What if your story isn't a book?
26 Nov 2009
If you have approached an agent or publisher with a book proposal about events that have happened in your own life, but have been told that your story isn’t quite right for them, you may feel quite disheartened. But as journalist and publicist Natasha Courtenay-Smith explains, there are other ways to get your story out there. Natasha Courtenay-Smith is the founder of Talk to the Press, a press agency specialising in helping people sell their stories to newspapers and magazines.
Flick open the nation’s most popular magazines and newspapers and there is a good chance you’ll find gripping true life tales from ordinary people. These can range from people who’ve been caught up in major national events to those who have triumphed over personal adversity.
If you have approached an agent or publisher with your story but been told that your story isn’t well suited to be told in book format, you may want to consider talking to a newspaper or magazine instead. By doing an interview for a major newspaper or magazine, you will get the chance to share your experiences with a wider audience, bring attention to causes or issues you feel strongly about and earn some extra cash. And you never know, further down the line, you may find a literary agent is interested in your story as a result of the publicity you’ve had.
When it comes to selling your story to newspapers and magazines, you have two options.
1) Do it yourself You can approach publications you think may be interested in your story directly. Media UK offers a comprehensive list of publications that you can use to research who may be interested in your story. Once you’ve come up with a list of publications to pitch your story to, the next step is to find the right person to approach. If you have any press contacts, now is the time to use them. You may be able to find an e-mail address on the publication’s site. If not, you can ring the main switchboard and ask to be put through to whoever deals with the type of story you are pitching.
Once you’ve got hold of the right person, it’s time to present your idea! Be concise and to the point. If you are lucky, they will be interested and your story could hit the headlines.
2) Go through an agency Press agencies work with across a broad range of newspapers and magazines, sourcing and writing stories on a wide range of topics. If you are not used to dealing with the media, letting an agency handle your story may be the best option for you. They will have all the right contacts, and know who might be interested in your story. It’s the same principal as using a literary agent to secure a book deal. A good agency will be able to find the strongest angle on your story and target appropriate publications and will be able to sell your story to Australian, South African, Japanese and US publications too.
Strong stories can often end up being placed in more than one publication and can even lead to television appearances. Naturally, the agency will also negotiate the best fee possible for your story. Some agencies will write your story in-house and read it back to you before sending it to the publication. Others will just pass your contact details to a reporter from the publication, who will interview you.
If you are not used to negotiating with journalists and editors, selling your story through an agency may be the best option for you.
While nothing is guaranteed, selling a story to the press can lead to exciting opportunities further down the line. Several clients of my agency have gone on to appear on television shows like This Morning and GMTV or have taken part in documentary films. A number have also secured book deals.
Talk to the Press can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.talktothepress.co.uk