Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year to everyone. Thank you for following and commenting on my blog over the past twelve months. I hope that some of my ramblings have been of use to you.

Of course, whilst the New Year is a great opportunity to set up your goals for the coming year, don’t forget to look back and list everything that you achieved in 2012. This time last year my book, The Positively Productive Writer, had just been published and has, over the course of 2012, sold over 550 physical copies, and many more electronic copies. I hope it has helped those who have read it to start achieving their writing goals. (And if you haven’t got a copy yet, then perhaps you might want to consider buying a copy, too!)

The Positively Productive Writer essentially draws upon my own writing experience and techniques. It’s what has worked for me. You may recall a couple of postings ago, I mentioned about a project I was working on that I was having trouble with. I needed 20,000 words writing by the end of this year, and the words just weren’t flowing. So, I sat back and drew upon my own words of wisdom and created a set of goals to get that first draft written before Christmas.

And it worked. Not only that, but when I read through those 22,500 words (yes, I wrote more than was necessary - editing feels better when you throw words away, I find) they weren’t as dire as I first thought they were! So, by practising my own advice, I managed to get that project finished. By the time you read these words, that project will be sitting in the editor’s inbox: deadline achieved. There was no way I thought that was going to happen at the beginning of December!

Which brings me to a final point. Yes, set yourself some goals to achieve with your writing in 2013, but consider January too. Give yourself a mini-project to have completed by the end of January. It needn’t be big. Write an article. Or a short story. Just give yourself something to achieve in the next 31 days. You might surprise yourself.

I wish you all a prosperous and productive 2013.

Good luck!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Very Inspired Blogger Award


Thanks to Tracey Fells (The Literary Pig: http://tracyfells.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/inspired-to-write.html) for passing on the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to me. I found her 7 random facts that inspired her to write, quite intriguing! Actually, it’s quite a good time of year to reflect back on what our motives were that first encouraged us to write. Here are 7 random facts that inspire me to pick up a pen.

1. At the age of 14, I wrote to three famous writers asking for their advice. Playwright Alan Bleasdale told me to become a brain surgeon instead. It would be far quicker. He was right: it took me another 18 years before my first book was published, whereas, I believe, learning to undertake brain surgery takes about seven years … plus a little practise. (I’ve always assumed that to do brain surgery, one must have a brain int he first place.)

2. I was an avid reader of books from an early age, spending most of Saturday morning in the library choosing eight books, and then the rest of the weekend reading them. It’s always good to vary your reading matter. I’m currently reading The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. Not my usual reading matter, but I am enjoying it. It was reading other writers’ work that inspired me to want to write my own books.

3. After A levels, I opted to go to work, rather than University. (Creative Writing degrees weren’t as numerous back then, and if I had gone I would probably have studied my strongest subject at O and A level - economics. Eeeuurrgghh! Economics! How boring!) So, I joined Barclays Bank. (How boring, too!) I soon realised that banking wasn’t enjoyable either, which encouraged me to write in my spare time. Looking back, it also demonstrated that nothing in a writer’s life is wasted. Where do you think I drew inspiration for The Bluffer’s Guide to Banking, that was published twenty years after I’d left the bank? (Yes, I really am that old.)

4. I won a writing competition in 1998. Despite being drawn towards writing non-fiction, I had a go at writing a short story, and in April 1998, came first in the David Thomas Charitable Trust Writing Awards run by Writers’ News magazine, in their foggy morning competition. There’s nothing like winning a competition to spur you on! You can read it here: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/short-stories/blindingly-foggy/ 

5. You never know where this writing world will take you. After my first book was published Hodder & Stoughton invited me to London for the classic ‘author lunch’, which was truly amazing. (It was where they commissioned the second book, too.) Regular readers will remember that earlier this year I was a magazine model for Country Walking magazine. It was only by sitting down and writing something in the first place that these experiences were possible. This encourages me to write more.

6. The writer David Croft (Dad’s Army, Allo Allo, Hi De Hi) once said in a letter to me that an episode of Allo Allo took a couple of days to write and then months to get write. It’s a vital lesson we all have to learn an accept: just write any old rubbish - you can turn rubbish into a thing of beauty later. That’s why writing is a craft. So if you have an idea, write it down. Only then can you create something beautiful from it. 

7. The most unusual place I’ve been commissioned to do some work is in the street. (I really shouldn’t offer my services on street corners!) I was walking along the High Street and a passerby stopped me and said, “You’re that writer, aren’t you?” which is awkward because you never know which writer they’re referring to. But, she commissioned me to write a short story for some one’s birthday. And that’s what I love about this writing lark. You never know where the next job is coming from! 

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you’re looking for a book to get your writing off to a good start in 2013, then may I be so bold as to suggest my very own The Positively Productive Writer. (http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/non-fiction-books/the-positively-productive-writer/) If you want to know even more, then check out Radio Warrington on Thursday 27th December between 6pm and 8pm, when the book will be reviewed. (For those not in the area, listen live via the Internet at http://radiowarrington.co.uk)

I’m passing this onto the following bloggers: Alex Gazzola (http://mistakeswritersmake.blogspot.co.uk), Lynne Hackles (http://lynnehackles.blogspot.co.uk) and Julie Phillips (http://jlpwritersquest.blogspot.co.uk).

Good luck. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Happy Anniversary!

If you haven’t considered them already, 2013 marks some big anniversaries, which might make useful article or short story idea generators:

Pride and Prejudice: It's the 200th anniversary of this novel’s publication. 

The Queen: It’s 60 years since her coronation (she became Queen in 1952, but the coronation was in 1953).

Stock Exchange: It’s 40 years since women were allowed into the London Stock Exchange.

Football: The world’s oldest professional association football league is founded, 125 years ago.

James Bond: 60 years ago in April 1953, Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, is published.

Bouncing Bombs: It’s the 70th anniversary of the Dam Buster raids over Germany with the bouncing bomb.

Flowers: It’s 100 years since the first Chelsea Flower Show.

Sex: A very British Scandal - it’s 50 years since the John Profumo Affair.

Victoria: 175 years ago  - the coronation of Queen Victoria.

Trains: It’s the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery.

Concorde: Concorde made her last commercial flight ten years ago.

Dr?: The BBC broadcast the first episode of Dr Who, fifty years ago.

Ripper: 125 years ago, Jack The Ripper was on his killing spree.

Big Ben: It’s 90 years since the chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast on radio by the BBC.

That should keep you busy during 2013 researching those!

