Is it worth the effort spending two hours covering an event, two hours on the road driving, and time to write the piece? Yes, if you can write more than one article from the experience. Most periodicals want something fresh, so if you take the same theme but approach it from a different angle, you’re golden.
Case in point: my four-hour jaunt to a curling event. It wasn’t for a big-name periodical that would make it worthwhile; however, the topic is offbeat and I felt sure that I could sell other articles on curling.
I’d never heard of curling until I covered the curling event in person. Since I saw players in action, I could better relate to my readers what the sport is all about.
I live in New York where locals yearn for unusual ways to spend time outdoors. The typical skiing, skating, and sledding articles have been done to death. Curling is a winter sport with elements of shuffleboard and bowling played outside. Curling was novel to our area, though the sport is centuries old.
My hunch paid off as I wrote about curling over and over using the research and photos I culled from covering the local curling event. Four different payments for covering one event? Yes, please!
Pay attention to the geography and overlapping audiences of the periodicals. Is there any chance that one readership will also pick up the other periodical?
As another example, I first wrote about Groupon for a local business periodical that’s online by subscription only. The next sale, a month later, was to a publication that was a larger regional trade periodical with free online access. Since these readerships don’t overlap much at all, I let only a month pass between selling each article. The third time, two months later, I wrote for a statewide, general business magazine located hundreds of miles from the other two.
To legally write on the same theme several times, write completely new articles each time. It’s okay to use the same research, but keep any quotes new. That is why I ask lots of questions. I can quote the same person for several periodicals, but use entirely different verbiage.
When I reuse notes, I contact any sources to affirm that they’re willing to let me quote them for the new piece. Not only is it polite (occasionally, I interview a source with an aversion to a particular periodical), but this is particularly important because people move, change titles and pass away. These changes can make attributions inaccurate since you last spoke with them. Most of the time, if you must speak with new people, you can garner the quotes you need over the phone since you’ve been to “their place” before.
You can change the article significantly by skewing the slant. Beyond the initial article covering a local curling event, I’ve written on curling as a how-to piece for a different local periodical, a profile on an area curling club with which I connected at the initial event, and a piece on curling as a family activity for a regional periodical. You could also write on a topic as a consumer-oriented piece and a trade-oriented piece.
Don’t pitch a similar article to periodicals of an overlapping audience during the same time period. Read your contracts well to make sure you understand the amount of time that must expire between writing on the same topic for competing periodicals.
Allowing time to pass between articles on the same topic also helps you approach it in a fresh way. Otherwise, it’s easy to subconsciously write using the same turns of phrase.
Reusing the same research and experience several times helps pay yourself back for travel time and the learning curve involved with any new topic.
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant has been freelance writing full time since 2000, including newspaper and magazine articles and a book, The Big, Fat Answer: Lifelong Weight Management for Good Health, available through www.booklocker.com. Visit her online at www.skilledquill.net.