In sales, reselling is not usually an option unless a thing can be mass-produced, which is not a possibility in writing non-fiction articles and magazine pieces as a general rule. However, with a slight twist, most pieces that have been sold once, can be sold again, multiplying your ability to spread yourself around.
In freelance writing there are three main steps: query, sell or be rejected, and sell again.
Most freelancers however, whichever way it goes, tend to neglect that third step, and instead move on to other projects. But in conversations over the past three years I have talked to more than ten of the nation’s top freelancers and heard that the resold piece accounts for as much as half the monthly income of the most successful people in our field, as well as my own.
“I think that most freelancers forget that there is good money in reprints, almost no work to sending them out, and zero creativity investment since the real work has already been done. Also, I think they (reprints) are not as glamorous as new work, and really can’t be gloated over, and since we writers tend to be an egotistical bunch, they do not present the eminent reward in ego-growth that a new piece garners. The result is that many writers have pieces in drawers that appeared only once and instead of going out again for a trot around the block, sit there, unloved in that drawer.” one prominent freelance writer, columnist, and instructor at the Cornerstone Creative Writing workshop series, Carrie Kelley said.
“Many writers, especially new writers, don’t realize that they can sell reprints and/or rewriters. I’ve learned over 30 plus years of writing never to throw anything out…..research, rough drafts, rejected stories/articles, and those which have been published and to which you’ve retained the rights” commented Mary Emma Allen, an author, illustrator and speaker known in online writing circles for her informative articles on the “how-to” aspects of writing.
“Another challenge with resale is the fact that many beginning writers are not aware of the reprint market or how profitable it can be. It’s also easy for published writers to forget about a previously published piece, especially if they have a high acceptance rate of new queries and are constantly receiving new assignments.” says Kim Wilson, co-author of “Living Miracles: Stories of Hope For Parents of Premature Babies” (St. Martins Press) and editor of WriteFromHome.com, and The Busy Freelancer.
Morph to Sell
The key to selling a piece again lies in two distinct processes: timing and markets. If a piece is good in one place, it is usually good in at least three others if the piece is twisted just slightly to slant to that magazine or ezine or made to fit in the beginning. By changing it, you can usually achieve interest in those other places, but sometimes if the approach has a big enough take on the information it contains, you may not even need to do that much additional work. For instance, a piece on the housing boom in Las Vegas, Nevada might be of interest to a homebuilder industry magazine, the local chamber of commerce in Vegas itself, to a banking industry publication or two, and a mainstream magazine that is interested in growing cities profiles for its readers, as well as a moving company in-house publication, a Las Vegas land development company’s newsletter, and a tourism journal.
With a slight twist, this piece would also be of interest to nursing home or resident care home newsletters and magazines (as in how does this new boom affect that industry) to the Vegas school district’s in house publications and newsletters (as in how does this affect the growth of the schools, public and otherwise in the area) and the current residents of Timbuktu, if your census bureau statistics happen to show that Timbuktu residents move to Las Vegas more that most other cities in the United States, for instance.
So if you multiply this piece by all those potentials, you can make quite a killing off of one piece. Now imagine if you did that with almost every piece you wrote.
Or as one editor said, ” I think that’s the key to making money with writing that the highly successful novelists have mastered: minimal work for maximum return. If you can sell a piece a couple of times each time, even if you only got half what you had gotten for the first run, you’d be in good shape as a writer.”
Start With a Broad Idea, Then Narrow it Down
Selling an article as a reprint may appear to begin after it has been sold at least once, but to really ensure the resalable quality of the majority of pieces you create, start with the beginning of each piece by thinking about the potential markets for that piece before you even start to write it. In other words, write a reprintable article and you’ve already won half the battle.
Most people try to write tightly to a specific demographic of people to sell the vast majority of their work. But selling a reprint sometimes requires a little reverse psychology.
Topics of interest to the general public is a good place to start because the more broad the interest in the topical material is, the more places it can potentially be sold to, and the more easily it can be changed to fit different market interests. For a broad-based brainstorming session, you might pull out a copy of the New York Times, the LA Times, or virtually any large Sunday paper and scan the headlines. A piece on lowering of wages for farm workers in the Midwest might be a good topic. You could write this piece about aspects of the newspaper piece that were not covered; (there’s always something) about the effect on locals in the region, about the effect on price of feed for animals, about the effect on the migrant worker communities, about the effect on the regional DMV’s, and so many more. The world is a giant food chain, and you just have to follow it down until you think of whom it affects on the downline to come up with some great stories. If you dig for a story you will find it, and most like this one can be morphed a hundred different ways to be resold.