Thursday, 19 November 2009

Discussion time

One reader of this blog left the following questions under a recent post, and I thought it might be worth having an open discussion about these points, so I've copied her comment here:

What are your views about the length of time taken by mags to respond? Not that one can do anything about it except stop sending. Six months seems unfair and unreasonable. So does the delay in payments once accepted. How would editorial staff like to wait months for their salaries?

Six months is a long time to wait for a response. It's even longer to wait for a non-response (I particularly hate My Weekly's policy of not sending rejection notifications and just telling you to assume it's a rejection if no news for six months). To be fair, some magazines do respond much quicker than that.

And the delay in payments is irritating. You end up spending valuable writing time chasing payment. At the moment Take A Break seem a bit behind - I'm awaiting payment for one and have heard of other writers who are also owed for several stories.

So, come on, what do you all think? Let's have a rant and a moan. You never know who might be reading this. This blog allows anonymous coments so feel free to make full use of that facility!


penandpaints said...

I agree that six months is a long time to wait, especially if you don't even get a rejection note (My Weekly)but merely have to assume it's a no! And, is that six months to the day you wait, or what exactly? It's all very vague.
I was also rather disappointed at The Lady, as they'd had a story of mine 10 months, so I thought that was a good sign, then I read on this blog that they aren't publishing short stories any more! But still no response from them! :(
Perhaps some magazines think that as they're always inundated with stories, they don't need to bother being polite!
OK, enough ranting! Haha

Bernadette said...

It is a long time to wait for a response and can be very frustrating.
However, I don't believe that the mags respond slowly on purpose. The stories we send in haven't been requested - they are sent on spec and someone at the magazine has to spend their time reading them even if they're rubbish.
At least we are given the opportinity of submitting our work. Given that manpower at magazines is limited, an alternative would for them to commission work only (as Woman and Woman's Own used to do) or to only read work from authors who are known to them.
So on balance I'd rather it stayed the way it is (though I do dislike the My Weekly method - a standard e-mail takes about 5 seconds to send.)
Payment is a different matter. Once a story has been accepted and/or published (depending on the terms) there is no reason for the delay to be any longer than to the end of that month. I find most magazines fine about paying - there are just one or two who are rather tardy and need chasing.

Kath said...

I agree with Bernadette it's probably worth the wait if it means the magazines accept unsolicited submissions but I too wish MW could let you know. Usually the longer a magazine takes, the more hope you've got - and also you can sometimes gauge how close you were to succeeding. But do they really not let their regular authors know either?

HelenMHunt said...

Yes, long waits are difficult, but Bernadette is quite right - these are unsolicited submissions and the magazines get hundreds sent to them. They can only read them at the rate their staffing levels allow.

Payment on acceptance is always appreciated. Vote of thanks to Woman's Weekly who are always very prompt and efficient with payment.

Queenie said...

With responses, I think My Weekly are being particularly mean, but the others do get back to people, almost always in less than six months and often much more quickly. For me, the delay in payment is the really insulting part. Maybe we should all start invoking the Late Payment of Debts Act - info here

Anonymous said...

Hi this is so relevant to me at the moment as I am very worried not to have received payment for some of my stories. It amounts to almost one thousand pounds and thats a lot of money to wait for for anyone.
I don't mind about the long wait for a response as I always have over 30 out at least and I know the staff are busy but I do think payment should be within a month of publication at the very least. Some of us are trying to earn a living doing this and we still have to pay our mortages etc.
Does anyone know if there is a particular problem with Take A Break because apparently no writers have been paid by them for a long time?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what's going on at TAB FF, but I haven't been paid for a story in the magazine before last and I'm getting a bit concerned about it now. It helps to know I'm not the only one, but it's worrying and annoying, isn't it? Just hope they're not having huge financial difficulties.

And as for the MW submission system, don't get me started! I think it's a dreadful way to treat writers, quite honestly.

They've got 7 of my stories at the moment and one of them was emailed to them six months ago tomorrow so I'll assume it's not wanted and submit it somewhere else, but you don't even know if they're receiving the stories, do you? Much as I hate the constant brown envelopes coming through my letter box, at least they give you 'closure'.

Great post, Womag. I'm sure you'll get lots of response to this one!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just letting you know that I sold a story to TAB in August and received the payment at the end of October.

Sally Zigmond said...

This is a tricky one. I do so agree that MW's 'wait for six months before you know whether we want your story or not' is cavalier to say the least. In these days of email it wouldn't take much time and effort, would it, to send a brief pro-forma email rejection from an address which doesn't allow for replies (to avoid being swamped by emails from angry rejectees!) Then again, I know that magazine staff have been pared to the bone recently and I agree that because most writers submit on spec, editors not obliged to humour us.

