Break It Up, Sell It Off By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Someday, you’ll probably create a piece of writing that becomes a white elephant. It’s good writing, but for some reason, it has no value for the intended publication.

A few years ago, the editor of a niche consumer publication agreed with my terms about writing an article for him. Only after much research, a two-hour round-trip drive, a photo shoot, a three-hour interview with the only source on the topic, and two hours of writing did the editor tell me, “I don’t pay for articles,” despite prior emails promising me $350 for the article we discussed.

He pleaded ignorance, claiming that he was only the head of the organization and members forced him to edit their magazine despite his busyness and his lack of knowledge of publishing. There went my fee. (This was before I knew about WritersWeekly, or I’d have jotted off a letter to Angela.)

I found out later from the source I had interviewed that an amateur writer gave the editor an article on the topic. Why pay me for the photos and article if he can get them for free?

No other magazine market would be interested in 2,500 words on such a detailed, narrow-niche article. But instead of mothballing it, I broke it apart and pitched it to other markets as opportunities arose.

I sold a smaller version with less background material to a general consumer publication ($200). I used some of the information from the piece for a local weekly newspaper column ($25). I broadened the scope a little to work it into a travel piece for a small health periodical ($60). I used most of the meat of the original article for an article in a seasonal travel guide ($80). And, right now, I’m writing about the experience itself for WritersWeekly ($40).

None of these are huge fees; however, considering I had already put in eight hours’ work and writing the subsequent articles required just a little more work (about 15 minutes apiece), I made my original $350 lost to the flaky editor, plus $55 for the extra time used to rework the material.

Don’t let a good but unpublished article become useless. Instead, break it apart and sell off its parts to recoup your time.

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant has written for WritersWeekly before. She regularly writes for several regional and national publications; creates web copy and PR materials directly for companies and as a subcontractor for marketing firms; pens occasional works of fiction; and edits articles, screenplays and resumes. She has been writing fulltime since 2000. Visit her online at or join her as a Cheap Chow Hound at for original recipes and tips for saving money on food.


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