Tuesday, 22 February 2011

My Weekly pocket novels - new guidelines

Maggie Seed, My Weekly's pocket novels editor, has issued a new set of guidelines which I've copied below. For all you pocket novel writers, the important things to note are the new longer length of 50,000 words, and the increased payment of £300.

Love! Romance! Passion! Adventure! Avid fans of romantic novels can get their fix from My Weekly Pocket Novels! A great read for lovers of good stories

PAYRISE RATE IS NOW £300 First Cheap Paperback Rights

We look for stories with a strong, developing romance between two identifiable characters.
We want to sweep the reader away in time and space to share and experience the breathless/breath-taking excitement of a growing relationship.

Do: Create characters our readers can identify with, rejoice with or grieve with. They can have flaws.
Do: Thrill and intrigue the reader. You have the time it takes to read the novel to take the reader through a gamut of emotions, thrills and dilemmas to resolve the mystery, pitfalls and obstacles.
Do: Include those heart-stopping moments! Key moments to consider: She realises she likes him; she thinks he is lost to her forever; that second-chance moment when happiness can be hers...THE KISS!
Some questions you might like to answer: How can she resist him? How did he misjudge her? What kind of a woman is she?
Do: Set our pulses racing (ooh la la!) BUT remember we want passion, not pornography!
Do: Use dialogue so the reader can participate in the story's development rather than being told in large chunks in straight narrative.

There can be a secondary plot to help develop the romance. For instance, there are often complications and misunderstandings between the hero and the heroine, or there is something vital at stake, such as a child, an inheritance, a relationship etc.
Crime and intrigue can feature, as long as they don't distract from the developing romance.
Who: Our heroines vary in age from their early twenties to middle-age and are compassionate and morally sound. They are more modern in their relationships, thoughts, feelings and experiences when the novel has a contemporary setting.
Where and When: Stories can be set anywhere in the world and can be contemporary or historical.
How: The story is usually told from the woman's point of view, although occasionally it is from the man's.

Please send in a synopsis and the first three chapters in manuscript form or via email.
If we wish to proceed, we will ask you to send in the full novel electronically.
Wordcount: around 50,000 words, no more than 52,000.
Double spacing, double quotes, single space only between full stop and next sentence.
If accepted for publication the completed novel must be presented electronically in a format compatible with ours (ie, Word or rich text format)
Payment: We pay £300 for First Cheap Paperback Rights

Please send to: My Weekly Pocket Novels D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., 80 Kingsway East Dundee DD4 8SL
Email: myweekly@dcthomson.co.uk


Quillers said...

Just to add, Womag, is that I've emailed Maggie to ask about the number of chapters too, as with the 30k length, they were adamant that there were either 10 or 12 chapters, no more, no less and nothing in between. So as soon as I know how many chapters they want for the new length, I'll share that information.

puteh said...

50,000 words - that's a big pocket !

Rena George said...

I've just had my first Pocket Novel accepted by Maggie (Danger at Mellin Cove by Sophie Gentle June 2 issue)and have just finished first draft of another. I've been looking forward to writing some more of these, but while 30K length is do-able, 50,000words feels a bit daunting. I'd be interested to know what other PN authors think.
Good question about the number of chapters now required, Sally. The PF Pocket Novels are ususally arounnd 15 chapter.

Quillers said...

Well done on that acceptance, Rena!

I agree 50k feels daunting. I'm trying to see it as a step up to a full length novel, but to be honest, feel a bit stymied by the changes at the moment.

Although I've spoken to Maggie by email today, she hasn't mentioned chapter lengths, so I'm none the wiser, sorry.

girl friday said...

Maggie replied to my email about number of chapters and she said she had no preference.

I've only had one pocket novel accepted and agree that 30,000 words seemed manageable but 50,000 words feels like a massive leap. I'm not sure I'm capable of writing that much. It's approximately an extra 7 chapters for me. That's a lot!

Elaine Everest said...

Thank you for the updated information . It looks as though DC Thomson are making all their paperback books a regular size. Probsbly makes sense at the prining stage.
But by paying £300 for 50,000 words they are paying a lower rate than they did for 30/32000 words when they paid £200.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for confirming that, Womag. I had heard this was probably happening. I think Elaine perhaps has a good point, as DCT outsource their printing now.

Diane said...

I love Thomsons, I really do, but they're paying £6 per 1,000 words ... or £5.76 per 1,000 for 52,000 words? We'd do better to write 10 or 20 x 5,000 or 2,500 word short stories at their regular rate for stories.

I know there are large print and ebook options after, but 50,000 words would take me a lot longer than a week to write, and £300 is a weekly wage for many.

Maisie said...

I've been toying with the idea of writing a MWPN for months, so am gutted at this sudden turn of events.

