Wednesday 29 May 2019

Guest post by Womagwriter Jane Ayres

Today's guest is Jane Ayres

Tenacity pays (eventually!)

For the past forty years, I have been a writer of books for children and teenagers – mostly about horses and ponies. I’ve been traditionally published, and also republished my out of print backlist using Amazon’s KDP, so I suppose I would be termed a hybrid author.

But I always wanted to get my stories for adults published in women’s magazines. I think far too many other writers radically underestimate the skills involved in producing work for this very particular market. It’s a skill I have struggled to master. I’ve lost count of the hundreds of rejections I’ve had over many years, and my admiration and respect for those who are successful in this field has grown and grown.

I did have a glimmer of success in 2002, when Bella magazine took a racy short story called Yes Please – but then wrote saying they thought it was too risqué for them, paid me the fee anyway, and wished me luck in placing it elsewhere. I sent it to Chat, who published it and I got paid again. I was elated. However, try as I might, I could not get any more stories published in women’s magazines. I never managed to crack the Woman’s Weekly or Fiction Feast markets and when they closed submissions to writers they hadn’t already published, I gave up. It was not to be and I had to accept that.
But The People’s Friend, another magazine I had been sending stories to on and off for nearly 20 years, still encouraged submissions from new writers and in 2018, aged 56, I felt more connected to the magazine than when I was younger. I could draw on personal experience, really writing from the heart. My partner is visually impaired, and often returns from his runs telling me about the problems he encounters in the local park, and what goes through his mind, and this gave me the inspiration for the story I sent to The People’s Friend in April 2018. In July 2018, when we were setting off for Heathrow Airport for a short break, an email came through from People’s Friend saying they had enjoyed my story but could I make a few tweaks by adding more dialogue to the first few pages? Of course I could! I wanted to leap up and down with joy, but then got anxious because I couldn’t do anything about the edits until we returned. So I quickly sent off an email explaining this, and as soon as I got back home, I immediately did the edits, and emailed these back.

August came and went. Perhaps they didn’t like the edits. Had I blown it? I was reluctant to chase, but I sent an email gently enquiring about the story. Nothing. So I phoned and was informed it was probably somewhere in the system and that it took time to go through all the stages of the editorial process. I just had to be patient. Then it was November, and December.

“They don’t want it,” my partner said. “Just forget it.”
But I couldn’t. I had got too close to give up. I rang the week before Christmas and to my surprise, Shirley Blair herself answered. She was lovely, and it turned out they had never received my email with the amends! For some reason, my emails weren’t getting through, so I re-sent a hard copy, which Shirley kindly acknowledged, and then I had to be patient again. Finally, in January 2019, the story was accepted, and soon after, the paperwork arrived, and I was paid. Staying on Track (renamed Back on Track) was scheduled to appear at the end of May 2019. I am so glad I was tenacious!

I’d had another little success in December 2018. A Christmas story I really believed in had been rejected by all the womags the previous year, and I thought it might work well for Your Cat, so in March 2018, I’d rewritten, sent it off and was delighted that it was accepted in September 2019, with a request to cut it from 2600 to 1500 words, which I happily did, and which improved it, and it appeared in their December issue with a beautiful illustration. Again, I received payment before publication, which was a lovely surprise.

My first port of call if I want to find out about submission guidelines is always the Womagblog, which has been invaluable. Without it, I would never have known about That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia, never sent off a thriller/revenge story to them, (which had been rejected by UK womags) and never have been published in their 2019 Summer Special. What a buzz that gave me! Spurred on by this, I have since sent a further 11 stories to FF, but none have yet hit the mark, and recently sent off stories for the first time to Ireland’s Own.

I’ve checked my records notebook, and since March 2018, I have sent off a total of 38 stories, of which 3 were accepted, and the rest either rejected, or not yet heard from. Since People’s Friend took my story, I have submitted a further 6 stories to them, all of which have been rejected. I have sent 7 to Allas – 2 were rejected, the rest I haven’t yet heard about.

The only way to combat the feeling of disappointment at rejection is to keep writing and keep sending work out. I try to make sure that the same day a story is rejected, I revisit it, see if I can edit to make improvements, and then send it off to another magazine. Luckily, I enjoy the editing process, and a story undergoes many edits before I am ready to send it out into the world to find a home.

