Monday, 15 October 2018

Over to You

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

What made you want to write fiction?

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Mulling things over

Sorry the blog has been rather quiet lately – I've spent two months travelling around Scotland and had very limited internet, so haven't kept up very well with what's going on.

I haven't done a great deal of writing either, but I'm thinking of setting a story on the Island of Mull (where these pictures were taken) so I can pretend the whole thing was research.

I've had emails, including some acceptances from Allas, My weekly, Fiction Feast and The Weekly News.

There was also news of a competition win and the request that editors keep hold of stories for possible inclusion in You (South Africa), The People's Friend and the My Weekly annual ... for 2021!

The trip has given me time to think about what I want from my writing. The rights issue with Woman's Weekly really dampened my enthusiasm for womag stories for a while.

Then one rainy day during the trip I was idly flicking through magazines in a shop and found one of my stories.

I realised I can't give up the way it feels to see my name in print and to know people are reading and enjoying stories I've written.

What's been happening with you whilst I've been away? Have you been writing? Do you have any sales or other news to report?

Monday, 17 September 2018

Over to You

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

Do you tell people you're a writer?

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Time's running out...

It's almost your last chance to get Perfect Timing for 99p / 99c. Tomorrow it'll be going up to £1.99 / $2.99.

Perfect Timing

Whether we have long hours to fill, or not a moment to spare, time plays an important part in all our lives. We might not watch the clock, but we can't escape the impact of the seconds ticking away. Time waits for no woman, neither will it accelerate at her command. It's no more considerate of men, children and teddy bears.

Being a little early, or late, can have a big impact; it could mean missing a train, inheritance, or much needed meal. Or help us catch a crook, rescue a neighbour, show us what's really important. Maybe it's not our own timekeeping we have to worry about, but that of loved ones, colleagues or adversaries.

You can read each of the stories in this book in just a few minutes, or enjoy all 25 at once over several hours.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Time for a bargain.

My latest short story collection, Perfect Timing is for sale at the introductory offer price of 99p / 99c for the next few days.

Perfect Timing

Whether we have long hours to fill, or not a moment to spare, time plays an important part in all our lives. We might not watch the clock, but we can't escape the impact of the seconds ticking away. Time waits for no woman, neither will it accelerate at her command. It's no more considerate of men, children and teddy bears.

Being a little early, or late, can have a big impact; it could mean missing a train, inheritance, or much needed meal. Or help us catch a crook, rescue a neighbour, show us what's really important. Maybe it's not our own timekeeping we have to worry about, but that of loved ones, colleagues or adversaries.

You can read each of the stories in this book in just a few minutes, or enjoy all 25 at once over several hours.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

In case you missed it ...

This comment was left on one of my earlier posts –

"Hi all (@cella @geraldine in particular),

Im writing from workers' rights campaigning group Organise (, we help people get better rights from their employers. I saw the article about WW in the Guardian and wanted to get in touch to see if we can be of any help (we're free of charge by the way!). We have worked with everyone from academics to Amazon warehouse workers to help them get better rights at work. 

I would love to speak to someone, particularly Tara if anyone has her details, about how we can help. Please do contact me on "

It was an anonymous reply and I don't know anything about this organisation, but some of you may wish to make contact. The guardian article mentioned, is probably this one.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Over to You

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

What's the worst piece of writing advice you've ever come across?

Monday, 13 August 2018

That's Life and Fast Fiction (Australia) submission guidelines

That's Life! is a weekly Australian magazine published by Pacific Mags. That's Life Fast Fiction is the quarterly fiction special. (There's a UK magazine called That's Life, published by Bauer, but sadly they discontinued their excellent fiction page several years ago.)

The fiction editor is Jude Durant. All submissions should be sent to her by email Fastfiction (at) pacificmags (dot)

Stories must not have been previously published anywhere.

One page stories, of no more than 600 words are wanted for the weekly magazine. A few of this length are also used in the quarterly magazine, along with some of around 1,600 words, but most will be in the 900 to 1,100 range.

Jude tells me that dialogue driven stories are preferred. They should appeal to women over 35.

