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Why sell a story?

Updated on December 31, 2010

Why do people sell a story to the press?

Selling a story to the press isn't only for those people who find themselves in the middle of cash offers for their side of a big news story. Here, I look at other reasons why people sell stories to a magazine or newspaper - perhaps it is something you too might consider?

Sell a story to gain publicity for a book or novel

If you have written a book, you will want to launch a publicity campaign to try to sell as many copies. It's a common misconception that gaining publicity for your novel will involve you paying an expensive PR agency or that you need to have had your book published by a huge organisation. But in fact, if you have a good story to sell behind writing your book, newspaper and magazine editors won't mind if you have self-published your book. Maybe the break-up of a relationship gave you the impetus to write your romantic novel? Or perhaps you wrote your non-fiction book after losing weight and transforming yourself? Often your own personal story will be saleable to a real life magazine - and that magazine will plug your book at the end of the article. You might have done a lot of research for your book - revealing the findings of that research can also make an interesting read for a daily newspaper or women's magazine.

Sell a story to raise awareness for a charity

Have you battled through an illness or contracted a rare disease? If so, then telling your story can help others and earn you some money. If you were misdiagnosed, reading about your experience could stop the same thing happening to someone else. Writing an honest piece about your experiences of disability could make the reader think twice next time they meet someone like you. Telling your emotional real life story in a newspaper about your struggle against adversity can touch people's feelings so much they will make a donation to a charity. The vast majority of newspapers and magazines are more than happy to give a plug to bona-fide charity organisations.

Sell a story to promote your business

Did you return to work just days after having triplets? Have you built your company up from working off a table in your kitchen? Are you marrying your boss? Stories like this can make a super read in a national newspaper or women's magazine. The bonus is your business might be mentioned in the feature, which can be priceless publicity for your company.

Sell a story to name and shame

Did you marry a love rat? Did your doctor misdiagnose your child? Or perhaps you want to expose the wrong doing of an organisation. Selling your story to gain justice on something terrible that happened in your life can be a good way to draw a line or bring closure to an issue.

Sell a story to earn money

People imagine you must need to have an amazing story to sell to the press. But this isn't always so. In fact, magazines and newspapers are often looking for ordinary people to take part in features. It might be something as simple as testing a new type of make up or sharing how you and your ex sort Christmas so you both see the children. The vast majority of these stories carry a small thank you payment for taking part.

Sell a story to tell the truth

Some people might use an article to put their side of the story forward. Maybe you recently divorced but many people think you were the guilty party - and that wasn't how it was at all. Selling a story to a newspaper or magazine can be a good way to set the record straight.

Sell a story to inspire others

Real life experiences about how you came to terms with grief, an illness or a terrible period in your life are always sought after. Perhaps your marriage is stronger after one of you had an affair or maybe you spent years trying to get pregnant and found out you were just when you were about to give up on having a baby. These stories - known in the trade as 'triumph over tragedy' are the staple of many magazines and newspapers. Why? Because, contrary to popular belief ultimately everyone (yes, even the national press) enjoys a story with a happy ending...

Alison Smith-Squire has been a journalist for over 25 years and now runs Featureworld, working as a writer and consultant media agent.


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