Monday, 24 November 2014

Posh Readers

It’s probably going to bear no resemblance to real life in a magazine office at all, but if you’ve always wondered how a magazine is put together then tune in at 9pm on BBC 2 tonight for the first episode of a three part series called Posh People: Inside Tatler.

It’s a look at the people who Tatler magazine feature within its pages, but it’ll also be an insight into the people who work for the world's oldest magazine. We often see the grand titles within a magazine's pages: editor, deputy editor, commissioning editor, and here’s an opportunity to see what these people look like, and what they have to do for their job.

Already there are some great quotes from the staff:

Kate Reardon, Editor - “I’m a honking great Sloane and we photograph a lot of Sloanes.”

Gavanndra Hodge, Deputy Editor - “The upper classes don’t care what people think of them, so they are willing to be wild … that’s why they’re fascinating.”

Matthew Bell, Commissioning Editor - “Irrelevant things are what makes life fun.”

Sophia Money-Coutts, Features Editor - “It doesn’t mean that you’re any less valid in life if you didn’t go to Eton - but for Tatler readers, possibly …”

Alice Holland, Jewellery & Watches Editor - “Diamonds in the daytime … it’s a bit gauche.”

(Yes, the magazine has a Jewellery & Watches editor!)

I’m always saying how important it is for a writer to get to know a magazine’s readership - well, here's a great opportunity for you to meet some real readers, and also the staff who put together this magazine. Whether it will be any use to you is another matter, but I'm sure it will be hugely entertaining!

Good luck!

Monday, 17 November 2014

It All Started With A Pitch

I’ve mentioned before how a rejection of one project can lead to a more interesting project, and I thought I’d share an example. Back in August I’d pitched a couple of travel article ideas to The People’s Friend. Unfortunately, the features editor rejected them because he’d just bought two similar pieces (which is why it’s always a good idea to pitch ideas first, so you don’t waste your time writing the articles first).

The next day, the editor got back in touch and wondered if I could help. Because I’ve always supplied photos with my travel photos, he asked if I might be interested in a photographic job. Regular readers of The People’s Friend will know that the publication has teamed up with the charity Age UK, and there is a monthly feature exploring the life of an Age UK charity shop. The words are being provided by the charity’s PR department, but the magazine needed someone to pop into the shop in question and take some photos.

It’s a job that takes me out of my comfort zone, because it’s not a writing job, but a photographic one. And I’m used to shooting landscapes, not people. Putting people who don’t like having their photo taken at ease is not easy, although I needn’t have worried. The staff at the shop are wonderful. And they’re willing to help out. Last week I had to go back and take some Christmassy photos, but because it was Remembrance Week, they were all decked out in poppies, not tinsel. Still, that didn’t stop them. We quickly erected a christmas tree and stuck up some tinsel, took some photos and then took it all down again!

The series of articles will last for a year, which means I’ve already had to undertake two photoshoots for them and will need to do a couple more in 2015. So those initial rejected ideas have actually led to more work. If I hadn’t pitched those travel pieces I might not have been asked to to do these photographic jobs (which will earn me more money than those two travel pieces).

It’s just a reminder that pitching regularly keeps your name in front of the editor. And even though that editor might say no today, tomorrow is another day.

Good luck.

Monday, 10 November 2014

All Rights Is Not Always Alright

I happened to be looking through some short story markets the other day, and I came across one that looked a distinct possibility … until I saw their terms and conditions. They wanted All Rights in any submission used.

All Rights means exactly what it says - ALL rights. If you give someone ALL rights, it means you have none left. It could be argued that you might still retain copyright, but you can’t do anything to exploit that copyright if you’ve assigned ALL rights in that piece of text to someone else. So I made a mental note not to submit stories to that market.

Deciding which rights you’re going to allow a publisher to have (or rather, which ones they demand and you grudgingly agree to let them have for the fee they’re offering) is a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer: only what’s right or wrong for you. I have sold ALL rights in pieces of non-fiction before. But that’s because with non-fiction it is much easier to rewrite the material in a different format (thus creating a brand new piece of text with its own copyright for me to exploit as I see fit). However, it’s much more difficult to rewrite a piece of fiction to create a new piece of text.

Fiction has more implications. It might be a short story to you, but to a film-maker it could be developed into feature film. And films have been made from short stories. Just consider Brokeback Mountain and Minority Report, both of which were developed into major, successful films.   

In my experience, the non-fiction markets are more willing to negotiate which rights they really need than the fiction markets are. But always remember: selling your words is a business transaction. It’s a contract negotiation, so if you don’t like the rights a publisher is demanding, put in an alternative offer. You might be surprised with how amenable they are to changing their demands. 

It’s understandable when students get excited about having their first piece of writing published. I ask them what rights the publisher wants. And if they’re asked for ALL rights I point out what this really means. They can’t licence anyone else to do anything with the text again. If a competition wants to publish the winning stories in an anthology, or on their website, then you can’t enter that piece into a competition. If you’ve granted ALL rights to someone else then you no longer have the authority to offer the competition organisers the rights to publish it in their anthology or on their website (should you win). 

So in many circumstances, All Rights is not alright. Just think before you agree to handing them over. And if you don’t understand then get professional advice.

Good luck.

Monday, 3 November 2014

A Right Old Shemozzle

I’ve been busy undertaking my Uncle responsibilities this weekend, and my six-year-old nephew has been challenging me with word games. One of his favourite is making as many new words as you can using only the letters found in another particular word or phrase.

It was lovely showing him how to look up words in a dictionary and then watching him read the definitions. And there were times when I came across words I hadn’t heard before. It reminded me of a discussion we’d had at one of the writers’ groups I go to, where we chatted about words that were great to say out loud, or had unusual meanings. Our choice of words in our writing is often quite narrow from the broad vocabulary we know, so it’s a good idea to get the dictionary out and look for new words. (I love the built in dictionary on my computer. Every time I come across a new word now all it takes is a couple of keystrokes to look it up.)

And when you start looking, there are some fantastic words out there. Here are two that put a smile on my face at the writers’ group:

- Shemozzle

- Kattywhompuss

Look them up in the dictionary if you don’t know what they mean. And while you’re there, why not look up a couple of other new words too?

Good luck!