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Writing For
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Family Garden Trains
Garden Railroading "How-To" Articles
BigIndoorTrains (O, O27, On30, and Christmas trains)
Big Indoor Trains "How-To" Articles
Family Christmas Online
Christmas Craft Resources
Big Christmas Trains
Halloween Trains
Creek Don't Rise(Regional History and Folk Music)
"Howard's How-To's" (Vintage-style Cardboard Houses)

Written by Paul D. Race for Breakthrough CommunicationsTM

This is a followup on our articles about writing "how-to" hobby articles. As you may be able to tell from our article "Choosing Where to Send 'How To' Hobby Articles" Breakthrough CommunicationsTM currently supports several hobby-related sites, including the Internet's largest collection of free, professionally-written articles for beginning and intermediate Garden Railroaders. That and our other hobby sites are entirely a "labor of love," kept alive by volunteer effort and a few subject-related ads, which usually barely offset our ever-growing ISP costs.

Our Readers Are A Critical Resource - We always enjoy hearing from readers, and helping readers share their ideas with other readers. Many readers over the years have given us corrections or additions that make our articles better. A number have provided so much information that we were able to turn what they sent us into articles in their own right.

Because of this unique (and entirely voluntary) relationship with our contributors, I want to give a little more background on what kind of support you can expect if you send us an article idea. But first you should probably know who we are and why we operate the way we do.

What is Breakthrough CommunicationsTM? - As a longtime technical writer and project manager, I started Breakthrough CommunicationsTM in September, 1995 because the company that laid me and 3000 other folks off that year wouldn't let me do any consulting for them unless I "worked for a company." So, from 1995 to about 2002, Breakthrough Communications was mostly the name under which I consulted in 3-to-6-month engagements for companies like NCR, AT&T, Nationwide, Lucent, Reynolds & Reynolds, Navistar, and SBC.

Where Comes In - A lot of my work invoved putting together web sites for companies and departments, so I started in late 1995, largely as a place to temporarily host other folks' pages while I was building and testing them.

Where the Hobbies Sites Come In - At the same time, many of my consulting engagements allowed me to work out of the house and set my own hours. That, in turn gave me time to pursue other interests, including teaching, youth ministry, music, and hobbies.

That was when I first had time to think seriously about setting up a Garden Railroad in my back yard. And that was when I realized that there was relatively little accurate information about Garden Railroading on the Internet. As a professional writer, I realized that one way to help my new hobby grow would be to help other "newbies" sort "fact from fiction." Eventually I started the Family Garden Trains web site to store a growing library of articles that we have tried to make balanced, accurate, and beginner-friendly. Thanks to assistance and "fact-checking" by several experts and all major manufacturers, I believe we succeeded.

Why So Many Sites and Pages? As Family Garden Trains' readership grew, we began learning about related hobby niches that weren't being served at all. Inevitably, once we started publishing articles about those areas, readers who were already active in those areas would start sending us additional article ideas (or sometimes whole articles), and those areas began to take on a life of their own, including:

  • O Gauge Outside - Using O gauge/O27 trains (like Lionel) in Garden Railroading
  • BigIndoorTrainsTM - Using larger-than-HO trains inside, especially in conjunction with holiday displays.

In addition, response to some of our Christmas-related articles was so strong that we eventually started FamilyChristmasOnlineTM to help readers focus on keeping Christmas as a family holiday.

Reader Input - All of these sites have grown and improved because of feedback, requests for information, and article ideas from our readers. And our readers, in turn, benefit by getting to hear other ideas, points-of-view, and "voices" on our core topics. In some cases, reader input has built up whole sections of the sites that we wouldn't have even started on our own. That said, we know that we still have huge gaps in many areas, and we are always looking for photographs and article ideas to help fill those gaps.

Please don't be shy about asking questions or proposing an article about something we barely seem to touch on today - that topic may already be on our "to do" list, and your assistance may be exactly what we need to get something started in that area.

Becoming a Contributor

As I've mentioned before, Family Garden TrainsTM and the other Breakthrough CommunicationsTM web sites are volunteer-based, which means that if you submit an article, and I can use it, you'll get paid exactly what I do. Many folks are "good" with this, because they want to help their aspects of the hobby to grow, and this is a proven good way to do just that.

Benefits to Your Hobby - As a hobbyist, anything you do to grow your own hobby is good. In fact, all of our contributors have been pleased with the amount of interest our articles have brought to their aspect of their hobby, and the new friends they've made because they "went boldly where no man (or woman) has gone before" in writing what they knew and allowing us to publish it.

Another way that putting an article on the web benefits the hobby, is that - unlike an article in a magazine - the article stays available for new folks to read. If that article is published on a popular, well-organized site, it is also easier to find. And it becomes even easier to find when the search engines index it.

