Can I sell my story anonymously?

"I want to sell my story anonymously" - it is something someone asks me every day. But is it really possible to sell a story AND not be photographed or named? The answer is sometimes yes - but usually no...

YES - occasionally you can sell your story anonymously:

* You sell a tip-off to the press. An example of a saleable tip is you work in a hotel and two well known celebrities (whom no-one knows are dating) are sharing a room. You tip off the press and a photographer snaps the couple together for the first time.

* You are a whistleblower. You alert the press, as in the MPs expenses scandal, that a company or individual is doing something they shouldn't be (and you have written proof such as accounts.)

* You are granted legal anonymity. For example, you are a victim of rape or sexual abuse or a court has instructed the press you must not be named. You can still sell a story (when your attacker will be named) and remain anonymous.

NO - unfortunately in virtually all other stories (perhaps 95%) you will have to be identified and photographed or you simply will not be able to sell your story.

Even 'tipsters' can sometimes make more money by standing up and be identified. And these days most victims of rape will need to 'waive their right to anonymity' and be identified if they wish to sell their story.

This is because seeing the person behind the story gives it more credence. Imagine you buy your daily newspaper or magazine and in it there are no photos or names and everyone is anonymous. It simply would not be interesting to read - or would read more like a fiction novel. You might even wonder if the writer has simply made it up.

Newspapers and magazines present their stories in the way that sells their publications. And this means using lots of photos to illustrate the story - and you, the interviewee, being identified. After all, it is who someone is - their views, their feelings, their appearance - that makes the story saleable. So in a nutshell, if I could sell stories anonymously, it would make my job a dream!

Sadly, in this competitive world - where magazines and newspapers are receiving stories every day from people desperate for publicity - it is often just not possible.

Media agent 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.

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