Monday, January 5, 2009

Writing Romantic Fiction For Woman's World

Woman's World celebrated its 25th year on the newstands in 2006. This weekly publication is the number one newsstand seller with a yearly circulation of well over 84 million. Don't underestimate this little magazine!

Woman's World is very popular with middle class women for many reasons. The price is nice, at $1.79 and it has very few ads and none of those annoying subscription cards inside. Every single page is jam packed with information and the romantic fiction (and mini-mystery) are a nice bonus. The features makes you feel good too.

From here is the 2005 demographic snapshot of a typical Woman's World reader:

Women: 95%
Men: 5%
Median age: 46
Median household income: $50, 192
Employed: 66%
Employed fulltime: 51%
Working mother: 32%
Married: 60%
Children in household: 47%
Ave. age of children: 9.5

I submitted my first romantic short story in 1989 and continued sporatically submitting through several editors (Jeanne Munchin, Brooke Comer, Deborah Purcell) until in 1999, when I received my first contract from the current fiction editor, Johnene Granger.

Do what I say, not what I do. Submit regularly. In late 2007 while working from home I had a period between the completion of novels when I was able to work on short stories steadily. I submitted five to Woman's World. Three sold in 2008, the last appearing in the January 12, 2009 issue and is called, Letting Go.

Romantic fiction guidelines state:

"Short story, romance, and mainstream of 800 words. Each of our stories has a light romantic theme and can be written from either a masculine or feminine point of view. Women characters may be single, married, or divorced. Plots must be fast moving with vivid dialogue and action. The problems and dilemmas inherent in them should be contemporary and realistic, handled with warmth and feeling. The stories must have a positive resolution. Specify Fiction on envelope. Always enclose SASE. Responds in 4 months. No phone or fax queries. Pays $1,000 for romances on acceptance for North American serial rights for 6 months."

Let's break that down and add a little color from my experiences:

  • They accept either first person or third person point of view, feminine or masculine.

  • Remember your target audience is a middle class working woman who works either in the home or outside. She must relate to your story. This isn't the market for chick lit, sexy, depressing or literary fiction. It is what it is; an uplifting and entertaining short story.

  • Write tight. 800 words gives you very little room for description or exposition. I find it is easier to write the story and then go back and trim. Review every single word. It is neccessary? Can I replace it with a more evocative word choice?

  • Don't write a predictable story. I like to use the "bait and switch" technique for most of my stories. Lead the reader in one direction and then provide a satisfying twist.

  • Dialogue generally moves these stories as there is very little time for introspection.
The problem I hear from most of my peers who submit to Woman's World is they become discouraged too easily. Publishing is not a fast industry. If you are expecting to submit, receive a contract in two weeks and a check two weeks after that, you probably should be writing fantasy.

Be sure you know the market you are writing for and submit again--and again, and again. I subscribe to the magazine and read each story. (The subscription is tax deductible.) After reading several issues with cat and dog themes in 2008, I had a hunch my cat story would be rejected as the topic was saturated. Sure enough the accompanying note on the rejection letter said as much.

You can expect the quality of your rejection letters to improve as you submit regularly. Mine began with the copied standard, Dear Writer, rejection letter and advanced to signed comments. The fiction assistant was even kind enough to call me and leave a message when the word count changed from 1,000 to 800.

Do's and Don'ts:
  • Submit only by snail mail and use a SASE.

  • Follow the guidelines and specify Romantic Fiction on the outside of the envelope (I suggest "9 x 12" clasp or Tyvek envelope), using the same for your SASE.

  • Don't call them to follow up. Send it and forget it.

  • If a revision is suggested, don't diva. Do what is requested to the best of your ability.

  • Submit the entire manuscript. Don't simply pitch a storyline.

  • I always send a cover letter, but they are not a requirement.
Woman's World is a wonderful market for writers. They pay on acceptance. That means if they like your story you will receive a contract in the mail and when the contract is returned you will see your check. Turnaround time for payment depends on how fast you get it back to them. They are notoriously prompt!

You can expect your publication date to be about three or four months after your contract is received. If you are submitting seasonal stories, send them in a season ahead of time. Holiday stories should be subbed six months ahead of time. My winter story, Letting Go, was originally sent September 2007. Revisions were approved in February of 2008, putting it too late for winter '08. They were kind enough to hang on to it and offer me a contract last fall for winter '09.