A wide range of genres are considered including thrillers, revenge, sixth sense or spooky stories, romance and feelgood stories. Quirky or amusing 'light bite' stories are welcome, as are heartwarmers and those including animals or children.

Previous guidelines requested that the title, genre and word count be included in the email header and I still do this in case it's useful.

See this post for what happens after your story is submitted.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Guest post by womagwriter rights champion Carol Bevitt

My guest today is writing friend and #writingchat co host, Carol Bevitt. She's written an article for Writing Magazine on the Woman's Weekly all rights issue, and I invited her here to explain why.

I was as shocked as other writers when the news began to spread of Woman’s Weekly‘s new ‘all rights’ contract for fiction accepted for publication. The ongoing lack of communication with their regular writers created confusion, anger and obviously worry about the future of existing work in the system.

Although I wasn’t personally affected by the proposed changes, I’d hoped to submit to WW sometime in the future; as many writers have mentioned, WW is a benchmark for quality fiction, so a target publication.

When a writer friend (on Twitter) suggested I approach Writing Magazine editor Jonathan Telfer and tell him what was happening and ask if he could help in any way. He considered the all rights contract an important issue for the magazine to cover. My ‘Womag Rights’ article published in the September issue and in newsagents from today (2nd August) is the result.

I only had ten days and the article would not have been possible without the support and quotes from a number of womag writers. I wanted their voices to tell readers how and why this copyright change is disturbing. But equally WW’s owners needed to have an opportunity to give their viewpoint.

Being able to step back and look at – excuse the cliché – the bigger picture I was able to make the best use of my research, quotes and the possibilities if the new contract goes ahead. But most of all, I hope, that this tells the reader all they need to know about womag writers and the demands of their job.

Treat writers fairly and the womags they write for will benefit with quality fiction, while the readers will continue to buy the magazine. Result, everyone wins.

Now we just need owners TI Media to realise that...

Thank you, carol. Obviously I hope it will add to the growing pressure on the owners of Woman's Weekly to rethink this, but even if it doesn't, it will help make more writers aware of the implications of giving up all rights, and therefore be better able to decide if they're willing to do that. 

(For a little more on the WW issue, see Simon Whaley's latest blog post.)

Update – WW's owners have announced on twitter that they're excited about their rebranding. Some fiction writers are responding ...

Monday, 30 July 2018

Womag – a genre?

"How would you define womag fiction?" is a question I was asked recently.

The simple, although perhaps not very helpful, answer is, "It's any fiction which is published in a magazine aimed at women."

They do have other things in common. Usually they'll be an easy read – no overly complicated sentences or words requiring use of the dictionary and Google searches in order to follow the plot. There are exceptions, but generally they won't be shocking, or seriously disturbing – though they might surprise you and make a reader think. They'll be intended to appeal to women – but not just women. Many womags have male readers and are a keen to encourage more. Usually the stories have a happy ending, and generally the main character will have brought this about themselves, rather than relying on a handsome man to save her (often, but not always, the main character is a woman.)

Perhaps it's easier to say what they're not? They aren't all the same. They're not all written to a standard formula. They don't comprise just one genre or style. You're as likely to read a tearjerker as something which makes you laugh, a modern ghost story might well be in the same issue as a historical romance.

The lengths are different – anything from around 500 words to 25,000 for some serials. Then there are pocket novels, at twice that length, which are still often considered womag, despite not actually being printed within the pages of a magazine. Word length is the easiest thing to know you've got right. Simply get your computer to count the words in your document and compare it to the guidelines (found in the quick links in the right hand column of this blog.) A few words out will usually be fine, but the closer you can get your story to the required length, the easier it will be for the editor to fit it on the page(s).

Sometimes editors will also give guidance on the type of stories they'd like and subjects they do, or don't, want covered. Again the guidelines might help. Sometimes editors send newsletters, or write blog posts (Shirley Blair of The People's Friend has her own blog) with this information, or you may get clues from editorials or even rejections.

Reading the fiction in a particular magazine is, I think, the best way to get a feel for the genres and subjects they're likely to publish. If you can, do read several issues – and make sure they're current ones, not those your great-granny bought when she was courting!