Benefits to You Personally - But there are also benefits to would-be authors, including having a professional editor help you put your ideas into a readable format that hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of people will get a chance to read every month. (I once made $1300 rewriting a single article for a Fortune 500 company, so don't underestimate the value of this contribution.) If we wind up working together on a series of articles, and you pay attention to my "improvements," you will improve your own communications skills as well.

One of the largest benefits to you is that (unlike some publishers) you retain the rights to your own ideas, drawings, and photographs. You also have permission to publish our edited articles in reprints, club newsletters and your own web pages, as long as you give appropriate credit, as described below. (If you want to submit something I've helped you with to a magazine or other commercial enterprise, though, you should contact me so we can be sure to avoid any conflict of interest.)

What Happens When You Submit Ideas or Materials to Us - The following section is not a legal contract, just a summary of how I try to interact with folks who send me photos, articles, and article ideas. Usually the flow goes something like this:

  • Photos - If you send us photos we can use, whether or not you send us an article we can use, we will let you know how we are thinking about using them. Then, if we do use those, we will send you the URL of the pages they are on. No matter how we use your photos, you always retain 100% right to reuse them again anywhere you want to, even for a commercial enterprise. Also, if you later want one of your photos taken down for some reason, just let us know, and we will accommodate you as soon as reasonably possible.

  • Articles with Substantial Commercial Potential - If you think your idea or article has substantial commercial potential, please consider sending it first to a magazine or other enterprise that might pay you for it. If we get an idea or article from you, we'll usually assume that you've already tried this step, or you're not interested in trying it. (Income in most hobby writing is very limited and we certainly don't want to deprive you of your chance to earn a little.)

    By the way, we don't mind publishing articles that some name-brand magazine has rejected; in most cases the rejection had nothing to do with the quality of the article itself, but had more to do with timing or some such.

  • Articles We Can't Really Use - If you send us an article idea (or a full-fledged article) that we can't use (which actually almost never happens) we'll try to give you recommendations for where to send it. If we have time, and you want us to, we may make suggestions about how you can improve the article, or tweak your article idea before you send it to the next person.

  • All Other Ideas - If you send us an idea that we may be able to use or that is related to a topic we need, we'll send you back suggestions for how to make your article most useful to our readers.

  • Ready-for-Prime-Time Articles - If you send us an article that's almost ready to use (which actually almost never happens), we'll do the minimum tweaking to your text. But we will format the text and get the photos and other graphics where they need to be. We'll also put "written by [your name here] for [site name here]" at the top of the page. Then we'll send you a copy before it goes "public" to make certain that in our tweaking, we haven't accidentally put the wrong words in your mouth.

  • Not-Quite-Ready-for-Prime-Time Articles - If you send us an article idea (or a full-fledged article) that contains elements we can use, we'll usually contact you about those elements and how we may "slice and dice" what you've sent us before publication. Once we've received your permission, we'll rewrite as necessary, format the text, insert graphics, and send the end product to you for review before it goes public.

  • Who Gets Credit - How credit is shared depends on how much of the final product is yours and ours, respectively.

    • If the end product is still mostly your work, we will put "written by [your name here] for [site name here]" at the top of the page.
    • If the end product is mostly your work but we've made a substantial contribution, we may put "written by [your name here] (with help from [our editor's name]) for [our site name]" at the top of the page.
    • If we wind up doing more work getting the article ready for publication than you probably did writing it, we may put "written by [your name here] and [our editor's name] for [our site name]. That said, you'll never get less than equal credit for an article you send that we can use, even in part.

    I hope that doesn't seem onerous, but we've have been caught in situations in which someone whose work we subtantially rewrote turned around and passed it off as 100% their own when they sold it to a commercial interest. (We got justice, though, because they suffered serious embarrasment when they sent a follow-up article to the same publisher and it was rejected out of hand because of systemic, unforgivably bad writing.)

  • Where Your Article Will Be Posted

    • Our Site(s) - Unless we arrange otherwise ahead of time, we have the right to keep your article posted on one or more Breakthrough Communications web sites as long as it is useful, though we also have the right to take it down if we determine that it no longer suits our readers' needs (or if we learn that any of the material you sent us was already covered by copyright somewhere else).

    • Your Site(s) (If applicable) - If you have a personal web site that you want to post the article on, let us know in advance, so we can keep the look and feel of your site in mind as we develop the article. When we are ready to publish, we will e-mail you the files we used, and, if needed, try to help you make the article look "right" on your site as well. Also, we'll adjust the "written by" line for BOTH sites so that it includes the names and links for both web sites.

    • Reciprocating Hobby Sites If you spend a lot of time on another hobby site and would like to see your article posted there as well, please let us know up front so I can contact the webmaster and make certain he or she is okay with the arrangement. There are a handful of sites with which we reciprocate features, so it might be possible. But please don't assume your favorite site reciprocates with us. There are a few otherwise great sites we had to stop reciprocating with because all of the sharing was "one-way."

