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edited June 2007 in - Writing Tales


  • Hi,
    I thought people who write into the Sun newspaper letters page should know that they have stopped paying letter writers unless they get the star letter.  They used to pay £15 for letters and that was cut to £10 and now they have axed payments altogether.  The star letter gets £50, but chances of getting that are very unlikley.  If people want to complain they can contact letters editor Amanda Greenley at [email protected]

    I am hoping this is not the end of readers letters being paid for in magazines too, but who can tell.  Watch this space.

    This move will leave people out of pocket and writing for free. 
  • What's new about writers being out of pocket?
  • I had a letter published in Bella in May and they sent me a letter telling me that my letter had been 'chosen for publication.'  That was it.  The star letter now receives £100, but others now get nothing.  I believe it used to be £50 for the star letter and £25 for others.  A sign of things to come?
  • How mean!
  • I think you should disregard letter pages as a source of income and think of it more as a place for 'normal' people - those not cursed with the writing bug - to inhabit and save your prose for more deserving/rewarding outlets.

    I also worry that letters may not be quite so genuine when written by people desperate for the odd tenner.
  • I'd never expect to be paid for a letter to the paper or a magazine. Thought that a 'letters page' was for readers to give feedback on things that were in the publication or comments generally rather than for writers to 'earn' something? I'd expect to be paid for an article but not a letter.

    Besides which I wouldn't wipe my bum on the Sun let alone read it!
  • Like it Josie!.

    I agree, I never expect to get paid for letters.  I have had several published by Writing Magazine and Writers Forum.  Last November I was the Star Letter in Writers News, and I won a copy of The Encyclopedia Britannia DVD.  I actually am more interested in getting published and building up a CV, hoping it might help me in the long run.
  • But it wouldn't hurt these publications to slip people the odd fiver, would it?!

    Josie - 10/10 for expressing your feelings about the Sun so succinctly!!!
  • there was a major item in WN or WM recently, as I recall, about readers' letters. I used to earn a lot of money from them, especially if I matched it with a photograph, as I often did then.  Funny signs, odd sightings, a lengthy letter about the toad who lived in our pond who survived an attack by an adder, (photographed the toad, not the adder!) and so on. I did enjoy writing them and the fivers were a good addition to the household fund.  Shame they are going.
  • I have had three letters published in The Daily Mail( yes The mail) including two star letters, and never had any payment. They do a prize for the best letter of the week but I have never won. It was nice having my photos taken for the 'star letter' photos though, I felt like a movie star and they give you copies of the photos, which are professionally done.
  • Letters are a good way of learning to write succinctly. Very good for your writing. It's a shame that paying sources are going.
  • I've written to magazines and newspapers, got them published too, but I never expected to be paid anything. At the end of the day, writing a letter hardly requires much of an effort, compared to writing a book or a short story. Why should newspapers be expected to pay anything at all when there are lots of people out there willing to fork out tons of money just to have their names in print?
  • Hi all,
    It was good to read a range of opinions about my post on newspaper letters.  I think those who say that you shouldn't expect to be paid don't realise why newspapers have these pages - TO MAKE MONEY, so why shouldn't the writers get paid too?  One, if they didn't have letters pages no one would go past the TV page or the sport (most men read the paper from the back not the front), so having one encourages advertisers to place ads even if its not in the first half of the paper.

    Two, these letters are also used to attract advertising to the newspapers.  When someone is looking to advertise and say they are a double glazing firm in Kent they will look at the letters page and see if any of their target customers write to it.  If they do they are far likely to advertise.

    Three, letters engender reader loyalty.  Newspaper and magazine sales are declining and one of the ways that publications have tried to get readers and keep them is through letters pages.  Most people who buy the publication to write letters NEVER actually send any in mainly because they don't have the time or the writing skills (and writing letters takes skill despite what people say). 

    This trend to stop paying is down to something know as citizen journalism i.e people who are willing to write for nothing.  For many people getting published is what it's all about, but if you have any regard for your work and the time it takes to write anything whether it's a letter or a whole novel you should want paid. 

    I have written for free in the past and received no thanks for it or respect. 
  • Having had letters published in The Guardian, I'm inclined to side with those not expected to be paid. The Guardian has never as far as I know paid for letters, yet is said to be the world's most widely read newspaper. Letters to broadsheets like The Guardian have little to do with profits and advertising but plenty to do with a diverse range of comments and ideas.
  • Hi Neil,
    I get your point about the Guardian, but I think you'll find that most people who write to that are middle class and in well paid jobs they don't need the money!!  Unfortunately not all of us are so lucky. 

    Most people who write letters to the Sun are probably working class like myself and have bills to pay and jobs that don't pay so well. 

    Basically as someone who writes professionally I believe that people should get paid.  Unless they do their work is being given away free.  Who wants to work for nothing?  Only those who can afford to I believe. 
  • Sometimes when you get your letter gets published it can lead to other things, which are paid. After one letter that I had published in The Mail about coincidences I was asked by a woman's magazine if I would like to do a story on it and I was paid £150. Then because of that I was asked to go on the Vanessa Feltz show and got paid £150 for that. So even if you don't get paid for the letter, in the first place, you may end up making money in the end.
  • The letters I have written to magazines have been a good beginning to my writing career and, in most cases, I have been delighted to have been paid or to have won a prize.  I have attempted to comment intelligently on items of interest in the magazines, have studied the market and have written and re-written so that the letter is succinct and clear.  So I have put time and effort into this and it is also good writing practice, as Carol has said.  I agree with you, Jennyone1, that many magazines rely on readers' letters to fill their pages and therefore feel that a small remuneration is in order - if only for stamp money. 
  • I don't know about 'middle class', Jennyone1.

