Legal issues regarding True Story magazine

I thought I would post an update on the legal situation with True Story Magazine. I’m still in the beginning phases of this whole ordeal, so I thought it might be a good idea to keep track of everything that happens, not only for my own benefit but for the benefit of anyone who gets to experience the same thing some day.

I submitted a short story I had written called “Chris Maher’s Left Hand” to True Story Magazine in fall 2011. On September 14, 2011, I received an email from someone at Dorchester Media who wanted to accept the story for publication. They offered to pay me if I’d turn over all rights. I’ve been writing for years, but this was the first time I’d submitted a story and had it accepted. 

I was slightly concerned about it because I couldn’t find any evidence of the magazine online. But I did some Googling and found enough history about the magazine (and the person I was in contact with), that I decided to go through with it. After all, the story (while it was cute) wasn’t the absolute best thing I’ve ever written, and I didn’t mind giving up the rights for it if I were going to get paid.

I signed the contract and send it back to them, agreeing to sell them the rights to the story for payment. The contract indicated that the story would be published in December 2011 and I could expect to receive payment the month afterward.

December came, and I received two copies of the magazine in the mail with my story in them. The title had been changed (“Caught Left Handed”), and the story was altered only slightly (probably for word count). But it was the story I had written. I was super excited.

Then January came and went.

Then February came, and I still hadn’t received payment.

I figured that they were probably busy, but I went ahead and wrote just for a status check. I didn’t hear anything back.

Then March came. Finally, I decided to start Googling again, and I discovered that True Story Magazine apparently stopped publishing a year ago and only offered an online version. I also discovered that they had pretty much gone under, filed for bankruptcy, and canceled all the subscriptions for all their customers. And from what I gather, there are a number of legal suits against them because they have not refunded the subscription money to many of their customers.

So, I wrote to my contact again. But this time I received an email back saying that her account was no longer functional.

I have a friend who is an editor so I wrote her and asked her opinion, and she recommended that I wait six months and then write them to reclaim my rights to the story. She also gave me a link to the Author’s Guild, which looks like a legal site for writers. I think the six months is a good idea because I’m sure they’re all buried in legal problems, and I agree with my friend that they’re probably not going to squabble over the rights to one goofy little short story.

At this point, I really don’t care if I get paid or not. I just would like to have the rights back so I can submit it somewhere else. If it doesn’t work out, that’s all right. I can always write something else, but it’s difficult not to be discouraged when my first official success turns out to not be so official. =)

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16 thoughts on “Legal issues regarding True Story magazine

  1. Congratulations on publication of your first short story, Amy. I hope you sell many more.

    Like you, I have a story in the December 2011 issue of True Story–”Bright Lights, Big Hearts”–as well as stories in the subsequent January, February, and March issues. Actually, I’ve been writing for True Story and its sister confession magazines since the early 1980s, so I’ve survived the ups and downs of the genre.

    If I may, let me correct some misinformation you’ve perpetuated in your post and then provide some updated information that may help you get paid:

    1. True Story has NOT ceased publication, nor has it ceased being distributed. The print edition stills appears every month in my local grocery story.

    2. True Story DOES offer an electronic version through Zinio.com for those readers who don’t want the print edition or who may be unable to purchase the print edition in their community.

    3. The editor who purchased your story no longer edits True Story.

    3. Dorchester Media, the publishing company that owned True Story at the time your story was published, no longer owns the magazine.

    From a press release issued a few days ago:

    “New York, NY—March 9th 2012—Today, the iconic women’s magazines, True Story and
    True Confessions are now under the new ownership of True Renditions, LLC, having
    been sold from the previous owners, Dorchester Media.”

    The press release ends with: “Questions and comments may be sent to editor@truerenditionsllc.com.”

    Your post seems to indicate that your story was a one-off and that you don’t expect to write other stories like it. If you do wish to continue writing confessions (did you even know you wrote a confession?), you may wish to join http://groups.yahoo.com/group/truewriters/ . This is a discussion group populated by confession writers ranging from those with no sales yet to those who, like me, have written hundreds of them over several decades. Current editors also join the discussion, providing more up-to-the-minute information than one can find by surfing Google.

    Good luck with your writing career!

    • Michael,

      Thank you so much for clearing that up. I’ve been looking all over for someone to contact or someone who knew anything about it, but I couldn’t find anything. I’m sorry for “perpetuating misinformation” but that was what I had been told, and I hadn’t found any evidence to contradict it. I certainly didn’t intend to speak ill of the magazine; I was documenting my experience more than anything else in hopes that someone could help.

