Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Why Can't I get Published in the Womags?

Well, this is weird, I update my website and blog as I've been doing for the past 4 years but for the first time I announce it on Facebook and it generates quite a few questions from wannabe womaggers. Most wanted to know:

How come I can't get published in the Women's mags?

There must be a thousand and one answers to that one but I'll save time by cutting and pasting my answers from my archives. I doubt anything has changed!
Here goes...

First off, it probably has nothing to do with how well you write. And I trust you CAN write well before you attempt publication.
No amount of literary prose will impress a magazine editor unless it's what she/he is looking for. It must 'fit' his/her magazine (look I'm sick of being PC and writing 'his/her' so in future it's 'her' okay?).

I've seen some beautiful writing by folk with far greater experience and literary talent than I have, yet they can't sell to the womags. So, what are the womag editors looking for?

'I'll know it when I see it', is their usual response. I think they go as much with gut instinct as anything. But, they are experts at it and let's not forget their jobs rely on them getting it right. Their sales prove they know exactly what pleases their readership.

So how do we please them?

* Your story has to be a satisfying read - a hook at the beginning, no saggy middle and you must tie up all the loose ends at the finish. A reader should go 'Ahhh' at the close, not 'What the f***?'

* The characters must be well-drawn, the sort their readership would recognise and identify with. You don't find many tattooed bikers living with unmarried mums in The People's Friend, or wool shop owners wearing Tweed (the cloth or the perfume take yer pick) in Take A Break...see what I mean?

* Your character must come up against a problem which she resolves in a satisfying and believable way. The solution must be something she works through, not a sudden 'cavalry coming over the hill' type of closure. Remember Bobby Ewing waking up in the shower in Dallas? That's the type of thing I mean.

* And this is the hardest criteria to meet...it must be something an ed hasn't seen before. Something original. Or at least a different 'take' on an old plot.

So, you've made sure your story meets all the above requirements and still you can't get an acceptance? Then there's always the other reasons for non-acceptance...

* It was the right story at the wrong time. Magazines plan about 4 mths ahead. Don't send a summer holiday story out in August. Likewise don't send a Christmas one out in November.

* The ed loves your story but she needed a 1000 word piece and you sent in 2000 and there isn't time to ask you to cut it, so she chooses the next in the slushpile and you get a rejection...or if you're very lucky you go onto a short-list for next time there's a need for 1000 words. Except this short-list tends to be a very long short-list in most magazine offices. My advice is to re-send any short-listeds after 6 months.

* The story was well-written with great characters and a smashing ending BUT the editor regrets she took something similar last week.

* The editor has bought far too many recently - enough for another six months. They have a budget tighter than a camel's bottom believe me! Make a note of when the editor said she's ready for more subs and re-send when the time is up. But be quick, every other writer will do the same.

I'm sure there're a dozen other reasons and any editors reading this blog might like to chip in.

Conclusion: If you know you can write, don't take a rejection to mean your story is unsaleable. Try a different mag. One with similar guidelines, obviously, unless you're prepared to edit to fit, which a writer with a professional approach will almost certainly do.

PS Apologies to any wool shop owners(my friend Kath)who wouldn't be seen dead in anything tweed.


Julie P said...

Thanks, Sue

A very useful and insightful post. I think we writers sometimes allow rejections to crush our delicate egos and a rejection must mean we just can't write well enough. But as you say, this may not be the case at all. In fact, far from it.
Just have to keep trying.

Julie xx

Sue Houghton said...

Yes, no matter how many stories we've managed to sell we still need reminding that a rejection is nothing personal don't we?