Good luck!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rubbish is Okay

There's an excellent article in the January 2013 issue of Writing magazine, where Michael Madden admits to writing rubbish.  He demonstrates that it is okay to write rubbish.

I'm writing rubbish at the moment. (Hopefully not this blog posting!) I've been commissioned to write a project and my deadline is looming. At this moment in time, I still have 3,000 words to go, and they're doing my head in. They just don't seem to be coming out in the right style, or voice.

Despite this, I am still writing something. In amongst the other writing projects on this week, I know I will get those last 3,000 words written. In my opinion, along with the other 17,000 words, they'll be 3,000 words of rubbish. But, at least I'll have written some words. Then the real work will begin: turning the rubbish into gold.

There are many phrases and quotes in the writing world that echo this:

"Get it writ, then get it right."

"Books aren't written, they're re-written."

"Writing is 20% writing and 80% re-writing."

As the novelist Jodi Picoult once said, "You can't edit a blank page." But once you've got something down on paper (or on the screen), then you can begin to craft and hone it. A craftsman takes a raw material and chips away, making little tweaks and changes, eventually revealing the masterpiece that they've created.

So next time you find yourself stuck, and the words won't flow, or they don't seem to want to come out in the way you'd like them to, don't panic. Give yourself permission to write rubbish. Writing rubbish is okay, because you're still writing something. Something is better than nothing. It's possible to perfect something. With nothing, you have ... nothing.

So, go on. Write some rubbish this week. Who knows what you might be able to do with it.

Good luck.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Little Speculation ...


On the afternoon of 9th February 2012, I sat down at my desk and spent a couple of hours doing a bit of speculative work. As the saying goes, it’s necessary to speculate in order to accumulate. Speculation can help you broaden your markets.

When we sow these seeds, we don’t always know where they may land, or even if they will germinate. But if you don’t sow a seed in the first place there is nothing to grow.

My speculation on this occasion was not for a writing market, but a photography one. A company was interested in seeing photographs that might be suitable for calendars. I spent the afternoon going through my photographic library identifying some images I thought might be suitable.

In October, I had a letter from the calendar company. They wanted to use one of my photos in their Devon calendar for 2014. Then a week later they sent me another. They wanted to use another one in their 2014 Heart of England calendar. Last week, I had another letter: they’re interested in three more photos for the 2014 Shropshire calendar. 

I’m now beginning to harvest the benefits from that initial sowing. I’m approaching other calendar companies and putting together an article for photographers about what I’ve learned so far, such as what makes a potential calendar photo. So, even though I’ve targeted a new market, I’m using the experience to give me ideas for my traditional writing markets.

As 2012 enters its final few weeks, think about new markets you might want to consider approaching next year. You never know how these may help you with your existing markets.

Good luck.   

Monday, 26 November 2012

Note The Detail


At our writers’ circle meeting this month, our chairman ran a workshop called Showing the Detail. It was a look at how we can use detail to convey more information in our descriptions to the reader, whilst also trying to avoid using cliches. 

It doesn’t matter whether your write fiction or non-fiction - giving your reader a useful amount of detail is important. The reader needs sufficient information to understand and re-create the scene you are describing in their own imagination, however, they don’t need to be overwhelmed with detail that it stops the message behind your writing getting through.

In our workshop, we were given a series of bland sentences to rewrite in a more interesting and detailed way. Here are three that I had a go at:

The man had a bad smell. I rewrote this as: He needed air traffic control to co-ordinate the bluebottles in their stacking formation above his putrid, matted hair. 

Miranda was rich I rewrote as: Miranda stepped out of her Tuesday morning Porsche and realised it needed changing, for the tyres on this one were now dirty and it had lost that new-car freshness since driving it off the forecourt ten minutes ago.

And finally, instead of She cried I came up with: Once the first tear found her chin, others quickly followed to the lowest point of her face, gathering confidence as their numbers swelled, ready for the next leap.

Now, I’m not saying any of those are brilliant, but the extra information the reader has there gives them more to draw upon when recreating the scene in their own imagination.

Detail is useful for travel writing too. I recently marked a student assignment where they had written: We found an Italian parlour on the promenade, which sold the best ice-cream I’ve ever tasted

That’s interesting information, but with a bit more detail, it could prove so much more useful to a reader who might be going to the same destination. Think how much more practical the following is:

Look out for Fuscardi’s on the promenade near the pier, for the best Rum and Raisin ice cream you’ve ever tasted!

Not only does the reader now know the name of the ice cream vendor, but they also have a better clue as to where to find it and  that the Rum and Raisin flavour tasted good!

Next time you sit in a cafe, or somewhere busy, and people watch, make a better note of the detail. It could make your writing more interesting.

Good luck.

Monday, 19 November 2012

How Do You Keep Yours? - Update

Just a quick post to let you know that the article I mentioned in my blog posting of 12th November, has now been published on the Ezee Writer ezine.

So, for more information about the sort of data you might want to consider collecting when you submit your manuscripts, click on: http://www.writersbureau.com/e-zee-writer/november-2012/page3.htm

Reader Churn

A readership isn’t always static. Yes, there are some magazines whose readers stay with them for years (I am one of the original subscribers to Writers News magazine, gulp!), but there are also some magazines whose readerships change quite frequently.

When a magazine targets a particular niche readership the end result can lead to it loosing those readers! For example, the core readership of Photography for Beginners are … er … beginner photographers. These readers are buying the magazine for knowledge and to learn a new skill.

There will come a time when the magazine is not teaching them anything new and, as a result, they will look for another magazine to move on to for further knowledge and skills. So those readers will stop buying Photography for Beginners and move onto Amateur Photographer, or Digital SLR Skills, or one of the many other photography magazines. And then, after a couple of years, they may stop with that publication and move onto Advanced Photographer or one of the other professional magazines.

What does this mean for the writer? It’s important to identify these types of magazines, because the editor will be looking for ideas and articles on topics they’ve already covered before, possibly as recently as 12 months ago, although they will be looking for a slightly different angle. For example, a photography magazine might want a winter article offering advice to beginners on how to take photos of snow. The following year, the editor will be looking for another article about taking snow photos, because there will be a bunch of new readers who weren’t around when the last article was run, but it needs to be slightly different for those readers who did read last year’s article.

In some magazines, once editors have covered an idea, they don’t want to return to it for several years (the frequency of the publication also influences this, too). A quarterly publication rejected an article I’d submitted because the editor had recently accepted another article on exactly the same topic. I did mange to sell that article to that same editor at the same publication, ten years later, because enough time had passed for the reader (which had a low churn rate).

