Recycle Your Words

Monday, January 06, 2014
As you begin the new year, picture a clean slate of potential writing projects and innovative ways to build more streams of income from your words. One great way to do this is to build a reprint list.

Several years ago, when I was working as an associate editor for a regional parenting magazine, I discovered we relied heavily on reprint articles from writers to help fill our editorial needs each month. The reprint articles were pieces that had been previously published elsewhere, whether in a national or trade magazine or regional newspaper.

Reprints typically don’t pay as much as an original piece of work—I usually receive $35 to $50 per article for my reprint sales. But if you slowly and steadily build up a catalogue of your available work and market it properly, it can eventually bring in a few hundreds dollars a month, which is a great and easy way to earn passive income.

I know writers who have written health articles for national women’s magazines and then ended up selling the reprints to smaller, more specialized local or city magazines or websites. Evergreen topics work especially well for the reprint market.

When I first started building my reprint list, I focused on regional parenting magazines because I had a lot of articles for that specific market. I pored over the various writers’ guidelines and didn’t approach magazines that specifically said they were not interested in reprints. I then put together a master e-mail spreadsheet that included all the editors of the publications I wanted to target.

When I would send out a reprint query, I would also offer to localize the article to their specific market, which often helps solidify a sale and doesn’t involve a lot of extra time. As part of my marketing efforts for this year, I’m going to try and get more creative and find different markets that might be interested in service articles and human-interest profiles.

One caveat to remember is that to resell an article, you have to make sure you haven’t signed an “all rights” or “work-for-hire” contract that forbids you to sell the article to any other publication. When I first started out freelancing, I signed a contract with a large parenting website that, while paying me a very competitive per-article rate, left me with absolutely no rights to any of the articles. I’m still smacking myself for not renegotiating that contract, as I could still be earning reprint from articles about making your own baby food and childproofing your home to this day.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I've stayed immersed in creative nonfiction. Your post is a gentle nudge, telling me to I need to step outside of my box.

Thanks. And I hope your 2014 is filled with a high level of productivity and lots of publications...

Unknown said...

Great advice, Renee! I've been recycling my published short stories on story sharing sites and such, but I had no idea there was a reprint market for articles. Sounds like it's a good thing to keep in mind when signing those contracts!

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux -- We all need to step outside our boxes, don't we? I'd love to delve into some creative nonfiction myself. I just don't know where to start!

Lori-- Glad you found the post helpful! Many writers' guidelines have specific instructions on what they are looking for in reprints, you just have to keep your eye out for them. Good luck!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--How about begin with Chicken Soup? If you're not familiar with their "type" of stories, check out a couple of collections, read a few of the stories, and work on a submission or two. I know right now they're looking for "rebooting your life" stories (I think the deadline is later this month) and forgiveness stories (the deadline is in June, I believe).

But it sounds like you're quite successful and busy with what's already in your box... ;)

Margo Dill said...

I like the idea of not having to reslant the article but selling it big and then maybe regional. Nice idea. :) Hey if you can get an extra $5 from anything without extra work, that's a benefit!

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