What really happens when you sell a story to the press?
Ever wondered about selling a real life story to a women's magazine? How does it really work? And are the stories even true? I'll let you in on a secret...
In the past year alone, I've sold dozens of real life stories to women's magazines and national newspapers. In that time, I've spoken to a man who fathered ten children in four months (above) and a woman who spent £10,000 on surgery so she could look like a Barbie doll.
I'm often asked how it works, and whether the stories in real life magazines are even true. So in this post I'll let you in on a few trade secrets from my experience as a real life journalist.
How do journalists find stories?
The first thing people usually want to know is where the stories come from. Do people ring up a magazine and say they'd like to be featured, or do journalists track them down?
Well in my experience, it's a bit of both. While some people call a journalist and ask to be featured in a magazine, the vast majority don't even know their story is newsworthy until a journalist or features writer contacts them.
For example, I recently read a short article in a local newspaper about a woman who asked her wedding guests for donations to a local hospital - so I got in touch to see if there was an interesting tale behind it.
I found out the hospital neonatal unit had saved her twin niece and nephew's lives. Just over a year ago, the bride's sister had been knocked off her bike when she was 6 months pregnant and gone into early labour because of the shock.
Although the twins were born three months early and only weighed a few pounds, the doctors and nurses had worked around the clock to make sure they were okay.
When I spoke to the twins' mum, she was happy to be interviewed for a real life magazine because she remembered flicking through similar magazines in the hospital waiting room when her children were in intensive care.
After a chat on the phone, and I helped her sell the story exclusively to Chat magazine.
How much do magazines pay for real life stories?
People often ask me whether magazines and newspapers will pay for a story. And if so, how can they even begin to put a value on such personal stories?
Usually stories which are sold to women's magazines are auctioned and the price is set by demand. The journalist would send a short summary of the story to a number of different women's magazines.
If one of the magazines wanted to publish the story, they'd put forward a bid. In some cases, two or three magazines want the story, in which case they would bid against each other until one magazine wins.
Often a story can be sold to two magazines, as long as they aren't direct competitors.
Are stories in women's magazines really true?
Finally, that all-important question: how can the outlandish stories in real life magazines be true?
All I can say is sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. My job would be a whole lot easier if I could sell made up stories to the magazines, but every one is carefully fact-checked, often with the courts or police.
The crazy thing is that sometimes there are even more shocking details to a story which can't be printed for legal or ethical reasons.
And sometimes the bizarre antics behind the scenes in a newspaper or magazine office become worthy of a story in themselves! But those are tales I'll leave for another blog post.
Think you've got a real life story?
I hope this post gave you a little bit of an insight into the weird and wonderful world of real life magazines. If you think you've got a real life story which you'd like to share with a magazine, why not get in touch?
My advice is always free and confidential.