Of course, one magazine’s loss is another magazine’s gain, although it’s not quite so cut and dried if you look at the bigger picture. Magazine companies often produce a magazine for beginners, intermediates and more experienced readers, so whilst the readership might churn from one magazine to another, the company tries to keep the readers amongst its own stable of publications.

Good luck.

Monday, 12 November 2012

How Do You Keep Yours?


I mentioned last week the importance of keeping accurate records, and Maxi commented that some tips would be useful. So I thought I’d share a couple of my tips here:

BBB (Bloody Barclays Bank)
I call this my triple B tip, because it goes back to my time working for Barclays Bank. I spent many years as the Open & Close Clerk (Barclays weren’t very creative with their job titles) which involved … opening and closing bank accounts on the bank’s mainframe computer. Despite the fact that I could do it with my eyes shut and didn’t need an aide mémoire, EVERY account being opened or closed HAD to have one of these checklists. I had to initial a series of boxes to acknowledge I’d undertaken every step necessary to either open, or close, an account on the system.

When you do something for so many years, it becomes ingrained. Despite having a computerised database of my records, I also have a paper checklist (a single sheet of paper) for every project, which I initial to ensure that every step is actioned to keep my records correct and up to date. So, whatever your record-keeping system is, consider creating your own aide mémoire for you to check off at every stage of your project.

NAD (Next Action Date)
I like to have what I call a ‘Next Action Date’ - by this I mean a future date when I need to do something. So, whenever I submit a piece of work, I put in a future date when I might consider chasing the editor, if I haven’t heard back from them, by this time. For example, if I know a publication takes 12 weeks to respond to a submission, I’ll but a NAD of 13 weeks time. When a piece is accepted and I’m asked to forward an invoice, I’ll set my NAD for when the invoice is due to ensure that I’m paid when I should be.  Most days, I check my database for any NADs, and chase as necessary. It enables me to keep on top of everything, as these jobs become due. Of course, it only works if you set a NAD in the first place!

Ezee Writer
In a couple of days’ time (probably Thursday) the November issue of Ezee Writer will be out, which includes an article where I discuss the sort of information you might like to record when you submit your work. More information can be found (later in the week) at http://www.writersbureau.com/e-zee-writer/november-2012/

Good luck.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Oops - We All Make Mistakes!

A friend of mine happened to mention the other day that he'd mistakenly sent the same piece of work to two editors. Thankfully, one had rejected the piece, so at least he's not been put in the embarrassing position of having two editors accept the same work at the same time. (A complete NO NO!) He's not sure how it happened, but he's now updated his recording system to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

We all make mistakes, and I'll admit that I've accidentally done this in the past too. It's easily done, until you find a monitoring system that works well for you.

However, there's another reason why you should keep on top of your submissions, because we writers aren't the only ones to make mistakes. Two weeks ago another friend sent a text congratulating me on my short story, Flower Thief, which had just been published. I was puzzled. If my memory served me correctly I hadn't had a decision on the story yet. But, my memory not being what it once was, I decided to log onto my database and check it out. When I did so, my database still had that submission sitting at "Awaiting Decision". Perhaps I'd failed to update my records. Anyway, I went out and bought a copy of the publication to confirm that, yes, there it was in print.

Two days later, I had an email from the editor apologising profusely for the delay in notifying me and confirming the good news that my story was in the current issue and (more importantly!) that a cheque was in the post!

Whilst this was a lovely surprise (it made my Monday morning, that's for sure) it highlights a problem that could happen if any writer inadvertently submits the story to two different publications at the same time. Suppose both markets had published and there'd been a delay in notifying the writer? That could have been interesting, with both publications thinking they'd bought the first rights to publication!

So, make sure you have a robust system for recording your submissions and that you use it. And just remember that whilst writers lead busy lives and forget to update things, it can happen to editors too. It also suggests that it's useful having good friends who'll tell you that they've seen your published work!

Good luck!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Forget NaNoWriMo - Try NaNoFiWriMo!

Later this week, hundreds of thousands of writers will be sitting down to start NaNoWriMo - NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. It all kicks off on the 1st November and finishes at midnight on 30th November.

Well, why not forget NaNoWriMo and have a go at NaNoFiWriMo instead? Okay, I've just made that up, but NaNoFiWriMo stands for NAtional NOn-FIction WRIting MOnth.

If you've never come across NaNoWriMo before, the aim of the game is to spend November writing 50,000 words of your novel. Some writers get the 50,000 words written and then spend December working at a slightly slower pace to finish off their novels. The idea is that with 50,000 words behind you, by the end of November you're on the downhill stretch to finishing the novel, or rather the first draft of a novel, so you're much more likely to complete that first draft. I know of many people who have successfully achieved this, and this scheme can be an excellent way to get you writing.

But why write a novel? Why not write a non-fiction book instead? If those writing novels get their 50,000 words done by 30th November, they are two-thirds, or perhaps only half way through their novel. They still have between 30,000 and another 50,000 words to go in order to write a 'standard length' novel. But with a non-fiction book, 50,000 words is one of the commonest standard word lengths. So why spend November writing half a book, when you could write a WHOLE book instead?

Several of my non-fiction books are 50,000 words, including The Positively Productive Writer, Best Walks in the Welsh Borders, Fundraising for a Community Project, and Running A Writers Circle.

In fact, you could register for NaNoWriMo and write a non-fiction book instead. They don't check the content, just the number of words you write.

What works really well about NaNoWriMo is that non-writers get the concept. Tell someone that you're entering a competition to see how many writers can write 50,000 words in a month, and everyone understands. They also understand when you tell them that you won't be socialising much during November, because you're doing NaNoWriMo. Friends will acknowledge this, knowing that come December you'll be back on the social scene. You're not locking yourself away forever, just November! Even family members can cope with a bit of disruption, if it's only for a month.

So, to all of you out there who are taking part this year, whether you're writing a novel or a non-fiction book during the month of November, I have two words to say to you:

Good luck!


Monday, 22 October 2012

The Art of Slipping On A Banana Skin

This weekend I went to a workshop about writing humour. And it's not as simple as slipping on a banana skin.

It was led by Paul McDonald, author of The Philosophy of Humour (click here for Amazon link) and led to some interesting discussions about how to inject some humour into your own work.

Many people know that some of the best sitcoms (written in both the UK and the USA) are produced by a team of writers. It's because humour can be competitive. There's a phrase called 'Topping the Joke' where one person will try to come up with a funnier punch line than the previous one, something that is frequently seen on quiz panel television shows where the panelists comprise of stand-up comedians (who always seem to be sitting down ... but I digress.) One will say something funny, and another will try to come up with something funnier to get a bigger laugh, and so it goes on.