Reading the magazines also helps with what I think is the hardest aspect to get right – the tone. With some the stories will all be warm, maybe even quite gentle. Others will feature some with a bit of edge or darkness to them. Some editors prefer traditional stories, with a single POV and linear layout. Others like twist endings, or something a little more experimental, even quirky.

Relationships are always a popular topic for womag stories. These can be romances, friendships or  stories about families. Keep It In The Family is my latest collection of 25 short stories, all in this latter category.  Most of them have previously been published in womags.

Do you agree with my description of womag fiction? Do you have anything to add? Can you think of any genre or category of story which couldn't be adapted to suit a womag?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

That's Life and Fast Fiction (Australia) submissions process.

That's Life in Australia is a weekly magazine. It seems similar in style to the UK magazine of the same name, except that it carries fiction as well as the 'real life' and lifestyle articles, puzzles and recipes. There's also a quarterly fiction special, called Fast fiction.

Anyone may submit previously unpublished fiction, via email. This will be automatically acknowledged (wouldn't it be lovely if all those magazines which aren't able to send individual acknowledgements were to do this?)

No rejections are sent. They say if you've not heard back in six months it's 'unlikely' your story has been selected for publication. Personally I'd wait a little longer before submitting elsewhere as I have had acceptances up to eight months after submission. 

If a story isn't accepted you may resubmit it as 'A story that's unsuitable, in length or theme, for one issue, may be perfect for another'. I'd be interested to know if anyone has been successful with a resubmission to them. (This policy is unusual – generally if a story is rejected the editor won't want to see it again unless they've actually asked for a rewrite, or for you to submit it again at a later date.)

If a story is accepted, you'll be emailed, may be asked to confirm that it hasn't been published before, and if it's your first with them, asked to sign the contract and complete a form with payment details. You'll be told which issue it has been accepted for and the amount due 9in Australian dollars). You'll also be invited to submit an invoice. You can do that straight away, but payment won't be made until around publication date.

Unfortunately, unless you live in Australia or have a friend who does, it's very difficult to see your stories as the magazines aren't on sale elsewhere, even by subscription. 

I have one in the next spring issue – which will of course be out this autumn!

Monday, 23 July 2018

Submission's process

As several people have said they found it useful, I'll be posting details about my experience of submitting to each of the magazines and adding that as a new label and as a category in the 'quick links' so it's easy to find.

I've already done this for In The Moment and The Weekly News and to some extent with The People's Friend. I'll be adding to these and updating them as things change.

I won't be doing them for any magazines which take all rights, currently that's Yours, Your Cat and Woman's Weekly, as I won't personally submit under those terms and don't recommend anyone else to either. (I'm hoping there will be something to report re WW soon, but don't have any definite information yet.)

Of course it's absolutely your choice where you submit and which terms you accept, but please ALWAYS read contracts carefully and be very sure you understand what the terms mean and that you're willing to accept them BEFORE signing.

I've included a cooling picture of a beach, as I think that's likely to be useful for a lot of you at the moment, and I do try to be useful!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Reassurance from The People's Friend

If you're concerned about other magazines attempting to bring in all rights contracts, and haven't yet read Shirley Blair's blog, do have a read.

As she says, their contracts allow them to use our stories in multiple ways, yet still leave us with some rights, including being able to say they are our stories. As DCT also own My Weekly and The weekly News, and use the same contracts, I think we should be safe with them too.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Over to You

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

Is there a particular womagwriting goal you're working towards?

Friday, 13 July 2018

My own clarification!

(Yes, I'm STILL banging on about Woman's Weekly!)

Just in case there is still any doubt – My feelings about the all rights contract have not changed. It's unfair, unnecessary and unacceptable. I won't sign it. If you wish to, that's your choice, but I haven't 'caved in'. I'd be delighted to submit work to WW in the future, but won't do so if the only option is to give up all rights.

I agree that, even ignoring the terrible terms, the entire matter has been handled very badly. All writers should have been fully and clearly informed at the same time, rather than information reaching many via groups, social media and this blog. It seems entirely possible there are some who still don't know.

