Thursday, 30 May 2013

People's Friend Blog

I've mentioned this here before, but it's worth a reminder. The People's Friend runs a lovely blog - here. The most recent post is all about how artist David Young brings writer Pat Posner's characters to life with his illustrations. Pat's been writing a series of stories based in a prefab village after the war - bit like a magazine soap opera.

One thing I love about The People's Friend is how hard they try to bring their readers and writers together. This blog is a great example of that, as is their lively Facebook page. If you're on Facebook, 'Like' the page to join in the daily discussions of everything from prunes to popstars with plenty of Scottish weather thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ice and a Slice in Paperback!

Just a really quick post to let you all know that Della Galton's latest novel, Ice and a Slice, is now available in paperback.

I can thoroughly recommend this book - there's a big bang opening and then you won't be able to put it down. My review and a guest post by Della are here, and a guest post by the heroine of the novel, SJ, is here.

Friday, 24 May 2013

DC Thomson contracts- the final word

If you still have concerns about the new DC Thomson contracts, please go over to Simon Whaley's blog, here. Simon contacted the People's Friend editor (Angela Gilchrist) and the Society of Authors about the contract, to make sure his understanding was correct. I'm pleased to see his interpretation, now confirmed, matches mine. He explains it at length, and probably better than I did.

In the end, you have two choices.
1. Sign the contract, and continue to submit work to DCT under its terms.
2. Don't sign the contract, and stop submitting to DCT.

If or when I go back to writing womag stories, I'll have no hesitation in signing it. The DCT fiction editors are still among the best ones to work for.

Thank you to everyone for your input into these discussions.

Edited 14:00 If you're a pocket novelist, see also Sally Q's take on the subject, here.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

DC Thomson Contracts - the response

Shirley Blair, the fiction editor of People's Friend, has sent me the following guest post as a direct response to our concerns about the new DC Thomson contracts. 

Thanks, WomagWriter, for giving us this opportunity to address the concerns that have been expressed about our new contributor terms. We’ve always had the utmost respect for all of our contributors, and we’re concerned to hear of such widespread unease.

The first point I’d like to make is that this is NOT a “rights grab”. The copyright remains with you, the writers (and illustrators, photographers, feature writers, etc). We have the exclusive right to first publication; this was always the case under FBSR. After that the original work is yours to reuse or sell on in any way you choose, as before. The difference is that the new agreements give us the right to reuse material without further payment. But this does not prevent you, the author, from also reusing it any way you wish. And the terms also make it clear that we cannot sell the material to a third party without paying you a royalty.

As a company we have to keep pace with developments in the world of publishing and with what our competitors are doing. If we don’t, we risk jeopardising the long-term future of our titles. Our legal department decided that it was necessary to develop new contributor terms that apply right across our publishing business and are relevant to magazines, newspapers and digital publishing.

Yes, there is a fair amount of legal “jargon” involved, but there has to be as this is a legal document – it has to be watertight in the best interests of all parties. And we do care about the interests of all parties – we have spent months working on the terms and wording to ensure fairness to all involved.

The wording WomagWriter quoted for Clause 8 actually comes from an earlier draft of the agreement. This section has now been amended to make clear that first refusal to publish a collection of works is “not to be unreasonably delayed” and that the new contractual terms to be agreed in the event of such a collection would include additional payment.

The other area that seems to be causing concern is Joint Contributions. In fact it’s always been the case that the copyright of the edited work belonged jointly to DC Thomson and the author and rights to reuse the published work could not be granted to any other publisher without the agreement of both parties. The author is at liberty to sell or reuse the original work only. We’ve known for some time that this breach of copyright was occurring, and it’s actually one of the reasons why it has become necessary to issue new contracts to all our contributors. We have a duty to protect the time and expertise that our editorial teams invest in our publications.

