Friday, 25 February 2011

The Nearly Sale

We seem to be enjoying our debates here on womagwriter. I wonder what you'll all have to say about this topic? Once again, I'm a little out of the loop here, having not written or submitted a short story for some time, but a writer who wishes to remain anonymous asked me to raise this topic. It seems some magazine editors are keeping writers dangling on a thread, telling them a story is 'almost certainly a sale' and they will get back to the writer soon. But months go by, and chasing emails leave the story still unconfirmed as a sale.

Here's what the writer had to say:

After years of writing and selling stories, 18 months ago I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make this my living. Well it paid off as I have now sold almost 100 stories etc and last year I sold an additional 41 stories, articles and serials to the mags both here and abroad.

However for the last 2 months I haven't earned a bean. This is despite having over 50 new stories submitted to mags around the world. I believe this is due to a worrying new trend. What I call THE ALMOST SALE.

This is worse than a rejection as it means the eds keep you hanging on indefinitely. It's happening here in the UK and abroad. I've been told my stories are almost certainly sales and that they will confirm shortly. But despite lots of 'nice' chasing emails from em, I haven't had a confirmation yet.

The dilemma is - do you ask for the stories back and try to re-sell knowing you've got at least another 3 month wait or hang on in there as you are so close.

I believe this is worse than a rejection as you can at least re-market then.
I'd be interested to hear other writers comments.

Have other writers had this experience? I realise for newer writers an 'almost sale' would be exciting and would be classed much better than a rejection, but for those who try to make a living from writing I can see it must be very frustrating. What do you think?


CarolB said...

Womag, I'll post a link to this post on the Talkback Forum, as some of the writer there may be interested- a number of them reularly have short stories out.

womagwriter said...

Thanks Carol.

Vamchoir said...

I've had this happen so often I cannot count how many times. One magazine I "sold" to held my article for more than a year - then changed the magazine's name and returned my work unpublished. I happened to like the new magazine so asked for a free subscription since the editor held my work so long (she granted me that small favor) .

Patsy said...

I've never had that happen. Some publications never reply at all, but I've never had a reply that wasn't either a yes or no, or rarely a request for a rewrite.

Elaine Everest said...

Yes, I had this with a an Australian publication. They accepted three stories and held them on a reserve list. After six months one was purchased and published although I never recieved a hard copy of the weekly magazine. Just after that a new editor took over and despite my enquiries I've never received a reply as to whether this list still exists. I assume not and have now resubmitted.

Bernadette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernadette said...

I had a lot of stories 'shortlisted' for an Aussie mag - presumably the same one as Elaine - that never went any further. The new editor suggested that they should be resubmitted to make sur ehe had seen them as he wasn't going to use the same system.

I've never had it happen anywhere else - although some mags do hold on to stories for ages with no word at all and it can be rather frustrating.

Glynis Scrivens said...

I've never heard of an almost sale. Been short-listed or asked to make changes, but never a yes that didn't eventuate. I'm trying to guess which UK magazines are the culprits - and who anonymous is : - )

Anonymous said...

I've had almost 200 sales over the years at most of the usual publications womags write for and have never been told, 'this is almost certainly a sale but you need to wait'. I've been shortlisted (aussie mag) but that system was never a guarantee of a sale unless you ended up getting another 'congratulations' email and an issue assigned.

Anon, congrats on taking the plunge to full time writing and your success. I do believe though that any writer doing that needs to go into it fully realising that payment will be a feast or famine. If life was fairer, if payments were prompt, if accounts departments were perfect, life would be a lot easier for freelancers but unfortunately it doesn't work out that way. Plumbers expect to encounter bad smells, chefs expect to work late nights and weekend work, full-time freelance writers should expect sometimes months of waiting between payments - no it's not fair, but it is reality.

Some writers are probably in a financial position where the long wait between payments won't be an issue, but for those who need a regular weekly or fortnightly income, then freelance writing is one of the riskier occupations to undertake.

Anonymous said...

I meant to include in the above paragraph:

Some writers are probably in a financial position where the long wait between payments DUE TO ACCOUNTS PROBLEMS OR WAITING FOR SALES (sorry, don't mean to shout, didn't know how to highlight that bit) won't be an issue, but for those who need a regular weekly or fortnightly income, then freelance writing is one of the riskier occupations to undertake.

Anonymous said...

