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 ...

67 comments:

Paula Williams said...

Great post Carol (and Patsy). Well done on keeping up the pressure,

carrie said...

Thanks Carol and Patsy.

Kath McGurl said...

Well done Carol and Patsy. Keep of the good work!

Carolb said...

Paula, Carrie and Kath- thank you.

Julie Day said...

Let's hope that the people who need to see this do, and feel the pressure.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Excellent, Carol - thanks to you both for keeping this issue at the forefront.

Anonymous said...

It seems Ti Media’s plan is to do away with regular writers as much as they’re able and fill their pages with cheaper content. They’ll exploit new writers desire to get published. They’ll offer no feedback on rejects, very little money on acceptance and will take all rights. They also will give no date for publication and therefore payment.
Ti Media really needed to add an A when they re-branded. TiA Media - TAKE IT ALL.

AF

Geraldine Ryan said...

Excellent Carol and thanks Patsy for continuing to keep this topic in the limelight.

Anonymous said...

I was really pleased to see your article in Writing Magazine, Carol. Thank you both for keeping us informed.

AngieM

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Carol. I think my womag writing career is over at this point.

Jo Styles

Helen Baggott said...

Great stuff, Carol.

Kitty said...

Thank you, Carol. Let's hope WW think again.

Carolb said...

Julie- thanks for commenting. I'm sure some at Ti Media are aware of all this, but sadly they don't seem to see that the quality fiction is appreciated by their readers.

Rosemary- thank you.

AF - sadly you may be correct. :( But I hope my article will reach as many as possible so they know the reality. We also need to ensure we teach new and younger writers about their copyright and its importance when presented with a contract.

Carolb said...

Geraldine, AngieM, Helen, Kitty, thank you.

Jo - I'm so sorry that this horrible situation has hit you so badly.xx

HelenMWalters said...

This makes me so sad. I made my very first womag sale to Woman's Weekly back in 2009 and have sold many stories to them over the years. I no longer feel able to submit and also feel very upset that the way this change in policy was communicated to writers was handled so badly, with many regular writers only finding out about it over social media. If, as seems likely, WW are going to lose a large number of their regular writers this can only have a negative impact on the quality of the magazine and that is a tragedy for both writers and readers. Thanks to Carol and to Patsy for highlighting the issues.

Carolb said...

Thank you Helen. I agree with you on your analysis, and sadly it stretches further into the availability of library books too, as those who do serials often resell to publishers who produce books for sale to libraries.

Elaine Everest said...

Well done, Carol! Let us hope that new writers and established womag writers stand with us so we can show TI Media we mean business.

Carolb said...

Thank you Elaine. The responses from writers has been very good, and I'm sure TI Media are aware of the noise this issue has created.

Anonymous said...

Somebody just pointed this out to me. In this weeks Woman’s Weekly in the editorial column Jane Marsden (Lifestyle Director) is talking about the Bryant and May match factory in Bow. A feature in the mag is about women being exploited. She states ‘the Match girls fought for better conditions. They were amazing women…’
Oh the irony.

Carolb said...

Oh my oh my, that does take the biscuit!

Patsy said...

They'll be aware that a variety of people have expressed concerns over this issue, and in some cases done so very publicly.

Patsy said...

I can understand them wanting to save money. I don't like it, but I understand it. What I don't understand is the insistence on all rights. We know it's a huge disadvantage to writers and have been explaining that. No one from the company has offered any explanation of how it is supposed to help WW.

Patsy said...

It has been handled very badly and caused considerable upset – and as far as I can see gains them nothing.

Patsy said...

We're amazing women (and men) too. I wish we were appreciated by WW as much as these match girls. It really doesn't feel as though we are.

ados123 said...

Thank you Carol and Patsy for continuing to highlight this issue. I won't be submitting again to WW under these terms.
Alyson

Simon Whaley said...

Great article and, more importantly, it brings it to the attention of many other writers who may not appreciate what’s ar stake here.

Carolb said...

Thank you Alyson. Many writers agree with you.

Simon- Thank you. Yes, that is important as it has reached more writers in higher numbers and not just in the UK.

Celia said...

