published.  I'm by no means on the top of the heap when it comes to getting published, but I have been lucky enough to have lots of publications in the past year (including Scrapbook and Cards Today, Create (all sorts), Cricut Mag, Cricut Create, Scrapbook Trends, CARDS, Scrapbooks ETC and Creating Keepsakes) so perhaps I have a wee bit of insight.  Anyways, when I first started submitting to publications I always wondered what they were looking for, etc etc, so I thought this might be a useful post for some people.

1. Get Organized

One of the ways I stay on top of publications is that the beginning of every month I make a list of calls.  Typically I'll include any open calls for Scrapbook Trends, CARDS, Create, Scrapbook and Cards Today and Creating Keepsakes, I'll list the deadlines for each and then any specific calls they have that I might be interested in.  I also used to use this list for DT commitments, I'm not on any design teams at the moment (by choice) so I don't need to worry about that.  Before each deadline I'll start submitting anything that might be applicable; this means I usually spam them completely with submissions but ya never know! Sometimes what you think they want is different than what they'll actually choose so I run the gamut.

There are other different magazines out there you can try submitting to.  I submit to only these ones because A. they make it easy B. they give you either product (SCT or Northridge publishing) or cash (CK) C. They're actual magazines and I can buy them in the store and feel famous (ha) and D. No stupid "no one in the world can ever have laid eyes on this layout or we will refuse to publish it" rules.

2. New Techniques

Try a new technique to really make your layout stand out.  This can be a homemade flower instead of a purchased embellishment or some fun idea you've seen on a blog/in a magazine lately.  Try and do something that will make you get noticed but still be in line with your personal style.  Here's an example of a layout that was chosen for Creating Keepsakes that uses a fun spray mist/masking/sewing technique over patterned paper strips.  I'm not usually much of a mist-er but this was fun to go outside of my comfort zone and I loved the end result.

2. Use multiple photos

Lots of people only scrap with one photo, and sometimes if I have a truly exceptional photo than I just leave it at that, but *usually* publications like to see multiple photo layouts (especially two pagers).  I've had plenty of one photo layouts published too, but I have much better luck with multiple photos.  Here's an example of a rare two pager that was published in Scrapbook and Cards Today.

3. Use trendy/new product

This one makes sense when you keep in mind that publications are usually published 6 months AFTER they choose your layout. So if you use a brand new scrapbooking line in a layout and it's published 6 months later, it won't be old hat.  That being said, I've had layouts published with old product as well, but it's more rare.  I can't even show an example because of course all my published layouts using new product aren't out yet so I can't share them ;)


I see this all the time-- crappy photos of your layout combined with crappy photos IN your layout.  You want your layout to look your best, so you need to take the time to take a decent photo of it.  Make sure it's not blurry and make sure the colors are accurate.  Try propping it up in front of a window to get some natural light on it and you will be able to get a decent photo with a camera phone.  Or ask your photographer husband to shoot it.  But be prepared to schedule it 1 week in advance, do a LOT of begging, and having to repay the favor somehow lol.

It's also important to USE good photos in your layout.  These don't have to be professionally done but a photo with good lighting, composition, or subject matter can make all the difference sometimes.  This layout was done with a camera phone picture I randomly took one day, but some quick edits and printing it out large made it totally work with this layout.

5. Use that sewing machine

This one tends to apply more to cards in my experience but I think sewing on any paper project adds a really awesome amount of detail and dimension.  It looks well thought out and put together when you add sewing IMHO.  Especially something small like a card, a bit of sewing really can make a difference.

Here's a card that was published in CARDS that only uses some sewing and a stamp. Simple and easy but really cool too. I use a super cheap Brother sewing machine I got from Amazon for under $100, cheap and I've had it for years.

6. Rule of Three

I'm sure you've heard of this design principle before.  You want your embellishments to form a visual triangle to guide the looker's eyes around the layout.  Here's an example from a layout that was published in Scrapbook Trends (also notice the stitching, good photograph, and unique use of paper strips that I think also helped this layout get chosen). The visual triangle goes from the red W on the bottom left, up to the red button, and back down to the red ampersand.  I also used a strip of red at the top to tie it all together.

7. Tell a good story

Many of my layouts have been chosen (I believe) because they tell an interesting story.  Here's a layout that was published in Scrapbook Trends that tells the story of my husband and I's bench.  Yes we have a bench. Well we did...(thanks a lot Hurricane Sandy) haha. Anyways, the picture draws your attention (cause why would someone scrapbook a bench?) and it beckons you to read the journaling, which is a nice little love story.

SN: If you handwrite your journaling make sure it doesn't look sloppy.  It can be still be artistic looking handwriting while not looking like an epileptic dog wrote it.  And make sure it is straight!  This might just be a pet peeve of mine but I see so many layouts that I would just love if the damn title or journaling or photograph had just been straight.  That being said, I see plenty of layouts with crooked elements in magazines (and sometimes I'm guilty too.  and it freaking drives me nuts every time I have to look at those layouts).

