How I Went from $50 Blog Posts to $500 Articles

By Susan Sundwall

You’ve heard of the house that Jack built, right? In this familiar children’s rhyme, the story builds character by character until we have a complete list of the occupants of that house. This building, layer by layer, is a bit like what happened with an assignment I landed with the Children’s Writer’s Guide several years ago.

In the years I wrote for children I diligently searched online for websites that had anything at all to do with this particular niche. There were many, but one that I found most helpful was the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) located in Longridge, Connecticut. Back then they had a chat room and there I met people who were struggling to get published, too. One woman had a newsletter that offered story critiques and I signed up for it. Along with critiques the newsletter also listed new markets and publishing news from members. Several of them wrote articles for the ICL website and were paid $50 per article. I inquired about submitting something and was encouraging to give it a try.

The articles are meant to help students shape and hone their craft. I read many to get an idea of their style and voice. One subject that didn’t seem to get much coverage was character development so that became the subject of my first article. I looked at it from the angle of giving a character an interesting flaw. I worked my draft until I had it just right, crossed my fingers and submitted it. The editor bought it right away. Thus emboldened, I sent several others and eventually built my way up to submitting a craft article on similes to the editor for Children’s Writer, the ICL monthly print newsletter, for which the fee was $200. After accepting my first article the editor encouraged me to send others and over the next six months she bought two more. I was going places now.

My work in other areas was also taking off and I had a fair list of editors who, if they had not actually purchased from me, were giving me signals that they’d liked my work. As it happened I was in communication with the Children’s Writer editor and an editor at Read Magazine (a Weekly Reader spin off) on the same day.

My articles had impressed the  Children’s Writer editor enough that she asked,  “Would you be interested in doing an article on word choice and syntax for a chapter in our  upcoming Children’s Writer Guide?” She stipulated that I’d have to interview six to eight writers or editors for the article. “The payment is $400.”

My heart nearly stopped. This was a serious offer and the most serious money I’d ever been offered for my writing. My mind was in a whirl. I calmed myself down, and before I answered, I quickly e-mailed the editor at Read and asked for an interview, to which she consented. My pitch back to the CW editor was within hours. I told her the subject matter was a passion of mine and I already had my first interview lined up. Her delight at my eager response was immediate and I had the assignment cinched. I got my contract and the pay range was stated as $400 – $500 depending on length.

I had three months to complete the assignment and I arranged to interview one author and four more editors for the piece. I outlined my interview questions and developed a theme. I conducted all of the interviews online and gathered a small mountain of material to slice and dice into the mix. One editor gave me such thorough responses that I was able to use the whole interview as a sidebar. That sidebar extended the article beyond my assigned word count and garnered me the full $500 payment.

My confidence soared after I completed this assignment and I vowed to further my relationship with the ICL editor. The following year she sent me a list of possible topics for  the next edition of the guide. I pitched two of them with “Requesting Assignments” in the subject line. Here was my approach.


Thank you so much for sending the articles list for the new CWG. I am very interested in two of them.

1. Markets – Writing about faith for teens (#10). Since I write (primarily) Christian based plays and skits for this age group I already have some knowledge of what this market is like. My own faith experiences always help to inform my writing. I’d approach this subject from the angle of “what makes faith and spirituality real” to a teen and the faith writers role in it.

2. Style – The secret of extras (#14) is such a cool idea! I’d love to explore the what and why of the appeal that these extras have to editors, writers and readers.

I could probably have both of these to you by mid-June. Please consider me for them.


Sincerely . . .


A few days later I had contracts for both of them and received  $800 on completion.

When I was a fledgling writer I was, like many, unsure of my abilities. I began small as a way of testing myself, ready to pass it off as a whim if I failed. But with each success I became more certain that I could keep piling up the building blocks of my career. And like Jack, that intrepid house builder from the nursery rhyme, I now have an edifice that includes multiple magazine articles, more chapters in subsequent Children’s Writer Guides, award winning poetry, real life essays, Chicken Soup stories, a blog and my own Minnie Markwood mystery series. Jack’s got nothing on me!

Bio: Susan is a freelance writer, blogger, and mystery writer from upstate New York. She is the author of The Red Shoelace Killer.


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