We’re often asked whether it’s possible to sell a story to a newspaper or magazine without being identified. The simple answer is yes. We’ve put together a guide, below, answering the most common questions we’re asked about selling an anonymous story. If you have other questions, have a look at our guide to telling a story in the press.
If you’d like to find out more, please do fill in the form on the right or give us a call on
How can I hide my identity?
We do understand if the thought of being identified in a story makes you hesitant or nervous. That’s why we’ll always do everything we can to arrange an opportunity for you to share your story on your terms. This could involve using a false name, using just your first name or combining your real first name with your maiden name or former surname.
There are also lots of options for obscuring your identity in photographs. We could arrange for a magazine to use pictures posed by models instead, or to have a silhouetted photograph taken which wouldn’t identify you. We might explore whether you’d happy to use your photographs but with the faces completely blurred out, or if the story is about something that happened in your childhood perhaps we could use pictures of you when you were much younger without more recent photos alongside.
What kinds of stories can I sell anonymously?
We regularly sell crime and abuse stories on an anonymous basis, especially after a court case where there are legal reasons why someone’s name and picture can’t be used. We also frequently sell anonymous (or partially anonymous) stories when someone’s safety might be at risk. This could be after domestic abuse, where a woman telling a story might ask for her location not to be used.
We also sell stories using anonymous tip-offs or inside information. We’d need to know who you are in order to be sure that the information you’re providing to us is accurate, but we can act on your tip-offs without publishing your name, address or photographs. We might ask if we can quote you as an anonymous source, but it’s up to you whether you feel comfortable with this. We’re more than happy to have a chat with you on an off-the-record basis too.
It’s possible to tell most stories in a magazine without having your children named and pictured, if this is what you’d prefer. For example, in love cheat stories there’s no need for your kids to be identified.
In fact, there could be options for partially obscuring your identity for most of the stories we sell. However, it is important that we talk about that right from the start. If we arrange a publishing deal for you, it can be difficult to backtrack if you then decide you’d like to be anonymous. Just let us know you’re worried about being identified, and we’ll talk you through the options.
Do you need to know my real identity?
We would need to know who you are, yes. However, we would absolutely never disclose your identity to anyone without your prior permission. If you’d like us to send you some paperwork confirming this, please do just ask.
Why do magazines and newspapers ask people to be identified?
Magazines and newspapers build their business with readers trusting that the real life stories they publish are completely 100% true. Having people identified alongside these stories adds an extra aspect of credibility to the stories. After all, if you were to read a full magazine without anyone identified you might start to suspect that the writers were exaggerating or completely inventing stories. Of course a true life magazine would never do this, but the editors are always keen to avoid the suspicion that they might.
Having people identified in a story also makes it easier to relate to. Seeing a mum with a family just like yours would hit closer to home than a nameless, faceless woman. Having page after page of family album shots adds to the sense that the magazine is filled with stories told by woman just like your or us.
The simple fact is that it is easier to sell a story if you’re being identified too. Magazines will usually only use a maximum of one anonymous story per edition, and that’s if they use any at all. So, if an editor buys in lots of anonymous stories they’ll quickly build up an unmanageable backlog and you could be waiting months, or even longer, for your story to be published. They don’t want to keep you on hold for ages, so will often find themselves having to turn down really strong and worthwhile anonymous stories.
Why should I be identified in my story?
You may be worried about a negative backlash from selling your story, but that happens only incredibly rarely. On the whole, our clients are surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reactions they receive when their story is out in the open. You get full control over the exact wording of your story, so you get that extra piece of mind that it will be told exactly as you want it to be too.
Magazines and newspapers also pay more money for stories where the person involved is identified. The budgets for selling an anonymous story are unfortunately more limited.
Can I see some examples of anonymous stories?
We helped Sarah to sell her abuse story on an anonymous basis, with the magazine using no real names or pictures.
Emma was happy to be named and pictured in her story but, as a victim of a violent crime, she wanted to keep her new location a secret. The magazine didn’t publish her address.
We had to tell Lisa’s story anonymously, for legal reasons. Her son was a victim of a sex crime. However, Lisa did want his attacker to be named and shamed, and we were able to ensure that. Her story was in Take a Break and Reveal.
By Helen O’Brien Google