I did ask for permission to report the fact that previously accepted stories would be published under the old terms, on this blog, but recieved no response. I did so anyway because as well as being informed personally, I heard from others who'd had similar emails, and saw it on social media, so felt it was in the public domain – despite the fact that some writers have still not yet recieved any 'clarification' directly from anyone at WW.

I'm doing my very best to keep everyone informed. Thank you to those who're passing on information, offering support and/or joining me in taking a stand on this issue. To those who've insulted my by assuming I've abandoned my principles (and bravely done so anonymously) ... I hope your comma key gets sticky and you have to press it really hard for it to work – maybe that'll vent some of your anger.

If anyone is at all unsure about the terms any of their stories have already been accepted under, or will be in future, or if they have any queries or comments regarding this issue, please do email Emma or Jane at Woman's Weekly.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

(A little bit of) good news from Woman's Weekly.

Several writers (myself included) have been told by Woman's Weekly that the 'old' contract terms, of first use plus extensions, will still apply to any stories which were accepted prior to the announcement that they now intend to take all rights.

This in no way changes my feelings or position regarding the all rights issue, but I'm extremely glad I'd misunderstood the situation slightly in thinking that these new terms were to apply to stories which had been accepted half a year ago.

They still state that any stories accepted from now on will be under the new terms – and that seems to be the case no matter when they were accepted. We will of course have the right to decline any such offer, should we wish.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A good moment

A while ago I posted the guidelines to a new (to me) magazine. Of course I've sent them a couple of submissions since then. Although it's taken some time to get an acceptance, I'm delighted that my story Absolutely Nothing will be in issue 15 of In The Moment, which will be out on 24th July.

The process with this publication is that stories are acknowledged by email within a few days. The acknowledgement contains the warning that they receive a large number of submissions and the promise that someone will be in touch if the story is suitable. I've not had a rejection, so assume they don't send these.

When my story was accepted, around three months after submission, I was given details on invoicing (it's done after publication), asked to sign a contract for single use rights and invited to ask if I had any questions. There was one line in the contract I didn't fully understand, so I took them up on that and received a quick and clear response.

I was also asked by the production editor for my photo and a short bio. Once it was all put together I received a pdf proof and was invited to say if I felt any amendments were needed. The story had been edited; it's always interesting to see what has been changed and to attempt to work out why. In this case I think it was made slightly more gentle and a little shorter.

I made a couple of small suggestions, including using a capital N in the title. That wasn't done, because it's the house style not to, but the other change was made and I was sent a new pdf to confirm that. The images in this post were taken, with permission, from that pdf.

The story will be published in a pull out section, along with a drink recipe and a crossword, which I think is rather nice.

Do you find it helpful/interesting for me to post about my experiences with different magazines? If not, I'll spare you all the gory details in future.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Pocket novel guidelines

Pocket novels might not pay well, but friends who write them tell me they're fun to do and the editors of both publications are helpful and supportive.

You'd also get to see a book with your (writing) name on the cover in major retailers throughout the country.

As all rights are not taken on these, authors can claim ALCS with no special permission required! (I believe that generally amounts to more than the initial fee).

Several pocket novelists also later either self publish their pocket novels, and/or sell the large print rights. As well as the sales income, this also gives the potential to earn plr.

I'm not saying this justifies the initial low fee, but it's something to consider before dismissing the idea of writing a pocket novel as not worthwhile.

Although My Weekly currently only accept short stories from writers who're already known to them, anyone may submit a pocket novel.

If you have one of these accepted, they'll then know you and you'll be able to send short stories too, if you wish.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Bit of an update on the Woman's Weekly issue.

(If you're wondering what issue, please see the last three blog posts and comments. Make yourself a cup of tea first.)

The 'all rights' smallprint includes giving up our moral rights. Well of course it does, as all rights means absolutely ALL rights. That means they don't have to put our name in the byline. They probably would, but they'd be under no obligation to do so – in the magazine or anywhere else. In the admittedly unlikely scenario of it being made into a film, there would be no need for them to credit the author in any way.

Mark Winterton (Manging director at WW) has said that they will give permission for authors to claim ALCS – info courtesy of Jo Styles in the comments on the last post. She also provides contact details of members of the the TI management team, for those who wish to raise any concerns or queries.