Non-payment is another matter, entirely. I think that writers shouldn't have to wait beyond a month after their story has been published. But again, what can we do? Perhaps we should go on strike en masse like Hollywood writers did a while back. Although, knowing our luck, all magazines will stop publishing fiction altogether!

Having said that, I have always been treated fairly and in a friendly manner by editors although having been writing for publication for over 10 years now, I am well aware that we writers are, for reasons beyond me, at the bottom of the pecking order and I've kind of got used to it!

Honeysuckle said...

I must be the only person who doesn't mind the My Weekly method. It's no problem to just cross them off the list as rejected at the six month mark. Other mags take much longer than that to respond sometimes - Yours, for example, and That's Life Oz.

LilyS said...

I dont agree with the length of time you have to wait to know your story hasn't been excepted but I guess it depends on how time consuming it is to send rejections. They could be getting a ridiculous amount of people subbing. I do however think it is unacceptable to make writers wait for a payment. I work in a contracts department and the standard payment terms for our services is 30 days. Anything beyond that seems wrong to me.

Colette McCormick said...

Six months is a long time to wait but like has been previously said there are some magazines that make you wait even longer than that. Obviously I would prefer that it didn't take so long but I think that it has something to do with the volune of submissions received. And ask yourself which is better? That they take time and consider your story properly even if they ultimately turn it down or to have your story land back on your doorstep by return post. That happened to me this week and it sucked.
Non payment is a very different thing though. I've only had to chase payment once and the magazine concerned were fine about it. However unless I get paid soon I will have another one to ask about in the near future.

Lynne Hackles said...

TaB's FF have forgotten to pay me on a couple of occasions. All I did was email Norah and she sorted it out.
As for MW's six months, it sucks, but if you've plenty of work out all the time it doesn't matter as much so the answer is to write more. One story a month at MW means that, if you haven't had a yes, at least you'll know you've got a no once a month.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Payment for stories in November FF will be in your bank next Thursday and payments for December and January issues will come together as one payment before Xmas. I have this straight from Norah, who apologises on behalf of the person putting in the invoices.

Don't get me started on late payments. Hoorah for WW who pays within four weeks of acceptance!

Julie P said...

It is annoying when you don't hear the fate of your short story, and six months is along time to wait to hear nothing! But I have to say that the only way to lessen your frustration at waiting is to get and write some more and keep the subs going out. So you're not always waiting for just a couple of stories to come back.

Plus you have to remember that the mags don't force you to submit to them! It take as long as it takes and that's it. There's nothing to stop you from submitting the same story elsewhere in the meantime - I know multiple submissions of the same story to a couple of mags is often frowned upon - but if the mags are not getting back to you within 6 months or longer and some are not able to even send you a rejection slip of email, then what do they expect?

The worst thing you can do is constantly badger the editors for news on your subs because that will just annoy then and they won't be favourable to you!

Julie xx

Sylvie said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. And especially penandpaints - I didn't know The Lady had stopped fiction, so I'll stop wondering what happened to the story I sent mid-July.
I like the idea of us going on stike, but I guess, as was suggested, they would simply stop publishing fiction. How about us all starting a fiction mag. ourselves - online?

Anonymous said...

That's great news, Geraldine - about the FF payments, I mean. Might be able to afford to buy some Christmas presents now!

Bernadette said...

I spoke to a features editor at the Lady a short while ago about an outstanding fiction submission and was told that a final decision has not yet been taken about the fiction slot - they're trying out new things. Any stories will be returned as soon as a final decision has been made, but in the meantime they are happy for you to sub them elsewhere provided you let them know if they're accepted.
I don't know if they're accepting new subs though and personally wouldn't bother at the moment, until a decision is made.

So probably not a great deal of hope, but a tiny sliver at least.
(Maybe a barrage of readers letters begging for the return of the fiction slot would help!)

Diane said...

TAB FF has been known to send payment to a previous address, so if you've moved house in the last, say, 5 years, or even since you started submitting to them, it's worth making sure that (a) they do have your latest address, and (b) everyone at your previous address(es) knows to forward anything on that looks remotely like a cheque.

Frankly, for what was a forerunner in the world of magazines when it appeared, I'm surprised that TAB and FF (a) still insist on snail mail submissions, and (b) don't pay by BACS.

As to the waiting for a response, well yes, if it's unsolicited or if you have no prior relationship with the magazine, they do have a lot to get through and they do need time to do it. However, not bothering to let you know is downright rude and I think My Weekly in particular has let itself go on this. It used to have such a good reputation and was always one of the nicer, friendlier publications to work for.

Payment on publication is very bad, particularly when they can take up to 2 years or more to publish. It would be far better to either pay on acceptance, or agree when payment should be received. They do this in other countries, why can't they do that here?

