How to Write For Women's Magazines

July 21, 2016
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Writing for women’s magazines is a lucrative and easy way of getting into print. Most National magazines have readerships in the thousands – some in the millions – so your name can gain huge exposure through this medium. Indeed, many writers who have had stories published regularly by women’s magazines go on to build their careers in writing through short stories and novels, helped by the exposure gained from stories they’ve had published in women’s magazines.

Is it simple to do?

The process of submitting a story couldn’t be more straightforward: firstly write your story, secondly send it to the fiction editor of the magazine of your choice – and in a few weeks you’ll know if it’s going to be published! No agents, no publishers, no mystifying contracts, advances or royalties! Women’s Magazines usually pay a one-time fee for your story and you retain copyright. That means that you are free to sell the story again sometime to another magazine! Payments range usually between £100 – £300 (approx. $200-$600) per story, depending on the magazine and story length. And as the story length seldom exceeds 2,000 words, that’s a great rate of pay!

‘That’s fine,’ I hear you say, ‘but what do I write about?’

That’s a good question. All women’s magazines have target markets. For some – let’s say UK ‘Best’, it’s younger women who enjoy stories that are “young, fresh and lively” – their words, not mine! Not too clear, is it? I’ve found that the very best way – indeed, some writers for women’s magazines say the only way to find out the type of story required is – to buy the magazine. That’s right! You don’t have to subscribe for a year, just get hold of a few recent copies and they’ll give you an idea of what it is the editor’s looking for at the moment. And that’s important, because women’s magazines requirements for stories can change – maybe they have had a run of ‘twist in the tail’ type stories and are now looking for light romance, or more humorous tales. So it’s good to know what’s hot right now.

Are there any storylines that don’t sell?

Not many, but there are some things to remember when writing stories for this market:

The main character is usually a woman.

Stories don’t often contain more than three or four characters.

Any story containing explicit sex, violence or any form of cruelty will be REJECTED!

Ghost stories are fine as long as they’re not too frightening or horrific.

Stories containing divorce-in-process storylines are unlikely to succeed.

Although many women’s magazines say that they don’t expect good old-fashioned boy-meets-girl kind of storylines, this type of story is still a favorite. Most stories are quite simple – after all, you just haven’t got time in 1,000 words for a complex plot! – and easy to read. Don’t baffle your reader with jargon or use overlong words or flowery prose – be simple, direct and write your story for your reader – not for you.

Why do stories have to be a certain length – my stories are longer!

Here we hit a ‘fact of life’ point. Women’s magazines – and all other newspapers and periodicals – assign a certain amount of space for each feature, article and advertisement. The reason that stories are usually either 1,000 or 2,000 words is simply because 1,000 words fits comfortably onto a single side of one page of the magazine, 2,000 onto two sides, and so on. And that’s it! If you write a story that’s 1,500 words long you’re in a very uncomfortable zone as far as they are concerned – you simply don’t fit! It then means one of two things must happen – either you edit the story down ruthlessly to 1,000 words or ‘pad’ it to 2,000.

There are a few exceptions. These apply to UK women’s magazines but are common to this type of publication in the USA, Australia and anywhere else this type of magazine is printed. They’re usually called ‘Fiction Specials’ and are normally printed in Summer, near Christmas and other times dependent on the magazine in question. One of note in the UK is ‘My Weekly’. These Fiction Specials are just that – little in the way of advertising or regular in-house features are to be found – instead, they are cover-to-cover short stories and, as such, are a goldmine for writers! Here word lengths can vary from 1,000 to 6,000 or more, with no absolute length required – though if you take my tip you should still stick to multiples of 500 words.

So it’s easy to get my story published, then!

I didn’t say that! It’s easy to submit your story and you’ll get a quick decision – but competition is fierce and only the best make it. I’ve had literally dozens of stories rejected – but I still write them. Why? Well, as a writer you have to learn to take rejection. It’s not personal. It doesn’t mean you can’t write or that your story was terrible (although both of these might be a factor!). No – it could be any of the following –

The magazine recently accepted a story on much the same lines as yours.

They may have a full ‘book’ of stories like yours.

They just don’t feel it fits in with what they want to print right now.

Your story might have been targeted at the wrong readership for them

And a variety of other reasons. One thing: please – if your story is rejected do not call the editor to ask for an explanation/berate them for a fool/tear them a new one or anything else. It will do no good and I can personally guarantee that you will never, ever have a story published with that magazine – ever!

So what do I do if my story does get rejected?

Simple. Re-read it. Could you have written it better? Is the word-length right? Did you, in fact, send it to the right magazine? If that’s No, yes, yes – then put it away for a while and write another. It may well be that it’s been rejected for any one of the reasons above. If you can’t honestly answer ‘No, yes, yes’ – and be honest with yourself – then get to work. Re-write it. Edit it. Send it to a magazine more in tune with your storyline. And one day you will get that
acceptance letter!

Are there any purely story-content women’s magazines out there?

In the UK – and that’s my market – I know of only one, and it’s world-famous. It’s called ‘The People’s Friend’ and is published by D.C Thompson & Co. of Dundee, Scotland. It’s been going for many, many years and has a (justified) reputation of helping fledgling writers with their craft. Their story requirements are a little different to most other women’s magazines – highly valued are the principles of honesty, loyalty and respect for others. If you can adapt your style to
suit them it’s a great magazine to work with.

So – how do I begin?

Read the magazines! They are your very best source of information. The stories they publish will tell you how long they must be, generally what they’re looking for in a story, the kind of plots that get published and the standards of writing they expect. And there’s more! Write to most of them and ask for a copy of their fiction guidelines and they’ll send them to you – free! (Don’t forget an SAE, though!) Honestly, this is one of the very few writing markets where publishers are actively looking, all the time, for fresh talent – unpublished writers who want

Their first break! So just DO IT!

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