The Women's Magazine Market
Helen M Hunt
Gemma has asked me to share some thoughts about the women's magazine short story market and give some advice to anyone hoping to break into it.
First, a bit about me. I write short stories, book reviews and features for magazines. My short stories have appeared in Woman's Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News and Take A Break Fiction Feast in the UK, and That's Life Fast Fiction in Australia. I have also had real life stories published by My Weekly, This England and Evergreen magazine, and articles in Writers' Forum and The New Writer magazine. You can find my writing blog at http://fictionisstrangerthanfact.blogspot.comand my book review blog at http://bookersatz.blogspot.com.
One of the first things that you need to be aware of is that, sadly, the women's magazine market for short stories has shrunk over the last few years. Many magazines which used to take fiction, such as Woman and Woman's Own, no longer do so.
Add to this the fact that there are a large numbers of writers trying to break through, and it makes for a challenging and competitive market. Having said that, it would be wrong to assume that it's impossible to break into it. I have read comments in various places that suggest that women's magazines are a bit of a 'closed shop' and only established writers can get published. Happily this isn't the case.
When you look at the magazines you will find the same names coming up on lots of short stories, but that is because those are the writers who are consistently sending out a high volume of good quality stories carefully targeted to their chosen publications, not because there is an embargo on new writers.
If I can do it, then anyone can, but patience is the key. I went on a short story writing course at my local adult education college in September 2005 and wrote my first ever short story. I carried on writing and eventually my story 'Shredding The Label' was published by Momaya Press in 2007 – my first fiction publication. My first commercial publication wasn't until the beginning of 2009 when Woman's Weekly published my story 'Dandelion Clocks'.
Since that first publication, I have continued to write short stories and I have been fortunate to be published quite a bit by My Weekly, Woman's Weekly, and The Weekly News and have also had stories accepted by Take A Break Fiction Feast, People's Friend and a couple of non-UK magazines.
So for those who do want to write for this market, where do you start?
I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here about submission guidelines for specific magazines. Instead I will direct you to Womagwriter's Blog. (http://womagwriter.blogspot.com/) This blog has all the guidelines and contact details for the relevant magazines with regular updates and also blog posts discussing various aspects of writing for this market. If you don't already follow Womagwriter I strongly recommend that you should.
My main advice to anyone who wants to start sending short stories to magazines is to initially concentrate on targeting one or two of them. All magazines have different requirements and like slightly different types of story so it's more manageable if you look at a limited number of magazines in great depth at a time. Always remember that magazines are looking for stories that are similar in style and tone to the ones they are currently using, but at the same time they need to be different enough to catch an editor's eye.
The key markets in the UK at the moment are:
Woman's Weekly – they take two stories and a serial every week in the magazine and also have regular fiction specials containing twenty or so stories. They are a good strong market that likes unusual stories and they are lovely to write for.
Take A Break Fiction Feast – this is a monthly fiction special which carries about fifteen stories each time. They like a variety of stories and take anything from romance to crime in a variety of word lengths.
The Weekly News – this is a newspaper rather than a magazine but also carries two or three short stories every week. Because the publication is aimed equally at men and women they like stories with male characters, are strong on crime and mystery and not keen on romance.
The People's Friend – this magazine is very much focussed on fiction, and carries six or seven stories and also a couple of serials each week. They like a gentle upbeat type of story and steer clear of anything too depressing or contentious.
My Weekly publishes fiction regularly in the weekly magazine and occasional specials. However, at the moment they aren't taking stories from people they haven't published before so they're not currently one for beginners to target.
Other magazines such as Candis and Yours take a limited amount of fiction, and there are a few overseas markets. All have their own particular requirements, and full details can be found on the Womagwriter blog.
So, choose a market and immerse yourself in it. It's probably best initially to go for the publication which carries the stories which most strongly appeal to you as a reader. Really study the stories carefully and concentrate on why they work and what it is about them that made the editor say yes. And don't give up!
For further information and advice, as well as Womagwriter's blog, I highly recommend Teresa Ashby's blog (http://teresaashby.blogspot.com/) and Della Galton's website (http://www.dellagalton.co.uk/).
I am intending to run some short courses and workshops on breaking into the women's magazine market later this year, so if you're interested please feel free to email me at helen-hunt1(at) sky.com. I'll add you to a mailing list to be sent details of the courses once they are up and running.
Thanks very much to Gemma for inviting me to do this guest post, and do feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
Helen M Hunt