If there’s one message I want to get across today it’s to reassure everyone who writes for us that we are the same people we have always been. We cherish the good relationships we have nurtured over many years, and we hope that any author who has queries or concerns about the new contracts will contact us so we can put their minds at ease. Just talk to us! To date over 100 contributors have signed the new agreements; many of those approached us first with their questions, and we were happy to work through their issues with them. This doesn’t mean the contracts are negotiable; they’re not. And sadly, we can’t buy any new material from an author who refuses to sign the new terms. But every author is, of course, free to choose not to submit material to us if they prefer not to under the new terms.

Again, thanks to WomagWriter for allowing us this guest spot – it’s very much appreciated.

Thanks, Shirley. If you have further queries about the contract, either contact the magazine editors directly, or post a comment here. You may comment anonymously if you prefer, but please be polite and professional at all times.

In my mind at least, this has really helped clarify the new contract, as well as explaining the reasons behind it. I hope it's helped everyone else, too. 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Quick links post

I meant to post this last night but the contract thing kind of took over. If you haven't seen the previous post, do scroll down and take a look because it's important.

Some links to blogs to peruse over the weekend:

Firstly - a superb post on Della Galton's blog about the necessity of perseverance, even when you're as well-known a womag writer as she is.

Secondly - a new blog from Julia Douglas, aka Douglas McPherson, writer of womag stories and pocket novels. He kicks off by writing about why he adopted a female pen name.

Thirdly - Bridget Whelan's blog is always worth a look. I was a guest there a couple of days ago, talking about how I came to write my book, Ghost Stories and How to Write Them. (While I'm on the subject of that book - I'd like to thank all you lovely people out there who've bought it, and especially those who've reviewed it. I am delighted by how well it's been received!)

Friday, 17 May 2013

DC Thomson Contracts

There's been a lot of discussion about the new DC Thomson contracts in various corners of Facebook recently, and I thought it time we discussed it openly here on this blog. I was actually alerted to the new contract some time back by a writer who asked if I'd raise the topic here, but at the time I only knew of two writers who'd received it, so I didn't put anything on the blog.

I've now seen a copy of the contract. It wasn't sent directly to me by DCT - I haven't submitted anything to any DCT publication for a year or more (because I've been writing novels rather than short stories) - but was  emailed to me by a concerned writer. (For info: DC Thomson publish My Weekly, People's Friend, The Weekly News, and pocket novels.)

Firstly, having read the contract very carefully, I don't think it's as scary as some people think it is. I should make it clear at this point that I am not a lawyer, but I think the contract is pretty clear.

This, I think, is going to be a long post because the best way I can put this across and hopefully set people's minds at rest, is to quote parts of the contract. I know that not everyone has seen it yet, so this is probably the best way to make sure we're all talking about the same thing.

OK, in the covering letter, there is the following paragraph which might ring alarm bells, but DO read to the end of this blog post before getting too hot under the collar:
The full terms are explained in the following pages, with several key points highlighted below.
- You retain the copyright to your content
- You are granting us the right to publish your content in any media format (eg on digital platforms) and in any country
- You are granting us the right to reuse your content

Well, my reaction on reading that was 'eek!' BUT, now let's look at clauses from the actual contract (my bolds):
The Company (DCT) requires and you agree to grant the Company the following rights...
1. The exclusive right to first publication... anywhere in the world in any media, languages or geographies
2...... the non-exclusive, transferable right to reuse, republish and re-transmit ... in any media anywhere in the world and without further payment to you.

And there are further clauses, all containing that word non-exclusive.

If you are anything like me you are now scratching your head and wondering about what exactly exclusive and non-exclusive mean in this context. There is a glossary of terms on page 3 of the contract:
Exclusive - means the Company is the only one entitled to perform the action referred to.
Non-exclusive  - means that both the Company and you have the right to perform the actions referred to and you can also grant third parties the right to perform the actions.

Clause 1 of the contract is selling exclusive rights to first publication - but that is what we have always sold to them (ie First British Serial Rights). The only difference is that they are effectively saying first publication might not necessarily be in Britain. I think also, it means that you would need to wait until the story's been actually published in the UK, before submitting it abroad (which I believe most writers always did anyway, out of courtesy).

