A big welcome and many thanks to Neil Irani, Founder & Owner of Smart Kids’ Magazine, for coming to guest post. Writing for children of any age is way outside my comfort zone, so I’m very interested to learn about it. Neil, perhaps I could start by asking if you’ve always wanted to write for children, or did this follow a beginning in quite different areas of writing?
Thanks Alan, I've been writing children's fiction for a number of years and as the result of tutoring my own three children I decided to try non-fiction. This was in part because I've built up a huge amount of material over the years and know what works. Was this your first venture into children’s writing, or had you already gained considerable experience in this field by the time you started the magazine?
I used to run a magazine called "CUBiC Magazine" which has actually just re-launched in July. That gave me the experience I needed to know what works as a cut-down version which parents can download and print for their children.
Are you the editor and sole contributor, or do you have other writers working with you?
It's mostly me, but my wife helps a lot in terms of design and layout etc. My children all proof read everything and give me new ideas. In addition I have a friend who graduated in English Literature a few years ago – I reach out to her if I need any solid professional advice. Do you create your own illustrations?
I mostly use copyright free images, but where there are illustrations I or my wife do them. Running a magazine means you have to do everything, graphic design included! Can we look at some of the specific requirements of writing for this (8 – 12 years) age group?
I try not to "keep it simple" for the lower end of the age group. Bringing up three children I've found it better to push the material just beyond their understanding to encourage them to ask questions. I purposefully use long words and scientific terms also to encourage children to use a dictionary. Do you seek feedback and reviews from children of this age, before publishing material in the magazine? I’ve heard that this is essential, as kids are the most critical readership on earth, which I can well believe!
Yes, my own children see everything before it goes out, and my wife and I also share a lot of material with friends all over the world, who have children of a similar age - e.g. in New Zealand, South Korea and Hong Kong. Smart Kids Magazine has a global view and is not UK or Europe-centric. Have you used any other marketing approaches, apart from Instagram and if so, how effective have you found these to be?
Probably the best free marketing is to write lots of blog posts and to make sure the website is properly registered and confirmed as such with Google and Bing etc. Instagram to be honest doesn't seem to convert to many website hits. That said, Instagram is much better at developing relationships with people in the industry. How do you see the magazine developing – are there any particular features that you would like to add?
We're just about to launch the second issue which is all about reptiles. My plan is to constantly use feedback to fine tune and improve the format. I have previously dealt with foreign rights sales and am looking to partner with individuals or small companies globally to translate and promote the magazine. Eventually I'd like to run competitions and make the website and downloadable magazine more integrated.
As a retired mechanical engineer, I’m most impressed with the distinctly scientific and technical focus of the examples that you’ve posted. Do these reflect your professional background and training, together, maybe, with your views on current scientific education?
Yes, my background has been in maths, computer science and banking. This magazine is the perfect business to set up now before I hit retirement and while I still have children in Primary and Secondary schools. I also have to mention that my wife, who has an arts degree, has been instrumental in the design, layout, choice of font etc., and she's not shy about criticising something if it doesn't look right! She has been a private tutor for a number of years and has also worked in Seoul, so understands that mind-set for education and inspiration very well.