Very clever, AF, about that 'A' !!! No, Patsy, I don't understand their need to save money in this particular manner. In that 'bigger picture' of TIA Media, we fiction writers are pretty small fry. If they're so close to the bone that they need to reduce our fees by half (not sure about the serial payments in this new world) then they really are in trouble. Maybe the frequent changes of ownership is proving that. I wonder if TIA Media (I do love that A) is American?

Celia said...

NO JO! I love your stories! Sell 'em to someone else!

Celia said...

Really pleased to see that you, Geraldine, as one of the 'Big Girls' stands with us, thank you.

Celia said...

You and I 'started' together at WW in 2009! It's so good to see so many WW names replying here.

Celia said...

Those poor souls were at risk of 'phossy jaw' and brain damage until the white phosphorous was banned. Our problems are fortunately much less than that but yes, a fair whack of appreciation from WW would be most welcome

Celia said...

Crikey I'm busy sticking in comments here tonight! Well done again Tosh for re-limelighting and very well done Carol for that excellent article.

Newbie said...

I agree that new womag writers (like me) might accept the payment offered. They might even sign away All Rights in order to be published, but only once - because then they'd realise, after all the work they'd put into the story, what they were giving away.

Also surely the readers of WW will notice if the quality of the fiction declines? And they might protest? I expect that readers have their favourite authors, and look for their stories first.

Carolb said...

Thank you Celia.

Anonymous said...

The Woman's Weekly facebook page is deleting posts about the rights issue again.

Anonymous said...

Joanne Harris (what a star) is tweeting in support right now.


UD.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Carol, Patsy, Simon, and all our fellow writers for standing firm on this issue of 'Rights'. If WW fiction Special folds, then maybe another publisher will try and fill the gap. Good wishes. Kate.

Lisa Macgregor said...

I never managed to sell to WW so this issue doesn't affect me directly but obviously I agree strongly with all the above blog posts, especially the feeling of the general 'lack of respect' we have from certain magazines as womag writers. I am feeling this too with Take a Break. I have had stories with them now for 6 months and when I have emailed to request an update I've had no response. It is frustrating, disheartening and makes me wonder why I bother. We as writers put so much hard work into creating our stories and then we either get exploited or ignored. That said (and finishing on a more positive note) the team at People's Friend have always been so supportive, friendly and responsive. So it's not all bad. Sorry for the whinging post. x

Patsy said...

That's one of my reasons for banging on about it, Simon. Many newer writers don't realise their are different rights options, with very different implications.

Patsy said...

Joanne Harris, as well as being supportive of us as fellow writers, probably realises this issue potentially has wider implications amongst the publishing industry.

Patsy said...

To be fair, many editorial teams have fewer staff than was previously the case (or more responsibilities, or both) so have less time to respond to sumissions and queries. I feel that often the fault lies not so much with the editors as those above them, who are sometimes more interested in profit than people.

Jan Jones said...

The thing is that women's magazine fiction is so important. It is often the only fiction people read. Our words have touched countless thousands of lives. By driving us away (no, I'm not submitting any more until conditions are fair again either), they are impoverishing the very readers who keep them in business. They are dismissing them as irrelevent.

Susan A Eames said...

Whilst this doesn't affect me personally, it's important for all writers to be aware of the implications of giving away their rights to their own work. Good article, Carol and thanks for spreading the word, Patsy.

Susan A Eames at
Travel, Fiction and Photos

Emma Canning said...

Thank you, Carol and Patsy. I never managed to sell to WW but did keep trying with the occasional story. I’ve stopped trying now. Really hope they change their minds x

Helen Yendall said...

Thanks for this, Patsy and Carol and well done Carol on your excellent article in Writing magazine, highlighting the issue. WW was (note past tense!) always the 'top' magazine for stories, as far as I was concerned and getting a story accepted by them was always a thrill but I can't continue to submit to them under these new terms and I won't. But I feel very sad about it.

Carolb said...

Newbie- yes the readers will notice the lack of familiar names, and if the quality drops then sales will inevitably fall.

Carolb said...

Agree Celia, I was grateful Geraldine agreed to be quoted in the article.

Carolb said...

Thank you Helen. I'm glad it's helped bring the situation to a wider audience who may be able to step-up the protests.

Carolb said...

Kate- thank you. Where there's a buying public there's hope.

Carolb said...

Jan- that's so true. They have forgotten that they need those readers to keep buying the magazine and if the reader is ignored like the writers have been, the magazine sales will decline rapidly.

