Posts Tagged Women’s Magazine Fiction
Much is written about crafting the novel synopsis and agent pitch but there’s far less on how to sell a short story to the women’s magazine market via a synopsis.
Writer, S. Bee has put together some good tips for those of us trying to make sales in this ever decreasing market. Here is her advice:
Six UK women’s magazines require a short synopsis – either with the story itself, or before the story is submitted.
- The regular, fortnightly Yours
- The Yours Fiction Special
- Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. (N.B. This has a closed writer’s list and takes all rights.)
- Spirit & Destiny. This magazine requires a story pitch upfront. If they like the sound of the story, they ask for it to be emailed for consideration. They also take all rights to accepted stories.
- My Weekly require a brief synopsis to head up the story. This magazine has a closed writer’s list.
- During the current lockdown, The People’s Friend is asking for writers who have previously been published by the magazine to email a synopsis. Writers new to the magazine should continue to submit by post.
Possible reasons editors ask for a short story synopsis:
- It allows the editor to quickly see what kind of story it is – sweet romance/comedy/crime/revenge, etc.
- It explains the plot, so the editor can decide whether or not the story will work for that magazine.
- It’s useful for the illustrator/picture editor – so consider including significant details about the age and appearance of characters or the location.
Below are six steps to getting the synopsis right:
- Keep to the word count. If the guidelines ask for 200 words, don’t ramble on. Don’t start with: ‘This is a story about…’ Provide a clear outline of the story from start, middle and end.
- Do I reveal the ending? There is some debate around this. Some writers do (I’m one of them) but some choose not to. It’s entirely up to you.
- Run it past a womag writer/ reader friend before submitting. Asking other womag writers to read your work before submitting is useful. I run a womag writers’ email critique group; we read each other’s work and give constructive feedback. Not only can others point out the flaws in the story, they might be able to spot the flaws in your synopsis too.
- Themes/ Genres There’s no need to include the theme or a genre in your synopsis. The word count matters, so don’t fill your lines with: ‘This is an empty nest/ moving on/ dealing with bereavement story.’
- Get to the point Imagine you are an aspiring scriptwriter who steps into a lift with a movie producer. You have an amazing opportunity to pitch your story – but only 30 seconds to do it. Cut the waffle and focus on the chain of events in your story: The main character has a problem/conflict. How do they overcome this problem? What complicates it? How is it solved?
- Get over the dread writing of them. It can seem like a synopsis cruelly chops our work down and removes the heart of the story. But without it, there’s no chance of a sale to the above magazines. The more synopses you write, the more confident you’ll become.
Women’s magazine writer, TW, has kindly provided me with an example synopsis:
Music manager Ross King is visited in his office by Beth and Sam, who are members of one of his most successful pop acts.
Beth and Sam are in their early twenties, slim, blonde and beautiful. They are very excited, as they have met a potential new member of the group, Penny. Ross has a shock when Penny enters the office, as although she is also slim, blonde and beautiful, she is over forty. Ross thinks the group’s young fans won’t accept an older woman as part of the group. He’s forced by politeness to watch Penny audition (sing and dance) and recognises that she is very talented. After some tough argument, Ross agrees that Penny can join the group.
The girls are so keen on her joining them that Ross suspects – rightly – that there is something they are not telling him about Penny, and at the end of the story the girls reveal what this is.
The above story was published in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. Note that the twist ending wasn’t revealed in the synopsis.
Practice makes perfect. Writing a synopsis – whether it’s for a short story, a novel, article or a play – is a specific, highly valued skill. Give it a go and increase your chances of a story sale!
S. Bee is the brains behind the lively short story anthology Paws for Thought. It is available on Kindle and raises money for the RSPCA.
To find out more about S. Bee and her critique group, Fiction Addition, please visit her website.
Don’t forget there’s lots more information about writing fiction for women’s magazines at https://womagwriter.blogspot.com/
A few days ago I visited The Museum of Brands in London. The museum takes the visitor on a colourful stroll through the branding, advertising and consumerism of the last two hundred or so years. It’s a wonderful microcosm of British social history.
