Sunday 31 May 2015

Fillers and letters

Even if your aim is to write fiction or 'proper' articles, it's worth taking a look at the opportunities for filler pieces. These include tips, funny true stories, cute pictures of children or animals and opinion pieces or rants. Often there are also opportunities to ask questions of experts or to have you say on previous articles.

Writing these pieces is creative in its own way, is an interesting way of studying the market and is good practice at getting our point across in just a few words (the shorter the better for most of these).

Not all markets pay, or sometimes there's a prize or payment just for the 'star' letter, but the majority of women's magazines pay for all items published. The usual amount is £25, although it varies from £5 to £100. That's not bad for a few sentences, especially as these items can usually be submitted online. Including a photo means your letter is far more likely to be used.

If any magazines you read (womags or otherwise) have opportunities for these, please share the details below.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Pen names

Some magazines, including My Weekly and People's Friend don't like the same author name appearing twice in the same magazine. If more than one of your stories are selected for the same issue you'll be asked to provide a pen name. This happened to me recently and I selected two names I'd used for characters as I'd already checked these weren't the real names of anyone famous.

You might be asked to provide a pen name if your real one is the same as another author's or you usually write in a very different genre to that which the magazine publish. Or perhaps you'll have your own reasons for using one.

Have you ever needed a pen name? How did you choose it, or how will you pick one if you do get asked?

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Guest post from Womagwriter Simon Whaley.

Simon Whaley is my guest today and he's kindly agreed to explain copyright. It is quite a long post, but please do take the time to read it if you're at all unsure about all the different rights. Whether we write as a hobby and only sub occasionally, or try to earn a living from our words, it's VERY important we understand this stuff.

Simon says - The womag market is ever-changing, and one area that continues to change is the contract womag writers are offered. Gone are the days when womags asked for First British Serial Rights.

As soon as we create something our creation is protected by copyright. It’s automatic. We don’t have to register it. (Things are slightly different in the USA, but that’s down to their legal system.) It’s the Berne Convention that explores the principles ofcopyright, which many countries (but not all) have signed up to. 

Owning the copyright in our work enables us to exploit our creation. It gives us the right to grant licences to others to make use of our words, usually (hopefully!) for some money! Once you give (or sign away) your copyright you no longer have the right to give others permission to use your work. The new copyright holder now has that permission. So never sign away your copyright, unless you fully understand the consequences.

Think Three!

As copyright holders, we license our short stories, and this license usually covers three main areas:

1) Media format (print, electronic, etc)
2) Region (Britain, Australia, Worldwide … I’ve even seen ‘The Universe’ used once!)
3) Time period (12 months, 18 months, exclusively)

The traditional First British Serial Rights we used to offer would give a magazine the right to be the first in Britain to print our story in a physical magazine (hence the word ‘serial’). Because we’d given them first British rights, we could also offer first rights in other countries at the same time (Australia, South Africa, etc). Until that magazine published the story in Britain, we couldn’t do anything else with it (in print format) in Britain. Once the magazine had published it in Britain, we could (in theory) offer another British magazine Second British Serial rights.

Publishing is Changing
But the world has changed. People read digital versions of magazines on their tablets and smartphones. Magazine companies HAD to change their contracts just to keep up with technology. They needed to ask for electronic rights, so they could legally use our stories in their digital versions of their publications. Magazine companies have also consolidated, buying other magazine organisations around the world, and their contracts now reflect this. It means we MUST understand what we’re signing up to when we sign a contract, because we’re legally bound by it.

It doesn’t help that some legal departments don’t fully understand their own contracts. Several years ago, I sent one contract to the Society of Authors (members can use their free contract vetting service), where I was told that the contract contradicted itself so many times it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. (And this was from a well-known womag publisher.)

Untangling Clauses
One womag publisher asks for First Use With Extensions. This means they want to be the first to publish your story. (And as no region has been stipulated then they're asking to be the first in the World.) The contract goes on to explain that extensions means in any media format. So they may use their first right in print, or electronically, or in any other format they can think of. Usually, it’ll be print format, but the contract gives them the flexibility to use it digitally, or even on the back of a baked bean tin, if that’s what they wish.

This contract also asks for an 18-month exclusivity arrangement, which means the story can’t appear in any other format, anywhere in the World, for 18 months after the womag has first used it. (Note, that’s not 18 months after they accepted the story from you, but 18 months after they first published it.) Exclusive means just that - no one else can use that story … including you. So if you want to create an anthology of your short stories and sell that on Amazon, you can’t use this story in such an anthology until 18 months after the womag has published it. (At this point, I should clarify that this particular contract does say ‘without prior written agreement from the publisher’ - so, in theory, you may be able to do something before the 18 months is up, but you need the womag publisher’s written permission to do so.)

