How much money can I sell my story for?" This is something I am asked every day. Many people expect an instant quote but how much money you can earn for your story is much more involved than people imagine. So, truthfully, how much money can you sell your story for? How much money is your real life story worth?
Top ten points agents, newspapers and magazines consider when buying your story for money...
How much demand is there for your story? If your story is currently already splashed over the papers but you haven't yet given any interview, then you're onto a winner. If you are the person at the centre of this media storm and someone every newspaper and magazine is after to talk to, then your story is worth more money. You might even find you receive offers from lots of newspapers and magazines and publications might enter into a bidding war. In this case, the sky is the limit. Editors will bid against one another until one cannot afford to go any higher. You, or your media agent, can take the highest bid.
Your story is worth more money if you are the only person who can tell your story. If you are one of many witnesses to something, your story will be worth less money. For example, if you escaped from a train crash, and you were one of many people escaping from it, there won't be just you who could sell a story to the press. But if you are the only person involved, then your story is worth more.
Your story is worth more money if it is unique. If you are the first to do anything - walk with a certain type of prosthetic leg, be cured from some sort of cancer, the first to have a designer baby and so on - your story will be more saleable. Once you are the second, or third, the story has already been told and is not so valuable. And eventually, when something becomes common, and everyone is having a designer baby, stories can become unsaleable.
Your story is about something that could change legal history, damage the government, the monarchy, an organisation or is a shocking expose about an A list celebrity - and you have proof, then your story will be very saleable. A good example of this is the MPs expenses scandal.
You have all the legal documents in order to prove the story you are selling. A real life story about your cheating husband might not be saleable at all if he has always denied adultery and divorced you for unreasonable behaviour. A true story about how your partner lashed out might not be worth anything if he was not convicted in court. And a story about your wicked stepmother might need a 'right of reply' - when legally a publication must get a quote from her to ask for her side of the story.
You have good photos to sell with your story. If you set fire to every photo of your ex, and cannot find one of you with him at all, then you might well have burnt all your chances of selling your story too. If you never took any photos of yourself before you lost weight, you will struggle to sell your story. But if you have clear high-resolution photos to sell with your story, those photos will make it more valuable.
Are you a man or a woman? Fact: there are lots of women's magazines, and women's sections in national newspapers to sell a story to but fewer men's magazines feature real life stories. So, while of course it doesn't mean men's stories can't be sold, if you are man with a story to sell, you will have more choice if your wife or girlfriend will be photographed with you and give a female perspective on your story. And more choice potentially means you can sell your story more times and earn more money.
You employ a publicist to market your story in the most saleable way. You might have a good story but which is the best angle to sell your story on? Incidentally, you will also make more money if you find an agent or agency, which sells stories to 'whole of market' - all newspapers, magazines and TV. Some only sell stories to a few selected publications or even just to magazines.
You go through an agent who can sell a story and earn you money from multiple deals. If you sell your story directly to a newspaper or magazine, the publication will not be able to place your story elsewhere (or if they do, they might not ask your consent or pay you again). Meanwhile, a press agent can sell your story to a newspaper, magazine and TV - and maybe even several papers, magazines, TV and radio programmes - and as you are paid every time, you will earn more money for your story.
You are pleasant, reliable and able to be contacted easily. Simple things. But if you are unpleasant and unreliable, certainly a busy agent might think twice about selling your story for you again. And if you can't be contacted (and incredibly, some people will come back days, or even weeks, after you have rung them) then the opportunity to sell your story might have gone. The media works very fast and journalists are always working to tight deadlines.
Having read about selling your story, you might now realise so many factors determine the end price for your story, it is impossible to give an immediate and accurate quote. So the real answer to how much money for your story is, what an editor will pay you and what you will accept. After all, if you will only sell your story for thousands of pounds and magazines and newspapers will only offer a few hundred, you won't sell your story or earn any money for your story at all.
Payments can vary from £100 for a short contribution to a bigger feature to tens of thousands (and even more) for an in-demand front page story. But you can hugely increase your earnings by selling your story to a combination of a newspaper, magazine and TV. This is best achieved by going to an agent who can sell your story to multiple publications and where there is no fee to you. In this case an agent is paid for writing the story and you will be paid every time your story is printed.
Find out more: How much money for a front page story?Alison Smith-Squire is an ethical media agent and journalist who runs sell my story website Featureworld, specialising in selling a story safely for the ordinary person.