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 It would just allow us to claim the money – and the permission could be withdrawn at any time.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.