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Which real life stories sell to a magazine or newspaper?

Updated on October 18, 2010

Selling stories to the press for you..

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Which stories sell to magazines and newspapers?

They say everyone has a story to tell – and in fact you probably have a story to sell but you don’t know it!

So, if you don’t have a sensational story to sell to the press, what sort of real life stories are magazines and newspapers looking for? And how much money will UK magazines and newspapers pay?

Here – and in no particular order – is my top 20 guide…!

  1. Relationship stories. Stories about divorce, affairs, adultery and betrayal are always popular. Perhaps you and your ex got back together after one of you had an affair or maybe you even divorced? Maybe your new man turned out to be a complete love rat or a holiday romance turned out to be something more… You might have fallen in love with a toyboy or a much older woman…
  2. Relationship stories but they don’t have to just be about you and your partner. Also popular are two sides pieces between friends and family. Perhaps you and a friend fell out years ago but have now become friendly – telling the story of how you didn’t speak for years might be a saleable one. It might be you and your daughter or sister disagree on a subject – she wants to freeze her eggs, concentrate on a career and have babies in her 50s but this horrifies you.
  3. Crime stories. You might have shopped your husband or son to the Police for their own good. Were you a victim of crime yourself? Or you managed to help foil a crime…
  4. Illness. If you’ve overcome cancer, had a baby against all the odds, came back from holiday suffering from some exotic bug or been the first person to undergo some new treatment, then you could sell your story.
  5. Pets. You keep an unusual pet, your pet introduced you to the new love in your life – perhaps you are going to marry your pet. Quirky animal stories are always popular.
  6. Cosmetic surgery. Maybe you have decided to transform yourself through cosmetic surgery, had a radical new procedure or had a disaster with a surgeon you want to expose.
  7. Diet and weight loss. Lost the most weight in the shortest time? Perhaps you met the love of your life after losing half your body weight. Maybe you made up your own diet or lost weight eating chocolate bars and chips!
  8. Sex change stories. You have had a sex change, or are going to – your daughter, son or husband has. You are a male soldier turned beautician. Maybe you are married to a transvestite or your husband often goes out dressed as a woman.
  9. You’ve suffered from an eating disorder. You were fat, then too thin and then too big again. Or you were anorexic until you met your new partner and love helped save you. Perhaps you are worried your daughter is picky about her food and she is only six – eating disorder stories are always popular.
  10. Addiction stories. You are addicted to a celebrity and have travelled all over the world to see him or her, you are addicted to shoes and have thousands stuffed all over the house. You are a sex addict, a gambler or an alcoholic and it is threatening to ruin your marriage and you have now overcome it.
  11. Phobias: You suffer from an unusual phobia or are terrified of something simple that others will find odd. A recent one was a woman frightened of bananas.
  12. Unusual jobs. You used to be an escort or prostitute. Or your job is quite strange – for example you taste cat food for a living or try out fair ground rides and get paid to do so.
  13. Weddings – you planned the whole wedding without your partner knowing, you gave birth on your wedding day – maybe you were jilted on your wedding day (the bonus is you can sell your story!)
  14. Adoption stories: You traced your birth mum and she rejected you again, you discovered your biological dad is the man who lives nextdoor. Or you adopted a child yourself and had to send the child back because you couldn’t cope…
  15. You’ve survived … an earthquake, a flood, a plane crash …
  16. You’ve racked up debt. You became bankrupt or overnight your home was repossessed. You might have rebuilt your life.
  17. You’ve had a holiday from hell – the luxury villa you went to was anything but, you discovered cockroaches in the five star hotel or you became stranded during some strike.
  18. Family rift stories: Your twin sister is prettier than you, your mum stole your boyfriend, you know it’s terrible to admit but you dislike your stepchildren, or you and your mum in law really don’t get on (and you’ll both talk honestly about it.)
  19. You are donating your eggs, selling your eggs online, having lots of surrogate babies – doing something that raises some controversy.
  20. Lottery stories – you’ve won the lottery – yes, money makes money! But the story about losing it all will make you some money too….

How much can you earn selling your story?

For particularly strong stories the sky is always the limit – for example it is going to be on the front page of a national Sunday newspaper could make you tens of thousands.

On my website I give the figure of up to £6000 and the reason for this is I feel this amount of money is doable for the ordinary person who has a very good real life story suitable for perhaps a national newspaper, two magazines a TV chat.

For other stories around £300 to £500 is about right for a two-page spread. For a page or if your story is part of a larger feature, the price is likely to be less. If your story is more in demand and several publications want to buy it, you might get up to £1000 to £2,000 for your story.

What makes my story more saleable?

Good photos! So don’t rip up those of your ex husband just yet if you might want to sell a story about your marriage.

Other people being involved will make your story more saleable. If you are going to talk about your row with your stepmum, it might be impossible to sell your story if your stepmum won’t talk about it too.

Legal proof, where necessary, also makes a story saleable – your ex was convicted in court, for example, for assault on you or the woman he left you for is named on the divorce certificate when you sued for adultery.

And the above is just a small sample of real life human interest stories that are saleable… I also run a casting directory, where people can receive emails about features I am working on and apply if something interests them.

Alison Smith-Squire is a media agent who sells stories to the UK press for ordinary people from website Featureworld.

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