Most of the success I have had getting published has been with
magazines I enjoy reading myself. I have never lost the thrill of seeing my work in print, and am sure I never will. And that’s what keeps me trying. Tenacity is paying off – albeit slowly!

You can find all Jane's books here. The royalties from Matty Horse and Pony Adventures got to Redwings Horse Sanctuary and for Coming Home they go to Cats Protection. 

Jane will supply pdf copies of her books in exchange for honest reviews.

Friday 24 May 2019

Guest post by Womagwriter Bea Charles

Today's guest is Bea Charles who is kindly sharing details of magazines which accept poetry.

There are not many free submission opportunities for poets in the magazine market and few pay well, if at all. But if you do write poetry and want to see your name in print, and perhaps receive a modest reward, these are the ones I am aware of.

The People’s Friend
By far the largest market for poetry. As well as publishing poems in both the weekly and three-weekly specials, the Friend also use poetry in their Annual and in their Fireside Book.
Payment is £15 per poem, although poems on their ‘Between Friends’ letters page are rewarded with a tea caddy.
Lucy Crichton is the Poetry Editor and she has written this useful blog post on what the Friend is looking for.

Up to one poem per issue on their Meeting Place letters page, plus some poems used in the Annual. These are usually rhyming poems, sometimes but not exclusively humorous, 8-16 lines. Payment is a £10 high street shopping voucher.

Woman’s Weekly
Although they don’t usually publish poetry, Woman’s Weekly in association with the Folio Society currently has a poetry competition. To enter you will need an original coupon from either the weekly magazine dated 28th May or the July issue of Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special. The theme is ‘nature’. The competition is only open to anyone who hasn’t previously had a poem published in print. The three winning entries will be published in Woman’s Weekly and will receive a selection of poetry books.

Requires a more literary style, including themed editions and competitions. Payment is £25 per poem published. Their requirements are here

The Oldie
Runs a free monthly poetry writing competition. Each poem published (usually 4) receives £25 with one winner receiving a bonus prize of Chambers Dictionary of Modern Quotations. You need to read the current month’s magazine for details of the next month’s theme.

Does anyone know of any more magazines offering free submission / competition opportunities for poets?

Wednesday 22 May 2019

The People's Friend word counts.

The People's Friend twitter account has just tweeted ...

WORD COUNT ALERT! Keep this handy! We'll do the Specials separately. Weekly story word counts: 3000 1800 1200 2000

and ...

Specials word counts! 1000 1500 1600 1700 2000 2500 3200 3500 4000

The full guidelines can be found here.

Monday 20 May 2019

Can you help Hazel?

I received the following comment on the latest post about The Weekly News. 

Hi there, following your valuable tips I have been lucky enough to have a story accepted in The Weekly News. Apparently it should be in the current issue (May 18).

Unfortunately being in Australia I can't get hold of a copy. I have some friends in London but so far they have had no luck in finding a copy.. I was wondering if there is a lovely womag writer out there who wouldn't mind picking up a copy and maybe sending me a photo/scan of my story! I sent it in under title of Magic Words but guess it might be changed. Thanks for this blog, it is so helpful. 

Kind regards, Hazel.

Did you see Hazel's story? Are you able to make a scan or photograph it?

Thursday 16 May 2019

Over to you

This month's discussion topic – Why do you write (or hope to write) womag fiction?

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

Please share success (or otherwise!) report any womag news, tips, advice you may have, make womag related comments or observations and ask questions – and answer them too if you can help.

Some news of my own ...

– Last week I was mentioned on the cover of The People's Friend. That's a first for me.

– This blog is featured in the current issue of Writers' Forum.

My latest short story collection, which includes 25 family related stories, many of them previously published in womags in the UK, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa, is currently on offer at 99p.

– I'm giving a talk and reading at the library in Lee-on-the-Solent in June.

And to answer the question I started with – simply because I love this type of story. 

Friday 10 May 2019

Covering letters

The following comment was left on the blog recently –

"What about submission letters to The People’s Friend? How do you write those? Can you send it by email as well?"

Good question and as I don't think I've ever done a post on submission letters (or covering letters as they're often known), I decided to put that right.

The covering letter, for any submission, should contain –

1) Your real name (even if you write under a pen name they'll need to know your real one for the contract and payments).

2) Your contact details – postal address and email, possibly your phone number too. (Personally I don't include mine as it's almost impossible to reach me by phone and I don't want editors wasting their time trying).