My Weekly in particular, again, has lost so many Brownie points with me. It used to be my favourite client, once upon a time. They did pay on acceptance and now they don't. They always made time to reply and often gave feedback on rejection. They just seem to be slipping further and further downhill and it's no wonder rumours have started that Thomsons may be in financial difficulty.

It's a buyer's market and these magazines take full and unfair advantage of that. However, good manners cost absolutely nothing.

Oh well, that's my rant over, and possibly a few fewer clients I can work for. But, to be honest, when they take the mick, I'd rather spend my time working for more appreciative customers.

Tickle said...

Thick question here re: TAB FF payments for November issue stories. Geraldine said in her post that payment will be in the bank next Thursday but a later post said that TAB still don't pay by BACS. I have had several stories accepted by TAB FF recently and a couple published. Only one has been paid for and that was by cheque a long time ago. Please can I ask what the payment system is? BACs or cheque?

Susan Wright said...

I get paid by BACS, Tickle, but I honestly can't remember when I filled in a form or whatever to make this happen.I've been published in FF since it started out about eleven years ago so I can't remember that far back.
I'm not sure but I think maybe you have to sell a few stories to Norah before she decides that you might well become a regular and should be paid in this way.

On the MW front, it would be interesting to know how many stories a month are submitted, wouldn't it? And if their regulars are allowed to submit more than once a month. I really don't know how inundated they are - and I do hope DC Thomson and aren't in trouble because I sell stories to The Weekly News from time to time and I think Jill Finlay and Billy Higgins are the best people to deal with in the world. And I love the paper too. No complaints about them at all!

Tickle said...

Thanks Susan for that info. I've been published twice by TAB FF but have another two or three to come out with them in the not too distant future.
Horrible to have to ask for the money like this.
As for the Weekly News, Billy Higgins is really lovely to deal with So is Clare Cooper from WW. Does anyone remember Lorna Read at Loving, she was a lovely editor too.

Derek said...

I am only at the very early stage of this whole 'submitting to magazines' business and have received one rejection so far (after four months which I thought was a fairly reasonable time).

As many of you have already pointed out, the submissions are non-solicited and that is a good thing for all of us (wanna-be) writers. So thank you to the magazines for that first of all.

Nonetheless, I do think a quick, standard email to you to let you know that your story is not suitable is a small thing to ask. After all, it takes a lot of hard work to perfect a story to the point you feel happy to submit it. Surely a short email is not too much to ask... It's just like the companies that don't respond to your job application, which in my book is unforgiveable - especially after you spend all weekend filling in their stupid forms. Grrr!

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your stories, Derek. It is just so exciting to have them accepted. Even the rejections are a sign you are learning your craft.

Simon Whaley said...

For me, it's the not knowing. It really wouldn't bother me if an editor scrawled an expletive across my submission and stuffed it back in the SAE - at least I'd know where I stood!

My Weekly's policy is not a problem if you treat this freelance writing lark like a business. If you keep accurate records of when you post stuff to My Weekly, then you know you are safe to submit that story elsewhere six months later. (Actually, I diarise to send them elsewhere after six months and two weeks - that way, I've given the postman two weeks to deliver it to My Weekly's offices in the first place.)

It's a buyer's market, and if that's the rules that My Weekly insists upon, then that's what we have to adhere to. If My Weekly want us to stand on one leg as we pop our submission into the postbox, then that's what we have to do.

The only time the long delays annoy me, is when it's a date-related theme or topical hook.

Let's just keep bombarding the mags with appropriate stories and we'll soon have the editors knocking at our doors :-)

womagwriter said...

Some interesting responses here, thanks everyone.

Sounds like we hate waiting for payment, but are resigned to having to wait a long time for responses. And while we don't like My Weekly's current policy we know we just have to put up with it. They certainly have cut their fiction staff this year so I suppose that's the reason for the changes in procedure.

Thanks for the info re TAB payments, Geri. Good to know the money will come eventually. Susan - I didn't know they pay some people by BACS, I still get cheques from them though I've sold them quite a few.

Simon - you are right. All we can do is continue subbing well-targetted stories, keep good records, and grin and bear the waits. Oh, and chase late payments. After all, non-payment is breach of contract and does NOT have to be tolerated.

womagwriter said...

Julie - re subbing the same story to multiple mags at once - I wouldn't. Suppose two wanted to buy it? You'd say yes to the first, and would have to say no to the second, and possibly put them off buying from you in future.

Tickle - TAB normally pay by cheque I believe though it sounds like they pay some regular contributors by BACS.

Susan - the ban on submitting more than one a month to MW does apply to their regulars as well. Even Della Galton who was practically on the staff during last year's Malawi appeal was asked not to send more than one a month.