Whilst we can't all be part of a comedy writing team, being in a humorous mood can make us more creative, so it might be worth spending some time watching a few sitcoms to get you in the creative mood. But what makes something funny?

Paul McDonald suggested the following:


  1. Incongruity. (I've never written that word as many times as I did on Saturday's workshop!) This means something that is incompatible, or unexpected, from what we normally perceive, and features in most humour. Often, the punchline of a joke uses incongruity because what makes it funny is the joke leads us to one expectation and then the punchline is something completely different.
  2. Exaggeration. This can make things funnier. Or perhaps I should say exaggeration makes things SO funny, you'll laugh your head off, split your sides and force a fart from your bum.
  3. The Rule of Three. Having three things leads to repetition, which can be funny, especially, if each of the three elements use the 'Topping the Joke' theory and try to be funnier than the last item. Look at the final sentence in point 2 - there were three things listed there - laugh your head off, split your sides, and force a fart from your bum. I'm not saying that forcing a fart from your bum is funnier than the other two (because humour is subjective) but the rule of three certainly came into play there.
Editors like humour, so try injecting some into your next  piece of writing. 

Good luck.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Hello? Do You Remember Me?

I've had a couple of queries from students recently asking how long they should wait before they receive a response to their unsolicited submission. Unfortunately, the general answer is to wait as long as necessary!

Responses to submissions, whether they're submitted by post or by email, varies from publication to publication and publisher to publisher. Some are quite good at it, others less so (if they bother to at all). Some editors appear to deal with submissions in strict date order, whilst others give the impression that they sit down for a couple of days every three months and have a good clear out!

Generally, if the work you've submitted has been commissioned, it will be used quite quickly, because an editor will probably have commissioned it for a specific issue. But if you've submitted something on spec, I would certainly suggest you leave it for several months before you start chasing. When you do chase, be polite. It's usually simplest to ask an editor whether they can confirm that your submission arrived safely in their offices, rather than demanding that they make a decision upon your work right now. (No, is by far the easiest option for the editor.)  If they reply that they haven't received your submission then you have the option of enquiring if they'd like to see a duplicate copy, or whether you want to take your chances and rewrite the material for a slightly different market.

Some publications will confirm safe receipt and say that they'll get back to you when they can. If they don't give a time scale, be prepared for a long wait. Some will mention when they hope to respond by. Others will simply return your manuscript, rejected.

Always keep an accurate record of when an item was submitted, and also when you chased. In my experience, being able to list three or four dates of contact attempts over the period of 18 to 24 months shows that at least one side of this business relationship is professional, if not the other! Although, do bear in mind that for the one writer who has submitted something it is much easier to keep track of things than it is for the one editor (with no staff) who receives 200 unsolicited submissions a week, and has just been off work for two weeks because his father-in-law broke a leg whilst cutting the lawn and has needed looking after.

If you are submitting topical material, then editors understand why you are chasing. If they're not interested in your submission, they know that you want the opportunity to offer it elsewhere, so do make this clear when you make your enquiries. Of course, this is another reason for why it's useful to submit well in advance. You want to give the editor plenty of time to consider the material, as well as give yourself enough time to chase, and then rework it for another market!

And the waiting period is another reason why you should crack on and write the next thing. How depressing would it be if you'd written an article, submitted it and then waited for 12 months, only to discover that your work has been rejected. However, if after making this submission you'd written another ten pieces, by the time you'd received this rejection, you may have made a sale with one of your other submissions - and if not, at least you still have the hope of acceptance because you have ten other submissions out there!

Good luck!

Monday, 8 October 2012

A new-look friend ...

It happens to most publications at some point and last week it happened to one of the UK's most traditional markets, The People's Friend. It's undergone a revamp, although the updating has not been a radical change for this conservative (small c) readership.

Whilst The People's Friend is known as a magazine for short stories, it is also a useful market for features too. One of the biggest changes is that the magazine has increased pagination: by an additional 16 pages. That means it needs more writing!

Whilst it now boasts 7 short stories (one for each day of the week) as well as two serials, it also has new features, tackling many issues, such as health and well-being, and gardening. The People's Friend has always carried travel features and the new-look issue had three. It has also extended it's letters page, and for those of you interested in poetry, they now need more of these too.

So, if it's been a while since you last looked at this market, it might be worth your while spending the 97p and buying a new copy to look at. Remember, this is one of those nice markets that actually pays on acceptance, rather than publication (which is good, because they once accepted one of my travel features in 2005, and it was published in 2011!).

For detailed guidelines, take a look at their website.

Incidentally, this is one of the few markets where you DON"T have to submit your work to a specified name, but instead you submit it to the Features Editor, or the Fiction Editor. (When you hear back from your first submission you'll then have a contact name to use for future submissions.

Good luck! 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Taking small steps

Forging a relationship with an editor can be like any other relationship. Often, the longer lasting relationships are those that develop over time. Slowly. Gradually.

If there's a magazine that you've always wanted to write for, sometimes offering the great article as your first piece might not be a good start. Instead, start off small. Get to know the editor. If a magazine asks for letters, or news items, try sending off a few of those first.

Send in useful smaller snippets and the editor will get to know your name. Then, when you offer something more substantial, the editor may look at it more favourably.

The news section in Writers' Forum magazine openly asks readers to send in news stories. Each month, the editor selects 'the best' and the writer receives a year's subscription. I've noticed how it is the writers who've sent stories in over a couple of months (so that's regularly, most months) who are rewarded with the annual subscription. And some of those names have later had full length articles published within the magazine.

One of the travel magazines has a section where readers can send in tips and advice. Again, it's common to see some 'regular' names crop up, but it's also noticeable to see some of those names appearing as the writers of longer travel articles a few months later.

My first published pieces in Country Walking magazine were for some of their smaller, filler slots. I'd sent a couple of reader letters in, and I'd had a few fillers published on their filler pages (news, humorous stories, photos of great views, etc) before I approached them about their walking routes section. Because I was a name they recognised, they agreed that I could have a go at writing for this section. Nine years later I'm still writing for the magazine, and have helped them out with a couple of last minute deadline pieces, too.

Sometimes it can be worth thinking about what you want to achieve with your writing. Consider it as another relationship, and begin it as you would any other relationship. (Don't go for a seven course meal to start off with - meet up for a drink first!) Start off small, and see if you like each other. Who knows, it could be the start of a long and fruitful relationship.

