Monday, 13 June 2011

Why Are Women's Magazines Stopping Short-Story Slots?

If you're a regular reader of the Womag blog you'll already know that many short story markets have gone and others have restricted submissions to writers who have previously sold to that magazine.

(I know I'm not the only who has yet to make that first womag sale, and now our options have been further limited by these changes.)

There are overseas markets, but when you're still trying to get that  first sale, or further sales after that first acceptance, submitting to those other markets can be a little intimidating and daunting.

So what is the reason for the decline in fiction slots? I would like to hear your views on this too.

Personally I don't think it is just one thing...

Look on any magazine shelf  stocking the weeklies and you'll see a good proportion with sometimes bizarre straplines- basically revealing the dirty laundry of  numerous women, who slept with their brother-in-law/ran off with their mother's boyfriend and so on.

Then there are the celebrity gossip magazines spilling the latest on Cheryl Cole, or a television personality undergoing a trauma in their personal lives. Let's not even mention unfaithful footballers' illicit love-interests.

Fact: Sex and celebrity sells.

Publishers want their magazines to sell well, otherwise there's no point in employing all those people and with the increasing printing costs it would be cheaper to shut them down.

So they must make money.

Editors are under pressure to give the reader what they want; be it the latest miracle face cream, that must have accessory or outfit. The latest news on Eastenders or Coronation Street, or any other popular soap.
And to keep up with the above mentioned gossip and 'real-life' stories.

(Do you think these supposed real-life stories are there to make the reader feel better about their own lives?)

Demographics- Many of the young aren't interested in reading the traditional end of the women's magazine market- they want the celebrity culture that they (perhaps) aspire to.

So where will the future readers of short fiction come from?

As a young woman I read Cosmopolitan, but I also read Woman and Woman's Own, and Woman's Realm (I think it became part of Woman's Weekly) not only for the articles but especially for the fiction.
I could afford to buy that fiction at a time when there was less choice in book genre and the prices of those books available was  fixed.

But today the choices for the young spending their money is immense, film releases, music and digital downloads, nightclubs, mobile phones that access the web and send e-mails and so much more.

They aren't going to suddenly start picking up women's weeklies just because they (will eventually) hit 40...

This may be a battle that writers cannot win.

But if you're willing to try, pop over to Patsy Collins blog and follow her suggestion on her 11th June posting.

There is news of a Facebook crusade on both Patsy's and Womag's blog, so follow the links above.


Diane Fordham said...

Good post Carol. Who really knows what the mags reasons are - prob as u say a combination of several reasons. But I do think if lots of people let them know we want the fiction in.. maybe it would make a difference. I've commented on Facebook pages of the mags who have dropped fiction and am joining Facebook page Julie P has created. details on her blog

Carolb said...

Thanks for the details of Julie's blog, Diane.
Yes, letting them know we want fiction in is the way to go.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It definitely appears to be a case of reality and celebrity taking over - it happens on TV too. But it's worth looking at alternative markets, such as competitions and non-women's magazine stories.

I must do a blog about some of those markets (I do talks on markets so I've gathered a few!) very soon. Been having problems with my Internet connection, so I'll see if it will keep going long enough!

Carolb said...

That will be an interesting blog Rosemary, I look forward to it, as I'm sure others will.

Anonymous said...

What you are saying makes a lot of sense, Carol. Personally I don't see the attraction of wall-to-wall celebrity or sleaze and I don't think fiction sits very well in these magazines. A couple of years ago a new mag was launched devoted entirely to short fiction but it folded after only a few issues (it was called First Edition). I'm just not sure that the public have any appetite for reading something that means they have to think and use their imagination.
It's a depressing refelection of how life is today.

Carolb said...

I think you're right Sally, so many items in the media now are short- 'soundbites' and attention spans generally seem shorter.
I remember looking at 'First Edition', but it wasn't stocked widely, and when I did see it, it was placed in with the writing magazines rather than with the weekly/monthly issues, so general readers wouldn't have seen it.