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How To Earn Money Writing Stories For Women's Magazines
Short Story Toolshed - 1
Do you write? Would you like to sell stories to magazines and make money from writing?
In this series of articles I will pass on my top tips for becoming a published author and how to earn money from writing fiction.
I have had over one hundred short stories published in magazines in the U.K. and other countries as well as serials and non-fiction articles. My work has appeared in anthologies and won international short story competitions.
If you would like to check out my credentials and learn more about me and my writing, you can visit my website: www.lydiajones.co.uk
In these articles I will refer to my e-book "For A Smile". This is a collection of some of my favourite short stories. All have been bought and previously published by women's magazines so they are good examples of the kind of story that succeeds with that market. You do not need to purchase the book in order to benefit from my advice, but having it to hand will help when I am using its content to illustrate technique or style of short story that women's magazines want to buy.
It costs one pound or one dollar-fifty approx and can be downloaded directly from my website.
Right: let's get you started on the road to making money from writing.
RESEARCH AND MARKETS
If you want to be a writer...be a reader.
Many people who want to sell short stories to women's magazines admit they don't read them. I don't understand this. How can you hope to sell your writing to a women's magazine with which you are not familiar? There is no substitute for research and in the beginning you cannot do too much of it. It's easy to get started: just visit your local newsagent or supermarket and check which magazines publish fiction. Many do not but there is still a healthy market out there for well written, well targeted short stories.
Not only is it necessary to buy the magazines but you must read them regularly and actively.
Regularly: don't just dip in and out of them. Buy them every week (most are weekly) over a period of months. Follow their serials, see how articles change from season to season.
Actively: read them first as anyone else would. But you are not anyone else: you're a writer. Go back over the magazine again paying particular attention to the fiction and do both types of research thoroughly.
This is the nuts and bolts of the stories the magazine buys and publishes. Sometimes the basic story requirements are available as writers' guidelines and if they are, you should pay special attention to what they say: this is the editor telling you what he/she wants.
However, guidelines can often be confusing for a beginner and there is in any case no substitute for your own examination of stories the magazine buys and publishes.
Pay particular attention to story lengths; the magazine has constraints on its space and editors know exactly how long they need their stories to be. If they only publish stories of 1000 words it will be no use sending them anything longer. (This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people make this mistake.) The writers whose work is published know this and work with editors who are busy people. They don't have time to edit down your 1200 word submission for a 1000 word slot. It is bad manners to expect them to. Editors are your potential customers: make it easy for them to want to buy your stories.
Having established the length required, look more closely at the composition of the published stories. How long are most of the paragraphs? ? (Yes: I do mean count the words!) What is the proportion of dialogue to prose? Are the stories written in first person (I) or third person (he/she)? Who is the narrator of the story: man; woman; child? Is the ending a twist (something surprising which the reader could not have foreseen but for which there were in hindsight, clues)? How much description is included in the story? Is the setting modern or historical?
Gain all the factual information of this kind before you go on to the more difficult kind of research.
This is more difficult but also arguably more important because it involves you trying to immerse yourself into the world of the magazine and its readers. If you are going to write stories to sell you need to put yourself into the mind of the editor who has a pretty direct link into the minds of the readers.
You can find simple clues for this by examining the advertisements run by the magazine. Advertisers are there because they think the magazine's readers will want to buy their products. Are the ads for stair-lifts and sensible shoes or are they for toys and sexy underwear? This might seem a bit simplistic and it certainly is only a superficial way to get into a magazine's mindset, but it is a good starting point.
By far the best way to absorb the magazine's philosophy is to keep reading it. You cannot do this by buying one copy. This is where the reading regularly comes in. Over time you will start to notice similarities between the kinds of articles they run and the kinds of stories they buy. You will get a "feel" for the kinds of subjects readers are interested in and their take on them.
In "Being Beautiful" from "For A Smile" a woman is flattered by extra marital attention. This is a potentially dangerous theme for women's magazines. There are some that would not sanction the use of the topic at all. If I had sent it to one of them it would have come winging its way back to me: not because there was anything inherently wrong with the story but because the editor would have known her readers would be uncomfortable with it.
However, I targeted the story at a magazine I knew was likely to be receptive if I could handle what happened with an appropriate slant and provide an acceptable outcome. This worked because I "knew" the magazine.
A word of warning: if you find yourself completely unable to empathise with a magazine's view of the world, then you would be better to target your stories somewhere else. You cannot fake empathy with the magazine's emotional sub context; an editor will smell your insincerity a mile off and your story will soon be back on your desk!
So study your magazine's stories; start to think like the readers think. Only then will you be ready to write something for them and ready to start making money from your writing.
Good luck. See you in the next lesson from the Short Story Tool Shed.