Saturday, 11 February 2012

Woman's Own wanting us to work for free

Woman's Own are running a short story competition, and the prize - the only prize -will be publication in their summer special. No payment.

I think, as do many other women's mag writers - see the facebook debate here (you'll need to scroll down to find the post that begins 'Calling all budding writers') - that this is appalling. How can a commercial magazine with a readership as large as WO has, expect to fill their pages for free? It's disgusting. I'll give away my work to charity anthologies, but other than that I never work for free. WO will make a pile of money from their summer special, and some of that should go to the writers whose work they publish.

In no other profession are people expected to work for free. WO think the kudos of having your story published by them is enough of a prize. Well, as Sally Q wrote in a brilliant recent article in The New Writer, kudos does not pay the bills.

Someone posting for Woman's Own on the facebook discussion, said: "This is intended as an opportunity for our readers – not professional writers – to potentially see their story in the magazine." Well they are certainly going the right way about putting off the regular short story writers. Any of their readers who can write a decent story, will be able to sell their story to another magazine for a decent payment. So WO are likely to only get rubbish stories in their competition. That will put readers off buying WO, and will also (and this is where I get really angry) put readers off magazine fiction in general. They might think it's all as bad as that.

I urge you all to take a look at the facebook discussion and perhaps post something yourself. And please, boycott the WO competition. Your work is worth much more than they are offering.

What do you all think? Feel free to rant here, anonymously if you like.

32 comments:

Kat said...

I've said my bit - several times - it was me who started the first angry post on their 'budding authors' post, lol.

I think they have a bloody cheek, and when they finally do respond, they try to excuse it and say it's just a one off for their summer special because readers have asked for it. What a load of cock! - Sorry but it is.

Geraldine Ryan said...

I'm not on Facebook any more but I would urge those considering entering this competition not to. While I appreciate that those writers yet to be fortunate enough to see their work in print may be tempted, why not try your luck elsewhere for payment. Details of magazines that pay for stories can be found on this site.

Geraldine Ryan said...

sorry, I meant, "not yet fortunate"! I hope the Fiction Editor will read the Facebook comments and reconsider not offering either a financial prize or something that a writer would appreciate - a course, a laptop - something that can benefit their future writing career.

Anonymous said...

Hi Womag and All - I've already emailed the WO editor to tell her exactly what I think. I too am appalled. I still can't quite believe that a magazine would imagine that writers are so sad that they want to give away their work to a profit making outfit like WO. Maybe it really is time for writers to focus on self publishing through the likes of Kindle to escape this sort of totally insulting and devaluing approach by editors. What planet are they operating from? I'm probably what could be referred to as a beginning writer - although I've put a heck of a lot of hours in over the past two years and a bit of my writing career. I've had lots of rejections but have managed to earn over two thousand pounds in the two plus years I've been writing. So please anyone out there even thinking of getting started by giving your work away please don't. Its all very hard work but if you try hard enough someone will eventualy pay for your creative efforts. But if writers fall foul of invitations to vanity we'll end up in a world where none of us ever get paid.

Cathos said...

Agree this is totally unacceptable and I hope people do choose to boycott.

JO said...

This is outrageous - and an insult to all of us love short stories. I've commented on their FB page - it will be interesting to see if they change their minds.

Anonymous said...

Cheeky beggars!

Gail Crane said...

Here, here! I've always thought that it was wrong to expect any writer to work for nothing. Only in exceptional circumstances - eg for charity - should we do so. For a mag like WO to ask us to work for free is nothing short of scandalous.

Pat Nurse MA said...

Oh dear. How on earth do they expect people to earn a living. As one branching out to fiction writing, I find this move appalling and depressing. It appears this is a move to recruit hobby writers who are happy to see their name in print on a story but comfortably take a living wage from employment in other walks of life.

WO is not one of the magazines I will be buying with a view to getting work sold.

This was the problem I was beginning to experience as a journalist writing true life stories where some magazines were happy to take your story and pay a small tip fee rather than commission you to follow it up.

Sally Zigmond said...

Totally unacceptable. I've already added my bit to their Facebook Page. It is an insult to say the competition is for their readers and not for writers. This devalues the skill required in writing a publishable magazine short story and to those who take a serious and professional approach to their writing. Their reply to criticism is also an insult. And to say it was at the request of readers, smells very fishy to me.

And to offer no prize whatsoever? That's okay, I suppose, if the magazine has a very small circulation or it's for charity--but for a top-selling rich magazine, it is a kick in the teeth to their readers and their writers. It's also cynical.

I will never buy a copy of Woman's Own again.

Patsy said...

As the competition is for readers not writers, I can only assume they would prefer writers not to buy their magazine. I'm happy to comply with that wish.

Lana Starbright said...

I'm with Sally and I've commented several times on the FB page. I also will never buy a copy again and will help others to buy decent magazines and avoid them like the plague for insulting and devaluing writers. Shame on them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is wrong, but it's what a lot of magazines are up to nowadays. If you look at the T&Cs of several magazines' websites, for example, they automatically grab the copyright of anything posted there. The gardening magazines are beginning to print things that people have put on the blogs... with no recompense for the person writing it. The BBC Gardening magazine invited readers to enter your photos, admittedly with a £10 prize for the best one per month. But it assumed the rights to publish those photographs forever in whatever medium they wish, without necessarily even crediting the photographer. They are not alone in this. Some magazines only offer a prize to the star letter.

But the one which left me flabberghasted was Readers Digest. They ran a 100 word story competition, admittedly with a great prize, but they grab not the rights to use these stories but the COPYRIGHT! In other words, those entries cannot be used by you even if you don't win. The winners get good prizes but those who are also rans don't get a prize, might have their 100 word story used as a filler, but would not get anything for it. It was worth entering because the prize is good.