Consider the Contract As A Whole
Always read a contract in its entirety. For example, one womag publisher asks for First World Rights, which means they want to be the first in the world to print your story. That may seem reasonable. In theory, once they’ve published it in the UK, you can still offer first rights to another publication in another country. However, this particular womag publisher has a clause that says they also have the right to re-use your material (for free) in any other magazine owned by their company, anywhere in the world. At first glance this may not look too troubling. But suppose you sell First Australian Serial Rights in your story to an Australian magazine, giving them the right to be the first magazine in Australia to use your story, and then you discover that the British magazine has just used your story (for free) in one of their own Australian magazines? The magazine you’ve just sold First Australian Rights to, can’t now use those rights, because they’ve already been used!

Of course, if the British company doesn’t own any Australian magazines then you know you can safely sell First Australian Rights directly to an Australian magazine. But once you’ve sold a story, you have to be careful about where else you offer it to, to ensure you don’t break any clauses in the contracts you have already signed up to.

Moral Rights
You may see moral rights being referred to in a contract. Moral rights are those which give us the right to be recognised as the creator of the story. This is sometimes called the right of paternity, and means we should be credited as the writer, because this work is our own creation. Some contracts ask for the moral rights to be waived or removed. The reason for this is because editors sometimes rewrite stories. They may change the ending, or change characters names (because they have too many Janes or Traceys in this issue). Waiving, or removing, moral rights gives editors the flexibility to do this.

To Sum Up
This subject matter is too complex for a blog posting, and please remember, that I’m no legal expert either. But the golden rule should always be:


And if you don’t understand something, then ask. No one will think any worse of you. In fact, and editor may respect you more for asking. It proves you’ve read the contract!

The Society of Authors provides a useful free guide to copyright andmoral rights (anyone can download a copy, it’s not just for members).
(PS, you don’t need to be a published author to join the Society. If you have had a ‘body of work’ published - such as articles, or short stories - then you may be eligible to join.

The National Union of Journalists also offer some basic advice about copyright.

The UK Government has some useful background information on copyright here

About Simon Whaley

Simon Whaley’s short stories have appeared in The People’s Friend, Take a Break, Fiction Feast, The Weekly News, Ireland’s Own and Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special. He’s published an anthology of short stories: Ten Teatime Tales.

More information about Simon can be found on his website.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Guest post by womagwriter Carol Bevitt

Today's guest is Carol Bevitt. She tells me she's taken some time to discover her writing skills, but is now happily working on a couple of novellas for publication, before moving on to a full length novel. Carol is a firm supporter of writers' receiving fair payment for their work and knows joining ALCS helps towards that.

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society is a not-for-profit membership organisation, run by writers, for writers.’

Membership of The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a pain-free method of boosting your writing income, by benefitting from payment of ‘secondary royalties’.

You’ll find a step by step process to follow on the website to join, and while you need to send the application by post, that’s it. A membership pack arrives through your letterbox and from then on you can manage everything online by logging into the members section. You can currently add details of your work published in the UK going back to January 2012. (There are a few exceptions of course, but you’ll find details of what doesn’t qualify on the website.)

There is a cost, a one-off £36 fee - which will be taken out of your first payment. But if you are a member of any of their listed writers’ organisations then the joining fee doesn’t apply, so make sure you mention it on your application.

You’ll receive the monthly e-newsletter ALCS News that has helpful and interesting articles, and news of important issues to all writers from the ALCS’s lobbying and support of writers’ interests.
The ACLS website has plenty of links for further information, and if you’re uncertain of anything you can ring them, they are very helpful.

My tip for making the process as easy as it can be: don’t rush completing your application form, and if at all possible do it on a week day, so you can ring for clarification if you have a query.

ALCS membership is worth the time.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Interview with Womagwriter Geraldine Ryan

Today's guest is Geraldine Ryan.

1. When did you start writing, Geraldine - and why did you choose womag stories?

Too many years ago to remember, Patsy! When I first started writing for publication the market was a lot bigger than it is now so it seemed the obvious market to aim for, particularly as I’ve never seen myself as a literary writer. In parallel to writing womag stories I was also completing a novel and trying to get an agent.

2. Is there a particular genre within the womag market which you particularly enjoy writing?

I think all my stories are about relationships really. Even the crime serials. I’m not that keen on romance unless I can find some humour in the situation and I prefer to write urban settings than stories set in the countryside.

3. Are you a disciplined writer producing a steady stream of stories, or do you wait until you're in the mood?

A bit of both really. I’m usually working on something. At the moment I’m working on a serial, I have the idea for a story in my head and I’m honing a TV script. A writer is a writer even when they’re not writing. This last week I’ve been kept awake by various ideas, as you can see by my photo. It’s not a job that keeps office hours.