Olivia Ryan said...

Good discussion Womag!

I don't mind the 6 month wait too much, as long as I'm confident that the submission arrived in the first place; but I've had a couple of experiences, over the years, of sending a (very polite!) enquiry after 6 months, only to find that 'it must have got lost in the system'. Very annoying, then, to have to re-send, and wait another 6months! This happened once with an e-mail submission, so it couldn't even be blamed on the post. Those magazines that send an automated 'received' e-mail do at least take the guesswork out of whether it actually arrives.

I agree that MW's new policy is a bit mean - but I've noticed that some book publishers are now saying the same type of thing: after 3 months, or 6 months,or whatever, presume we're not interested. It's a blow to the ego, really, to feel that not only are they not interested but they can't even be bothered to knock out a quick 'No thanks' e-mail! I guess staff cuts are to blame.

I agree that WW are great with their payments - and so far, in over 15 years of short story writing I haven't had a problem getting paid by anyone. But then again, I've never yet had an acceptance from TAB!

Lydia said...

Whew!! Haven't we all got a lot to say about this?! I agree waiting to hear is par for the course nowadays and the answer really is just to have loads "out there", but waiting for money is another thing. I've had stories accepted on a "yes we want it but we won't pay till publication and by the way we don't know when that is" basis. As one of my non-writing friends commented: "What would Tesco say if we took our goods to the till and said,'This is my shopping but I don't know when I'll pay you.'"!
Olivia - you don't know how good it is to hear that a writer like you hasn't yet cracked TAB either! For me they are the last frontier!
Thanks for iniating this great discussion Womag.

Olivia Ryan said...

I love your 'last frontier' comment Lydia! That's how I'll think of TAB in future. We'll conquer them in the end! x

Kath said...

Does anyone try other markets? For instance the BBC periodically accept short stories of 2000 words for their afternoon readings and the current deadline is 30 November. The website is but googling writersroom would probably find it! You have to send in by post.

Geraldine Ryan said...

I've never tried the BBc as their stories tend to lean toward the more literary. I guess I just don't have the confidence.

Kath said...

Isn't the main difference that womag stories are usually feel-good with warm, sympathetic characters whereas "literary" stories can be more ambivalent and edgy? I think the standard of writing itself is probably just as high in magazines. You can listen to a story on the website. The one I heard was very similar to stories I've read in Woman's Weekly, perhaps a touch more middle-class.

I went to a workshop recently run by Kachi Ozumba whose stories are regularly broadcast on Radio 4. He sounded just like us, talking about tweaking his stories to suit different markets (e.g. "padding them out" to fit length requirements) and hawking them from one place to another. He actually submits to several journals at once but then he is a major prize-winner!

Kath said...

Sorry not very clear that last bit - I mean, he sends the same story out to several at once. Says as he's earning a living by it, he just can't afford not to.

Quillers said...

For anyone waiting for payment from FF, I got my payment for the story that was in the November issue on Saturday. I'm not paid by BACs, so they sent a cheque.

john c said...

I understand from a fellow member of The Harrogate Writers' Circle that My Weekly paid him on acceptance. One way to get over the six months' blues is to send one story somewhere every month so in six month's time you'll be getting one acceptance or rejection a month.
John C

Captain Black said...

My impression of magazines and the publishing business in general, particularly when I first got interested in writing fiction, was that they are slow, unresponsive and uncaring. I felt that they were exploiting the fact that authors are willing to put up with slow or poor treatment, as they're desperate to get published.

The reality, I'm informed and to most extents believe, is that they are incredibly busy. They are inundated with submissions and it simply takes a long time to read them all. Fair enough. Authors who have come to know this fact should expect lengthy waits for their results.

At this point, I'd like to make an important distinction between a response and a result. These are probably not official publishing-speak terms, but they'll do for the purposes of this discussion.

Response: A simple acknowledgement of receipt of submitted materials. No reading has been undertaken at this stage.

Result: The outcome of your submission, i.e. whether it has been accepted or rejected.

As we've all come to know, results take time. Responses are a different matter. Any serious business should treat its customers, potential or otherwise, with respect by sending a prompt response. To delay or omit a response is, in my opinion, unprofessional. In how many other commercial arenas would you find this kind of behaviour acceptable?

I therefore call upon the magazines and other companies concerned, to raise their game and make responses part of their process, ideally giving a time frame for the expected result, thereby setting a realistic expectation for the customer (author).

As for delays in payment after a positive result has been achieved, I fail to see how that can be considered professional in any way.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for a payment from FF for the November issue. This morning I received a forwarded rejection which had been sent to somebody else by mistake. Many thanks to RH who sent it. I'm very sorry I can't seem to find the email you sent. My spam-box has likely eaten it.