Woman's World buys First North American serial rights. This means once the story is printed the rights revert back to you (after six months in this case). Or in official terminology from the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASAJW) site:

"As recently as the mid-1980s, most periodical publishers sought only "first North American serial rights" (FNASR) from the writer. Under a FNASR contract, the publisher licenses a one-time right to publish the article first in the North American market. The author retains all other rights to his work, including the right to re-license its use as a reprint ("second serial rights"), to publish it in foreign markets, to license a movie or product spin-off, and so on."

That's the scoop. I read somewhere that Woman's World receives 2,000 submissions a month. I can't verify that tidbit, but I can encourage you to submit and be persistent.


For Love and Money Day 1 Anyone who comments all six days will be entered into a drawing for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.


Cathy S. said...

Thanks for doing this Tina!

Glynna Kaye said...

Gee, Tina, talk about coaching the competition! Thanks for your generous assessment & tips!

Janet Dean said...

Tina, Woman's World pays well! Some publishers pay $2,000 for a novella of 40,000 words so half that for 800 words is awesome. But creating a great story in so few words is key. Any tips to share on how you accomplish this? Obviously you're a master at it or Woman's World wouldn't be buying. I'm picking up a copy today!


Tina M. Russo said...

Okay I am a bit concerned when you all get up before me.


Hot coffee and fresh sweet pineapple are ready for you with piping hot biscuits.

Any questions??

Tina M. Russo said...

Janet, the key is practice. You write it then you whittle it down to as few succint and evocative words as possible. Cut, cut, cut.

After years of doing this imagine how hard it was for me to write my first novel lenth manuscript.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

WOW Tina. Thanks for sharing this info. Looking forward to reading your WW story!



Ann said...

I'm trying to get my mind around 800 words. Like ... three pages. Holy cow!

I liked your line about revisions "Don't diva!" Isn't English a cool language -- you can take a noun like "diva" and use it as a verb and concept.

Bookie said...

This is great information. I have submitted in the past with no success. I see I gave up too easily. This inspires me to try again with this publication. Thank you for this information. clm

Julie Lessman said...

What a GREAT blog, Tina!! I've known you've been writing for Women's World for a long time now, but it's so much fun to get the inside story.

Gosh, if I wasn't just getting back on my feet and buried under an avalanche of deadlines, I'd be tempted to give this a shot. It's always been a dream of mine to be printed in a magazine (I've submitted to Guideposts and others, but never made the grade), and your blog has helped to demystify it for me and so many others -- THANK YOU!!

Of course, if I ever hope to submit to WW, I guess it would be pretty difficult. 800 words???? Dear Lord, I struggle to keep a dedication that short ... This definitely requires a talent for clean and concise writing that can stir the soul, which is the mark of true writer, in my opinion.


Tina M. Russo said...

800 words is short. And those of you who are verbose would find this a challenge :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Wow, it would be hard to keep it under 800 words. I tend to think in 80,000 word segments! LOL
But $1,000 makes it tempting to try. Maybe, if I come up with a scene from a book I never intend to write, I could submit the one scene . . .

Theresa said...

Thanks for the interesting information! A clear, concise How-To. You couldn't have made it easier for us to pursue this wonderful opportunity.

Not only do you get to make a good amount of money--better than any fiction contest I've heard of, but you gain exposure, writing credentials, expand your network of industry professionals, and practice in mastering writing tightly plotted stories.

And the exposure could just be the perfect backdoor to gain a book editor's attention! As we all know, getting published is so dang tough, we have to persistently pursue every option and this one is perfect!

Oh, and did I mention that I like the added benefit that you don't have to write to a deadline? You submit the completed story. That deadline thing intimidates me a bit.

The only drawback for me, is that I've always been a wordy writer that can't rein in her "wouldn't it be COOL if THIS happened???" So learning to tell a complete story in 3 pages could be agonizing. But such a great exercise.

Writing even more lean than a script on a fad diet. Hmm. What a personal challenge.

Thanks for the tantalizing information!

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks for the great info, Tina! And congrats on your continuing success at WW!!! I read your latest yesterday--charming!

(And no, Julie, I just can't see you writing an 800-word story--sorry, girlfriend!)

CherylStJohn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CherylStJohn said...

Submit regularly is good advice for any genre!


Audra Harders said...

Great information, Tina. Sounds like a great gig, except for the thousands of submissions and a story of 800 words : )

I'm excited to try. Thanks for sharing!

Ann said...

Maybe a lot of those thousands of submissions are easy "not right for us" decisions. Maybe they can tell by the weight of the envelope that some are too long!