I've heard from ALCS who are looking into whether this is indeed possible. If it is, this isn't giving us any rights back. It would just allow us to claim the money – and the permission could be withdrawn at any time. I'm not saying it would be, but it could. I imagine that when offers were made for our stories six months ago, that was done in good faith – but clearly changes have happened since and the terms we thought we'd submitted and been accepted under, no longer apply.

The Society of Authors are investigating the rights issue. I and other WW authors have forwarded as much information as we can.

If you accept the new terms, you will have given up your rights and won't be able to reverse that decision. If you wait then you could still agree to them later – but it's just possible they'll have a rethink and you won't have to.

Thanks to Carol Bevitt for copying this message from The Society of Authors ...

We’re already in touch with several authors who‘ve spoken out on this - keen to hear from others who are prepared to be named in any lobbying we do, particularly SoA members who have been published by the magazine - please drop a note to

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Bad news from Woman's Weekly – guest post by Tara Westgate

In response to my blog post earlier today, Tara Westgate made a comment about her experience with Woman’s Weekly, and offered to expand on that.

By Tara – I have been writing for womags for eleven years, but a sale to Woman’s Weekly is something that has always eluded me. For all that time, it’s been an ambition of mine to sell them a story. I wanted to appear in Woman’s Weekly because it’s a famous and long-established national magazine, with a reputation for publishing excellent fiction.

Yesterday, I thought I had achieved my ambition. I received an acceptance for a 2,000-word story. The offer made to me, though, was extremely disappointing - so disappointing that I turned it down.

Until recently, the rate of pay for a story of 2,000 words from an author new to Woman’s Weekly was £150. In the past, this rate could rise with further acceptances. The offer I received for my story was £100. There was no explanation for the sudden pay-cut.

Worse than this was the fact that they wanted to buy all rights to the story, which of course would make it impossible to sell elsewhere, and would mean that the story was not eligible for ALCS payments.

I said that I was not prepared to sell all rights for that amount of money, and asked if we could negotiate a better offer. The answer was No.

I also asked about the current pay scale. I wanted to know if it was still possible to work up to a better rate of pay with further acceptances. I would have been prepared to start writing for Woman’s Weekly at a rate of £100 for a first story, if I had known that it was possible to achieve a better rate of pay eventually. I was most disappointed not to receive an answer to this question. It was simply ignored. (I have absolutely no hard feelings towards the individual editor concerned, as I am quite sure that her hands are firmly tied, and that she is doing her job as she has been instructed to do it.)

This failure to answer my questions, especially the pay-scale question, shows that Woman’s Weekly is not prepared to put any effort whatsoever into the relationship with a potential new writer. If a writer is good enough to be published in the magazine, then surely that writer is worthy of being properly engaged with when he or she asks an important question? The answer to the pay-scale question was important enough to determine whether or not I became a Woman’s Weekly writer. They didn’t answer me, so they lost me.

I believe that they refuse to engage because they think there will always be another writer along who will accept the lower pay and total loss of rights. I would like us to prove them wrong. We need to stand up for ourselves, because if we don’t, writing for magazines will eventually become not economically worthwhile.

Please, don’t accept Woman’s Weekly’s new terms. Refuse to sell them stories for this massively reduced fee, and refuse to give up your rights.

By Patsy – I've been informed that they wish to take all rights for my stories too. I refuse to accept this. Like Tara I urge you to do the same. Taking all rights is unnecessary, unfair and unacceptable. Will you join us and say no?

To see the subsequent posts on this topic, click on 'Woman's Weekly' below this post, or in the 'magazine quick links' in the right hand column (that's also where you'll find the guidelines and other details for all the womags which accept fiction).

Please, please, please!

I know it can seem boring, and I know I go on about it, but PLEASE ensure you fully understand and agree with any contract BEFORE you sign it. If there's anything you don't understand, ask for an explanation. No reputable business will want you to sign a contract you don't understand.

If there's anything you don't like, you can ask for it to be amended. In the case of a contract with the publishers of a womag, the chances of this being agreed to are slim, but you can ask – and if you don't get the response you want you can, and in my opinion should, refuse to sign.