    I notice you describe yourself as a freelance journalist and author which sounds far more middle class to me than a Liverpool docker writing to The Guardian.

    And what about the occasional well paid article that I've had published in Country Life? How does that classify me?

    Over all, however, replies to your thread, seem to be fairly equally divided between those that think papers should pay and those that don't.

    I was particularly fascinated by kateyanne's letter to The mail that led not only to a story in the paper but an appearance on TV.

    As for josiehenley's comment about The Sun, if she's not already a scouser, she's surely an honorary one. Following its outrageous reporting of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, The Sun is still regarded in Liverpool as a pretty 'bum' publication.
  • Re KateyAnne's comment about letters leading to other things. I've also had that experience. My letter wasn't published, but the editor emailed me, and commissioned an article, for which I was paid over £200. He didn't know I was a writer, by the way, so he was taking a risk.

    I guess what it comes down to is this - does the newspaper get enough interesting, printable letters without paying? If it does, then it'll go down that road, whether we like it it not.

    Sadly, it's the law of supply and demand.
  • Or the thin end of the wedge.
  • Hi everybody,
    Thanks for all tour replies to my post.  They have been very interesting.  It's good to know that writing letters has led to better things for some people.

    Neil, by middle class I meant people that don't neccessarily need the money from writing like I and many others do.  There are many out there and there is nothing wrong with that.  As for me being middle class.  I didn't go to university and started writing and getting paid for it when I was 15.  I did it with my own talent and hard graft, not because my parents had money and sent me to uni which they didn't.  Despite what people think being a writer doesn't suddenly elevate someone from working class to middle class as the pay isn't always that great.

    I think instead of being divisive writers should support one another. It seems to me that you are sneering at people who write letters to earn some money like the pensioners group I know and the winner of the Writers' News Freelance journalist comp who I have also seen writing regularly to newspapers and magazines (I'm afraid I can't remember her name at the moment).  The first rule if you want to make a living from freelance writing is - Don't look down on other markets.  Everyone should be used as an opportunity to hone your writing skills. 
  • I don't get this, Jennyone1. If you can point to anything remotely 'sneering' that I or any of the others not too fussed about payment for letters to the press have said, do let us know.

    If the word sneering was not quite the word you intended, perhaps, as a writer, you could think of something less offensive. Apart from that one objectionable word I actually found your thread extremely interesting.
  • Writing letters to newspapers gets national coverage. Whether anyone does this for money or not is their personal concern. I maintain blogs, not for money, but to practise the writing craft (this involves research in many cases). And if I feel I have something to say.

    I do not get paid for what I do, but I do get a lot of writing experience.

    Incidentally, I disable comments as often any replies are computer generated 'junk'.

    If anyone wishes to contact me about any blog entry they may have issue about, then a contact email address is available (Contact). This works well, and allows private "off-line" communication to happen. This has resulted in a modified blog entry as a result.
  • Calm down everyone.
    We have had this problem before, words have been taken as criticism, and results in insults.
    The terms middle-class and working-class have very little meaning anymore, as we no longer have the clear social and economic divides that existed in the early 20th Century. The terms are still used, but they don't matter that much.
    This letters thing is going to be one of those issues that has diverse views.
    In some ways I agree with both sides here. The letter writer is providing copy- free, which probably should be paid if it makes up an obvious section- as in womens magazines.
    What is being called 'citizen journalists' is allowing magazines and newspapers to get work for free, when in the past they would have had no choice but to pay for it.
    Really I think letters to papers are one of those areas where you wouldn't expect payment- as usually it's a comment on a news item or such that has generated views.
    Basically there is no right or wrong answer to it.
  • I don't doubt for a second when I said I had been published in two national magazines on my University application that it was impressive and contributed to me being offered a place.  That is payment and a half to me!.

    I actually hope they will pay off when trying to kick a few editor's/agent's doors down in a few months.  The same goes for the Fish Knife Award.  I am not entering because of the money, I would be happy to get 'a highly commended'.  The competition is run in conjunction with the Crime Writers Association so it would be like getting their seal of approval.  The same goes for entering next years Debut Dagger, even though it will cost me £20.  I am also writing a 6,000 word article for a creative arts journal with Intellect Publishing which I will recieve no publishing.  It's the prestige I want, not the money.

    Not that I don't need it, I barely earn more than minimum wage and I am two months from living off a student loan.  The hope is it will pay off in the long run.
  • I wouldn't take their money anyway.
  • Jennyone1: "I have written for free in the past and received no thanks for it or respect."

    I write poetry. So your comment here pretty much sums up my writing career! ;-)
  • Hi

    I've been having a few letters published in TV mags recently (Total TV Guide, What's on TV and TV Choice.)

    I've received a cheque from TV Choice (£5)about a month ago for publication.

    About three weeks ago What's on TV published one - should it take this long to come (£10) - does anyone have experience of this? The TV Choice one came after a few days. Also, does Total TV Guide pay - I can't make it out on the letters page - it just says payment for the star letter.
  • [quote=Bobby278] it just says payment for the star letter.[/quote] That's probably all they pay for then.

    Some magazines only issue payments once a month and not until after publication so it can be quite a while afterwards tht you get the cheque.
  • [quote=josiehenley]Besides which I wouldn't wipe my bum on the Sun let alone read it![/quote]

    Neither would I. In actual fact, I haven't bought a newspaper of any description for the last five years, and even before that only bought the occasional local weekly paper. I do look at some of the web pages, but otherwise get all my news from either internet, television, or radio, in that order.
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