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Tina! You gave some terrific advice.

Good to know about the saturated pet angle. Too bad though. They are my favorite kind of stories.

Thanks again.

Kwana said...

Thanks so much for this! I was always interested in Women's World.

Ruth and Lacey said...

Tina, this is great info and a huge bonus to have an accepted insider like yourself sharing her introspect with the world.

Good job, girlfriend.

And you make it sound easy, but your crunch phrase was 'write tight'.

Although I loved the 'you should be writing fantasy' line, LOL!

This is a great market. Where else can an author find 52 possibilities for their story, one for each weekly issue?

Gadzooks, that's amazing.

Thanks for sharing this. Awesome info.

And here's a full pound of homemade sponge candy to remind you of WNY.

Love you, kid.


Ruth Logan Herne said...


Lacey had nothing to do with that last post, LOL! Lacey's my puppy partner and beautiful daughter-in-law and new mother to my nine-day-old grandson, Logan.

Sorry, it's really me this time!


Ruthy (hoping Tina shares the sponge candy with y'all)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Tina. Such great advice.

Wow, 800 words, though, That's such a different art and skill than book length fiction.
I'll get my hands on Woman's World hopefully tomorrow.

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks for writing such an informative post about a market I'd never explored. I've had a few 700 word non-fiction articles published, so I can relate to your advice about making every word count.

You've given me something exciting to explore. I'll pick up a copy of Woman's World today. Thanks.

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

Great post!

I can’t wait to read your story. My wife subscribes to WW. I hope it comes in the mail today.

As an advertising person, I love the short format. And the pay is great for 800 words. You could submit 10 times and if you click on just one of them, that’s still $1000 for 8000 words. This is also a good outlet for experimentation. Something different might be rewarded with publication and provide a launching pad for a new approach. Back to writing.


Tina M. Russo said...

Glad it was helpful. Give it a shot and don't get discouraged. Mail em and forget em.

Rose said...

Hi Tina,

Glad to hear a success story for a writer submitting to Women's World. I've submitted several times and received one rejection with an editor's note but after that I gave up!

Your success has rekindled that fire for me. Thanks for providing new inspiration.

Rose Zediker

PS I picked up a copy of the magazine yesterday but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Susanne said...

Hate to be a party pooper BUT recently learned the pay is now $800 for romances.

Thanks for all the great tips and the reminder not to get discouraged!

Pammer said...

Great post. Love the inside information.

Jessica said...

"Don't Diva"
THat's a quote to remember. So I've been getting these in the mail for some reason and throwing them away, never knowing there was fiction inside.
Uh-oh. Sorry about that. Oh wait. Maybe that was Woman's Day? Hmmm.
Okay, I don't know, but thanks for the fantastic post!

Playground Monitor said...

Was yours the story about kids ice skating?

I've subbed once to them and got a nice rejection letter. I've been busy with another market and never tried WW again, but I may this year.

Thanks for such a great blog and thorough info.


Lisa Jordan said...

Thanks for your post. I've considered submitting to Women's World for years, but haven't done it yet. Your post renewed that spark of enthusiasm. My goal is to submit to them by the end of the month.

Tina M. Russo said...

I got my contract in November or October for the "skating story" and it was still $1000 then. And yet at $800 that is still a dollar a word. Who else pays that? Most pay three to five cents a word.

The days of Good Housekeeping, Redbook etc publishing unknowns in short story are long gone.

This is a wonderful market. I hope those of you who do submit will be persistent and will come back and share your experiences.

Barb Smith said...

Day 1 has some great info. I subbed a story to Women's World that was mistakenly slanted towards college spring break. I had no idea of the demographics of the mag, though I'm solidly among them. Now I know and intend to write another story ASAP. Thanks for a very informative article.

pat jeanne said...

This was such a great post, Tina. It has rekindled the desire to submit to WW again. My latest attempt in April received a nice handwritten note from the editor. They're about the only woman's mag that accepts unagented submissions for short stories. Thanks again.

Missy Tippens said...

This is so interesting and helpful, Tina!!


Rae Byuel said...

Thanks for all the tips Tina!

Missy Tippens said...

You know, 800 words would be really hard! It just hit me how short that is. I wrote a story for Bellebooks (Blessings of Mossy Creek) that I thought that was hard to write, and I think it was 20k words. :)

The main thing to remember even in short stuff is to have a beginning, middle and end. I guess you can do that even in 800 words.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Wonderful post, Tina. I've never considered subbing to a magazine and yet every couple weeks, I write a 1000 word story/scene for the eharl Writer's Challenge board. (waving at Vince - nice photo, buddy)

Yes, that pay scale certainly has my attention.

Thanks, Tina, for sharing this info.

Page Traynor said...

I believe the pay is a little less than the $1000 now by a couple of hundred. Still very good money. Excellent group of blogs for the week.

Page Traynor

Linda Cacaci said...


Thanks so much for the inside info. It is very helpful. It is funny that one of my writing goals for the new year is to submit a romantic short story every month to Woman's World. It is good to know that I am on the right track.
Thanks again.
Linda Cacaci

Jean said...

Wonderful blog! I submitted to WW th4e end of Sept and haven't heard anything yet. Guess I'll get busy and submitt another one. It's the cut/cut/part that's the fun part!

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks for visiting us in Seekerville...what til you see Michael Bracken's post tomorrow. And Deb Ng is slated for Saturday.

Remember, post all 6 days for a chance at a 25 dollar gift card.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Tina, Is there still some pineapple left? Sounds refreshing as was your post. I love hearing about other markets. We get tunnel vision sometimes.

I have a friend who writes historicals and with all that history info she has, she writes a byline for a monthly newsletter for a senior community here in Arizona. So practical to use that info she's gathered.

Congrats on your article. Wednesday is senior day at Fry's (10% discount on everything) so I'll pick up a copy then.

Shirley McCann said...

Hi Tina. I've sold eight mysteries to WW over the years, three in 2008. I can't seem to get a break on the romances, though.

Tina M. Russo said...

Shirley, tell us about the mysteries. They are foreign territory to me. I have not written or subbed one. Congrats to you!!!

Tina M. Russo said...

Oops..Cindi Myers is tomorrow. And if this hasn't given you a kick in the pants to write in other areas, her post will.

Donnell said...

What a fantastic line up Seekers! Tina, thanks for the great advice and the guidelines and straightforward information.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Thanks for the information. Next time I'm in the supermarket, I'll have to pick up a copy of this publication.

A yearly circulation of 84 million and a hefty paycheck is certainly a big incentive to submit.

Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks.

Susan :)
susanjreinhardt at gmail dot com

Tina M. Russo said...

I am delighted this post was helpful.

Perhaps Shirley can visit sometime and share tips on how to write the mysteries...oh, Shirley!!!

Patty Wysong said...

Great post, Tina! I have to admit to bouncing around right now--I write 750 word stories all the time, and 50 extra words would be handy. LoL. Thanks for all the great info! It made my day!

Tina M. Russo said...

You are very welcome, Patty. Let us know when you make your first WW, sale.

Vince said...

Hi Anita Mae:

I think WW is perfect given the great job you do on the 1000 challenges. Thanks on the picture. Finally I have a current one. Great post.



ginny said...

This was so informative and encouraging, Tina! Ive subbed three stories and the third one went as far as a second reader and then got the thumbs down. But Johnene wrote a nice litle note on the rejection slip and I thought, Hey, I'm half way there!! I'll just keep on plugging. 2000 manuscripts a month...I don't suppose she does much reading for pleasure, then. Ginny

Jennifer AlLee said...

Thanks for all the great info, Tina. I submitted to Woman's World waaaaay back in the 80s when we were both young! Now you've reignited my interest. I'm going to have to pick up a copy next time I'm out.

quietspirit said...

Thank you for this information. I am one who got discouraged with a rejection letter.

Anonymous said...

Sherri said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tina, for your post. Just the info I needed. As soon as I read your post, I went to work revising a 2800-word romance and got it to an extremely tight 800 words. I won't lie -- it was a challenge and it stung! However, it's done and ready to be mailed in the morning. Again, thanks!! Sherri

Tina M. Russo said...

Okay, Jennifer, who told my age? LOL.
I remember the 80's, I had my memory then.

Sherri, way to go!!! Keep us posted.

Give it another six or seven or eight tries QuietSpirit!! :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Ginny, as far as I can tell, the stories go from an assistant to Johnene to the editor Stephanie. You are soooo close. Never give up.

Danica/Dream said...

Wow, very interesting. I didn't know about this at all. Thanks for sharing.

Patricia W. said...

There's a Yahoo group of writers who target Women's World. They offer tips and encouragement, as well as the latest updates with regard to word count, editorial changes, etc.

I submitted only one story to WW. It was rejected but I got a nice note from Johene so I may submit again, after I finish my novel.

CatW said...

Yes...we're the WWWriters. I'm the listowner, and new members are always welcome!
Come find us if you're interested in writing for WW. It's a great group.

Walt Mussell said...

Thanks for all the advice, both in the article and in the comments below.

Tina M. Russo said...

I didn't know that about the WW Yahoo group.

Cat, can you send us the subscribe info?

robynl said...

I liked Woman's World when I used to buy it and with all the info given I just might have to pick up more copies and read, read. Thanks.

Tim said...

Thanks for posting this!

Believe it or not, I'm among the "5%" of male readers of Woman's World.

I enjoy reading a crisp romance- story. That's often the only reason I buy the magazine.

It's great that you'd offer tips on how others might contribute Romance tales to WW.

Thanks again! :)

Tina M. Russo said...

You are very welcome, Tim!!!

Deena said...

I'm just loving the info found here and the new authors I may be able to connect with as a reviewer:-)

Pam Hillman said...

I'm several days late, but loved the post and the comments. As many of you said, I've subbed to WW before, but didn't keep at it. Will have to try again, and keep sending stories!

Vince said...

Hi Tina:

I don’t know if you check back this late but I read all the WW Romantic Fiction stories for about one year back (my wife never throws a WW out) and two stories stood out as the best because they had a surprise twist. Both were yours. The current one which I read and came today in the mail and one from months ago. I read it and I just knew it was yours. I looked at the bottom of the page and sure enough, it was yours. Great stories.



Tina M. Russo said...

Vince, you are so kind to say that.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I just came across your blog when I typed into google "Writing romance stories for Woman's World guidelines."
Your suggestions were extremely helpful - thanks very much.

Susan said...

I've submitted a handful to WW and been rejected on all of them. One rejection came with a hand-written note saying they liked my writing style. That was encouraging! Another submission was kept for so long, I thought sure it was going to sell, but it didn't. I've gotten discouraged by the rejections, but just a couple of weeks ago, I pulled out a WW manuscript I'd never subbed and polished it up. I'll make up a cover letter and send it off. Maybe this story will sell!

As for keeping it to 800 words, it's quite an exercise for me. I've done NaNoWriMo ( every year for five years now. I can do 50,000 words in a month, but 800? That's tough!


ellen said...

I have been so lucky. I submitted and sold the first time out. But i do have a question. when the contract came the pay amount was $800.00 not $1,000. I assumed they had lowered the pay scale when they lowered the word count but now im wondering if they made a mistake?

Has anyone heard anything about this?

Tina M. Russo said...

Ellen, yes recently the pay has changed to reflect the lowered word count. Still the best deal in town for a short story. Submit!!

Krista said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the advice. I submitted one and got a pretty quick rejection, I realized after reading your post that it was because it was over 800 words. I have another in right now- they've had it 3 months so I'm waiting for a response. (I'm not very good at the send it and forget it:) It was really nice to come across someone who is willing to help someone new to the writing business, Thanks again!

Lindsay said...

I know this is an old post, but I have a question. When you say 'submit regularly', is there a limit? Like, what if I submitted a story once or twice a month? Is that too many submissions? Thanks.

Tina M. Russo said...

Lindsey, tried to connect with your email with no luck.

Submit, submit,submit. There is no limit.

If you have any questions email me at tina at tinarusso dot com

Jill Lynn said...

Thank you so much for posting this. After three attempts with Woman's World, my story "Peach-Flavored Kiss" is being published in their final issue of the year (Goes on sale December 21, 2009.)I'm thrilled, and believe the details in your post helped get me there.

Missy Tippens said...

Yay, Jill!! Congratulations!!! :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Jill, congratulations. So thrilled for you. This is awesome.I will be looking for it. I pick them up every week, and some years I can even afford a subscription.


Jill Lynn said...

Thank you! I sent another for their consideration last week, and wish luck to anyone else who's submitted lately.

pattysoup said...

I was SO thrilled to find your blog. Thank you for your generous and helpul comments. Like so many writers, I've been striving to have my work published and experiencing the frustrations you so accurately describe. I am submitting my first romantic fiction to Woman's World next week. Your "how-to" advise is encouraging and on point. Thank you!


Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Way to go Patty!!! You can't sell what you don't submit

Candy Fite said...

Tina, By the way, I've enjoyed reading this blog about writing for WW. I read a copy yesterday and I'm intrigued about submitting! Is there a link to the writer's guidelines for Woman's World? I've checked the magazine website, and I can't find it. Thanks!