Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Writing for the market is something all Pocketeers have to do, and this has been discussed in depth recently on our blog. However, the market is constantly changing, and this has been evident in the fact that Maggie is now asking for Crime, Thrillers and Medical stories with cliff-hanger endings.

We can do that. Most of us have been writing long enough to bend with the wind and accept change. We all get rejections, but we knuckle down and get on with it. A good writer writes what people want to read, and a good editor knows what people want to read. People's Friend and My Weekly ask for slightly different stories, but a lot of us write for both publications, prepared to change our style of writing to suit the particular market.

This is something a lot of new writers seem to deliberately ignore. To write for a particular genre is not something they want to do. Their writing is unique, so how can it be categorised? Exactly - and that is why it gets rejected. Agents and Publishers like to put things in slots. Something that won't fit any slot has to be a work of genius - and most of us don't fit into that category, either.

Self-publishing is another minefield for the novice writer. It looks easy, it costs nothing, and your masterpiece is out there for everyone to read. But e-books are open to public criticism in the form of random reviews, and a cruel review can be a lot worse than a rejection slip. Go online and you become public property. It would be well for the first time writer to remember this. Nothing is ever totally free.


  1. You're absolutely spot on, Fay. I've been giving talks to writers about market research for years, especially regarding short stories and articles.

    I'm looking forward to hearing Maggie Seed at the RNA conference.

    1. Hope someone is going to post a report after the conference ... for those of us unable to attend this year.
      Thank you Fay .. you are quite correct. I've often written something "to order" and often they turn out to be better stories. My only slight worry is that it's sometimes the publishers perception of what will sell. Genres come and go. Remember being told historicals and sagas won't sell? I asked what was an historical and was told anything before the sixties. Hmm. I'm an historical figure myself. How exciting. But we are selling historicals ... being asked for more of them and sagas are still going well. Chrissie (who seems to have become anonymous again!)

  2. Excellent advice, Fay. One school of thought seems to think that because we write for a market, we're selling out. But Dickens wrote stories that people wanted to read. Shakespeare put on plays that people wanted to watch. They both had to earn a living.

    That's not to say that there isn't a place for more literary and experimental work. But if you want to be paid to be published, then you have to adhere to the market.

  3. Sound advice Fay. I was recently contacted by someone who had written a grown-up fairy story and a book of poems. They had spent a fair amount on buying cover artwork and getting the books printed. They were looking for advice on how and where to sell to recoup their money. It was difficult to know what to say as I agree it's always much sounder to look at who is selling what and aim something specifically for that publisher. I also explained that although people are self-publishing that is only the start of the journey. Marketing what you have to sell is a whole extra task on top of writing the book and that applies whether you have a publisher or are self published.

  4. Fay -you are so right about reviews. Having had 10 000 free downloads it was inevitable I got some awful reviews. When a book goes out with a publisher any mistakes can be blamed on them The buck is firmly in my court! (That sounds a bit odd -but it's late and my brain is addled.)

  5. Wow, but 10,000 free downloads, Fenella. That's fantastic! I got some criticism for the formatting problems when I made Bella's Vineyard free for a while. I sorted it out, but now another publisher is looking at it with a view to publishing it, so it's no longer available on amazon. We live and learn about these things.

  6. As a reader of Pocket Novels, I'm not at all pleased that the powers that be decided to do away with historicals set before the Second World War. I adore Fenella's books and have a whole host of other historical PN authors on my favourite list. I hope the People's Friend doesn't follow suit and decides to stop publishing sagas and historicals as well.

    I'm also not sure I like the idea of books with cliff hanger endings, either!

  7. Interesting....
    And what do you think about writing a 2 part novel? I just got in the mail the latest 2 People´s friend pocket novels and it´s a 2 part story called "Cherish the Years" by Kathleen Kinmond. This novel celebrates the Jubilee.

    But not only that, the next People´s Friend novels will be another 2 part series based on the 2WW.

    Are you ready to write a 2 part novels? The ending of part 1 would be a cliffhanger, that´s why editros are asking for it.

    Apart from that, the covers on these new People´s friend novels I got are so beautiful drawn. I loved it.

  8. Oh I didn't know about the two part novels, Soapfan. That's a heck of a lot of work. 100,000 words for £600? And surely that will make it harder to sell them on to Ulverscroft.

    I think that on the new MW guidelines, Maggie is only asking for cliffhangers at the end of chapters, to keep readers hooked. In fact calling it a 'hook' would be more accurate.

  9. Researching your market and writing to a magazine’s specific guidelines is one of the first lessons we all learn as new writers. It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? But things get a bit tricky when magazines suddenly announce changes and new requirements when so many writers have already written to the old spec.
    I wonder how many of us have had to ditch completed (or nearly completed) pocket novels because they no longer meet the new My Weekly criteria of murder, mystery and adventure?
    And how many regency / historicals have been produced over recent months with the writer totally oblivious to the fact that these are no longer wanted?

  10. I hope the 2 part Pocket Novel is an exception rather than the rule, Soapfan. I don't always have the time to get to the shops and if I miss an issue, I'd be annoyed that I can't find out what happened next or not bother if I see that the issue on sale is the second part of a pocket novel whose first part I've missed.

  11. yes, it can be dissapointing to miss the second part of 2 part series. I got my subscription here in Spain and I think I receive the novels before they get to the shops.

    I got this 2 part series at the same time. Here you have a picture I took to the covers in case you are intrigued. Let me know what you think about the new "style" of People´s Friend novels.

  12. It's interesting ... 100,000 is a lot to write, especially for not much money. However, my next People's Friend (July 27th?) is the fifth in a series. I have tried to make each one complete so cliffhangers aren't an issue. However, Tracey did ask if I'd write a two parter so it looks as if that's going to be th eway to go. Worse than supermarkets moving everything round each time you go in!
    Well done Cara on your US market and to Fenella on all those downloads. Wow! My latest US book (Ties That Bind) was out last week too. We're doing well for ourselves aren't we?

    Chrissie xx

    1. Hello Chrissie

      Can you tell us about this new pocket novel you are getting published by July 27th? What the reader has to know in advance to completely understand the story?

      I love family sagas so it´s great that People´s Friend is asking you writers to work on 2 parts novels.

      What are the titles of these first 4 novels? thanks in advance