Clause 2 -  to me this means that you CAN still submit stories bought by DCT to markets abroad (eg Australia), because DCT have only requested non-exclusive second rights. And you can also republish your stories in ebooks because DCT have only requested non-exclusive digital rights.

So my reading of this contract, as a non-legal but well-educated and generally pretty sensible kind of person, is that while you can still resell to Australia, Scandinavia, South Africa and and other market you might find, and you can include your stories in anthologies and epublish them, DCT are also allowed to do these same things. So, for example (and I am guessing here), People's Friend annuals could in future be filled with reprints of stories DCT have previously published, with no extra payment to the author. Or, a My Weekly Online magazine might appear, containing stories they've previously bought. Or, fiction specials might be published as Kindle (or other) ebooks. None of which stops you from reselling or epublishing.

Do we all feel a little bit better now? I hope so. However, there are a couple of clauses in this contract I don't much like, and I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention them. Here's another clause copied from the contract:
8. In the case of a collection of your contributions where you are the sole or majority author in book form, you commit to offering the Company the right to first refusal to publish any such collection in any format... such an arrangement would be subject to new contractual terms...

I think this means if you decide to republish as a Kindle ebook your back catalogue of stories previously sold to My Weekly under this contract, you would have to first OK it with DCT. That's a bit limiting.

And the other one I don't like, which affects writers of pocket novels and serials:
Joint Contributions: If we make any changes to or jointly contribute to a Contribution [ie your story/novel] you will not be entitled to use the jointly created or edited version of such Contribution yourself, or authorise any third parties to use it without the Company's prior written consent.

Many people who write pocket novels and serials resell them to Ulverscroft to be published as large print books. Ulverscroft require you to send them a published copy of your book or serial. The clause above means you can't do this. You can still send them your original copy, the version you submitted to DCT, but any editorial changes made by DCT won't be included in that version. Whether Ulverscroft would accept this remains to be seen - they would have to edit and proof-read themselves, and perhaps (I don't know at first hand) don't have the resources to do this.

OK, enough from me. Has this helped? Are you still worried? What do you think of it all? Feel free to comment anonymously, but please, be polite and professional at all times. Some fiction editors, including those from DCT publications, subscribe to this blog. I'm sure I speak for all womag writers when I say I would love them to confirm that my reading of the contract is correct (or otherwise).

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Bits and Pieces

Wells Literary Festival competition - closing date 31st July. £5 to enter stories or poems, or £10 to enter a crime novel. Top prize £500. Winning novel will be read by a leading publisher and agent.
Full details here.

Radio programme about great first lines. Available on Listen Again for a few more days Thanks to Kate H for sending me this link.

Fascinating post here about recording your own words for an audio book. The book in question is How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim by Della Galton and Peter Jones. This is obviously something all writers need to know about, to reduce those writers' bums. I was lucky enough to get a sneaky advanced peek at the book, which will be available as audio or ebook in a couple of weeks. I'll be posting a review about it on here soon, but for now let me just say that it is EXCELLENT! More info here.

Monday, 6 May 2013

It's a Dog's Life

Rosemary Kind, creator and manager of Alfie Dog Fiction which I blogged about a year ago, sent me the following article to update womag blog readers on their progress, one year on. So far, so good, by the looks of things! 

A year in the life of

On May 16th 2012 started business with the intention of being the best short story download site on the internet. We started with around 200 stories from 50 authors and a very small team dedicated to making it a success. Whilst there were other short story sites giving work away for free and some which offered downloads in a single format, there were no immediate competitors offering quality, edited stories in multiple formats for different ereaders or to print. We set out to change that.

