1. People often ask, ‘what’s the best way to sell my story to the national press’ and the straight answer is there are two ways – through a press agent or agency or directly to a newspaper or magazine. As a media agent, my advice is of course to go through an independent press agent who can sell your story to multiple publications, and negotiate a price for your story, rather than one newspaper or magazine.
2. Email a synopsis of your story – an online press agent will have a sell my story form you can fill in. Alternatively, ring the publication and find out the best person to send your story to – it is always best to send story ideas to a named individual. It is usually best to email as well rather than ring – when your call might come at the wrong time for a busy agent or editor.
3. Ensure your synopsis is not too long. Remember editors are busy people so a few sentences describing your story is enough. However, simply saying, “I want to sell my life story” is not enough either for any editor to decide if your story is saleable – you must say what your story is!
4. Be prepared with any documents to back up your story – for example, if you are claiming your spouse ran off with someone else, do you have the divorce certificate?
5. Do not ask in your first email how much money they can offer. Any bona fide agent or editor will not be able to tell you. They will need to speak to you first and gauge for themselves how good your story is.
6. Do not approach different agents, newspapers and magazines at the same time. No-one is interested in taking on the story of someone who is speaking to everyone and clearly playing off one organisation against another. It is true that an agent who takes on your story might offer your story to several publications to gain the best price but negotiating prices like this truly is best left to the experts (a press agent or press agency.) If you are turned down then approach the next agent or publication on your list.
7. Agree a price. You can expect the press agent or publication to put the details in writing to you. This contract should clearly name the publication and the money they will pay. Never agree to contracts that state ‘up to’ an amount as you could get much less. Some newspapers will dazzle interviewees by saying you will get £20,000 if your story makes the front page and £500 for a page. You should look at the bottom figure as the most likely price – anything else should be considered a bonus.
8. Congratulations! You have successfully done the deal and sold your story!
But remember selling a story is a specialist job, and as no story is the same, it is recommended you take independent advice.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.