But, at 50,000 words I think I'd be better off trying to write a M&B. At least, with M&B, you get an advance and royalties. Plus, if accepted, your book gets published all over the world.

Geraldine Ryan said...

They should be paying £5,000 for 50,000 words.

womagwriter said...

Congraulations, Rena!

I agree, 50,000 words sounds a bit daunting. But it is close to M&B preferred length, so I guess you could write for M&B and if no luck there, edit it for My Weekly?

Cally said...

£300 for 50,000 words?

You're kidding me?!

You can get £325-£400 for a 2,000 word story sold to TABFF

I'm gobsmacked. I really am.

Just shocking how little a writer's talent is valued.

Anonymous said...

I now need to re-write one adding an extra 20K words, a committment with no guarantee of acceptance, particularly as I haven't had a PN accepted before. Though I'm trying hard to write to the market, as it were, I'm not sure I'm womag enough yet... another 20K and it still stands a good chance of being declined. Aaaagh!

I have another WIP which is still in a state of flux and will be easier to bring up to 50k.

How long are M&B?

My thoughts are that if our novels are declined for PNs we would at least have another potential, though highly competitive market. Whereas 30K is a funny size.

I'll get it right one of these days. ;)

Poor Maggie. I bet she had a flurry of flustered emails.


Quillers said...

The M&B Modern romances and a couple of their other lines are 50k, with (I think but don't quote me as I'm saying this off the top of my head) 70k allowed for Intrigue and Historical.

M&B, as far as I'm aware, pay £2000 for a 50k novella, so yes, it is worth trying there first. But do bear in mind that the M&B Modern romances have (relatively speaking) a more explicit sexual content so a novel written for that line won't necessarily sell to the PN market.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but £300 for 50,000 words is just insulting. How long would you be prepared to work to get £300 at the end of it? Now how long would it take you to write 50,000 words? Is their readership really so small that that's all they can afford to pay?

Diane said...

Couldn't you try selling your 30,000 word novellas as serials? Don't the mags still ask for a synopsis and the first episode, or something? From what I remember, the episode rate was the same as a single short story, or more in some cases. And it went up with experience. Also from what I remember, the pockets would then pay a reprint fee for their cheap paperbacks.

Just a thought.

Diane said...

Oh, and you'd still get large print and ebook sales afterwards ...

I think I'd calculate how much a 55,000 word story might net me from M&B against this £300 and aim at that first, then if it's rejected, edit it down to suit the 50,000 word slot. At least there are now 2 options to sell this length (PF and MW), and if the story's already written, you don't feel as though it's a lot of work for £300 - the work's already done.

But I'd also explore the serial option for the 30,000s or less, as there are 3 magazines that I know of, without even looking, that print serials.

I too believe that M&B pay £2,000, but then there's also all the reprint royalties and plr that will eventually come in. And if M&B do reject it, there are other publishers of romance that may take it on, not for the same rate, but there are still the on-sales afterwards. Not all M&B are explicit now, there are loads of different lines to suit all tastes.

Diane said...

I still think £300 for 50,000 words is absolute pants; I thought £200 for 30,000 was also pants. It would be nice if they could revisit their budget to see what they truly could afford to pay the writers they value - and remember, I know how much they pay their editors at start up - but for as long as people are prepared, happy, delighted, over the moon to work for this rate, there's no real reason for them to change it.

girl friday said...

Yes, I suppose if MW hardly got any submissions then they'd have to revise their thinking on payments a bit otherwise there would be no supply to meet demand. However, PF pocket novels seem to be surviving in the market so they must have felt the change for MW was a positive move (for them anyway!). MW were getting 5-10 submissions a week and I wonder what that will be now the word count has increased.

50,000 words feels like a massive amount compared to 30,000 and not something you'd tackle lightly. However, if you can add another 10,000 words and aim it at a better paying market, there is far more incentive to do this than staying with the current pocket novel rates.

Anonymous said...

I know £300 seems like pants, but sadly it's not a lot less than some publishers pay as advances for mainsteam 80K books.

It's a buyer's market, that's the sad truth, but it does make this game more a labour of love or a paid hobby than a career.

My fear is that it's not going to get better because there are are many other things competing for people's leisure time, the internet being one of them.


Rena George said...

Hmm, so many interesting POVs and some really valuable information in the above posts. You lot are brilliant. And thanks to Womag for facilitating this discussion.
DC Thomson has never been a good payer (still £75 for a PF story last I heard) so I can’t see them rethinking that mean £300 for a 50K MW pocket. They’re also selling off their printing operation in Glasgow where the Scottish editions of many daily newspapers are printed, so the company is obviously feeling the financial pinch. It’s all such a shame because they’re really lovely people to work with.
I don’t think having a go at a M&B romance is an option for me, not with all that explicit sex stuff, and having a serial accepted by Woman’s Weekly is my dream, although Gaynor hasn’t actually rejected my latest sub (yet) so my fingers are still crossed.
In the meantime I have to ponder if it’s worth padding out my current 30K pocket to almost twice its length. I honestly don’t know.

