Selling short stories to women’s magazines is big (although has depleted in recent years) business here in the UK and below are some of the details…
- Best magazine has currently stopped printing short stories but below are the last guidelines in case they do start again.
Here are Womagwriter‘s guidelines: “Every month, we are sent hundreds of stories to consider for publication. To save your time and ours, please don’t send us yours unless it meets ALL of the following criteria. If you do send one, address it to the Fiction Editor at BEST, 33 Broadwick St London W1F 0DQ, and print your name and address on the first or last page (not just in the covering letter, which may become detached). Posted MSS must be sent with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for their return. Keep a copy of your story, as we cannot accept responsibility for the loss of unsolicited manuscripts. You can submit your story by e-mail, to email@example.com – but we will need your postal address, so you can assign rights and pay you, if we decide to buy your story, so do include it.
+ Your story must be original and not under consideration elsewhere.
+ It should be no less than 900 and no more than 1200 words long, and typewritten. Please do not send a disk or tape – these will be returned unread. Do not fax us your story, as this delays more urgent material. We do not require a synopsis or outline first, or have time to read these. And we don’t publish serials or poetry.
+ Your plot must be strong and convincing, its situations modern, relevant and believable. We are happy to have sex feature in a story, as long as it’s not too explicit. Characters must be believable, too, and people with whom readers can identify. (Please familiarise yourself with our magazine.) In almost all stories we print, the main character is a woman.
+ Your approach should be young, fresh and lively. We love humour and welcome original twists and angles. The outcome of your story must leave the reader feeling satisfied. We do NOT want to read that it was all a dream! We also do not want stories about the lottery, dating agencies, fortune-tellers or murdering a spouse. We don’t want mystery characters who turn out to be twin brothers or sisters, or first-person stories ‘written’ by dogs or cats!
+ Don’t be afraid to be different, to step outside a rigid story-telling format, to jump – in time, space, plot or pace – rather than spelling everything out, as this stretches the reader’s imagination. A good story is original, and will interest, involve, intrigue, surprise.
+ We work a minimum of two months in advance and, as MSS are not read immediately on arrival, seasonal stories need to be sent at least three and ideally four months ahead.
Please note that MS turnaround time can be two to three months, and occasionally longer.
+ We pay £150 for the stories we buy and look forward to seeing yours for consideration.
It’s good to see they are specifically asking for stories with more complex structures. I like writing ones which experiment a little, so am particularly pleased to see this mentioned in the guidelines.
Fiction editor’s name is Pat Richardson. Stories tend to be printed all on one page – hence the tight word-count limits.” Thank you, Womag!
- CANDIS: Candis magazine used to be more open to unsolicited short stories but do appear to prefer pieces from established authors (as does The Lady, which is a shame). Details of Candis’ guidelines are: minimum 2300, Maximum 2500 (we will not read anything longer or shorter than this). Who you’re writing for: Women aged 30-58 and their husbands/partners. What we’re looking for: Clever, keep ‘em guessing story lines; twist in the tale/tales of the unexpected style writing. Stories of modern love, romance, friendship, family life. Short, tightly written whodunits. Warm, likeable central characters. Original storylines that are all your own work and have not been published in the UK before. What we’re NOT looking for: Children’s fiction, Mills and Boon stories with predictable endings; (ouch) anything science fiction based or set in the future; stories written from an animal or ghost’s point of view; anything with detailed violence or graphic sexual descriptions. Short stories to be sent in the first instance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Fee: £300 payable by cheque or bank transfer. Once you receive written acceptance you will be asked to submit an invoice for payment. How to submit copy: By email as a .doc document or .rft (rich text format). Please do not send .docx documents as we can’t open them. Alternatively cut and paste your copy into the body of the email. When will I hear anything? Unfortunately the selection process takes time. Remember we can only select twelve short stories a year to print in Candis and we choose them from an average of six hundred stories sent to us each year. When we receive your story, it is put in a holding file until we can read it in batches to make our shortlist. Those that don’t make the shortlist will receive notice at this point. Short-listed stories are then held until they are sent, in batches of three, to our reader panellists for that month’s issue. If your story is chosen, we will send you confirmation that you’ve been successful and which issue your work will appear in – at this point you can send your invoice in. If your story isn’t selected the first time it’s sent to our reader panellists, it will go out again the next month to a different set of panellists. If it isn’t selected again, then you will receive notice that you haven’t been successful. As you can imagine, this process isn’t quick. We will, however, aim to get in touch either way, within four months of your first submission. Please note: Due to the sheer number of stories sent in, we are NOT able to give individual feedback on why your story wasn’t selected. Good luck!