4. You've written serials for Woman's Weekly, could you tell us how you go about that?

Oh, gosh! How long have you got? Writing serials is hard. The majority of my serials have the solving of a crime as the plot. But my characters and their relationships will still be my priority – see above. I have a tendency to start writing before I’m ready because I get impatient and I’m a pantser rather than a planner. It is not unusual for me to have to rewrite an episode up to three times before I get it right. Basically writing serials is just a question of putting your nose to the grindstone. It doesn’t get any easier – for me at least!

5. How much impact does the editor have on the direction the serials take?

Pace, I think, is the most difficult thing to get right when you’re writing a serial. If you’re right in the middle of the story sometimes you can’t see that the pace is wrong. It takes a good editor to have the overview and to be able to see that. Also, the editor knows what her readers like and what they don’t like too so you’d be minded to listen to her and not think you know best. You do need a fair amount of self-discipline when it comes to writing a serial because it’s easy to lose your way and go off at a tangent – allowing too much ‘air time’ for a minor character or a scene which might showcase your finest writing but ultimately does not further the plot. A good editor will bring you back to heel. I ought to be put in the dock for the number of darlings I’ve murdered over the years. It’s always my best prose that gets decimated.

6. How does writing serials differ from shorter stories?

Obviously you need more plot in a serial – often a sub-plot as well as the main plot. A serial needs more characters and those main characters in particular have to be fully rounded. You need to work more on your setting too. What they have in common is the need for pace, a satisfying shape and the right ending.

7. The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?

I’m not a snacker, actually. Three meals a day woman me.

8. I've heard that some writers use real people and situations in stories to work off frustrations or put something right. Do you ever do that?

Yes, all the time. I wrote a story about being bullied at school once, getting my own back on the two girls who did it. Plenty of my own personal dilemmas and problems appear in my stories but I couldn’t possibly say more than that publicly.

9. What has been your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?

It will always be getting that first story accepted. And only last week an editor told me that a story I’d written had made her cry and the editor of the magazine to jump for joy. Now I call that something to be proud of.

10. Can you pass on a tip for other womag writers?

You hear it said that there’s a formula for writing women’s magazine stories. Well, if there is one I wish someone would tell me!
I think you have to write the story you want to write.
Don’t shy away from challenging themes but bear in mind if your story is going to address a difficult subject there has to be something redemptive in it. If you want write misery lit then you’re aiming at the wrong market.

Stories sneak up and you when you least expect them. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. That way you’ll never run out of stories.  

Sunday 10 May 2015

The Weekly News

Thanks to Paul A Freeman for sending me the latest guidelines for The Weekly News.

The Weekly News has a largely older readership which is evenly split between the sexes, so we are looking for general interest tales — crime, humour (especially), spooky stories (although we’ve had plenty of these recently), or “coffee break” dramas which wouldn’t be out of place in any popular TV soap. 
At the moment, I’m also interested in stories with a bit more “edge” that are slightly darker.
Although an old-fashioned love story may occasionally be appropriate, I’m not looking for “slushy” romantic fiction, or anything “twee”. And although it’s a popular style, I don’t generally take “chick-lit”.
Similarly, I don’t want anything too racy or gory. As The Weekly News is a family paper, I wouldn’t use anything with any sexual content.
Many stories we publish have an interesting twist to surprise the reader, as these seem to be popular. But if your twist is “it was all a dream” or “he/she/it was a ghost”, or the main character is actually a pet, it won’t get through!
·        Aim for something light-hearted, perhaps centred around family life or a recognisable situation.
·        If your main character is strong enough, you can have them carry the whole story.
·        A positive outcome is favoured, but this can be reached by a good bit of double-crossing, or the comeuppance of the “baddie”.
·        Be playful – have some fun with your characters at their expense ie in embarrassing social situations.
·        I also like sensitive stories which may involve a death, an illness a fear etc. If the situation doesn’t come across as too dark and depressing and has an uplifting end, then it may make it through.
Stories can vary in length from about 1,000 to 1,200 words at most, though we reserve the right to edit them as appropriate.
Also, I rarely accept stories written in the first person or present tense.
Please note that, at present, I use two fiction items at each week and, even if an item is accepted, it could be some time before it is published.
I always have plenty of stories to read through, so it could be a couple of months at least before I can respond to submissions. 
Due to time constraints, as of April 2014, I’m now only able to able reply to stories which are accepted.
If you haven’t heard from me within three months of submission, it means you have been unsuccessful on this occasion and you’re free to submit the story elsewhere.
Here are some DOs:
·        Use strong, identifiable characters – but remember they don’t always have to be likeable.
·        Use natural-sounding speech. I tend to avoid dialect, as we like to be a bit “geographically vague” to add to the universality of the stories.
·        Check your historical facts fit your time-frame and characters.
·        Be thought-provoking if you want – be topical.
·        Read and check your punctuation and paragraphing. The easier your work is on the eye, the easier it is to make an informed decision.
·        Work within reality – this is fiction, but it does have to be believable.
·        Do include your email address, postal address and phone number on your story.
·        Full stories, please. I can’t get enough detail or “feel” for a piece from a pitch or synopsis.
And some specific DON’Ts:
·        No murdered spouses, dreams, ghosts or pet twists.
·        No first person or present-tense stories.
·        No relationship-centred stories.
·        No hard copy.
E-mail is now our only method of delivery. 