PS: Many thanks Sally and Womag for your kind words.

Tickle said...

I'm sorry but I think £300 for 50,000 words is daylight robbery. I was asked to sub one this week but there's no way I could afford to write for this amount. My time would be better spent writing say, 25 short stories instead, earning at least £2500. I agree with Geri that the going rate would be more like £5000.
I think My Weekly have shot themselves in the foot with this change as 50,000 is daunting. It's a lot of words for such little pay.
Come on - we are all worth more than that.

womagwriter said...

Well this has certainly touched a nerve with many writers.

I think the thing to bear in mind is that although MW will only pay £300 for the pocket novel, you are very likely to be able to resell it to a large print publisher, and will then earn PLR payments for many years to come. I don't have a feeling for how much that could be - will ask my mate Sally in about a year's time!

So don't think that the £300 payment is all you'll get for your 50,000 words. Of course, you may still feel it's not worth your while, and I understand it's not for everyone.

womagwriter said...

A few other thoughts. Diane calculated it's £6 per 1000 words. Some writers I know can write 1000 words, which don't need much subsequent editing, in an hour. So - £6 an hour? That is more than the minimum wage.

Stop shouting at your screens, girls - I know not everyone can write 1000 perfect words an hour! I'm just finding other ways of looking at this.

Others have said they'd rather use the time writing short stories. Say 25 x 2000 word stories. Actually though, 25 short stories will take a lot more time and effort to write, as you have to come up with new plot lines and new characters for each story.

Also, although starting a 50,000 word novella with no guarantee of publication is a big undertaking, the same can be said of everything we write. I'm 3/4 the way through a novel I started last June. It'll take me the rest of the year to complete and edit, and I have no guarantee of publication.

If you write 25 2000 word stories, there's no guarantee of publication either (though I accept you're likely to sell at least one or two of them).

Well, it's a great debate, and I'd welcome any more comments!

Elaine Everest said...

It would be interesting to know how many of each pocket novel are sold.
PLR and ALCS will not ammount to much even if the larege print option is taken up.

My tip is to always negotiate higher royalty percentages rather than take an advance - that is if you are confident your books will sell. It has worked with my non fiction books - so far!

Diane said...

Who says you have to come up with new characters for each story ...? ;o)

An exercise we used to do ... at our writers' group was create a village or a small town and write a different story for each of the main characters but have the other people that live in the town in "walk-on" parts, like a soap or s small scale Jackie Collins/Jilly Cooper. I've sold different stories using the same characters to different magazines.

And if I could write 1,000 good words in an hour, I'd much rather get £75 or £100 or £300 for that hour than £6. Who wouldn't? What's wrong with aiming high and working your way down rather than going the other way?

I still think the serial would be the better option - there's no guarantee that the pocket novel market will accept the story, just as there's no guarantee the serial will be right for them, just as the M&B may get rejected too.

If you aim at working for £75 an hour (per episode) and work your way down the scale (market), odds are you'll hit pay dirt before arriving at the £6 slot. And if you don't, well there's always the £6 slot. :oD

Anonymous said...

I hate to be gloomy but if libraries are closing, perhaps fewer books will be borrowed, which means the PLR payments will drop. Maybe.

re writing 25 stories, true if every story was sold.

Geraldine Ryan said...

"I think the thing to bear in mind is that although MW will only pay £300 for the pocket novel, you are very likely to be able to resell it to a large print publisher, and will then earn PLR payments for many years to come."

I don't see this as any reason for MW setting their payment so low. If I sell a story to TAB, for instance, they don't say, well, we're only going to pay you one third of what we usually do, because there is a chance you can turn it into a radio play and make a lot of money from it - (well,I can dream!) But do you see what I mean? It's not really up to them to give me tips on how I can double my income, is it? If I sell it on then that's extra for me, not for them for keeping the pay down on the initial sale.

Anonymous said...

I'm deliberately remaining anonymous here because it seems to me that £300 is a very poor rate of pay for 50,000 words when some mags pay that or more for about 2,000! I suppose people must just love writing them and, as Quillers says, it's practice for full length ones but it still seems a hell of a lot of work - and then it could get rejected!

Quillers said...

Yes, I'll let you know about PLR when I get there, Womag! Before I got into writing the PNs, I was told that by the time one had sold to MW, Ulverscroft and taken PLR into account, it's possible to have earned around £1500 from one pocket novel. Which does make it more attractive, but I'd tend to agree with Geri that it's not really the point as when we sell to MW or any other publisher, they don't know what other markets might be open to us. It also occurred to me to wonder whether Ulverscroft would take a longer novella for Large Print publishing, but I'll cross that bridge if/when I come to it.