8. Use Sketches

Get your inspiration from anywhere (Two Peas in a Bucket, Pinterest, Manufacturer Blogs, etc) but I personally find sketches to be insanely helpful.  They give me a starting point and something to work from, and it helps me find a way to organize all my crafty ideas into one cohesive layout.

This layout below is my FIRST ever publication! It was published in Creating Keepsakes and I used a Becky Fleck sketch to get me started (also note: the interesting story, multiple photos, visual triangle and [at the time] fresh product)

SN: Be flexible with editors! The CK editors requested a minor edit to this layout (moving the C in CF up a bit so it fit into that little white circle and was easier to read).  I made the change quickly, emailed them an updated photo, and got the OK for publication.  Don't take that stuff personally, just be prompt and helpful :)

9. Get Creative

This can be anything!  Here are some ideas that have worked with me in the past

  •  Make something besides a card or layout. In particular, I love to make wreaths and have had good luck getting them published but you could also try wall hangings, decorating boxes, Christmas ornaments, gift wrap, banners, the list goes on and on.  The more creative the better
  • Incorporate your child's artwork into your project
  •  Try doing different things to make your layouts look more interesting; like using both color and black and white pictures, using different size pictures, using different types of alphas for your title, writing your journaling in a unique area, or using your leftover packaging as embellishments.

Here's a mini album I made that uses both black and white and colored photographs that was published in Create: Mini Albums.  Also note that I made my own flowers from washi tape and I also made mini photo albums that fit inside the album: this helped me stand out. (PS OMFG look how cute baby Charlie was, awwwwww)

10.  Keep Trying!

I submitted for at least 6 months before getting anything chosen.  And there are plenty of months now where I submit and don't get anything chosen (cough like last month cough cough).  Keep at it! and keep submitting the same layout to different calls if you know it's good.  Here's an example: I made this layout for a Mother's Day scrapbooking call at Scrapbook Trends. I absolutely loved it and was just SURE it would make the cut.  Well it didn't. and not the month after that. and not the month after that. and no other publications wanted it.  I was getting so frustrated because I loved it so much.  Well one day Creating Keepsakes emailed asking for a few layouts for publication for their Babies and Toddler issue.  One of them had already been chosen for publication by another magazine so I sent them a few other applicable layouts instead to see if they'd be interested.  Low and behold, they chose this one (finally!).  

I don't know why it took so long to get chosen but I knew it would eventually; plus it's received like 2000 pins on Pinterest so I knew people liked it and I just had to keep at it.

Of course I have still have plenty of favorite layouts that have never been chosen.  And most of the time I still can't figure out why ( of course sometime's I'll look at a layout 6 months later and be like "oh this wasn't as good as I thought").  And most of the time it's just because there's so much GREAT work out there.  Sometimes I'll see Amy Heller, Christine Middlecamp, Paige Evans, or Heidi Sonboul's layouts and be like "geee, well of course they didn't pick anything of mine, look at THAT shit!".  So you just gotta let it roll off your back.  Altho I will say it drives me bonkers to see the same scrapbooker picked up like 6 times in one issue of a magazine, every month (except for Cassandra Cyr's 4 layouts in the March/April issue of Creating Keepsakes.  that doesn't count. hehehe).  I mean c'mon.  Anyways, I digress.  Here are a couple of my favorite layouts that never got picked for anything *sniff sniff*. Ah well!

Of course the point of scrapbooking isn't publications! It's certainly a fun perk and helps keep me motivated to scrap when I'm feeling low on inspiration, but the point is to document your life in a beautiful way.  And that's what I like to think I do, published or not :)

Well folks, those are my top 10 tips!  Hopefully they'll work for you, they've worked out pretty well for me in the past! Of course that being said: i don't know everything and I'm not some big time famous scrapbooker so I could be completely wrong.  Any questions? Any additional tips?  I'd love to hear what you have to say too!


  1. Thanx so much!!! Great help for me!! I have never been published and only submitted a few times but plan to keep trying. My problem is I don't get a chance to scrap often so I don't have a ton of layouts to submit. Anyway.. thanx for sharing!

  2. Thanks so much for all these great tips!!!! I have a goal set this year to try and be published for the first all this info is PERFECT!!!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Great tips. I always say I might get published more if I actually submitted. It's a job :)

  4. awesome work and "right on " tips!!!

  5. So nice of you to share some pointers! Sound like very good tips, and I appreciate the insight. I would love to be published some day. Enjoyed all your photos and scrapbook pages, it really is about documenting your life and telling a story, especially for your children. Won't Charlie have terrific memories to look back on?!

  6. TFS this great post and your layouts are insiring! I am interested in submitting so this is very helpful. A couple of newbie ?s. Can you post your layouts on you blog and galleries while submitting and if they get picked up just temporarily remove them? Do all the places you mentioned that you submit to send your artwork back to you? :) Evie

  7. Thanks for your comment evie! I can post projects wherever so long as I take them down once notified of publication. Some places don't allow that and I don't bother submitting to those ones- too much work! Everywhere I've been published has returned my work within 2-3 months after the publication has been printed. Good luck :D

  8. I couldn't have said this better myself!! These are all such great pointers and tips!

  9. I love your never give up attitude! Thank you for sharing - and your pics are darling ♥


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