Good luck!

Monday, 24 September 2012

You're the best person to write this piece because ...

I was contacted by a writer who'd come up with an idea for an article for a local magazine, however, her tutor felt that the idea was something staff writers were capable of producing.

It struck me that perhaps the tutor in question may have had a background in newspapers, because publications like The Times, The Daily Mail and The Sun all have staff numbers that Boat Spotters Monthly can only dream of!

Having looked at this student's idea, whilst it could work for her local magazine target, I also felt that it could work for a national magazine too. But, another point I wanted to make here is that whilst the other tutor felt the idea could be written by a staff writer, sometimes it is not your idea you need to sell, but your experience. Why are you the best person to write this idea? Your experience gives you an insight into the idea that a staff writer might not be able to bring to the piece.

A few years ago, I sold an article to The Daily Express financial pages. It was about the benefits of saving a small amount of money each week for Christmas through a Christmas Savings club. Now, any staff writer is capable of researching and writing such a piece. However, the Daily Express commissioned my piece because of my experience with this subject:

  • For three years, I ran a Christmas Club at my place of work,
  • Not only had I set up the Christmas Club, but I'd also 'sold' the idea to my work colleagues, therefore I knew how to sell the idea to the readers, too,
  • Drawing upon my experience, I could give advice to readers about how to set up their own group and the steps they needed to take to ensure the club's probity,
  • I could also contact past members for quotes.
So, remember. It's important to have good ideas, but think about why you are the best person to write the article. That's where you can have an advantage over the staff writer. No editor is going to turn away a great idea offered by the person with the right experience. So, what are you waiting for?

Good luck!

Monday, 17 September 2012

It All Begin With A Passing Comment ...

I was walking (make that staggering) back down the mountainside from the Lakeland tarn in this photo, when a walker coming the other way said, "Caught anything?"

At first I was slightly puzzled, because I had my camera bag slung across my back and the legs of my tripod were fully extended and resting across my other shoulder. Then it suddenly dawned on me ... the tarn I was walking back from is popular with fishermen, and this walker had probably seen my tripod, assumed it was a fishing rod, and thought I'd been fishing. We chatted briefly, and then as I wandered back down the mountainside I began seeing similarities between the sport of fishing, and the 'sport' of photography. We both end up standing around for hours trying to capture something and our perfect prey can elude us quite easily. And then there's all the equipment we photographers like to have - chat to any fisherman and they'll also explain about the need to have the right rod and tackle.

By the time I reached the car park a whole article had formed in my mind, and I quickly jotted down my thoughts.

Two days later I was wandering up another mountainside, and the weather was changeable. In the space of ten minutes seven people coming back down the mountain passed by, and they all said the same thing: "Did you see that wonderful rainbow behind you?" (Funnily enough, because it was behind me, I didn't.) Hence, the incident became another example in the fisherman/photographer article about the 'one that got away'.

And then after one particularly exhausting day on the mountains, I felt I deserved a cup of tea and a slab (yes, a slab, not a piece - I had walked nine miles) of flapjack, so I stopped off at a cafe near the car park, and sat outside to enjoy my rewards for conquering the view. Within minutes my flapjack was under attack from the local chaffinches. "If those bloody birds were human, they'd have hoodies and ASBOs," said a descending voice from the adjacent picnic table (his plate was empty too). A chaffinch with a hoody and an ASBO ... hmmmm, out came my notebook and pen again.

So in the space of a couple of days people making passing comments have helped me to produce two articles. Never dismiss anything people say to you. You never know where it might lead. At the time, it might not make sense, but as writers, these passing comments can be little idea gems. It can all begin with a passing comment, but as a writer you should never let it end there!

Good luck!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Morning Pages

For the past few weeks I've been using a technique that's been quite revealing. It's called Morning Pages and is a technique suggested by artist and creative writer, Julie Cameron.

In it, she suggests that when you wake up, you pick up your pen and notepad and write three pages. What you write is down to you. It can be writing-related, it can have nothing to do with your writing ... but you just have to write three pages in your notebook.

The idea is that, if nothing else, it clears your mind of all the clutter that has accumulated overnight. You might, for instance, wake up thinking about all of the things you've got to get done today. Well, if you've written them down in your morning pages then you've cleared them out of your mind, thus emptying it of any worry. Your creative writing time is now more likely to be creative.

Hopefully, though, some useful thoughts will come to you whilst you're writing. And this is what I've found has happened to me. Yes, I've written some pretty awful drivel, but dotted throughout these words are the occasional useful thoughts that have helped me develop several ideas, or seen a new idea show itself. Over the period of a week, I found names for two characters I want to put in a short story, and I know what the opening scene is - without really 'thinking' about it. I've also identified a couple of article ideas from this stream of consciousness too.

Like any technique, this is something that I've adapted to suit me. There's one suggestion that you should only write on one side of the page in your notebook. Then, when you come to read back what you've written, you have the opposite blank page to jot down any thoughts. I tried this, but I found there were some pages where I was making lots of notes, and others where I hardly made any notes at all (because what was on the other side was complete drivel!). So, instead, I write my three pages consecutively and then summarise the points on the fourth page, which works better for me.

Writing your stream of consciousness, first thing in the morning, feels strange at first. But give it a try. You can write anything ... but write something. Here's an example of the first few lines of one of my morning pages:

Okay ... so what am I going to write about this morning then? This pen's naff. Is it runni ... ah! That's better. New pen, and one with ink, that'll make things easier when I actually think of something to write! It's a good job I have pens lying all around the place everywhere. That's probably because I'm a stationery fan - aren't all writers? Why are writers such stationery addicts? Why do we go all of a quiver over some Post-It Notes and a couple of biros? What is it about an empty notebook that fills us with excitement ....

And so it went on. As you can see, I wasn't exactly writing Booker Prize-winning prose, but that's not the point of the exercise. The aim is to clear your brain of thoughts, some of which might prove useful. Looking back over the past few weeks whilst I've been doing this exercise, I've got something out of every set of morning pages. It might only be a character's name, although sometimes there's been a couple of article ideas. But, there's always been a useful nugget in there, somewhere.

So, why not give it a go for a week? Do it for a month and you might create a new habit! And of nothing else, at least when you get up, you can do so knowing you've actually done some writing already today!

Good luck!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Networking!

I've just got back from a weekend of tutoring at the NAWG (National Association of Writers' Groups) Festival of Writing, which was held at Nottingham. (Spot the busy souls in my workshop here, clutching their heads, as they search for inspiration - so don't ask what the whisk is for!)