Just a reminder 'All rights' doesn't just mean the magazine can use the story online or in another publication, as well as where it was submitted. Giving up all rights means exactly that. You can't submit the story elsewhere, enter it in a competition, offer it for a charity anthology, publish it eleswhere, not on your blog, or claim ALCS – because those things can only done by the copyright holder. If you've sold all rights, that isn't you. It's no longer your story.

Womags don't need to take all rights. They can offer contracts which give them the right to use the story when and where they wish, yet allowing the author to also re-use their story once it has been published and any exclusivity period has passed. This is what most of them currently do, at least for most of their authors. I've heard of new (to them) authors being offered only all rights contracts. You can imagine what might happen if some of those are signed.

UPDATE – I've had a response from ACLS. "If you don’t hold copyright, you need to have an agreement in place with your publisher in order to claim. ALCS does not pay out to publishers (they claim through ) so if they hold the rights, they can’t claim for the article through us."

They provide more information on copyright here.

Friday, 22 June 2018

When is a commission not a commission? by Simon Whaley

Today's guest is a womagwriter. He also writes books and articles on a range of subjects including writing, climbs hill (but not trees), takes photos, runs workshops... I'm exhausted just thinking about it all, so I'll swiftly hand over to Simon Whaley.

Commissioning Conundrum

When is a commission not a commission? Well, it all depends upon when in the writing process you make the sale.
Patsy asked me if I’d like to write a guest post about the latest confusion concerning some of the fiction markets using the word commission when accepting (or rejecting) a story.
Firstly, here’s the get-out clause: I’m not a solicitor, therefore this isn’t legal advice, your home is at risk and the share price can go up and down, etc, etc.
But here’s how I see the issue…
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word commission as:
  1. “an instruction, command, or role given to a person or group”
  2. “an order for something, especially a work of art, to be produced specially”
  3. “order or authorize the production of (something)”
Note how they all (in particular definitions 2 and 3) suggest that a commission instructs someone to produce a body of work that does not yet exist.
I never write an article and then send it unsolicited (which means the editor hasn’t asked to see it) to magazines. So I don’t come up with an idea, write up the complete article and then send it off to a magazine hoping the editor likes it and will buy it.
Instead, I think of the idea, pitch it to the editor and then ask if they’d like an article exploring that topic. Sometimes they say yes. When they do, that’s when they commission me to write the finished piece.
The commission becomes the contract. I’m tasked with writing an article on a specific subject, looking at a specific angle, to a specific number of words, with photos (sometimes detailing the sort of photos required) and whether any boxouts are needed. This is also the time when money and a payment schedule is mentioned.
So, technically, at the time of commission, the article does not yet exist, because I haven’t written it. But the commission means the editor wants me to do the work and they will pay me for it … as long as I deliver what they’ve asked me to deliver.
This works well because I know I’m not wasting my time writing something that may not sell, and the editor knows they’re getting what they asked for.
So in this scenario, I’ve sold my piece of writing, before I’ve written a single word of the finished piece. In many cases, I receive a contract that I have to sign and return, accepting the commission. That contract then becomes binding.
However, when it comes to fiction and short stories, rarely do editors commission work: ie commit to buy a story before it has been written. (Okay, if you’re a famous author and you’ve a new book coming out, you may be commissioned to write a short story for a magazine issue that coincides with your book’s publication date. But if that’s the case your literary agent is probably dealing with all of contract work for you.)
In other words, fiction has to be written first and then submitted on spec (unsolicited). You write the story and then submit it to the market you think it best fits. The sale is made AFTER the editor has read your finished piece and has decided that they’d like to buy it.
Editors rarely email short story writers and say, “Can you write me a 2,000 word story with a female protagonist called Helen struggling to come to terms with the death of her pet canary, Eustace, and let’s give it was a happy ending involving a taxidermist called Nigel? … more’s the pity.
Therefore, with fiction, the sale (hopefully!) comes after the writer has done all of the work.
In my opinion, if you submit a story to a magazine and they accept it for possible publication, the use of the word commission is incorrect. The story wasn’t commissioned, it has been accepted for possible publication.
When an article is commissioned, it is usual for the writer still to be paid (some, if not all, of the agreed payment) even if the publication decides not to print the piece. This recognises that the writer was tasked to do the job and was unable to work for anyone else (and earn money) while working on that specific commission.
But when a publication accepts an unsolicited submission for publication, it is not under any obligation to actually publish it.
And therefore, if there’s no commitment to publish, there’s no commitment to pay until it has been published either. (Even if they mention money, all they’re doing is telling you how much they pay if they publish it. They’re not committing to publishing it. In theory, you could withdraw your submission at that point, arguing that the story is worth more and wish to try another market … but, hey, that’s not how it works in Womagland, is it?)
This is why, after the story’s acceptance, an editor can ask the writer to make changes, or even change their mind and later reject the piece. There’s no contract in place for that specific piece of work. (You may have signed a contract in the past that clarifies which rights the publication is buying when they actually buy a story from you, but that doesn’t commit them to buying anything from you in the future.)
Writing on spec like this is risky. Nothing is guaranteed until the money is in your bank account. There is nothing stopping an editor accepting and holding on to a story for several years. At best, there’s still hope that the piece may be published by them, at worst, they’re stopping you from sending that story elsewhere. At least some customers, such as DC Thomson, pay on (or close to) acceptance. So even if they do buy a piece well in advance, the writer has been paid for the work they’ve undertaken. (And having made a financial commitment by buying the story, DC Thomson has a strong incentive to actually publish it.)
Fiction and non-fiction are different beasts, and not just in the short-form either. I’ve been commissioned to write non-fiction books, simply by selling an idea to a publisher. However, my agent can only sell my novel once I’ve written the whole darn thing in the first place.
So if you want to know whether you’ve really been commissioned think about when in the process your sale took place. If it was made before you’d written anything (and you’d signed a contract) then you have been commissioned. If, however, the sale was made after you’d submitted your finished piece then, technically, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it isn’t a commission.
Proportionately, magazine publishers buy far more non-fiction than they do fiction and, therefore, I wonder whether magazine staff (who are stretched and covering several roles on different publications in some cases) are simply using non-fiction terminology when dealing with fiction submissions.