The visit left me with two thoughts. Firstly, it made me feel ancient. A large part of my childhood and the years beyond were in those glass cases. Surely I’m not old enough for my lifetime to become museum worthy! Who else out there remembers Spangles sweets, Jackie magazine, Philadelphia cheese wrapped in silver paper rather than in a plastic tub, Caramac bars (just discovered you can still buy those) and renting instead of buying a TV?
Secondly, it brought home to me how the long-lived brands had evolved over time in order to survive. Much of this evolution was done in baby steps – a change of font for the logo, moving from a metal to plastic packaging or updating the slogan. Companies like Sony have constantly innovated to ensure their products always offer the consumer something new and attractive. Unfortunately Kodak didn’t and was lost in the great tsunami of digital photography.
What has this got to with writing?
It’s a reminder that we should always be looking where we are going with our writing careers. For example the market for womag stories is rapidly shrinking meaning those of us who used to target women’s magazines with our short stories need to find new outlets or try a different form of writing. Attracting an agent for a novel is as difficult as ever – is it time to set a limit on the number of rejections and then start investigating other routes such as the growing number of new independent digital publishers like Hera who accept unagented submissions? Or maybe it’s time to try non-fiction or a different genre?
The important thing is to stay current with what’s going on in the writing world and be proactive to avoid being left behind. Be a Sony not a Kodak! Simon Whaley has been talking about a similar topic on his blog this week.
Incidentally, whilst going through my kitchen cupboards to take the photo accompanying this post, I discovered that most of my tins and packets were supermarket own brands. I wonder what that says for branding in the future?
Much is written in the blogosphere and on social media about the diminishing market for women’s magazine stories. I haven’t submitted any womag fiction for a while but am still interested in the area and mentioned it in a talk I gave a couple of weeks ago.
The group I was speaking to consisted mainly of retired, but very active, women. I told them how my writing career had moved through articles, short stories for women’s magazines and on to longer fiction.
At the end, several of them told me how they’d stopped buying some of the magazines when the fiction was replaced by celebrity/real life stories. One lady said that she really enjoyed the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Specials because they were ‘proper stories with a beginning, a middle and an end’ and they gave her something nice to read before she went to sleep at night. Several mentioned that they liked the mix of things in My Weekly.
It makes me wonder whether the magazines that dropped fiction had a noticeable increase in sales afterwards or whether it brought them no obvious benefit. They certainly lost readers from the group I spoke to.
(By the way, if you’re wondering about the significance of the flower photo – this beautiful array of colour was a gift following my talk.)
I told you about the online writing group, Fiction Addiction, sometime ago.
Over the last couple of years it’s turned into a useful support group for Womag writers. The founder, Sharon Boothroyd, has brought me up-to-date on its progress and I wanted to share with you what she had to say:
I set up Fiction Addiction in Feb 2011 because it was proving difficult for me to find honest opinions from other writers, and I couldn’t afford to pay for professional critiques all the time. My local writing group didn’t focus on short stories and on a recent creative writing course, the tutor didn’t know anything about the Womag market.
The idea behind my online writer’s circle is to ‘test’ your work on other Fiction Addiction members before subbing your work out to the magazines. We offer each other support, feedback, encouragement and motivation.
When I began Fiction Addiction in Feb 2011, I decided the first thing I needed to do was recruit members. Membership would be free.
I wrote an appeal and asked Kath if she would upload it on to her popular womagwriter’s blog. She did do, and Sally Jenkins very kindly featured me in her blog here in March 2011.
I was expecting one or two requests – but I was immensely pleased to be overwhelmed with people wanting to join! Some members were writers with lots of Womag sales, some were beginners and some were in-between. It’s still the same balance now, with 11 members.
My husband designed a website, and we put all the info there, including guidelines and a FAQ page. I wrote the website myself. To keep costs down, we decided to pick a free website.
As time passed, we’ve had a members leave and new members joining. Two years on, it is still lovely to read work and receive emails.