Friday 8 May 2015


Woman's Weekly have requested those those who submit by email include the story title in the subject line. Smugness alert - I was already doing that! I think it's a good idea to do this with all publications (unless they say differently) They must get an awful lot of emails with subjects such as 'story submission' making it more time consuming to find the one they want. The Australian magazine That's Life like the title, theme and word count in the subject line.

The Weekly New prefer two word titles. I don't imagine providing one will make a massive difference to our chances of success, but if we can think one up it will save the overworked fiction editor a job if we do get lucky.

The picture shows the castle where Charles was given the title Prince of Wales. Anyway, moving swiftly on ... how important do you think the story title is?

Monday 4 May 2015

Guest post by Womagwriter Emma Canning

My guest today is Emma Canning. She writes short stories and poems for womags. She's sold over 30 children's stories in rhyme and almost 100 poems to The People's Friend and has a few tips to share.
Poetry in The People's Friend.
If you’d like to see your poetry published, The People’s Friend is a really good market to try.  They use lots of it: there’s often a poem in the weekly magazine and around four in each of the Specials.  A further dozen or so go into their annual each year.  
Not all accepted poems will necessarily be published in The People’s Friend – some might end up in The Fireside Book (which contains around 60 poems alongside beautiful paintings and little inspirational thoughts) or in The Friendship Book – both are DC Thomson annuals.  
If you write for, or read, The Friend, you’ll already be familiar with the type of themes they’ll consider.  They accept poetry on a wide range of subjects but – as with their fiction – it must be uplifting.  Their poetry guidelines can be found here.
They welcome humour as well as the more thoughtful type of poem. I’ve written verses about technology, fitness, travel, flowers, pets, cakes, knitting, friendship, memories and crafts, as well as about the little quirks of life. I’ve also used emotional themes, such as the joy of a new grandchild or a long, happy marriage. Some poems feel like miniature stories!
Friend readers have a wide range of interests, and I often get ideas for poems from the magazine’s articles or adverts. Seasonal verses also go down well and The Friend will accept these at any time of year, so don’t worry about sending in a spring poem if spring has just passed – if they like it, they’ll hang on to it for next year. 
Unlike the fiction process, The People’s Friend pay for poems when they’re about to publish them rather than on acceptance – the number of poems they use in the magazines depends on space available, so these slots can’t be planned months in advance.  This means you might wait a long time to be paid and to see your poem in print, or it might appear within weeks (it’s a nice surprise when that happens!)
As the guidelines state, they don’t usually have room for more than 30 lines of text, and the poems they publish are often much shorter than this (mine are generally between 80 and 200 words).  They tend to use mainly rhyming verse (and if you’re stuck for a rhyme, this site is brilliant.
Of course, it’s always best to study the market to check the kind of verses they currently feature, but to get you started, here are a couple of mine that The Friend have published previously. Hope you enjoy them!

Some people are like larks, and wake up early,
Before the cockerel’s even finished crowing – 
They leap out of their beds, invigorated,
All bright-eyed and quite eager to get going!

But other folk prefer the evening hours – 
These ‘owls’ are more productive late at night.
They need to set a very loud alarm clock,
And wouldn’t dream of rising till it’s light!

Of course, we all adapt to life’s requirements:
Our waking time depends on our routine. 
And every person’s body clock is different –
We’re ‘larks’ or ‘owls’ or something in between!

I’m wondering which group I now fall into –
A lark?  An owl?  I simply cannot choose.
I realize as I doze off by the fireside…
These days, my body clock is set to ‘snooze’!


Honeysuckle, cornflowers,
And sweet forget-me-not;
Delicate wild strawberry
In a quiet, shady spot.
Lawns of grass and clover
From which little cowslips peep,
And buttercups and daisies form 
A carpet, soft and deep.
Lady’s smock and foxgloves,
Stately lupins, grand and tall;
Poppies and red campion – 
I love to see them all.
Ragged robin, chicory,
Toadflax and celandine…
Their seeds borne over gardens
Till they settled here, in mine.
Uncultivated; beautiful –
My wildflower display…
I didn’t choose or plant them,
But they grew and they can stay.