Everywhere we turned short story markets were closing. Friends were bemoaning the difficulties of finding homes for quality short stories and the frustration that a short story once published in one media would languish in a drawer unread by other potential readers. Readers complained that the standard of stories available from some other sites was poor, with a lack of editing and quality control. We decided that would be different. All stories go through a thorough review and edit before being accepted. Not all stories are accepted, but where possible we do try to provide advice and guidance to our writers on where rewrites are required and explain why.

We wanted to make belonging to a good experience for writers; one where they could be part of a family providing support where necessary. Yes, we wanted to provide an income with royalties for every download, but we wanted it to be about more than just the money.

We’ve had growing pains. It’s been hard work. We work long hours. However, when you get authors telling you how proud they are to be part of the site and how grateful they have been for the direction you have given them, every minute is worthwhile.

With a year behind us we now have over 900 stories on the site from more than 240 authors around the world. We’ve branched out into longer works with collections of short stories, both single and multi-author works. Over the next few weeks we will be releasing our first novels, although these will be deliberately few in number as our focus remains the short story.

Sales have been slow, as people take time to find the site, but from the growing number who do the feedback has been good and it has been a pleasure to pay out royalties to some of our authors. So, where do we plan to go in the next year? We are always open to submissions, but our focus now is to improve the site, move it up the search rankings so that more people find us and do all we can to boost sales. It’s a long uphill climb, but after only a year we are proud to describe ourselves as the best short story download site on the web. We really do offer something for everyone and if we can make as much progress in the next twelve months as we have in the last twelve, there will be no stopping us.

Rosemary J Kind

Alfie Dog Fiction

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Expat writers - call for submissions

Writers Abroad are calling for submissions for their fourth anthology. If you're an expat, or once lived abroad, this is a good opportunity to donate a story for a worthwhile cause.

Writers Abroad Anthology 'Far Flung and Foreign'
Closing date: 31 July 2013. 
Entrants: Only for expat and former expat writers. 
Fiction: 1700 words max. Non-fiction: 1000 words max. Flash Fiction: 500 words max. Poems: 30 lines max. 
Theme: Foreign places. 
Free to enter, all profits from the anthology will be donated to the charity Book Aid International, and a Foreword will be written by novelist, Amanda Hodgkinson.
Full submission guidelines:

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Free magazines!

(Apart from postage costs)

Jo Derrick who is the owner/editor/publisher of The Yellow Room is having a clear out, and has some back copies of another literary magazine to give away.

Here's what she sent me:

From 1994-2006 I published and edited a literary magazine for female writers called QWF (Quality Women's Fiction). I have a hundred or so cluttering up my office and need to get rid of them. Rather than take them to the tip, I am offering all 4 issues (two are 80 pages and two are 95 pages) for the price of the postage, which is £1.90 for all 4 issues (46, 47, 48 and 49). Please message me for details of how to pay and your address, if you're interested. Each magazine features short stories, review and a letters page. Very similar to The Yellow Room.

Payments can be made via Paypal (joDOTderrickATntlworldDOTcom) or by cheque (made payable to J M Derrick) and sent to: 1 Blake Close, Bilton, Rugby CV22 7LJ

You'll obviously need to replace the dots and ats in the email address above - obscured to stop the spammers. I had a few issues of QWF back in the day, and a very nice magazine it was too. So if you would like a good read of excellent stories, get in touch with Jo via the email address above. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

On being male, Australian, and a womag writer

I have a lovely guest post for you today, from someone who's not your usual run of the mill womag writer. Alan Williams is Australian, lives in France, and writes stories with wacky titles as you'll see below. I'm useless at thinking up titles, but Alan's a bit of a master at them, and explains here how he often starts with a title that inspires him. 

Helen Yendall’s recent article on using two sources of inspiration was thought provoking to me and I thank her for it. Any help is more than welcome when you’re exiled to the French countryside, with only ‘des vaches’ to ruminate with over story ideas.

I asked Kath about doing a guest blog saying I was interested in Story Titles. She said it was a novel idea (no pun intended) as no-one else was mad enough to consider such a mundane theme. She suggested I send it to her. So … here it is.