Whilst events like this are great opportunities for meeting up with old friends, it's also a brilliant way to make new friends and meet up with up with other like-minded people. In fact, on Friday, the day of arrival, there were many times when I was able to put a face to name I recognised from Twitter, or Wordpress, and other blogs that I follow.

During lunch on Saturday, I was chatting to some of the other delegates about why they'd come to this event, and a handful of them mentioned that this was the first such event they'd been to. Suddenly, a whole new world was opening up to them! For years, a couple of them had just been writing on their own, trying to make progress with their writing by reading articles and books on the subject. Some had even joined writers' groups to meet up with other writers, but writers' groups vary in size and quality. Some are excellent, but the drawback is that they may only expose you to the writing genres that other members are interested in. It wasn't until they'd come to something like NAWG's festival, that they realised there are so many writers - people with the same interest!

I could see that, to these people, a whole new world was opening up to them. They were busy sharing experiences and learning new things to try to take their writing further. No longer did they feel alone.

If you've never been to such an event, do try one out. Writing festivals and workshops might last for a day, a weekend, or a week. Yes, it can be difficult trying to fit it in around family life, but there's usually an option that you can fit to your particular circumstances. Whilst the NAWG festival operated over a weekend, many delegates attended for the one full day - Saturday, as a day delegate. That's something that other festivals and holidays often offer.

And, not only might you learn new skills and ideas, you'll also make lots of new friends - people you can keep in contact with in the future, if only by email or phone. Make one of these events a goal in your writing life. Set yourself the challenge of going to one - and perhaps even trying to pay for all, or the bulk of it, by selling an article, or two, or a couple of letters and fillers. By doing it that way, your writing is paying for your treat then!

Here are a few workshops and courses for you to ponder, if the idea takes your fancy:

The Gleanings, Shropshire. 22nd & 23rd September 2012.
Writing for the Magazine Market with some bloke called Simon Whaley. A look at writing letters, fillers, articles and short stories for magazines.

Chez-Castillon - Is There a Book In You? with Jane Wenham-Jones - a 5 day course taking place in October. (Note: Jane told me at the NAWG conference that there had been two cancellations, so there are now two places available on this particular course.) The course is also running again in April 2013. More details at www.chez-castillon.com

Relax & Write: Weetwood Hall, Leeds - A variety of courses running over the weekend of 26th - 28th October: http://www.malagaworkshops.co.uk/index.html

Write Better Poetry with Alison Chisholm
Writing Crime with Passion with Nick Oldham
Effective Self-Publicity with Malcolm Chisholm

In November, 9th - 11th, at the same venue:
Short Story Success with Linda Lewis.

8-10th March 2013 - Weetwood Hall, Leeds:
Write About Your Life with Alison Chisholm (by that I mean that Alison Chisholm will teach you how to write about your life - you don't need to have lived with Alison to go on this course!)
The Writers' Treasury of Ideas with Linda Lewis
Discover Travel Writing with some bloke called Simon Whaley!

Caerleon Writers Holiday - July 2013, Caerleon, near Newport, Cardiff.
Six days of workshops, talks and writing events. www.writersholiday.net Workshops on writing fiction, non-fiction, novels and more.

Swanwick Writers Summers School - August 2013, Swanwick, Derbyshire.
Six days of workshops, talks, and other writing events - and many discos, too! http://swanwickwritersschool.co.uk

I hope some of those whet your appetite.

Good luck!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Where Do You Write?

Where do you write? This is a photo of my desk, where some of my writing is done. It's where most of my administration stuff is tackled: emails, chasing for payments, research and the like. 

But, when I'm in 'the zone' I can sit at my computer and bash away at the keyboard for hours, because it's my space. I know where everything is and most of what I need is all at hand.

Having your own dedicated writing space is important. You don't need your own study (one day I will have one - this is the corner of a bedroom). But it's great if you can have somewhere that you can call your own writing space. This will help you get into your 'zone' more quickly, too. 

We are, generally, creatures of habit. Sitting down at roughly the same time, in the same place, on a regular basis, helps to train your brain into thinking, "hang on, he wants me to go into the zone in a minute." And having everything to hand means there's less chance of being encouraged to step away from my space ... thus being distracted by something else!

I mentioned that my space is a corner of a bedroom - and one day I will have my own study.  But that doesn't mean to say that I don't make little improvements from time to time. Whenever you have a writing success, treat yourself to something for your writing space. Over the years I've upgraded my desk, added more shelving and bought space-saving devices so that I can have stuff to hand. My writing space isn't perfect, but it's getting there. (I'm still too far away from the window for my liking, but that's not a problem that I can overcome at the moment, and I hate having my back to the door, too.) But the point is this: not having the perfect writing space isn't stopping me from writing.

As long as you can find somewhere that you can call your writing space: whether it be a comfy chair in the shed where you can sit with your laptop, or pen and paper, or the cupboard under the stairs, look for somewhere that feels right for the moment. It doesn't have to be perfect: perfection comes over time. I know people who write in attics, in conservatories, in sheds, in summer houses, in kitchens, and at the dining room table. But what they all have in common is when they get there, it's the place that feels right to write at the moment.

Think about where you write. Is it the right place, or could you find somewhere else? Have you tried working in other places in the house? Just because where you write now is where you've always written, that doesn't mean there may not be a better place in the house that you should try. Why not give it a go? (Perhaps sitting in the car would work better, if the kids are running around causing mayhem in the house!) Because when you feel like a writer, sitting down to do some work in a place that feels right for writing, you're more likely to do some writing!

Good luck.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Powering Down

The first draft of this post was written with pen and paper. It wasn't out of choice but necessity - at the time I was experiencing a power cut.

These days, power cuts are rare (we use to get them quite frequently), but they're also annoying, yet exciting. They're annoying because they have a knack of occurring just when you don't want them to (not that anyone 'wants' a power cut), such as when you want to be connected to the Internet to write a blog posting (whilst the laptop may have a battery, the router, connecting you to the Internet, doesn't).

They can be exciting, though, because they force you to work differently. (I can still make a pot of tea by boiling water on the gas hob, IF I have some matches to light the gas!)

So, because I was powered down, I took myself away from my desk, collected my pen and notepad and went for my usual walk. About half way around, down a quiet country lane, is a wooden bench, where I sat down.

Out came my pen and notebook. Just at that moment, two article ideas popped into my head. I jotted them down and then began expanding one, to produce an outline.