I like DC Thompson. I think they're a lovely publisher to work with. They give new writers a chance and they pick their editors really well. Jill Finlay of TWN is a darling, and Maggie Seed is a star, who has taught me a lot about structuring a novel, along with other things so I certainly don't want to bite the hand that feeds me. But to be honest, I'm really torn over this. Part of me wants to accept the challenge of writing and selling a 50k pn, just to prove to myself I can do it (and because I feel I owe DCT something for taking a chance on me as a new pocket novelist), but there's a part of me that keeps being reminded that M&B pay around £2000 plus royalties for a 50k novella. Then again I'd have to sell to M&B and I haven't had much luck with them so far. Decisions decisions... (but there's always the saga....)

Geraldine Ryan said...

Sally, I've said to you before that you should negotiate. With your track record they'd be mad not to pay you more.

Quillers said...

I just wish I had your courage, Geri. I'm always stupidly grateful that anyone likes something I write enough to pay *anything* for it. It never occurs to me to haggle. It's unlikely the 'gig' would be snatched away from me, but I always have that fear. What I really need is an agent to haggle for me!

Since my last post here, I've emailed Sarah Quirke at Ulverscroft to check if they accept 50k novellas for large print publishing. I'll share the information if/when I get it as I think it might have a lot of bearing on whether folks do write for MW PNs again.

womagwriter said...

Thanks Sally.

Maisie said...

The People's Friend Pocket Novels are 50 K and they also get published by Ulverscroft, so I am assuming that they will be publishing the 50K My Weeklies as well. But, it would be good to have confirmation from the publisher.

On one hand, it's great to have another market for our novellas, but it's a shame as for a new writer 30K seemed so much more manageable.

Geraldine Ryan said...

You don't need to haggle, Sally. You just need to ask. They can only say no. But they must know it's a derisory sum so even if they say then they'll be ones left feeling like heels at the end of the conversation whereas you'll come out as the good guy.

What are you afraid will happen if you ask?

Quillers said...

Oh the sky will fall in and it will be the end of the world as we know it ;-)

Kidding, of course. I'm just not good at these things. Last year when I had to chase up payment from one magazine, I was so apologetic over them not sorting out my payment, I sickened even myself.

Anonymous said...

Sally, did you find out about the number of chapters please?

I just counted the chapters in a People's Friend Pocket Novel and it was 18. I'm hoping somewhere between 12 and 18 will be right.

girl friday said...

There is no number of chapters preference. I emailed to find out. Personally, I think MW will just be happy to receive a 50,000 word submission considering the new size is coming in at the end of May, which is no time at all. Writing 50,000 words instead of 30,000 is a huge leap. Argh!!!!

Quillers said...

Anon, I didn't get a reply from Maggie about that, but as you see, Girl Friday did. :-)

Quillers said...

Just had an email back from Sarah Quirke at Ulverscroft confirming what Maisie has said. 50k is still within their upper limit for Linford Romance. So it makes it more worthwhile to have a got at the 50k length.

deborahjbarker said...

Hi, I found this information really interesting - thanks everyone. Not sure if it is relevant but in the late nineties I was writing short stories for 'My Weekly' of around 2,500 words and was paid between £65 to £75 per story if my memory serves me right. So, £300 for 50,000 is a drop in the ocean to be sure. I don't know what current rates for short stories are - have they too dropped so much?
I hope to submit some more stories shortly (hence my visit here)I will be very interested in the outcome having read all the comments.I don't rely on an income from my writing - isn't that lucky?I would like rates to go up though if just for self respect :-)

womagwriter said...

Hi Deborah

I think pay rates for short stories at My Weekly are still much the same - starting at around £65. They gradually increase your pay rate after they've bought a few from you, but it's the same rate for any length of story. There are guidelines for My Weekly short stories on this blog.

CarolB said...

I've been looking out for the 50,000 word MW pocket novels since May, but so far they've still been publishing the 30,000 word versions.
Anyone heard when the new length stories will actually be available?

Soapfan said...

The new longer version of My Weekly Pocket novel will be on sale this thursday. please let me know what title and size it is. I am a subscriber from Spain and I won´t get it until July. Thanks

Jane R said...

This is probably a silly question but on new MW Pocket Novel Guidelines PDF it says: "No tabs at new paragraphs." Should I indent with a couple of space bar spaces, or leave a line space between paragraphs? It's my first attempt at a Pocket Novel and I'd hate it to fall at the hurdle of formatting!

Sally Quilford said...

Hi Jane. Womag asked me to come over and answer this question (and it's not silly at all - it all gets very confusing).

I took this guideline to mean block paragraphs (that is a clear line space between paragraphs), which is what I do now.

But don't worry too much. If you've written a great story I doubt very much it would fall down on formatting.