Unlike Women's Own who haven't even offered a prize.

Would the editors like it if someone offered to do their job for nothing for the experience? I think not.

I know times are tough for magazines, but it seems very unfair to grab things from websites, and have competitons where there's not even a prize. It's as if some industry troubleshooter has gone in all guns blazing to sort the magazine out, but without understanding how writers feel about this. Even the phraseology used is insulting. No publication fee?

What's the maxim? Money flows from the publisher to the writer, not the other way round.

I didn't wade through all the posts but a 'one off' for the summer special? Right, OK, so any decent unused stories will what? Be available for the authors to submit to someone who pays? Or will they expect to hang on to them for use another time?

Even if they only paid say £20 per story, it would be better than this.

I don't think they've thought this through at all.

Old Kitty said...

Not even a box of chocolates?!?!
:-(

I'm glad I never buy WO!

And I think they know exactly what they're doing having this competition too!

Take care
x

Caroline said...

Shame on WO. I won't be buying it anymore. Caroline x p.s the bit about "our readers have asked for it" is soooo like something a politician would say!

Lindsay said...

The other comments have said it all - I agree that this situation is shocking and devalues writers' work. As I said on the Facebook page, I can understand that writers, like me, who are setting out and trying to make a name for themselves, will be tempted to enter, but if they do they will devalue their future work. So, I simply add my voice to the protest!

Laura Marcus said...

I have left a comment on the Facebook page. What WO don't seem to have considered is that as a reader of fiction, no offence to beginners, but I want to read the work of professional writers. After all, I am paying money for a professionally-produced magazine. Don't I have the right to expect professional work? I will not be buying WO summer special.

Anonymous said...

I've posted a comment on their Facebook page. Their explanation takes the cake - as if their readers have asked to be taken advantage of like this!

Claire

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Between Facebook and here, I think WO must surely be getting the message! It devalues all professional freelance writers, but I'm pretty sure some previously non-writers will have a go and if the winner produces a good story, it might kick-start their career. I won't be buying WO and I imagine they'll lose any writer readers they had.

Helen Yendall said...

Hi - I agree with everything that's been said here. It is a disgrace! I was runner-up in the recent Best short story competition and got nothing for my story (which they printed with my permission) - which 'smarted' to be honest and I wish now I'd held out for some kind of payment but there you go. At least they were offering a prize for the winner (£1000!).
I would just like to comment on the Reader's Digest 100 word competition. Yes, they ask for copyright BUT they are printing some of the entries from last year's competition in the magazine (seems to be one per issue) and paying £75 for them, so that's not bad. I wouldn't mind getting £75 for 100 words!
I will be boycotting the WO magazine competition, of course,(actually, one of my new year's resolutions is NOT to write for free any more - unless it's for a charity or good cause). It will be interesting to see the standard of stories that they print in the Summer Special.

Anonymous said...

I must have misrtead the T&Cs of the Readers Digest comp then. I didn't realise they were paying to print some of last year's entries. I just assumed that as they had the copyright they were just using them. I beg their pardon, if that's the case.

Of course people will enter the WO comp. If I were wanting to make a name I would be tempted just so i cold put something on my publication list. Now I don't need that boost, though.

Carolb said...

WO probably weren't expecting such an adverse response- though they deserve it with this scheme.

They don't even mention what rights are being taken in the entries used, or submitted...

It will be interesting to see if they have a change of mind and offer a prize as damage limitation.

Anonymous said...

If the +535 members and other hundreds of visitors of this blog were to subscribe to 'a womagwriters short story magazine' I'm sure contributors would be able to get paid something for their work. Writing for a commercial magazine for no payment is making someone richer. I think it's high time we, as writers started being more proactive.

Diane Fordham said...

I have read the FB page and had my say. It's not right. I'm hoping WO have a bit of a think about this and make it up to us writers BIG TIME! Thanks for the post :-)

autumnbarlow said...

Wow. I was a runner up in a Woman's Own short story competition many years ago, and not only did I get a cash prize and publication, but the winner and the 3 runners up all went to London to have a meal at the offices (fab views!). This must have been 6 or 8 years ago. I'm flabbergasted they now don't offer anything. At the meal, they told us that they didn't take unsolicited fiction but we were all invited to submit to them. (I never did... sudden crisis of confidence!)

Patricia Maw said...

I totally agree with all the comments. For some writers it is their professional job. I've never submitted to WO because I understood they didn't look at unsolicited stories. What hasn't been mentioned is that WO is part of the IPC Group. Lets hope the others don't go down this road. I sold my first story to Womans' Weekly some year's ago and have sold to other mags as well. I only write for money.

Laura Marcus said...

NEWSFLASH! See WO FB page. They've said they've listened and are now offering £200 to the winner. Okay so could be more but the power of pressure has worked!

Bernadette said...

That is excellent news. At least they listened!

Still says nothing about rights or how many of the other stories may be published (for nothing, presumably?) but definitely a good move by them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bernadette, without the rights issue being clarified it still might be one huge rip-off.

womagwriter said...

Thanks Laura - have posted the good news.

Geraldine Ryan said...

WOMAG POWER!!!!! Fair play to Woman's Own though!

ClareG said...

Well done for bringing this issue out into the open. I have always believed that if your work is good enough to print, it's good enough to be paid for. Stories take a lot of hard work and winners don't deserve to be casually dismissed.

For more on How To Run a Writing Competition and Keep the Competitors Happy, see my website - www.clare@claregirvan.co.uk