I also took some time out, jotting down my observations from this viewpoint. It's an exercise I like to undertake every so often, but I don't get the chance to do this as often as I'd like. I like to focus on the smaller details of life: the red-tailed bumble bee that searched several dandelion flowers for nectar, by landing on them and going around each flowerhead in an anti-clockwise direction. (Why? Does this mean bumble bees are left and right-handed like us, albeit that they don't have hands ... but you get my drift!) And then there were the two buzzards, flying above Wenlock Edge, mewing and calling, twisting and soaring, as if the mother was teaching the juvenile life skills. You never know when small observations like this will come in handy for future ideas, or writing.

And then I realised that this experience would make an ideal blog posting - so I penned my basic outline, before finishing my walk.

When I arrived back home the power was back on. (It was probably restored the minute I stepped out the front door to do my walk!) But I don't mind. The exercise of powering down had still been productive. I'd still achieved what I'd set out to achieve before the power cut (drafting my blog post); the power cut had merely forced me to go about it in a different way. But it also generated a couple of other article ideas.

So next time you get a power cut, don't curse. Use it as an opportunity to think and work differently. Alternatively, why wait for a power cut? Simply power down yourself, once in a while. Who knows where it may lead?

Good luck.

Monday, 13 August 2012

It's Your Voice That Identifies Your Work.

Last week, I came across a piece of student's work which wasn't what it purported to be. It wasn't the student's own work. In fact, after a bit of investigating (although it wasn't exactly a taxing piece of investigation) I found the website where they had 'lifted' the material from. I say 'lifted,' I could have used the words: stolen, copied, pirated, poached, cribbed, or, as the Oxford English Dictionary also suggests, nicked.

I wasn't going to write about this incident, because I didn't want the student to feel that I was vilifying them. However, it also struck me that perhaps there are students who are unaware of what plagiarism is, and therefore a short piece on the subject was valid.

Plagiarism is where somebody takes the words that someone else has written, and then passes off those words as their own work. It can infringe copyright, and other rights, and it certainly infringes moral rights.

There's a phrase sometimes bandied about within the writing world that "using one source of information is plagiarism, whereas using two sources of information is research." Let's be clear about this. Plagiarism is where the words written by somebody else have been copied by another writer who makes out that they've written those words. (That's what the student was effectively saying to me - as a tutor, when someone says, "here's my assignment," I assume they are the one who wrote the words. The student did not say, "Here's an article written by someone else.") If you're undertaking some research and find a sentence, or two, that encapsulates the essence of what you want to say, you can use those words, as long as you indicate that these words are a direct quote and you attribute that quote to the person who wrote those words. When you attribute something, you send a clear message to readers as to who those words belong to. Copyright laws permit the use of quoted text, as long as the amount quoted is reasonable - and defining 'reasonable' is often where the lawyers come in! But, in most cases, quoting a couple of lines from a book, or play, would be deemed as reasonable, but quoting an entire article - which is what my student did - is not.

When we write, we produce written words in a particular order. The way we order and punctuate those words helps to create our style, or our voice. We all have our own voice, and therefore it should be remembered that when you copy someone else's words you're also copying their voice. I have hundreds and hundreds of students, but despite this, as soon as I began reading this student's work, I immediately realised that the text did not have that student's voice. That's what set the alarm bells ringing. A little more scrutiny highlighted some inconsistent spelling errors too. All I had to do was copy a couple of sentences and then paste them into Google, and lo and behold - the source of the entire article was brought up on the screen.

For Writers Bureau students, if there's a question on an assignment that you don't like, or you can't do, or you don't know how to tackle it, then please do get in touch with your tutor. We can usually sort something out. Don't think about plagiarising someone else's work, just so you can get this assignment done and move onto the next. You might think that only your tutor will see it, and that's okay because you have no intentions of sending it off to a real editor, but that's not the point. By copying someone else's work and then sending it to your tutor (making out that you wrote it) is lying to your tutor. How would you like it if someone copied your work and made out that they'd written it? You'd feel pretty miffed!

Every word you write is written in your voice. It's part of what makes you the writer that you are. Be proud of your voice.

Good luck.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Edinburgh MagFest

Thanks to Mary Strick for bringing this to my attention.

If you're in, or around, the Edinburgh area on August 26th 2012, why not pop along to one of the workshops being run by the Edinburgh International Magazine Festival?

It's being run by the Scottish division of the Professional Publishers Association at the Our Dynamic Earth conference venue in Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

Whilst much of it is only open to PPA members, there are two workshops that are open to the public, one of which is entitled: How To Get Published and runs for 90 minutes on 26th August from 16:00 to 17:30. A panel of editors will offer advice and tips about how to get published in a variety of magazines. Further information can be found here: http://www.magfest.co.uk/workshops

To see more information about the editors on the panel (People's Friend, Dumfries & Galloway Life, Huffington Post and to book (£45) click the following link: http://www.magfest.co.uk/workshops/How_to_get_published.aspx

Good luck!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Another Writer's Pitching Process

Last week, I was at the Caerleon Writers' Holiday (and after stepping in at the last minute to become the conference's opening night guest speaker ... which involved throwing a lot of chocolate into the audience ... and I've never seen writers move so quickly when there is free chocolate around) I was able to go to a couple of other events during the week. 


One such event was Elaine Everest's tea time talk about pitching article ideas to editors. It's interesting to learn how other professional writers operate, which is why i went along. 


Ironically, it turned out that Elaine's pitching system is similar to mine, but here's what she had to say: 


1. Address your email to the appropriate editor. 
2. Don't waffle. Cut straight to your idea. 
3. Explain what your idea is and how you will tackle it. 
4. Mention a few points about yourself. Why are you the best person to write about this idea? 
5. Include a link to some of your writing so the editor can see examples of your work. 
6. Elaine then prints off a copy of her email. 
7. If you haven't heard after a week, or ten days, send another email enquiring whether the editor has considered the idea yet. 
 8. If you haven't heard after a further week, or ten days, ring the editor. Have your printed copy email in front of you, so that all the information is to hand. 
9. Have another idea to hand too, just in case the editor says he/she doesn't like the idea you emailed. That way, you can say, "I have another idea about ..." Sometimes you can sell the second idea, if not the first! 
10. If the editor likes an idea and offers a commission, ask for email confirmation, or send an email to the editor yourself, summarising what has been agreed. 


 A few final points Elaine made were: 


1. Don't pitch what you can't offer. 
2. Pitch anniversary pieces at least six months in advance. 


More information about Elaine can be found on her website: www.thewriteplace.org.uk 


Good luck!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Looking for new Markets?