I do expect members to contribute, even if it’s once a month. Members can also drop out and join again.
We also look at competition entries and first chapters of novels.
Feedback has also been a problem for some. My advice is to be kind but honest, which I admit can be tricky! Of course, it’s entirely up to the writer what they do with feedback – they don’t have to use it.
We’ve had lots of successes when the writer has tweaked a story after receiving FA feedback, including me.
One of the first stories I sent round was an office girls story called The Game. After re-drafting, I sent it to PRIMA magazine earlier this year. It won their short story competition and was published in the May 2013 edition.
And very recently, (July 2013) a FA member has had a story accepted by Woman’s Weekly! She read our comments on her work and then adjusted her story before subbing.
We all feel very proud!
So if you fancy a little bit of support with your writing, contact Sharon via the Fiction Addiction website and become part of the group’s success story!
- I won the Lichfield & District Writers’ Article Writing Competition (members only) and received the lovely silver tray in the picture. Unfortunately it’s not to keep forever – I will have to hand it on to the next winner. Congratulations to John Walters and Elizabeth Dickerson who came second and third respectively, with articles on listening to the radio as a child and collecting collectibles. My article tried to dispel the many myths around church bell ringing (bats in the belfry, super human strength needed etc etc).
- I was placed third in the Emerald Writing Workshops Novel Opening Competition and received a £10 cheque. These 500 word competitions are run quarterly with a very reasonable entry fee of £1.80 for a £50 first prize. Well worth having a go! The next closing date is 31st August 2011 – check the website for further details.
That’s the good news over with and now the more serious stuff. As many of you will know the women’s magazine fiction market is shrinking and the latest casualty is the one page story in Take a Break (although the Fiction Feast story special will continue to be published). So some womag writers have started a campaign to let the magazines know that we want more fiction. Patsy Collins has put details on her blog about how to use Facebook to voice your opinions to the magazine editors. Alternatively (if like me you don’t ‘do’ Facebook) you could email or write to the magazines’ letters pages. If enough of us make a fuss then maybe it will have an impact and bring back some of those short story markets. Fingers crossed!
Fiction Addiction is an online writing circle for Womag (women’s magazine fiction) writers. It was founded in January 2011 by Sharon Boothroyd because she (like the rest of us!) was fed up of getting rejections but not knowing where she was going wrong.
Since Fiction Addiction was mentioned on womagwriter’s blog, Sharon has received loads of emails and the writing circle is growing.
The circle has no strict rules to follow. Members send their work out for feedback whenever they wish. All stories and feedback are sent on a ’round robin’ basis so that everyone can read everything and no-one is left out. However, if individual members want to then start corresponding separately then that is OK too. Most of the stories submitted so far have been under 2,000 words but Sharon thinks that 6,000 would be the absolute limit. Serials and My Weekly/People’s Friend pocket novels are also welcome and can be sent out for feedback chapter by chapter or part by part.
The members of Fiction Addiction are asked to abide by certain guidelines to ensure that criticism is given in a constructive away and that email addresses are kept confidential. There is no need to fear having a story ‘stolen’ by someone else in the group – the ’round robin’ method of communication means that everyone else will know where a particular story originated from.
Membership of the Fiction Addiction writers’ circle is free and Sharon runs it as a hobby not a money-making enterprise. Some members of the group have already been published professionally and others are just starting out but they are all feeling the benefit of being part of a group rather than floundering alone. Here are some of their comments:
“Thank you all for the warm welcomes I have received already! It really is an active group and I am so excited about being part of it.”
“I love sitting down with a coffee to read a good story and it’s also really interesting to read everyone’s comments.” “Congrats to you for setting this all up, I think its going to be a real bonus for everyone involved and it feels great to be a part of something.”
I write women’s magazine fiction and find the feedback that I get from Helen, my writing buddy, invaluable. So I would urge anyone who would like someone else to cast an eye over their work (and who is willing to do the same for other people) to have a look at the Fiction Addiction website for more details.