Cracking the so-called ‘real life’women’s weekly market is not only one of the most lucrative areas of freelance journalism, but can also be one of the most daunting.
If the thought of having to quiz someone on a wayward partner’s fling with the vicar fills you with dread, or you’re appalled at the ‘tawdriness’of it, leave it alone. You won’t be any good at it. Are you really ever going to care enough to ask: ‘And what shoes were you wearing at the wedding?'(It can make all the difference, you know.)
You have to dig deep to find these stories. If they’ve been anywhere else, forget it. Building contacts is key – earn their trust and look after them.
A couple of years back, my company prepared some postcards, with a sunny image of a woman jumping into the sky. Its caption read: ‘We think you’re amazing.’
We listed the stories we wanted – ‘miracle’babies, people ‘overcoming the odds,’finding love in bizarre places or having a talented pet. Think that sounds cheesy? You’re right – but it works.
Don’t just put your cards up somewhere, hoping for the best – use them as an icebreaker.
You can do without the cards, but you can’t do without getting people talking, somehow.
A spread about a model whose face was disfigured came from chatting to a church group and a story about a grandmother with one of the biggest families you’ve ever seen was a tip-off from a lollipop lady.
The gift of the gab goes a long way – if you can’t charm the birds out of the trees, you’ve got to at least keep trying.
Once you have what you hope is the most heart-warming tale since a wolf adopted a donkey, how do you persuade an editor to agree with you?
It’s all in the pitch. My own list of favourites include: ‘Mummy, that lady has a beard,’and ‘My Boxing Day hangover was triplets.”
Make your heading grab your target editor (or editors – yes you can send it to several at once) by the throat – and not let go until you’ve been commissioned.
You also have to show you know what you are doing. Can you get all the documentation needed? Have you ‘stood up’the story with the right authorities and sought comment from any other party? No? Better get it sorted.
And then we’re on to the writing. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Give them a cracking read. Ask a million questions – and more. If your interviewee was out buying jewellery when she collapsed – what was she buying? How much did it cost? How long had she been saving and why did she have her eye on that piece? What did the people in the shop think when she went flying and did the distinguished gent behind the counter look as if he was going to spontaneously combust?
Lastly, once you have filed, never forget that these magazines are no place for writers who are precious about ‘their’copy. It may come out word for word, but with no byline, or perhaps it’ll appear, chopped and changed with your name and that of a staff writer. The cheque at least will have your name on – so keep smiling.