I had one "Nearly sale" where I was asked to rewrite, which I did almost by return of post and then I waited 7 months fo it to be finally accepted. I have yet to see it published and I wonder if I ever will.

I can't distinguish between nearly sales and dilatory rejections with other mss. I call those my "In Limbos" I'm finding that many are out for 5 or 6 months before being declined. (Declined sounds so much better than rejected.) I can't tell if they were close or whether the editor is particlarly swamped at the time.

After about 4 months I start fretting and wonder if the ms has been lost, never got there, or has been rejected and lost on the way home. And I'm not confident enough to chase without thinking that something dire will happen if I do. I don't mind my work being in limbo provided I know it's not lost. But then, I'm not relying on it to pay the rent in any particular month. (Though payment and publication is a vindication of all that time I spend reading and writing.)

I'm also a bit confused over what to do about mss which have been at My Weekly for more than 6 months.

The most annoying in limbo I have at the moment wasn't a womag magazine. I subbed it with an SAE and my email addy for just the rejection, the editor saying he always responds within 3 weeks, usually within the week. After about 4 or 5 weeks I chased it up by email and got a sniffy email saying that if I included an SAE then of course I would have heard back and he was Far Too Busy to keep a record of submissions/rejects. I said it must be lost then, could I resubmit, please. He said, "Go for it." So I did, this time very, very careful to include an SAE. That was 4 months ago, and I've heard nothing since.

When I have chased up Womag subs, the editors have been polite, sympathetic and professional. But I don't like to do it too soon. How long do others leave it, please?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I haven't had that situation with a short story yet, but it's just happened with an article. It's being retained for possible publication, but 'accepting articles is no guarantee of publication'. Fortunately, I'm happy to wait with this particular one as it's geared to that mag.

I have sympathy with Anonymous over the 6 month/My Weekly dilemma. But I've just had one accepted that Liz had for more than a year! She's just so busy with being the only commissioning editor. Doesn't help writers though.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comments but must correct one criticism. I certainly didn't go into writing full-time lightly. I've been selling regularly for 20 years and of course know that rejections mean that some months will be a 'famine' rather than a 'feast.' I don't mind that - in fact it makes it rather exciting.
A definite yes or no is fine. BUT what I'm talking about is being promised that a story is almost certainly to be taken and then waiting months to get that actually confirmed.
In most cases it has resulted in a sale. Two from abroad - one promised in November, another in January - were both confirmed sales this week but another from the UK was 'almost certainly a sale' in August but I found out last week it wasn't used as the UK editor had overlooked it in the final count. Now this was despite several friendly chasing emails. If I'd had a definite yes in August then I'd have been paid or a no would have meant I'd have been able to re-market much quicker.
I think it IS a worrying trend as a lot of posts have shown.

Anonymous said...

Anon, my commment wasn't meant to be a critism at all, just hopefully some advice to writers about how unreliable freelancing can be. I had thought the issue was also about not being paid for a long time because of this line in the post:

"However for the last 2 months I haven't earned a bean. This is despite having over 50 new stories submitted to mags around the world."

If I've mistunderstood my apologies.

Quillers said...

I've been shortlisted for the same Aussie mag that has been mentioned before, and those shortlistings seem to have disappeared into the ether. But luckily as that Aussie mag doesn't mind reprints it doesn't preclude sending the stories elsewhere.

But I've never had an 'almost' sale with a British magazine. It's always been a definite yay or nay for short stories. With the pocket novels, I have been asked to change things pending acceptance, but that's generally followed by an acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Oh thanks Anonymous for clearing that up!

This time I wasn't really talking about waiting for payment - more, not being told a definite yes or no which just extends (to me unnecessarily) that waiting period between submission and acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Anon, that I think is the most frustrating thing for writers at this point. For whatever reason (the six months rule, the 'almost sale', the 'can you make changes' etc.) the long wait between sending off and getting a reply seems to be getting longer and longer. But really, is there anything we can do, except 'send and forget' and keep sending more?


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this and on reflection I think I'd like to know if something was a nearly sale as opposed to just out for months with no news at all. Partly because I start to wonder if the ms arrived, or if it's been mislaid, or if it's been lost on the way home.

I've decided I wouldn't mind how long story was held on for if it was a nearly sale, but if it's a definitely no thanks, I'd rather know as soon as possible.

Captain Black said...

I've never experienced a nearly sale but I hope that sort of thing is in the minority, as it sounds very unprofessional to me.