  • Your Right to Reprints - If you want to make physical reprints to take to club meetings, train shows, or the like, please let us know, and we'll put it into a format that looks professional and lets you print off as many as you want.

  • Your Right to Use in Your Club's Newsletter - If you want to reuse the article in your club's (volunteer) newsletter, let us know, and we'll provide the files in a portable format to make it easier for the newsletter editor. (In fact, if you are involved with a hobby club and you want to us any of our hobby articles in your newsletter, please let us know. We can usually give you permission and the files you need with no fees, as long as you give appropriate credit and we know about it ahead of time.)

  • Updates and Corrections If later on, you see something that should be changed or added, please let me know, and I'll make the change as soon as reasonably possible.

  • Subsequent Reuse of Submitted Materials - If later on, you have the opportunity to place the same or a similar article with a commercial publisher, please let us know ahead of time so we can sort out the best way for you to proceed. We don't want to stand between any contributor and commercial publication, but we do need to protect against contributors either exploiting our work unfairly or creating future problems for themselves (which is just as likely).

    In many cases all you will need is a statement like "portions of this chapter were co-written with [our editor] and have been previously published on the such-and-such web site." But we still need to be in the loop. (For one thing, we don't want the commercial publisher coming back later and suing us for posting materials that you published with us first, then presented to the commercial publisher as entirely "original" and unencumbered. Don't ask me how I know that this is possible.)

  • Subsequent Self-Publishing - If you later decide to self-publish a book containing material that we have heavily edited, we'll gladly work out details of "credit," etc. with you on that as well, but that discussion is outside the scope of this page.

Again, this is not a legal statement, just a description of how we try to work with contributors at all levels.


If you submit any article ideas, articles, or photographs to any of our sites, we hope that you will find us fair, helpful, friendly, and encouraging. We have never had a complaint from a contributor. In fact, most of them are glad that we make them "look good" and help them gain credibility in the "marketplace of ideas."

Again, if you have any questions related to this page, please contact us before you start submitting materials, and we'll try to deal with your questions before they become concerns.

Looking forward to your suggestions, additions, and criticisms, I remain,

Paul Race

Breakthrough Communications

P.S. Enjoy your hobbies, but especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks.

For more information about writing about your hobby, please check out the following articles:

Appendix 1: Breakthrough CommunicationsTM Web Pages

These are the main Breakthrough CommunicationsTM hobby sites, with short descriptions of the kind of subject matter each publishes.
PublisherArticles We're Looking ForContact Through
Family Garden TrainsTM (a Breakthrough CommunicationsTM website) Garden Railroading and Large Scale Trains - Articles about Large Scale trains and Garden Railroads, including construction, operation, landscaping, lighting, etc. In other words, just about anything related to any topic listed on our Primer Page

Real-World Trains We Can Model - We also like publishing articles about "real-world" trains that are especially interesting to model with equipment available in Large Scale, O, and On30. As an example, see our Little River Railroad articles.

Use our Contact Page and describe your article idea in the Comments box.
Big Indoor TrainsTM (a Breakthrough CommunicationsTM website)Model Railroading Indoors with Big Trains - Articles about O and S scale model railroading and display villages, including O gauge/O27 trains and On30 trains from Bachmann and Hawthorne Village.

Indoor Model Railroads and Display Village Scenery - We also publish scenery articles and resources that are useful for any indoor model railroad, diorama, or display village. For more examples, please see our Primer Page

Christmas Villages, Putzs, and Making Your Own Display Structures - Articles about setting up Christmas Villages, building your own vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses, building tinplate-inspired houses for model railroads or Christmas villages, etc. For examples, see our What is a Glitterhouse? and Tribute to Tinplate pages.

Use our Contact Page and describe your article idea in the Comments box.
Family Christmas OnlineTM(a Breakthrough CommunicationsTM website)Christmas How-To's - We're always looking for articles about Christmas craft and decoration projects, indoors and out.

Other Christmas Articles and Resources - We also publish articles about favorite Christmas memories, "musings" about Christmas or Christmas-related topics (such as Nativity sets or Christmas carols), and original stories with Christmas themes. All materials must be "family friendly."

Use our Contact Page and describe your article idea in the Comments box.

Note: Breakthrough CommunicationsTM, Family Garden TrainsTM, Garden Train StoreTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, BIG Indoor TrainsTM, BIG Train StoreTM, and Trains-N-TownsTM are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications ( All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.

For more information, please contact us. Or visit one of our supported web pages:
Breakthrough Communications
Family Garden Trains
Outdoor Trains,
Large Scale Trains
BIG Indoor Trains
O Gauge and On30 trains,
Holiday Villages, more
BIG Christmas Trains
Trains for Trees,
Trains for Towns
Family Christmas
- Christmas Articles,
Music, Stories,
and Craft Resources