For the majority of people approaching a national newspaper or magazine can be a daunting experience and something they only do once in a lifetime. It may be that they unexpectedly find themselves at the centre of a dramatic story with reporters camping outside their front door. And they don’t know which way to turn. Perhaps they want to expose a prejudice or gain press coverage in a newspaper, magazine or on TV for their business or charity. Alternatively they may simply want to earn some extra money. They have read real life stories in magazines in newspapers and magazines and wonder of they could make some money by selling their story.
For that reason, what are the different approaches that they can take to sell their story to the press? Also how do you know if your story is fascinating enough to sell?
Primarily, unless you are at the centre of a media storm they only way you will know if your story is credible in a newspaper or magazine is to put it out there.
Your options are:
Directly selling your story to a newspaper or magazine
Nothing is stopping you approaching an editor yourself. Just ring the publication of your choice and enquire about who is the best person to send your story to. Most of the news and feature desks would rather you email a short synopsis of your story. Make sure it is short with just a few paragraphs as the editors are busy people and won’t have a chance to read much more. You need to incorporate the basic points about your story. For instance, if you want to sell a story about a relationship, then say so. ‘’My best friend stole my husband’’ is better than starting right at the beginning and going into so much detail that the editor needs to read a considerable amount before they get to the key point. Make sure that you enclose your name and a contact number, include a small photo if necessary.
Be assured that you will quickly receive a phone call if your story is of interest. If this is not the case then it may be worth a follow-up e-mail or telephone call. However, if after a couple of days and you still haven’t received any interest, then you can assume that there most likely isn’t any. In this instance simply try the next newspaper or magazine on your list (remembering to find the correct person to send your story to).
If an editor is interested then excellent! Just make sure they put in writing how much you will be paid for your story and what they expect from you. As an illustration, will you need to pose for a photo, can your story be sol to any other publication and when will they pay you ( this is normally a few weeks after publication).
Sell your story through an agent
While it is possible to sell your story to a newspaper or magazine yourself countless people now prefer to go through a story selling agency. A prime media agent will be selling stories on a daily basis to magazines, newspapers and TV. They will be able to acquire you multiple deals and even initiate a bidding war between magazines and newspapers. They will also be able to give you a good idea of how much your story is worth and be able to market your story correctly to make it strong in demand.
Some agencies will simply market your story to a newspaper or magazine, obtaining you a deal (they may take a set fee for a publication or a pre-arranged percentage of your fee) and then you will speak directly to a staff journalist.
Several will also write a story for you (they are paid for writing it) and will in addition agree a separate fee from the newspaper or magazine for you.
Whatever agent you decide on (only approach them one at a time as only one can sell your story) ask to see newspaper or magazine cuttings with their byline on them. A good experienced agent and journalist should have lots! In conclusion, if you find yourself at the centre of a media storm then the best advice is to seek out an agent. Again, ask that agent for cuttings or which other clients they have recently represented.