A common comment I hear many of my students make is, "It's always difficult trying to find new markets."

And yes, depending upon where you live, access to magazines can be a little challenging, especially if your local newsagent makes more money from stocking calendars for next year, rather than magazines!

Anyway, I've come across a website called Magazine Cafe - it is jointly owned by Conde Nast and National Magazine Distributors Limited (known as COMAG) which primarily offers subscriptions to various magazines, however, it does also offer (for some, though not all) the option to buy single issues - ideal if you want to undertake a market analysis.

Despite being a UK-based website, many of the magazines available are international, so it might be worth your while just spending fifteen minutes browsing the site to see what you can find!

And don't forget, if you have a computer (how are you reading this otherwise?) you can always purchase digital copies of magazines, through the Zinio website (search for 'Zinio' and your own country, to be taken to the correct Zinio site) and in the UK Pocketmags is useful resource too, offering access to International magazines.

Good luck!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Blue Sky Thinking

Sometimes, ideas and opportunities seem to follow on from each other quite naturally. I took this photo two years ago, when I was walking with my Dad in the Lake District.

The photographer in me likes this image because of the reflective qualities of the water, and the framing of the oak leaves ... and also the blue sky. (We could do with seeing a bit more blue sky in the UK at the moment!)

The lake is Loweswater, and its not one of the most well-known lakes of the Lake District, which sparked an idea for an American magazine about the lesser-known lakes. This photo was used as a double-page spread as the opening image for the article. For the technical minded, this photo has a lot of 'blank space' sometimes known as 'white space', (even though it is blue) because the large section of sky on the right hand side makes this a great place for an editor to plonk (yeah - technical term, that) some text. The American magazine put the article title here.

Whenever I look at that photo, it reminds me of the wonderful day I had exploring the area, and some of things I was thinking about there. This suddenly sparked another idea for a feature for Lakeland Walker magazine, and I included the photo with my submission. The editor liked it - used the image as a double-page spread, and 'plonked' the entire article text within the blue sky.

One of the photography magazines I subscribe to has a column suggesting good places for photographers to go to capture outdoor scenes, and as I was writing my piece for Lakeland Walker magazine, I realised that this photo might fit this particular photographic magazine's section well. Last Friday, I was proved right when the editor got in contact and asked me to give him a short description of the area and other photographic opportunities there, and to supply a hi-res version of the image, because he's planning to use it in a future issue of the magazine.

Hmmm, this photo is doing rather well, I thought, which then reminded me of another slot in a different photographic publication for photos that sell. So, guess who is now going to write a piece aimed at that slot?

At the moment, this one image has helped me to sell three lots of words and generated another potential idea. (I suppose that's what you call 'blue sky thinking'.) And that's what you should try to do with your ideas. Don't just write one article, write three. Get a letter out of it for a magazine's letter page, and have a go at using the idea for a short story too, if you write fiction. And what about a filler for another market?

That's why it is important to get to know the different markets and learn about the sorts of things editors like to use in those different slots. That way, when an idea strikes, it's easier for you to know how you can twist it to make it fit those different markets. So next time you have an idea, do a little blue sky thinking and see where it takes you.

Good luck.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Is All What It Seems To Be?

Sometimes, things aren't always what they seem to be. That's despite what some official-looking documents might lead you to believe.

Here's a small section of the Ordnance Survey map detailing Boscobel House on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border. For those of you who don't know, this is one of the (many) places where the son of King Charles I (who later became King Charles II) hid to avoid Oliver Cromwell's troops after being defeated at the Battle of Worcester n 1651.  

Initially, Charles hid in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House, before spending the night hiding in a priest hole in the house itself. (And if ever you get a chance to go to Boscobel House, you'll see how small that priest hole is. Small children should be warned - the last time I was there the guide threw one down the hole to test for size - although I will say that they chose  a child who was willing to go down the hole!)

Anyway, it is the oak tree that has caught the public's imagination and, as you can see, that prestigious organisation, the Ordnance Survey, has even marked it on the map. Yes, even the dotted line represents the path you can walk today, between the house and the tree. Perhaps if Cromwell's troops had had the Ordnance Survey map with them, the course of British history might have been slightly different ;-)

As you can see from my photo here, the tree is looking a little the worse for wear now. Most of it has been lost and two huge metal strips sit tightly around its trunk holding the poor thing together. Well, admit it, if you'd been hanging around since way before 1651, you'd probably need a couple of metal strips around your midriff to keep you together!

But, a little more research will reveal that this oak is not THE Royal Oak. Despite what the Ordnance Survey map suggests, this is a mere sapling. It is believed to be a descendant of the oak tree that Charles II hid in. The reason this particular specimen looks the worse for wear is because it was struck by lightning twelve years ago.

So, next time you're looking at documents, even official looking ones, don't assume that what they are telling you is the truth. All may not be what it seems to be.

Good luck.


Monday, 2 July 2012

All Change!

I've mentioned in the past how it is important to undertake a market analysis of your target publication, especially if it is a magazine that you haven't seen before. However, it is also important to keep a close watch on magazines that you 'think' you know well. Not only do editors change, but sometimes, so does the magazine's owner.

The Kelsey Publishing Group has just purchased two big titles from larger publication companies. The first big name publication it has acquired is Psychologies magazine, which is published in the UK under licence from the French owner Groupe Psychologies. Kelsey Publishing has also acquired Coast magazine from Hearst magazines.

 When magazines change ownership like this, the changes may not be immediate. There may be a change in contact details (such as email addresses, telephone numbers and postal addresses), which happens quite quickly, but other changes may creep in over the next few months. A new publisher may want to attract specific advertisers, which may mean altering the magazine's target readership. An editor may be charged with changing the magazine to attract this new readership. Alternatively, a new publisher may decide to bring in a new editor and editorial team.

Another recent change has occurred at the Bourne Publishing Group, who publish many publications, including Your Dog, Your Cat, and Scottish Sporting Gazette. They've renamed themselves as BPG Media, and have treated themselves to new offices. Whilst the magazines's content probably won't change much, the new offices do mean a new postal address and new telephone numbers. Something to bear in mind if you call the editor, or submit articles by post. Whilst postal items will probably be automatically redirected by the Royal Mail, remember first impressions count. An editor seeing your letter addressed to the address they moved out of six months ago may question the last time you actually looked at their publication!

So, just remember that market analysis isn't a one-off event, but should be something you undertake on a regular basis, just to ensure that your understanding of the magazine, as well as the basic details of ordinary contact details, is always up to date.

Good luck.