Monday, 22 May 2017

Guest post by womagwriter Shane Telford

Today's guest is Shane Telford.

Imagine my excitement when I accidentally discovered a new market for short stories while aimlessly flicking through my Readly app the other night.

Woman’s Way is a weekly publication in Ireland, aimed at women thirty and beyond. I’ve noticed it on shelves before but it was never really on my radar. Once my finger slipped and I’d downloaded the most recent issue onto my phone I decided to go for a bit of a snoop, to pass the time if nothing else. And there it was on the content’s page, ‘Reader’s Fiction’.

I skipped to page forty-one, eager for a read and found a rather cute story about dating in your fifties, the kind of story I’ve read and written in the past. Then I investigated further and discovered that their fondness for a short story was only recent; it had become a regular feature two weeks prior.

So far, so good. I decided to get in contact with the editor and enquire about their fiction guidelines, asking about word count, theme and pay rate.

The editor replied rather promptly, another plus I thought, and sent me a detailed list of guidelines. But before I could begin plotting my first submission to the magazine, I saw a sentence that made my heart sink. ‘We are not currently in a position to pay.’

And just like that, any excitement I had about this new market dissipated until all I was left with was anger and disappointment. I flicked through the pages again and noticed that the magazine were willing to pay for reader’s letters, but when it came to eight hundred words of fiction their purse-strings were tightly pulled and knotted.

That got me thinking: Why is our writing so often treated as second-class, unworthy of payment? In an ever-shrinking market, where it’s becoming harder and harder to sell a story, why do some publications think it’s okay to ask us to just give away our work and be content with a pat on the back?

I suppose the answer is because some people will sell a story and be completely okay with the thrill of publication as the only payment. But that doesn’t help those of us who use our hard-earned writing money to pay the bills. If anything it’s a hindrance.

So, what is the answer? I wish I knew that for certain. I just know that I could never support a publication that takes my work for granted, considers my writing just a hobby, and expects me to fill their pages free of charge. Instead I’ll spend my time and money on those magazines that offer more than just an opportunity to see my name in print. The Womag market isn’t at its healthiest but I think it’s important for us all to appreciate that there are still magazines out there willing to give our work the respect it deserves and pay us what we’re owed. They are the magazines we should be supporting, in whichever way we can, whether it be by subscribing every month or submitting our best work.


Lindsay said...

Well said. Many people have written something for no pay for all sorts of reasons, a non-profit magazine, the exposure etc. But a commercial magazine should pay! I bet the editor doesn't work for nothing.

Carolb said...

Agree with you Shane.

And as Lindsay says, if they pay the staff they should pay the short story writers.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Shane! Good wishes KH

Tara said...

Totally agree with you, Shane - definitely one to avoid.


Julia said...

Yep...focus on the positive, sidestep the negative. It's tough, writing fiction!

Madalyn Morgan said...

Agree with you, Shane. I write novels, but I'd love to get a short story published. However, I wouldn't give it away, because that would be letting down my fellow writes who write short stories. It would be saying they are not worthy of payment, which they are. Writing short stories, in my opinion, is the most difficult in our field. Good luck to all short story writers. Don't give your work away.

Madalyn Morgan.

Margaret McEwan said...

Thanks,Shane, for sharing with us your discovery that Woman's Way "is not in a position to pay for short stories." I looked them up on the Internet and, would you believe it, they describe themselves as Ireland's biggest selling magazine and the only women's weekly in Ireland. The last available ABC figures (December 2013) reord "sales of more than 1 million copies a week". The publishers, Harmonia, are listed as the largest magazine publishing company in Ireland, printing almost 5 million magazines a year. I absolutely agree with you, Shane, that womag writers should avoid them and support the magazines who do value their contributors - just wish there were more outlets. ( And, by the way, an annual subscription to Woman's Way currently costs 264 Euros (UK) - and 75 Euros if you live in Ireland!)

Patsy said...

My own feeling on the payment issue is that although there may be reasons for a writer agreeing to allow their work to be published without any pay, if anyone is making money from the story, then the writer should always get a cut.

Anonymous said...

Woman's Way - away!

carrie said...

Well said everyone!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Adding my agreement and disappointment that such a magazine can't pay their fiction writers! At least Ireland's Own pays for fiction, even if it's not a huge amount.

Anonymous said...

I agree in principal regarding magazines paying to use stories. However, there are many writers who have no hope of getting a foothold into the established women's magazines,irrespective of how much support they give them.They've missed the boat as it's only established writers or staff who are being used. I find now that many friends have stopped buying magazines for these reasons. So it's not the thrill of being seen in print, it may be the only option of a first step for many writers to put on their writing CV. Anon eb

Anonymous said...

Re the above comment - this is exactly the old "first step" excuse that outfits like Woman's Way always rely upon. I agree with all the other posters here that it is simply not fair behaviour from a successful commercial enterprise.

There is a movement called "We won't work for nothing" where writers, illustrators, musicians etc refuse to do free work for commercial outfits. You might as well band together and self-publish!

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with all the posters here that everyone deserves fair payment for work. Yet some people still think £300 for a 50,000 pocket novel is a fair deal. Go figure.

Lisa Macgregor said...

I agree with both sides of this discussion and think it probably depends on how well established a person is in the world of womag writers. Before I had my first story accepted and all I had was a huge pile of rejection letters, I would've given anything to see my name in print and know my writing was of good enough quality to be published, even if this meant doing it for free. However, since being published and receiving good money for my stories I wouldn't be quite so happy writing for free. I suppose it also boils down to the fact that some people write just as a hobby and for the satisfaction of putting their ideas onto paper and some people write to pay their bills (or at least some of the bills :o)

John D said...

Any payment, however small, at least acknowledges that "the labourer is worthy of his hire" to quote Chaucer, who I'm sure got paid for writing that

Wendy's Writing said...

I would only ever write for payment. Magazine writing is my job not my hobby.

Sharon Boothroyd said...

Wendy,you state you would 'only ever write for payment.'
What if someone approached you and asked you to donate a story for a charity anthology?
Would you say no, unless you were paid?
I recently helped create an e-anthology. Sales generated from this go to a charity. Several kind womag writers were happy to donate their stories and did not expect me to pay them.

phann son said...

I would've given anything to see my name in print and know my writing was of good enough quality to be published, even if this meant doing it for free. However, since being published and receiving good money for my stories I wouldn't be quite so happy writing for free.

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Geoff Palmer said...

It's no just unknown writers who are asked to work for nothing. Here's a classic rant from Harlan Ellison: