Simon Whaley

Author | Writer | Photographer

Category: Features (Page 1 of 2)

Agent Attraction

Agent Attraction - Writing Magazine - November 2016 issue

Agent Attraction – Writing Magazine – November 2016 issue

Attracting an agent can be the start of a long business relationship. Simon Whaley flirts with two agents to learn more about the wooing process.

At this time of year many literary agents are talking Frankfurt. The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the biggest gatherings of publishing professionals in the world. Over 600 agents from more than 300 agencies from over 30 countries will get together around tables at its Literary Agent and Scout Fair to negotiate rights and deals. As Jonny Geller, literary agent and joint CEO of agency Curtis Brown, says on the Frankfurt Book Fair website, ‘The Frankfurt Book Fair can transform the hopes and dreams of an author. A place where a book can go from a local idea to a global phenomenon.’

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Clun & Black Hill


Fancy stepping into Bruce Chatwin’s shoes? Explore Shropshire’s idyllic countryside around Clun, reputedly the inspiration behind Chatwin’s novel ‘On The Black Hill’, in the October 2016 issue of Country Walking magazine.

TrailZilla ID: TZID31011

Conquering Challenges

BoW - Conquering Challenges

Just like paralympians, writers with disabilities strive to achieve their goals on a daily basis. Simon Whaley chats to two writers about how disability influences their writing business.

After the spectacle of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games comes the Paralympic Games, where athletes with physical disabilities show the world what they’re capable of. Not all disabilities are physical, something Prince Harry focussed on during this year’s recent Invictus Games, but living with a disability creates a range of challenges on a daily basis.

Yet those determined enough will find ways to overcome them, and that’s just as true for writers with disabilities as it is for paralympic sport stars. Having a disability need not prevent you from being a writer, or force you to give up writing, but it might change the way you run your writing business.

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Going Ape!

Going Ape - The People's Friend - 20th August 2016

“Is it true monkeys like bananas?” my nephew, Ashley, asks as we watch a gibbon swinging on a rope high above our heads. Thankfully, we have an expert to hand.

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Festival Fever

Festival Fever - Writing Magazine - September 2016 Issue

Festival Fever – Writing Magazine – September 2016 Issue

Most of us love a good writing workshop, and for an hour or two we’re in heaven. But why go to one when we could have a whole weekend or even a week of them? Three key writers’ conferences take place between the end of July through to the beginning of September, giving delegates a plethora of workshops and talks in which to immerse themselves.

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Celtic Quakers

Celtic Quakers - Published in Celtic Life International

Celtic Quakers – Published in Celtic Life International

As Celtic Life International correspondent Simon Whaley explains, there was once a whole lotta shakin’ going on in the quaint Scottish community of Comrie.

It didn’t matter how hard I tried, nothing moved. I stamped my feet. Nothing. I jumped. Nothing. Thinking I needed more weight, I picked up my heavy rucksack and jumped again. Still nothing. I peered through the glass, my nose squashed flat against it so my eyeballs were a couple of millimetres closer, in the hope of spotting even the smallest of movements. But on the floor, standing on a small boxwood cross, the wooden cylinders remained upright. Against the far wall, only six feet away, the pen on the modern seismometer sat poised for action, rather than recording any action. There’s never an earthquake around when you want one.

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Business of Writing – Time Travel

Business of Writing - Time Travel


Writing for print publications means working several months ahead. Simon Whaley explains why writers need their own time-travelling Tardis.

Doctor Who might be one of the world’s most famous time travellers, but any writer hoping to see their words printed in a weekly, monthly or quarterly publication needs to be a little adept at the time-travel practice too. Welcome to the July 2016 issue of Writing Magazine, published in June. While we’re currently enjoying the warm, balmy days leading up to the summer solstice (this is where I find out how good my fortune-telling skills really are), it’s February as I first write these words and the snow, hail and wind are hammering at my window. But that’s not the start of this time travelling piece, because it was actually last November when I first had this idea and pitched it.

When it comes to print publication, magazines are planned well in advance. Although the news and readers’ letters pages are some of the last of the magazine to be finished, editors like to get the main features planned and finalised as early as possible.

Some monthly magazines plan features twelve months in advance, and may even put this editorial calendar on their website (Search the Internet for Editorial Calendar and the name of your target publication). They may not have the actual features commissioned that far ahead, but editorial decisions will have been made about the themes and topics to be explored in these issues. This is partly to help the advertising department. Magazines are advertising vehicles, after all. If a magazine chooses a family summer days out theme for its July issue then the advertising department will approach businesses keen to target this segment of the community.

Those of us in this business of writing must consider this time-travelling forward-planning when it comes to writing articles or short stories. Check out Writing Magazine’s editorial calendar piece in this issue for some upcoming ideas.

Time Slip

Monthly magazine editors tend to work three or four months ahead of the issue’s publication date, which means as writers we need to be submitting our final, edited material to them at this stage. Weekly publications can work six to eight weeks ahead, but will also plan several months, if not a year, in advance. Therefore, we need to slip even further back in time to come up with our idea in the first place and develop it, as well as carry out any necessary research. As a rough guide, we should be thinking at least six months in advance.

Short story writer Wendy Clarke, whose latest collection of short stories is called The Last Rose: Stories of family and friendship, often finds herself getting all Christmassy at about this time of year, in order to give herself enough time to create, write and submit her work. ‘I write my Christmas stories round about June/July and try to have them submitted before August at the latest,’ she says. ‘The earlier, the better.’

Another reason for writing fiction so far in advance is because fiction tends to be written on spec. Article writers are usually commissioned before they start writing the article, but fiction is written first and then submitted in the hope that the editor likes it. Submitting a story early enough means if it is rejected there may still be time to rewrite the story for a different market and resubmit it.

‘If a seasonal story is rejected,’ says Wendy, ‘it is resubmitted elsewhere, or saved for next year. But it’s also worth remembering that if your submission arrives too late, magazines such as The People’s Friend will often hold them over until the following Christmas. On several occasions I have had a Christmas story in the magazine that was written and subbed the previous year but missed the boat.’

Fast Forward

Dr Who might disagree, but for us writers time travel is more of an art, than an exact science. Although magazines like to plan many months in advance, emergencies can still arise, and space may need filling right at the last minute. One editor commissioned me at the end of August to write a feature for his October issue due out in a matter of weeks. His tight deadline meant I only had 48 hours to do it in.

Wendy has experienced a quick turnaround with some of her stories too. ‘I try to submit seasonal stories at least four months ahead but, having said that, I have sent last minute stories and had them accepted and published very quickly.’

Article writers need to think ahead too. As a contributor to BBC Countryfile magazine I’m usually approached by one of the section editors at least five months, sometimes six, in advance, when they’re looking for ideas. My latest piece for them was in the May issue, but I’d pitched the idea for it at the beginning of January, and my deadline for delivery was mid-February.

Picture Puzzle

One of the biggest problems I have for my non-fiction material with this time-travel malarky is photos. Being commissioned to write a piece in January for the May issue isn’t a problem, but taking photos in January means they’ll look like they were taken in January. Pictures editors tend not to want images of snow for their May issues.

This means, if I’m looking to offer an editor a complete words-and-picture package, I often have to think twelve months in advance, rather than six. In some ways, this can be useful, because I can take the photos and then spend a couple of months developing an idea, before pitching to an editor. The downside to that is I might think of an interesting angle to this idea, and then realise I haven’t got quite the right photos.

Magazines will commission features a year in advance too, so if you have an opportunity to attend an annual event, it’s worth pitching the idea before you go, enquiring if the magazine is interested in the piece for the following year’s issue. Last December, The People’s Friend sent me on a press trip to Lincoln’s Christmas Market, which is the biggest in the UK and one of largest in Europe. They needed me to go to the 2015 event so that I could experience it and take suitable photos. But my article won’t be used until this coming Christmas period.

It’s tempting to think working a year in advance is relaxing, because there’s no rush to get the text written. I find it’s best to get pieces written while everything is fresh in my mind. There’s something about writing Christmassy pieces when you’re in the festive spirit. I wrote the first draft of my Christmas Market piece as soon as I returned home, when Radio 2 was playing Christmas pop songs and carols, and the seasonal decorations were up at home and in the shops. These visual and aural stimuli enabled me to put more of the festive atmosphere into the piece.

Wendy finds she simply blocks out what’s happening in the world around her when writing her short stories. ‘Once I start writing, I get so immersed in my stories that even if it is blazing hot sunshine outside, in my head it’s still snowing!’

Panoramic Perspective

Although magazines like their features and stories to reflect the issue they appear in, sometimes it can be useful taking a step back. Instead of thinking about a specific time-event, try broadening your idea’s background or theme to a whole season.

‘The thing to take into account,’ Wendy recommends, ‘when writing a story around a particular seasonal celebration, such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day, is that the magazines will be receiving hundreds of stories on the same subject. These stories will only be published in one or maybe two issues around that time and that reduces the number of stories that will be accepted. General seasonal ones, such as winter or summer, are better as you have a window of several months, but non-seasonal stories will fit in anywhere and at any time, and you won’t be directly competing with other writers, including the magazines’ regulars.’

Rejection at this stage still offers opportunities though. If you can sprinkle a little time-travelling magic onto it a new opportunity may arise, as Wendy discovered. ‘I’ve never rewritten a story in a different season, but I have changed a Valentine story into an anniversary one when I ran out of submission time.’

So becoming a published writer isn’t just about having the right ideas, and sending them to the right markets. It’s also necessary to follow in the footsteps, or the Tardis trail, of Dr Who and do a little time travelling too. Submitting our work and ideas at the right time can influence our chances of success. This business of writing does mean living a topsy-turvy life at times, but that’s what makes it fun. Oh, and as it’s summer, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Business Directory – Seasonal Tips

Wendy Clarke: ‘Don’t force a seasonal story. If you don’t feel like writing Christmas stories in summer, or holiday romances when it’s snowing, then don’t. Write your Christmas stories in the winter and hold on to them for a few months before submitting for the following Christmas.’

Simon Whaley: ‘Photos are great for generating ideas, both for articles and stories. I include some with my article pitches, so editors know I have suitable seasonal images available. When it comes to fiction,  photos help me set a scene, and remind me of seasonal differences. A family Christmas photo not only illustrates our day, but captures the decorations we put up, the Christmas cards received, the festive nibbles on the table, the drinks in our glasses, the Christmas cracker hats on our heads, and the elderly relative asleep in the corner (usually me)!’

© Simon Whaley

Foreign Export Markets

Writing Magazine - May 2016

Writing Magazine – May 2016

The UK magazine market is vast, but there’s a bigger world out there. Simon Whaley investigates exporting to foreign markets

In America, May is World Trade Month when companies are encouraged to export their goods and services to new markets right around the globe. When it comes to the business of writing, we’re fortunate our native tongue is the official language in over 60 sovereign countries, and widely used in many others.

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Understanding Your Contract

BoW - Understanding Your Contract - May 2016


Secured a publishing deal? Simon Whaley puts on his business head to assess its implications.

On 30th April 2003 I received my first author contract. Hodder & Stoughton wanted to publish my One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human. It was a day of mixed emotions. There was uncontainable excitement that I was having a book be published. And then, as I flicked through all 14 pages of the contract, a sense of horror overwhelmed me as I appreciated what was at stake.

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Life After Death

Life After D

Our Last Will and Testament may not be as interesting as William Shakespeare’s, but Simon Whaley chats to two experts about why every writer needs one.

Four hundred years ago, on 25th March 1616, William Shakespeare wrote his last will and testament. This turned out to be a wise move, because one month later he was dead. Reading through his will (a copy of which can be viewed on the National Archives website,, he made several interesting bequests. He left thirty pounds to his sister Joan, ten pounds to the poor of Stratford, and to his wife, Anne, he left his second best bed … as any decent writer would.

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Productivity Leap

Productivity Leap - Published in Writing Magazine - February 2016

Productivity Leap – Published in Writing Magazine – February 2016


With an extra 24 hours this month, Simon Whaley chats to three productive writers about making the most of our writing time.

When you’re an employee you get paid at the end of the month. Unfortunately, most employees get paid the same amount of money whether there are 28 days in February, or 29. For self-employed people, things are a little different. A leap year gives us a whole extra day in which to write something and, hopefully, earn more money. But it doesn’t matter whether you write full time, or in your spare time, this February we have all been allocated an extra 24 hours. So how are you going to make the most of yours?

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Business of Writing: Press Trip Protocols

BoW - Press Trip Protocols

Press Trip Protocol – published in Writing Magazine – March 2016


Travel writing is not all about sipping cocktails on sun-drenched beaches. Simon Whaley packs his bags to explore the business etiquette of the press trip.

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New Year, New You, New Pseudonym?

Business of Writing - New Year, New You, New Pseudonym? - Writing Magazine - January 2016

Business of Writing – New Year, New You, New Pseudonym? – Writing Magazine – January 2016

Is there a business case for using a pen name? Simon Whaley chats to three writers about the pros and cons of a split writing personality.

My name is Simon Whaley, and that’s the name I write under. Although there was that time when I entered the National Association of Writers’ Groups’ mini-tale competition and I had to use a pseudonym (entries had to be judged anonymously). So, for a couple of hours, I became Milo Swahney. I used an anagram of my real name on that occasion because when I entered the competition the previous year I’d used my porn-star name. Suffice to say that was memorable for the wrong reasons, and I had to come up with something different.

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Business of Writing – Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts - Writing Magazine - December 2015 issue

Christmas Gifts – Writing Magazine – December 2015 issue


What do professional writers get in their Christmas stockings? Simon Whaley unwraps a few ideas from Christmas past to sneak onto your list this year.

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Dating With Non-Fiction


There are, on average, 125,000 new books published in the United Kingdom every year. Approximately 20% (25,000) are novels. The rest are non-fiction. The opportunity for having a non-fiction book published is therefore much greater, so why not make your first book a non-fiction one? This means creating a relationship with a publisher, so let’s go on a date!

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BoW – Coping With A Crisis In Confidence

Coping with a Crisis of Confidence - Writing Magazine - November 2015


Dark nights and negative demons can quash a writer’s confidence. Simon Whaley finds two writers who’ve trained their demons into submission. 

(Published in Writing Magazine – November 2015 Issue)

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Keeping It Local

Simon Whaley explores the benefit of authors getting involved with their local literary festivals …

Keeping It Local - Society of Authors magazine

Keeping It Local was published in the Autumn 2015 issue of The Author, the Journal of the Society of Authors

Keeping it local

Phyllis Blakemore will always remember her appearance at the Wellington Literary Festival’s ‘Meet the Local Author’ event, in 2014. She sold three copies of her book, Gentlemen of the River: The Last Coraclemen of the Severn Gorge, to the same reader who’d bought a signed copy from her at the 2013 local author event. The reader wanted signed copies to give as gifts and, knowing Phyllis was local, had searched specifically for her in the new festival brochure. 

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Business of Writing – Don’t Avoid The Diversion!

BoW Don't Avoid the Diversion

Keeping our writing business afloat isn’t easy. Simon Whaley chats to two writers who’ve found diversification has led to calmer seas.  

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Business of Writing – Free Words?

BoW - Free Words


Is it good business to write for free? Simon Whaley explores the value of your words.

Picture the scene: an email pops into your inbox. The editor loves your submission and wants to publish it. Sadly, there’s no budget to pay contributors, but it’s a great opportunity to see your name in print, and it’ll give you a piece to put in your published portfolio. So, what do you do?

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Writer’s Wheel Article – Course You Can

My latest article for Writer’s Wheel, the online magazine for writers, is entitled Course You Can and looks at how to make the most from a residential writing workshop. You can download a free PDF version here. Course You Can – Writers’ Wheel – Winter 2014-5

For more information about Writer’s Wheel click here

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