      I appreciate you taking the time to write all that down to clarify, and I really appreciate the information about the contact and the writing group. I’ll look into that today! And I’ll make sure to follow up and spread the word to let everyone know that the magazine is still up and running. I know some folks who will be really glad.

      And, no, I actually didn’t know I had written a confession. I actually wrote the silly thing as a joke, and in researching the magazine, it looked like it was the sort they accepted. It’s not the sort of thing I usually write.

      Thank you again for taking the time to respond.
      ACW

  2. Hi Amy,

    Read your story with interest. Would love to hear an update on your situation. I’m a former True Story and True Confessions writer. Lots of people are following the situation and are in the same situation. I have received many emails and posts from other writers concerning this. Feel free to email me if you are interested in information about this situation. I can offer you some links (from book and magazine writers and an agent) who have been following this story for quite some time.

    God Bless!

    • Good morning. Thank you for your offer. I’ve heard from the folks at True Renditions, and they’ve forwarded my message on to someone else. But I haven’t heard anything for a while. As soon as I know more, I’ll post an update.

  3. Pingback: Submissions update « A.C. Williams

  4. Pingback: Update with True Story magazine payment situation « A.C. Williams

  5. I sold about 8 or 9 stories to them in 2007/2008 and they were published. I was a regular writer for all the “Trues,” as we called them, back in the 90s, when they were owned by Macfadden Women’s Group, and they ALWAYS paid on time and were wonderful to work with. In 2007/2008, I noticed they were owned by Dorchester instead of Macfadden but Dorchester was a well-established publisher of romance novels. My first sign of trouble was I noticed the payments weren’t coming promptly. I received a couple but the rest never arrived. I harassed my editor, who really tried to help. Finally an accountant with the company called to straighten it all out. They then asked to buy a story I’d sent and I refused, stating that payment issues were just way too much trouble. I contacted Predators and Editors to notify them that they weren’t reliably paying authors, but the site said I didn’t have enough evidence. I sent copies of my e-mails but they never posted anything. Too bad. Other authors might have been saved if the site had listened to me. The real shame is that this put True Story and the other confessions out of business, as it would appear. Those magazines have been around since the 20s. I guess times are changing!

    • They certainly are changing, but we’ll see if True Renditions can keep it going. I still haven’t been paid, but they insist it’s coming. I can’t imagine how much paperwork they are having to sort through, so I understand why it’s taking so long.

      • Your patience may be rewarded soon, Amy.

        Despite Stephanie’s implication to the contrary, True Story is still being published, and the new publisher is remaining current with payments for work they’ve published. True Renditions LLC–the new publisher–has also been slowly paying past due amounts for work published by Dorchester Media in the many months prior to the change of ownership, up to and including work published in November 2011.

        The most recent news from a representative of True Renditions, shared in a forum for confession writers: “We will release payments for stories printed in the December 2011 True Story and or True Confessions by the first week in February at the latest.”

        So, your long wait may soon be over.

        Good luck with the rest of your writing.

  6. Quick update — Just bought March, 2013 issues of True Story and True Confessions at our local Giant Eagle grocery store. The magazines are alive and well!

  7. Thanks for the updates I used to write stories for the McFadden Group and had my first sold story with that company. Did not have a problem receiving payments. Glad to hear th company is still thriving.

  8. So is it my understanding as a reader of the “True” magazines that these stories are in fact NOT true and are made up stories? Or am I reading this blog wrong? It sounds to me that if you can “write” several “true” stories and submit them that they can not be all from your personal experience. This really disappoints me if that is the case. I enjoyed reading these magazines because I thought they were real life experiences.

    • Hello, Crystal. Well, what I wrote was based on something that happened to me, albeit loosely. I believe I informed them that I considered the story fictional, even though it was based on personal experience, and it was fine with them. I can’t speak for the other stories, and now that the magazine has changed, I’m not sure what their requirements are. I haven’t submitted to them again.

      • Crystal and Amy . . . Every story I write for True Story is either a story about a friend or relative . . . or based on someone’s experience. All stories are or should be “based in fact or garnered from an interview” (as the contract states) — But just like when they take a “true” story and make a movie or t.v. show out of it, the story is “enhanced” for dramatic effect. But the “truth” is still in that embellished story. I know many people who read the magazines and enjoy them because they believe them to be “real life experiences” as Crystal says — and they are “based” on the author’s experience or on something the author has heard from a friend or relative or on the news. So, Crystal please continue to enjoy the stories . . . I often cry at the end of my own stories because I know the feelings and/or emotions of those who the story is based on. Many readers relate to the characters in the stories and often “sharing” a similar problem in their own lives can be a big help to them. Hope everyone who reads True Story continues to empathize with the characters in the story and enjoy reading them for many, many years to come.

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