Inspiration hits at weird times. For me, it was at the gas pump.
I watched the numbers spin mercilessly and cursed the mechanic who recently told me I needed better gas if I hoped to get rid of that strange noise the engine made. The final damage: about $30.
You know you are really a writer when you start looking at prices in terms of words. At my common rate of ten cents per word, that tank of gas was worth 300 words. Three-hundred words would take me at least an hour to write. My pumping time was less than five minutes. It hardly seemed fair. I needed to get more mileage. Not from my car, from my writing.
My choices seemed to be (A) Work more hours, (B) Get better paying gigs, or (C) Grin and bear it.
I decided to go with (D) none of the above.
Somewhere on the drive home, it occurred to me that I might have my solution in my binder of clippings at home. As much as I hate to admit it (it sounds so unprofessional), I was never one to pay too much attention to the rights on articles I sold. I rather enjoyed getting a check and then moving on to the next exciting topic.
I went back and explored many of my agreements. I had plenty of pieces for which I only sold the electronic rights, meaning I could still sell them to print-only publications. Some had exclusive rights for a limited time, such as six months. Others were fine to reprint as long as I didn’t sell to a rival publication. Within an hour, I had seven “new” things longing for markets.
There also were other manuscripts that just needed minimal work to be put back into play: adult articles that could be scaled down for children, national pieces that could work for regional publications with the addition of quotes from locals.
Nowadays, I look carefully at the rights section of contracts. I also try to think of multiple ways to market ideas so that my research time can be more efficient. As for the gas pump… well, I still complain, but at least I have a bit of extra cash to keep up with the numbers.
Beth B. Hering is a nonfiction writer who lives and works in South Elgin, Il. Her work has been published by Chicago Parent, Guideposts for Kids on the Web, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Dollar Stretcher, and others.