- THE LADY: Weekly magazine The Lady is not currently taking short story submissions (as mentioned on jbwb) and haven’t for some time (although they have periodically published established writers’ stories) but if I hear differently I will update this page.
- MY WEEKLY:
My Weekly women’s magazine guidelines can be found on http://www.jbwb.co.uk/weekly.htm and http://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/my-weekly.html. For longer stories you might like to consider their Pocket Novels and Sally Quilford has information on those here, as does Womagwriter.Please note that My Weekly doesn’t currently accept unsolicited manuscripts from anyone they haven’t published before. Unfair, I know, but I think they just get so many submissions from those they have published. Hopefully this will change, but it’s been like this for a while so I’ll let you know if I have any news.
- PEOPLE’S FRIEND: One of the longest running and most respected (and hardest to get into!) women’s magazines in the UK is The People’s Friend. Their guidelines are very specific (ignore them at your peril!).
TAKE A BREAK: Take a Break no longer run short stories in their weekly magazine but has continued their dedicated monthly Fiction Feast. They have various slots: Put Your Feet Up, From The Heart, Spine Chiller, Tale with a Twist, and want 750-3000 words, though once you’ve sold them a few they’ll consider longer stories as well, postal submissions only, response should be in 12 weeks, but if you haven’t heard, email Norah McGrath (the fiction editor) stating the name of the story, date submitted and a 2-line plot outline and she’ll get back to you. All stories are read by Norah McGrath. Promising stories are then read by other members of the department including the editor of FF, whose word is final. If you get a rejection and ‘SR’ is pencilled in the corner, you know it got to the second read stage. A rejection is a rejection, not an invitation to tweak and re-sub it. No feedback is given. Pay remains at £200 for 1 page rising to £400 for 3000 worders. Send seasonal stories six months in advance. Submission address: Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Fiction Feast, 24-28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DT. Thank you to http://womagwriter.blogspot.com for that.
Please note that Take a Break has currently shut their list to any new writers. Hopefully this will change.
- WEEKLY NEWS: Part of the DC Thomson chain (which also produces People’s Friend and My Weekly), The Weekly News is a little known about and much underrated opportunity for short story authors. Womagwriter blogged their guidelines back in February 2011, as did Sarah Evans. Womagwriter’s says: “The Weekly News has a largely older readership which is evenly split between the sexes, so we are looking for general interest tales — crime, humour (especially), ghost stories (although we’ve had plenty of these recently), or “coffee break” dramas which wouldn’t be out of place in any popular TV soap. At the moment, I’m also interested in stories with a bit more “edge” that are slightly darker. Although an old-fashioned love story may occasionally be appropriate, I’m not looking for “slushy” romantic fiction, or anything “twee”. And although it’s a popular style, I don’t generally take “chick-lit”.
Similarly, I don’t want anything too racy or gory. As The Weekly News is a family paper, I wouldn’t use anything with any sexual content. Many stories we publish have an interesting twist to surprise the reader, as these seem to be popular. But if your twist is “it was all a dream” or “he/she/it was a ghost”, or the main character is actually a pet, it won’t get through!
• Aim for something light-hearted, perhaps centred around family life or a recognisable situation.
• If your main character is strong enough, you can have them carry the whole story.
• A positive outcome is favoured, but this can be reached by a good bit of double-crossing, or the comeuppance of the “baddie”.
• Be playful – have some fun with your characters at their expense ie in embarrassing social situations.
• I also like sensitive stories which may involve a death, an illness a fear etc. If the situation doesn’t come across as too dark and depressing and has an uplifting end, then it may make it through.
Stories can vary in length from about 750 to 2000 words at most, though we reserve the right to edit them as appropriate.
Also, I rarely accept stories written in the first person or present tense.
Please note that, at present, I use three fiction items at each week and, even if an item is accepted, it could be some time before it is published.