Simon Whaley writes the Business of Writing column in Writing Magazine. He’s the author of over a dozen books, including The Positively Productive Writer, Photography for Writers, The Complete Article Writer, and the Business of Writing (Vol 1) - a collection of article from his Writing Magazine column. For more information visit or

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Scribble Magazine

Is it just me, or are things a bit subdued in the world of womagwriters?

As there's not much else to report, and a comment left on my last post asked about Scribble Magazine, I thought I'd do a post about that. (Just to be clear, the picture here is one of my scribbles, not a sample page of the magazine!)

Scribble will accept womag fiction, but consider themselves "an alternative to the mainstream 'women's magazines' " and are equally happy to see other genres. Submission requirements here.

They have an unusual way of operating. It's run as a competition, rather than the more usual submissions process. Writers pay to submit their work, some of these entries will be published. I'm not sure if they'll all be paid for, but some authors will recieve payments between £75 and £10.

If you wish, you may opt for feedback on your work, which costs £5. Not having seen any, I can't say if it's worth the price, but that does seem good value – particularly if you intend to make further submissions to the magazine.

It seems the magazine is only available by subscription (subscribers get free entry). I can't help wondering if there are any readers who aren't also people submitting to the magazine, but perhaps I'm being overly cynical there?

I'll be very interested to hear from anyone who has been published by the magazine, read it, recieved feedback from them or is involved with it in any way. Please leave a comment, or contact me, if you'd like to write a guest post.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Over to You

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

Can you remember the first story you ever wrote? Was it any good?

Monday, 11 June 2018

Allas newsletter

Some of you may have recieved an email from Aller media (publishers of Allas magazine) written in Swedish. I've put mine through Google translate. It seems to be about GDPR, freelance agreements (text and images - I guess it's non-fiction) something which sounds like Desknet and news of what might be a new publication, or publishing development.

I've emailed asking if there's anything fiction writers need to do differently, or any action we should take. I'll let you know when I hear back.