3) The title of your story. (This might well be changed, but you still have to call it something!)

4) Your pen name, if you are using one. It's common to put something like 'by Patsy Collins, writing as Pasty Clown'. 

5) The approximate word count. It's common to round this up or down, so if (for example) the requirements are for a 1,000 word story, you know they allow 10% leeway and your story is 1,097 words, you'd state it was 1,000 words. 

6) Anything else requested in the magazine's guidelines. 

Some editors request a synopsis of the story. You must provide this if requested, but don't do it otherwise.

I've not come across it with womags, but some other markets ask for a short biography, or for authors to give details of their publication history.

7) If the editor has requested stories in a particular genre, length etc it may be helpful to state yours complies with that. It may also be helpful to state if your story is time sensitive or seasonal.

That looks like a long list, but it shouldn't be a long letter!

The covering letter, for any publication, should not contain –

1) Anything not asked for in the guidelines and/or not relevant to the submission. When the editor is dealing with submissions she won't want, and won't have time, for anything else. Give her everything she needs and nothing else.

Some magazines will state that no cover letter is required. In that case put all the information on the first page and start the story underneath. 

Whether or not you use a covering letter it's probably a good idea to put your name and email or phone number in the header or footer of every page, just in case anything goes missing.

Regarding email v postal submissions – do as requested in the guidelines. Sometimes you'll hear of people submitting in a different way, or to a different name/address than stated in the guidelines. That's because some editors request this from people who've already been published by them. Until requested to do otherwise, follow the guidelines!

If emailing, your covering letter will be the email body and your story an attachment (unless any guidelines state otherwise). You ma ybe requested to put certain information in the subject line – if so, do as asked. If not, I suggest including the word 'submission' and your story title.

Most importantly – follow the magazine's guidelines and any requests made by editors. They all have slightly different processes and requirements. I mention these on this blog when I hear about them, so before submitting you may wish to click on the magazine's title in the 'magazine guidelines - quick links' (in the right hand column) and read the latest posts.

Is this how you do your covering letters? Anything to add, or any questions? 

Monday 6 May 2019

Guest post by pocket novelist Susan Jones

I'm delighted to welcome my mate, the popular pocket novelist Susan Jones to the blog today.

Hi Susan. Can you introduce yourself to those who don’t know you as well as I do?

Hello, Patsy and thank you for having me on the womag blog. I live in Warwickshire, born in Bloxwich, Staffordshire where my childhood was spent either on my Grandparent’s plant nursery, smelling the flowers and sitting with a book under the apple tree, or on Mom and Dad’s market stall. Or if the weather was bad, me and my sister would be in our other gran’s front room in front of a real fire listening to stories of all the naughty things she did with her sister as a child.

Telling stories runs in the family, so writing them down is a real pleasure, though this year I’m doing more actual talking and story-telling working in my parents’ shop they’ve had for more than 30yrs.

You’ve written a few PNs now haven’t you? Who for and what genres?

All four of my Pocket Novels have been for My Weekly. My first one accepted, Hats off to Love, had to be completely re-written as she liked the setting but not the era, and basically I had to change the story which felt a bit daunting, but seeing as becoming a Pocket Novelist was my ambition from the age of 17, I got stuck in to it, sending her a chapter at a time and crossing fingers! Genre was romantic drama with a touch of humour.

The second one was published by me first and she asked if she could read it and with a few tweaks, it was accepted right away. This is Redington a village in Norfolk, which was changed to Country Matters. The following year I wrote a follow up with same characters, but moving the story on. This one had murder and lots more drama, drugs and a kidnapping. As a rule, she doesn’t want follow up’s as it’s not what they do, so I was lucky on that occasion. I think it’s because the village and characters are strong and vivid. I almost took a trip over there one day when I fancied a chat with one of them.

The latest one published is a romance and pure escapism. This is Her Own Robinson Crusoe, which I’m really proud of. But saying that I’m really proud of all my pocket novels.

What exactly is a pocket novel anyway?

A novel that fits in your pocket and can be read on the train, bus or anywhere really. I usually carry at least four around in my bag at any one time. (Other people’s not my own). It’s a read that engages you and lets you escape for a while, and the ending leaves you feeling glad that you read the story.

What’s the best way to about getting started with writing one - do you write the whole thing first, just send in an idea or what?