Carolb said...

Susan- thank you.

Carolb said...

Emma - thank you. I have been in the same situation as you describe, and won't be submitting while this all rights contract remains. I too hope they change their mind.

Helen- thank you. It's sad so many writers are now faced with this decision, but it's heartening that so many have said no!

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

Sorry, that was just a whinge about having a recent (and final) story 'fiddled with' and some of it no longer quite making sense.

Bernadette said...

Excellent article Carol. A large part of the problem is the lack of communication and the loss of trust. In previous contract changes when there were terms I didn't like I could raise them with the team and get reassurance from them or from higher up in the organisation. That isn't happening anymore and it leaves a bad taste. Responses that have been received have been sometimes sympathetic but never reassuring. I am also a no unless things change and that makes me sad.

Carolb said...

Thank you Bernadette. Yes the poor communication with writers has made the situation worse and damaged the trust built up over years. The staff at ground level dealing with the fiction are likely as powerless as the writers are, and likely having to follow company orders.

Cara Cooper said...

Tried to post the other day and must have failed, but basically, echo Bernadine's comment. It's one thing thinking that a publisher is busy and has so many other things on their plate which makes it difficult for them to spend the time on communication. It's quite another to feel that they don't give a *$%" about the people who are providing their content, and certainly not enough to send them an e-mail explaining the reason for the changes. We writers may not like it, but we might not have been quite so miffed at the way this was done. The issue over creating content for free or frumpence, and the real value of good content is running through all the creative professions. Recently a musician friend of mine said that cruise ships are veering towards using very few live musicians and are just plugging in music for the dancers to dance to. Surely part of the joy of being on a cruise is seeing live music and being able to chat to the musicians. It will end up potentially with there being little new content of value if good writers, musicians etc who hone their craft and work hard at it are squeezed out of their professions by these sort of practices, and if the owners of the 'vehicles' which deliver the content don't look to the final consequences of these actions. If we're all in it for ourselves, where does that lead too? Cutthroat practices, mistrust, bad working relations. I do hope WW take heed, and it's not the editors, it's the owners and their backers. The editors etc were so nice to work with when I had my serials with them, knowledgeable, fair, approachable, I never had a problem, and was grateful for the magazine's excellent and fair rates. They often asked you to work hard for your money, doing revisions, rejecting anything not up to scratch etc but that's fine, I can cope with that. I wish this argument would resolve itself in a way that could be acceptable to both sides and that magazines such as WW survive and thrive. What on earth are they going to do with all the rights they acquire anyway, do they print a huge amount online? Why not pay a decent rate for it if that's so? Maybe they do. Maybe print is dying on its last legs but I'm not surprised if this is how the owners of the content regard their relations with the suppliers and also indirectly with the consumers of their products. Fingers crossed there can be a sensible compromise and at least the people who make the decisions communicate with us as if we're human beings.

Anonymous said...

For those yet to see it - http://joannechocolat.tumblr.com/post/176655189086/on-womans-weekly-and-why-we-should-all-care


UD

Tanza Erlambang said...

impressive article

Sophie Livingston said...

Hi, I'm having problems posting so apologies if you've seen this before. Has anyone heard from The Society of Authors? I received the group email saying they would be contacting Woman's Weekly but have not heard anything since.

Sophie

Anonymous said...

The delay seems to be down to the time of year - meaning holidays. They are looking into it now.

UD

Carolb said...

The SoA are awaiting the return of their CEO from holiday.

They have been trying other tactics meanwhile.

Carolb said...

Unfortunately TI Media wouldn't answer that question, and I can think of a couple of possibilities but have no knowledge on the validity of them.

Anonymous said...

Do we know what they have been trying in terms of tactics?

Anonymous said...

No, they're about as good at communication as TI Media.

UD

Marion Clarke said...

I'm ashamed to say I still haven't opened my copy of WM, Carol, as I've just got back, so I'm talking blindly. However, from working with the trade press in the past, I know that these decisions are rarely to do with editors and all to do with those responsible for making money, ie, the publishing executives. Someone, somewhere has looked at ABC figures regarding advertising and the expenditure of the average short fiction reader and decided they aren't a target market for x, y or z. Perhaps I'm talking through my hat and everything has changed these days, but...