UPDATE – I've had a reply stating the information will be resent in English – so hopefully you'll all be getting that soon.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Guest post by womagwriter Carrie Hewlett.

My guest today is my critique buddy and womagwriter Carrie Hewlett.


I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of short stories published in the Womag world here in England, Sweden, Australia and in Ireland. But I seem to have had the greatest success in getting quite a few children’s stories published. Most especially with the lovely magazine, Ireland’s Own. (Submission guidelines here.)

If someone asks me how I do it, I’m not sure how to answer. I suppose to start off you have to think like a child. Let your imagination sky rocket and the most mundane things can take on a world of their own.
Like a cow living on the moon eating bowls of custard every day! (That gives me an idea!) Something that couldn’t necessarily happen in real life!

My childhood revolved around making up imaginary tales. Leaping across the lounge furniture imagining the floor was molten lava. Or pretending my dolls were swimming across the hall floor in high seas! I just loved making up amazing stories in a fantasy world.

Ireland’s Own prefer children’s stories to be 750 words, and have a beginning, a middle and an end. Much like a womag story to a degree. But children’s stories have to have a happy ending. After all, if you were a six-year-old child being read a bedtime story, would you want it to end miserably? No! You’d want them to all live happily ever after!
But after that one can just let ones’ imagination soar.

Do include lots of dialogue rather then just description, so that the story shows rather then tells. And Ireland’s Own love you to bring an Irish flavour into stories too. They also have wonderful illustrations to accompany each story which I love.

My first children’s story sale to them was about a squirrel who got tempted by the smell of nuts and didn’t do as her mother told her. The morale being one should always listen to your mammy.

Another time I happened to be staring off into the garden one day and a squirrel caught my eye. He suddenly whipped his tail around very, very fast – that gave birth to my story about Sam Squirrel who was much in demand by the other animals as he was able do housework and dry clothes by whizzing his tail around in circles like it was on a washing machine drier setting!

I’ve even written a story that was included in a Valentine’s issue about how much pigs love chocolate – occasionally! – and one should never forget loved ones at special times of the year.

I tend to split my time with writing normal womag stories and writing children’s stories – and I’m even trying to work on a children’s book though that IS taking a bit longer than a quick 750- word tale!

So, I think the best advice is to think outside of the box. Make the story fun, entertaining and different. And above all else, remember what you yourself enjoyed reading as a child, take yourself back to that era, then write from the heart.

Thanks, Carrie – you've made it sound so much fun than I intend to have a go myself.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Just A Job

My latest collection of short stories, most of them previously published in womags, is Just A Job.

BLURB: Work is a huge part of our lives; from the first time someone asks us what we'll be when we grow up, until we're drawing our pension and looking back with relief or regret. Through training for and obtaining them, travelling to and actually being there, to winding down at the end of a busy day, our jobs take up much of our time.

Whether full time, part time, or can't wait for home time, working from home, working away, carer or career, paid or volunteer, we all have a job to do. Most people have friends at our place of work, and perhaps there are rivals. It's where many of us meet our partners. Love or hate it, like almost everything else in life, our job is what we make it.

Bosses, employees and colleagues all have a story to tell. Just A Job contains 25 of them.

If you've had stories published and are wondering if you can reuse them elsewhere, take a look at this post.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Remember To Write

Remember To Write is the title of my story in the current issue of The People's Friend. (If you'd like to write for this magazine, click here 
for the guidelines and on their name just below this post for more information.) The setting for my story is a writing workshop. I'm co presenting one of those in Devon next March and making arrangements to run one in Cornwall this winter. (I'm not restricting myself to the West Country – that they're both close together is pure coincidence.)

Remember to write would also be good advice for me to follow at the moment. I'm currently away in the mobile writing retreat and let's just say I'm doing much more of the collecting inspiration part of the job than the getting words down part. Perhaps you can see why?

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Over to you

Here's another monthly random photo for use as a story prompt. 

It's also your chance to share success (or otherwise) ask questions*, report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, or make womag related comments or observations. (If you have news or a question relating to a particular magazine, it's also fine to add it as a comment to the latest post for that magazine.)

*If you can answer these, please do.

What do you think of the illustrations used by the different womags? Got any favourites?