That’s a question I wondered for a year or two before sending one in. It’s best to get the idea of the
whole thing down because if you’re serious about writing, then you would finish the story to get it published – somewhere – but I’m at the stage with my next one where I sent three chapters and a synopsis, the minimum amount of words you’d have to have before you even think of sending it in. Then if you’re lucky like me, and she says, ‘Yes,’ then you write and write until you have 50,000 words.

Do you get any help with the plotting and writing?

Maggie Swinburne who edits the My Weekly Pocket novels is a lovely lady to work for. She encourages writers and will speak on the phone and let you know exactly what she does and doesn’t want. 

How long does each part of the process take?

Plotting takes place constantly when I might be sleeping, working or walking the dog, writing is the bit I like best when the words take shape and the characters get to do marvellous things and say whatever is needed in that scene. I write in chunks of 3,000 words which is my average chapter.

Where are the books sold?

Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, W.H. Smiths and most newsagents around the country.

I know you get a flat fee of £300 for writing one. Is that it, or can you claim ALCS or get other money?

Oh, yes indeed we get ALCS, and if you self-publish and do kindle versions, money comes in that way.

Are there any other benefits to being a pocket novelist?

Seeing your name and book on the shelves in Asda or newsagents is such a thrill. I even have my latest cover on a tee shirt, mouse mat and tote bag.

Once you've had a My Weekly pocket novel published you go onto the list of people who can sub them short stories. I did that and have been accepted.

Other advantages to becoming a pocket novelist are being able to join the Romantic Novelists Association as a full member. This gives you chance to meet up with other romantic writers and go the annual conference where you will be able to chat to agents and publishers and pitch your latest ideas. Which reminds me, I have another pocket novel to write.

How about copyright? Do you have to give that up?

No, the version My Weekly publish is edited the way they want it, that’s theirs, and then we can do what we want with our story after that.

Does that mean we can buy your PNs even though they’re no longer in the shops?

Yes, that’s right. You’ve reminded me that I need to get Hats off to Love in paperback and kindle now as well.

You run a Facebook group for those who write PNs - are you accepting new members?

Yes, for anyone who has written one or is seriously considering or presently writing one.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Patsy, it’s always good to talk about Pocket Novels as they’re a passion of mine, can you tell?

I can, yes! And I suspect you've infected others with your enthusiasm too – I'm very tempted to have a go myself.

The guidelines for My Weekly pocket novels are here and the People's Friend ones are here

Update from that's life!

Australian magazine that's life! want stories of around 900 words for the Mega Monthly - preferably thriller, revenge, crime or romance / heartwarming with a good twist.
They also want stories around 570-620 words for the weekly and monthly magazines.
Longer stories of around 1400 words will still be used occasionally. 

Editor Jude requests that you put the word count and theme /genre in the subject line.

Note this market is currently closed to those who've not previously been published in one of the that's life! magazines.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Magazine acknowledgements and responses.

With the following magazines you should get an automatic acknowledgement for your submission –

The Weekly News
My Weekly (market closed to new writers and don't forget to use the new address as I just did!)
that's life! (in Australia).

These (I believe) will acknowledge receipt manually, usually within a few days –

Love Sunday
YOU (but they're currently closed to submissions)

These I don't sub to, as they take all rights, so don't know whether they send acknowledgements – if you do, please say in the comments and I'll update this post.

Woman's Weekly

These magazines don't usually acknowledge submissions –

Your Cat
The People's Friend
In The Moment
Spirit and Destiny (sometimes acknowledge)
Woman's World
Ireland's Own

These will reply, often after several months, with either an acceptance or rejection  –

The People's Friend
Take a Break / Fiction Feast (market closed to new writers)
Love Sunday
Spirit and Destiny
YOU (but they're currently closed to submissions)
Woman's Weekly 

These don't send rejections, so you'll only be contacted if your story is accepted.

Allas (they do sometimes send rejections, but not always)
In The Moment (they do sometimes send rejections, but not always)
Woman's World
Irelands Own (they do sometimes send rejections, but not always)
The Weekly News (they state that if you've not heard within three months, you're free to submit elsewhere).
that's life! (they state that if you've not heard within six months, you're free to submit elsewhere).

If you have anything to add, or your experience has been different, please say so in the comments and I'll update this post.

btw, I never refer to myself as 'womagwriter' so if you see that name in use anywhere, it isn't me. I didn't invent the term or name this blog – that was Kathleen McGurl, but I don't think she uses it herself now.