Selling a story – Behind the scenes of a press agency …
How do we sell your story? We kept an hour-by-hour record of a typical day at press agency Featureworld HQ …
The day begins with a look through the day’s papers, clicking on press websites to see the latest stories and overnight updates. We are particularly looking for trends that might make one of our interviewees’ stories particularly saleable. For example, if a celebrity loses weight with a gastric band then we can bet editors might well call us asking if we have any similar real life stories about gastric surgery.
We also begin sending a synopsis out to editors on behalf of one of our interviewees. She has sent us an email about selling a story to a magazine or newspaper. It is sent out to editors we feel might be interested.
Sell my story forms from this website will be read and we will decide which ones have potential. As submissions come in throughout the day, we will be evaluating them all the time. Some are just not stories at all, some we can immediately see have legal difficulties that mean the story can’t be printed – and others we will email the interviewee for more information to help us decide. Some submissions require some research on our part to see if they might be a story – or, particularly if the issue is complex, we will put them aside to read more carefully later. Some forms immediately show a potential story and we will contact them by email or phone straightaway.
We have a story in a national newspaper today. The interviewee has already emailed to say she is delighted with her story – although it has already been read back to her a week ago so she knew how it would look. But as she says, it’s fantastic to finally see it in print.
We are now receiving emails from women’s magazine feature editors who’ve read her story and would like to feature her in their publications.
Two emails have come in from editors searching for case studies. ‘Case studies’ is the industry speak for real life stories to illustrate an article. One of the requests we post on this website so people can contact us if they want to go into a feature. But we immediately respond to one newspaper editor searching for a woman for a health story – already we can think of a lady who contacted us a few weeks ago. We think she will be perfect for their piece. Fortunately our interviewee is there as soon as we ring.
We are under a tight deadline. As this is a national newspaper request, it is ‘on edition’ so for the paper the next day. Luckily our interviewee can have a chat at lunchtime and a photographer can come to her home for a photo when she finishes work at 4pm. We email the editor with the information – and confirm a payment for our interviewee’s time. We will be paid for writing the story.
As well as Featureworld we run a very popular online ezine. Sell Your Story UK – the Magazine – is currently visited by around 1000 people a day – and this can double with very popular posts. Its aim is to help give people an insight into the media industry and at the same time help other writers raise their profiles. Thankfully we already have a post written to publish today – it’s been submitted by a woman author who has written a book and recently self published it. It goes on the website as an ‘author spot’ where she talks about her book, how she got it published and gives advice about selling a book to others. It is then tweeted to our Twitter followers – we have almost 3000.
No time for lunch yet as we need to speak with our woman who is due to go into the national newspaper article tomorrow. The paper is waiting for the copy so following a half hour chat on the phone, we get writing it up as quickly as possible.
An editor has emailed about the story synopsis we sent out today for our interviewee. The newspaper is very interested – can they take it into conference tomorrow? We agree that’s fine and update our interviewee with the news. We will be back in touch with her to let her know if the newspaper wants her story or not.
An offer has come in from a magazine for our interviewee’s story which was in the national newspaper today. We ring her with the good news – she is thrilled as she is saving to take her children on a much needed holiday and so more money for her story is so appreciated. Telling an interviewee you have sold their story again is one of the highlights of our job. And there’s more good news as while we are talking on the phone, a TV show has also emailed us – does she want to go to London for an all expenses paid chat on the sofa? We confirm she will be able to take her children with her, checked the magazine is happy for her to appear on TV as well and having sorted a price for her to appear, email the TV show with her contact details. They will discuss the travel and hotel arrangements with her directly.
An email from the newspaper editor asking when she can expect the copy for the health page. Fortunately just putting the finishing touches to the piece – and we ring our interviewee to read it back and ensure it’s accurate. There is only one correction – her mum’s name is unusual and isn’t spelt as we’ve spelt it. This is put right and the copy is finally whizzed off!
Having grabbed a sandwich and a coffee, we manage to update this website with the story in the national paper today. It’s great to be able to announce we are already sorting other deals for our interviewee – in fact they are all confirmed in writing now and we’ve heard she will be going on TV next week.
A TV production company has been in contact. They are making a documentary – do we have anyone who would be interested in appearing in it.
We can’t think of anyone right now but we add the request to our Casting Directory so that anyone who is interested can get in touch with them directly.
A request has come in from Germany for a story we covered a couple of months ago. We regularly syndicate stories abroad. Are photos and copy available for a magazine there? We ring the interviewee to check – and they are happy to go ahead. The extra cash will come in handy and that’s it for them – as we already have their photos and copy we are able to simply email the story to the German publishers straightaway.
A couple of extra questions have come in from the newspaper running our piece. We ring our interviewee – who manages to speak to us while having her photo taken – and check the answers with her. Finally, it is all done and going in the paper. We can’t wait to see it tomorrow!
A couple of interesting press releases have come in and we upload them onto the Sell Your Story Uk Magazine website. We’ve also had a request from a reader who writes a blog – could she feature in our Blog Spot? We direct her to our post about writing for the site and she emails back to say she will write up a piece for us and send it next week.
A great story has just been sent to us via Featureworld. We ring the interviewee straightaway – she is surprised because she didn’t think anyone would be interested – yet delighted we have called. We have a chat on the phone to discuss which newspapers and magazines might like her story best. This is a confidential chat, which enables her to ask us any questions about selling a story to the press. She is going to send in some photos and then we will be all set to approach editors for her to sell her story. We will then report back with the interest before getting her permission to go ahead.
The emails are finally subsiding. On any given day we can receive hundreds of emails and we read every single one. Before turning in to go to bed tonight, we will again check all the online press websites to see which stories are likely to be in the news tomorrow…ready for another day selling stories!
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