Selling your story? Watch out for the scams…

Considering selling a story to a magazine or newspaper? While the vast majority of journalists are bona-fide and just want you to be happy when you sell your story, as in all professions there are always the rogues.

Sell Your story
Selling stories to the press for you...

So if you do want to sell your story, here’s My Five Selling Your Story safely rules…and some words of warning…
Ensure you want to sell your story in the first place. If you do, then focus on doing it properly and if you’re considering an offer, don’t dither. News moves fast and if you take too long, everyone will have moved onto the next big thing. If you don’t want to sell your story, say so politely and firmly.
Don’t let strangers into your home – the journo might seem delightful, the poor photographer might have waited for hours outside your house in the rain. But do you really know who they are, how your story will be written and where it will go? And even if you do want to sell your story, selling it this way is not controlled.
Only talk to a journalist once you have established which newspaper, magazine or agency they represent. Then stick their name into Google and check what they say. If they claim to represent a publication, and you can’t find anything about them, ring the publication up and ask them.
Agree to an interview once you have sorted the basics. These are which newspaper or magazine, how much money (if it’s not paid at least you go ahead knowing that) and can your story be sold on (syndicated) without your consent (preferably not.) What is the angle of the story and will your quotes be read back?
Get it in writing. Any bona fide agent or journalist will be able to produce a basic contract outlining the above.
And watch out for the ‘scams’…
* Speaking to ‘harmless’ local newspapers who unbeknown to you sell your story to the national press – you won’t be aware of it until you wake up next day and see your story everywhere. And as local papers can rarely afford to pay for a story, you won’t get a penny.
* Signing up to an agreement, which has the words ‘up to in it’ – so legally ‘up to’ can mean they can pay you as little as they want.
* Emailing your story and photos to faceless and nameless sell your story websites. Maybe they’re shy, and they might well be fine, but who knows who they are.
* Doing a full chat and photos with an agency for a one-off (often, small) fee – before they have found your a deal with a named newspaper or magazine. One woman came to me this week after receiving a tiny amount of money for her ‘time’. Her story had then been printed in every single national newspaper and she even went on TV – to find when she asked there was no extra cash. Her story was precious and she was very upset. She wanted my advice but there is no point in being wise after the event.

Read more:
How to sell your story
Selling a story
But my story is exclusive

For free professional advice click here: Sell My Story

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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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