I always have plenty of stories to read through, so it could be six to eight weeks before I can respond to submissions.
I’m acutely aware there is always someone waiting to hear from me, so thank you for your continued patience – I will always get back to you!
Here are some DOs:
• Use strong, identifiable characters – but remember they don’t always have to be likeable.
• Use natural-sounding speech. I tend to avoid dialect, as we like to be a bit “geographically vague” to add to the universality of the stories.
• Check your historical facts fit your time-frame and characters.
• Be thought-provoking if you want – be topical.
• Read and check your punctuation and paragraphing. The easier your work is on the eye, the easier it is to make an informed decision.
• Work within reality – this is fiction, but it does have to be believable.
• Do include your email address, postal address and phone number on your story.
• Full stories, please. I can’t get enough detail or “feel” for a piece from a pitch or synopsis.
And some specific DON’Ts:
• No murdered spouses, dreams, ghosts or pet twists.
• No first person or present-tense stories.
• No relationship-centred stories.
• No hard copy.
E-mail is now our only method of delivery. Please send to: email@example.com
You’ll receive an auto-reply from this address, so you know I’ve definitely received your email.”
- Womagwriter’s blog http://womagwriter.blogspot.com is one of the best places I know for information and guidance on writing women’s magazines. The How To website also has some great advice. Also see ‘My Weekly’, ‘People’s Friend’ and ‘Take a Break’ above as well as ‘Woman’s Weekly’, ‘You South Africa’ and ‘Yours’ below.
- Speaking of Womagwriter, when I reviewed her (Kath’s) writing guide, Short Stories and How to Write Them, she replied “… As for whether women’s magazines prefer first or third, present or past tense – it all depends on the magazine. The Weekly News prefers third person, past tense. Take A Break don’t mind first or third, but definitely prefer past tense (they altered Finding Mum from present to past for publication). Woman’s Weekly will take any, as long as it’s well written. And although most stories tend to have a female MC that’s not a set-in-stone rule. All the stories in my book were published in the mags and as you spotted, there are a number of male MCs in there!” That’s really useful. Thank you, Kath. I must submit more often (more than half a dozen a year!).
- WOMAN’S WEEKLY: Women’s magazine Woman’s Weekly guidelines are online but also copied here: “We regret we can’t accept stories by email. Please include an sae in case we have to return your manuscript. Fiction is a vital ingredient of Woman’s Weekly, the place where readers can escape and switch off. This doesn’t mean predictable plots or old-fashioned romances. Escapism means getting involved in a really gripping tale with believable characters. Above all, we are looking for originality and a wide variety of themes and moods, such as mystery, humour, relationships and family issues, with warmth still an important factor. Try to be subtle in your writing and remember the maxim: “Show don’t tell”. We recommend you read several issues of Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special to get a feel for our audience. Unfortunately, we can’t offer criticism, but if your writing shows promise, we will contact you. What we are looking for: For the weekly magazine: Short stories of 1,000 and 2,000 words. Serials in 3 or 4 parts of 3,300 words each. For Fiction Special (At least 20 stories 12 times a year): Stories of 1,000 to 8,000 words. General tips: ° We read only typescripts. Handwritten work can’t be considered. ° Double line spacing on one side of the paper only and wide margins. ° Number each page and make sure your name is at the top of each page. ° If sending stories from abroad, please enclose an international reply coupon. ° If you would like us to acknowledge receipt of your manuscript, enclose a stamped, addressed postcard. ° Please note that it can take up to sixteen weeks for manuscripts to be considered, and that we are unable to enter into any correspondence by email. Please send stories/serials to: Fiction Department, Woman’s Weekly, IPC Media, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0SU.”
- YOU: You South Africa’s short story guidelines are here. Note they (unusually for a magazine) prefer to receive electronic submissions. These can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively post to YOU, PO Box 7167, Roggebaai 8012 and mark them for the attention of C van Zyl.
- YOURS: Yours has a great ‘How to Get Your Writing Published’ page which includes links to their fiction guidelines (1000-1200 words) and non-fiction guidelines (300 words max. ideally with photographs). For fiction, allow up to six months for reply and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you would like your manuscript returned. For non-fiction, Yours will contact you if they are able to use your article. Update October 2016 courtesy of womagwriter blog.
I will add more details as I get them.