Sell your story
Almost every newspaper or magazine you pick up will feature at least one real-life story. Whether your life experience is outrageous, inspiring, tragic, or even comic, you may have something to offer them. It could be your husband’s affair, bankruptcy, a heart-warming reunion, an illness or even a dodgy bikini wax.
However, before you even think about picking up the phone to sell your story, make sure that you are completely happy about having your story, and possibly your life, in the public domain. Remember that your friends and family are likely to read or hear about your story so you need to be sure that you can cope with the possibility of negative reactions.
It may even be worthwhile getting legal advice or representation depending on the sensitivity of the story. It could also be necessary to keep a record of all conversations with potential buyers. You are very likely to be asked to provide proof to validate your story so keep relevant photographs or documents safe.
Who do you call?
Here are some things to consider when deciding who to approach:
- What kind of story do you have to tell?
- What kind of people will want to read your story?
- What kind of stories feature in magazines?
- What kind of stories feature in newspapers?
Look at different magazines and see the type of real-life stories they use to get an idea of where you might be able to sell your story. Magazines want their articles to reflect their readership and are usually targeted towards a particular age group, which will usually affect the kind of stories they feature. So teen magazines will be a good bet for bullying or family feud stories, a medical horror or dramatic slimming story would typically be suited to an older readership, while a more exotic or dramatic story would sit well with an upmarket glossy. If your story touches upon contemporary issues and has widespread appeal, perhaps a failed operation or how you had to sell the family home to pay off debts, it may be more appropriate for a newspaper feature article.
Get in touch
Some national newspapers like The Sun and The Mirror have phone numbers and email addresses set up specifically for people selling their real-life stories. Equally some magazines like ‘Take a Break’ have a separate section on their website to help you sell them your story. For those that don’t, simply call the switchboard of your chosen paper or magazine and ask to be put through to the features desk. For an alphabetical list of all the newspapers and magazines in the UK along with contact details go to the MediaUK website.
Also, consider using a press agency to sell your story for you. A press agency will often have the best contacts to sell your story and although they will take a percentage of your fee you may actually end up getting more money because they will have the contacts, and knowledge to make sure it is not undersold. The main ones are ‘NationalStory’, ‘Cash4YourStory’ and ‘Featureworld’.
If you think your story will be highly sought-after it may be worthwhile using an agent or public relations company like Max Clifford Associates. These agents have the expertise to sell it for the highest price by creating a bidding war and they will also help you organise any legal contracts. They may even be able to help you get paid work on TV documentaries and chat shows.
According to one national tabloid feature writer, the amount of money a newspaper will give for a story can vary widely from £200 to £2,000, or even more for an exceptional story. Magazines may pay you less but they also feature more real-life stories than most newspapers so may be more willing to buy your story. Take A Break, for example, says you could earn up to £1,000 by sending them a good tale.
You are likely to get more money from one of the tabloids but be aware that there is probably a greater risk that they will present your story in a way that you’re not necessarily comfortable with.
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