Why this might be my last short story

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You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d abandoned writing altogether, given the lack of recent blog posts. This isn’t the case, and apologies for the radio silence, but two linked events have prompted this post.

The first is the publication of my latest short story in the current issue of Woman’s Weekly. Now, I’ve written for WW for over five years, and during that time they’ve published some stuff I’m really proud of. Some may knock the woman’s magazine market, but I’ve always been of the opinion that WW has allowed writers a little more freedom in terms of subject matter and depth than some of the other magazines, particularly in their Fiction Specials, so I’ve always enjoyed writing for them.

This week though, there’s been outcry in the womag writing community after Time Inc, who now own WW, changed their contracts to bring their fiction acquisition in line with their other freelance material (non-fiction, photographs etc.). New contracts will be issued on an all-rights basis meaning that any fiction writer whose work appears in the magazine will have no further rights to their own story. In the past, after 18 months you could submit your story elsewhere or publish it yourself (as I’ve done with my collection The Camel in the Garden for instance). More importantly, the story still belonged to you in both the moral and legal sense.

 

“Symptoms” was accepted months ago under the old contract, hence my copyright is intact. In the past, I have sold a few stories on an all-rights basis (one of which was very early on when I was young and particularly dim. I didn’t even keep a copy of the story – and I never managed to get hold of a printed copy either, so that story is well and truly gone – all these years later, I can’t even remember the title or what it was about, save it was an equine-themed one). If you’re a writer starting out, and it’s your first sale, then I guess you might be so happy to see your work in print you might not mind about the rights issue. But for me, I’m afraid I won’t be making any future submissions to Woman’s Weekly as at stands, which makes me feel rather sad. We can but hope there will be a change of heart at Time Inc head office, but I very doubt it.

If you want to read more about the situation, Simon Whaley has written a comprehensive article on his blog here and there’s plenty of discussion about the issue on social media at the moment. If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

 

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13 responses »

  1. I’ve not yet managed to have a story accepted by WW. I submitted one some time ago which has not yet been rejected so I was feeling a bit more hopeful. Since the news of the new contracts however, I have decided, even as a new writer to this market, that I would decline. Quite possibly I won’t have to make a decision as WW may reject it, but giving up all rights is not worth the pleasure I would gain from an acceptance. I applaud all the writers, especially those for whom this is their way of making a living, who are taking this stance because it may be the only way the contracts change for the better.

  2. Well said Jenny every writer deserves the right to keep the copy write to any work produced . I applaud you. When the magazine has few poorly written stories submitted they may reconsider. Until then publish else where x

    • Thank you, but I very much doubt they’ll reconsider – there are simply too many other writers willing to take the place of those who will not submit. But only time will tell.

  3. Shocking! I’m losing faith in the womags full stop. It’s disgusting what they are contemplating and I’m glad existing writers are taking a stand. Even though, in their hearts they know it’s game over.

    Is this the same magazine that declared a few years ago that it was only taking submissions from existing writers? That was also a bitter pill to swallow for anyone wanting to break in, and sadly no action could be taken by the would be writers.

    The market has shrunk, and I’d love to know the figures, such as how many actual opportunities there are each week/month etc

    • Thanks, Maria. There are several magazines which now only accept submissions from their existing writers, either on a temporary or permanent basis. And WW is not alone in seeking all rights (Yours magazine, for instance, purchases on an all rights basis). So yes, a shrinking market for short story writers – which is a loss for both writers and readers.

  4. Well said, Jenny. As you say the day is fast approaching, if it’s not already here, when it’s Game Over time.

    • Such is the way of the world – the ‘one size fits all’ approach never usually works, and this case is no exception. Fiction writing is not the same as some other forms of freelance work, so it’s wrong that it’s being shoehorned into the same type of payment structure. The most galling thing is they probably won’t even use the rights they’ve bought!

  5. I too have declined to give up the rights to my work with WW. I’ll be losing quite a lot of money because they have a number of accepted, but as yet unpublished, stories of mine. The only way we could persuade Time Inc to reconsider would be if all writers refuse to agree to the new contract. It would be wonderful if the writing community could show solidarity on this, but for now I am very grateful to those of my fellow writers who have been brave, and committed enough to their craft, to make a stand by declining to agree. Maybe a new magazine will open up for us somewhere. All good wishes. Kate

    • Thanks, Kate. Let’s hope the majority choose to say no to all rights – or enough of us to make the big cheeses at Time Inc reconsider. And yes, perhaps there will be other opportunities elsewhere in the future. Fingers crossed! 🤞

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