Selling stories to the press – is there a right time to sell?

It’s an all too common scenario. An interviewee is asked by a newspaper or magazine to tell her story. She dithers, takes time to think about it and decides to go ahead – only to discover that publication is no longer interested. Or, if it is, then the price the publication is willing to pay, has gone down.
So what went wrong?
One thing many people don’t understand is just how fast the media works these days. Once, a story that made the front page of a national newspaper, would be discussed for days. Now, with the internet and constant newsfeeds coming from all over the world, news is in the papers and out again faster than ever.
It’s something to bear in mind if you have a story to sell, particularly one that suddenly becomes sought after.
I can think of three big recent stories where I have been asked to find interviewees overnight. When high class call girl Belle De Jour revealed her true identity, every editor was after their own exclusive real-life Belle De Jour to give their inside view on the ‘profession.’
Then, Hannah Waterman lost weight and dumped her husband – and suddenly the phone was ringing again with desperate feature desks wanting a true-life story of an ordinary woman who did the same thing.
And finally, the John Terry affair scandal. Anyone with a story to sell about adultery – particularly if it involved husbands cheating with a best friend – could have found it sold for more money than ever.
So it continues. The latest fashions in the media (and I don’t mean clothes and shoes which take longer to go out of date than stories!) are continuing all the time. A celebrity admits she’s lost weight with a gastric band and every journalist is scrambling for gastric band stories, some research comes out about older mums and we’re frantically looking for women who’ve frozen their eggs.
Once those stories are over, however, it can be hard to sell more. Papers and mags have had their fill of Belle De Jour – type or weightloss stories for weeks to come – in some cases, even months. They are on to the next big thing.
It is therefore worth bearing in mind that if you are considering selling a story, and you have an offer from a magazine or newspaper, that whilst it’s good to take time to think about it, taking too long could cost you.
If you say no, that journalist is likely to find someone else who will say yes. And then you could find what was a brilliant story a few days ago is suddenly not very saleable at all.
For free advice email me, alison@featureworld.co.uk

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One Comment on “Selling stories to the press – is there a right time to sell?”

  1. Tracy says:

    Hi Alison
    I found your web page very informative and honest, i would like to speak with you on an issue involving a scientist not sure if you have heard of climategate


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