I believe that a title sets the tone of the adventure that is to come. I enjoy quirky titles for stories. They entice me with promises of different ideas waiting to be experienced.

Ray Bradbury was the master with ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ ‘I Sing The Body Electric’, or ‘Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed’, juxtaposing words within phrases so that the interest of the reader is piqued. ‘The Day It Rained Forever’, another of his tales, has its own evocative mystery in the title. Of course there are many other authors; ‘October the First Is Too Late’ by Fred Hoyle (too late for what?) or ‘The Last Mimzy’, a movie based on Lewis Padgett’s whimsical tale ‘Mimsy Were the Borogoves’ both spring to mind.

Most of my stories begin with a title. Literally! There’s one that I had published about ten years ago called ‘Snail Shells and Apricots’, a true story about mice eating the computer of my car. I thought that the title might make the reader intrigued, as in “What the hell is this story about?”

I’m only a beginner when it comes to word-craft. I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of short stories published in Australia, the latest being ‘The Pastel Blue Kangaroo’ in the Autumn ‘That’s Life Fast Fiction’. The title came first; an almost poetic sound that nudged me from my dreams one evening. It made no sense when I imagined it, however it sounded intriguing. The plot and 1500 word story followed, exploring the strange world of a young woman who sees visions that blend seamlessly with reality; the pastel blue kangaroo in the title finally appears, allowing her to resolve one puzzle in her complex married life
although leaving her with yet another.

I followed that story with another ‘The Pale Green Thylacine’ again inspired by the title alone. Once finished, I changed the title to ‘The Year of the April Green’ when I realised that generally only Tasmanians would know about Thylacines (Tasmanian Tigers). Again this will be published in ‘That’s Life Fast Fiction’ in late May. I’ve promised the Editor that I’ve completed my ‘rhyming coloured marsupial’ phase. I’m certain that he’s grateful.

I often choose the title before the story; ‘Twice In a Blue Moon’, ‘To Dance Upon The Silent Sands’, ‘Last Of The Lukewarm Lovers’, taking clichés and reworking them. I try to avoid using expected clichés in my titles. The use of clichés are just … just so damn clichéd! Moreover, if I hear one more house- hunter on television declare that the property they have just been shown “ticks all the boxes”, I suspect that I’ll throw something heavy and non-bouncy at the screen. What’s that? Yes, I know that the doctor needs to review my medication. My darling wife reminds me of this every day, so you’re in good company.

Sorry for my digression. Another thought …losing the definite or indefinite article might have more impact. ‘Tourist’ has more appeal to me than ‘The Tourist’ for instance.

Sometimes I spend hours musing over variations on the wording before selecting one then deciding on a plot that fits. That either makes me positively a perfectionist or an extremely sad old man ... you decide.

This morning’s inspiration is ‘Green Skies at Night’ although the accompanying story is still hiding in my innermost imagination. Extreme weather …? A family caught in a devastating hail storm …? Maybe, in a few days, it will come together.

Unfortunately most Womag editors either regard my writing skills as inadequate or possibly feel that the ideas are too different for their readership. My non-Australian wife has politely suggested that Australians think differently to Brits due to their brains being bar-be-qued at an early age by the Aussi sun so I suppose I’ll never see one of my stories in Woman’s Weekly. Nevertheless I shall persevere in my attempts to break into the British market. What’s a few more dozen rejection slips between friends anyway?

So, that’s it. I wonder if I were to spend as much time on my stories as I do considering what best to call the tale, then I’d be more successful but as they say, “You can’t teach an old dingo new tricks”.

My e-mail is and I welcome any comments or polite suggestions as to what I should do next. After all, it’s embarrassing enough asking for the Woman’s Weekly when I visit Pommieland without trying to explain that I’m really doing research for story submissions and not checking out make-up tips. Sigh!!! The burdens of a male Womagger!

Keep trying, Alan! I think we need stories with titles like yours in the UK mags.

Everyone else - what's your favourite ever story (or novel) title, and why?