Marketing: Reprints

What’s better than selling an article for $750? Selling it again for $200, then again for $150, then again for $200, without doing anything more than letting an editor know it’s available.
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What’s better than selling an article for $750? Selling it again for $200, then again for $150, then again for $200, without doing anything more than letting an editor know it’s available.

The key to multiplying the profit on your work is marketing your articles, and yourself, thereby creating new streams of revenue from work you’ve already completed. Editors want to buy reprints from you. In this age of cost-cutting, many magazines and websites depend on reprint purchases to keep their expenses low. Many freelancers say that it’s easier for them to sell reprints than it is to sell original articles, especially to new markets they want to break into. And the purchase of a reprint just might lead to a $2,000 original article sale when the editor loves your work. But first, that editor needs to know you have the goods available. Here’s how to get the attention your reprint-worthy magazine and Web work deserves.

KNOW YOUR INVENTORY

Dig out your article contracts to see which ones were first rights and which ones were all rights or work-for-hire. The all-rights articles aren’t valid for reprints, because you don’t own them anymore. It’s those first-rights gems that go on your possible reprint list, provided they’re not bound by contractual language limiting the terms of re-sale for so many months after publication or limiting reprint sales to competing magazines. You need to make sure each piece is clear for re-selling. You don’t want any legal hassles or burned bridges, so take this research seriously.

Categorize your articles by topic, and include the word count plus a short summary of the article. For example, your list might include: “ ‘5 Drinks That Eliminate Bloating,’ 1,000 words highlighting the top ‘superdrinks’ as reported by the FDA, including expert advice from Dr. Melanie X, nutritionist and author of the bestselling book Ban Bloating for Good.” If your article includes sidebars, quizzes or charts, add these selling points to your pitch paragraph. Batch health articles, wedding articles, fashion articles, parenting articles and so on, allowing you to send multi-pitches to editors in each realm.

FIND THE BEST MARKETS

The No. 1 key to great marketing is having a solid message and targeting that message to your audience. Here’s where you target those editors who are looking for reprints, and rise above the competition by making their job easier.

Where do you find buying markets? Start with guides like Writer’s Market. A simple search with a parameter of ‘buys reprints’ will turn up long lists of potential markets. You’ll find a mix of big-name, national magazines as well as regionals and websites. You can also seek out markets yourself. “Some of my best markets are regional magazines that I’ve come across locally or while traveling; I always try to hit a bookstore to look at local publications that I can contact,” says Kelly James-Enger, author of Six-Figure Freelancing.

While searching for new markets, always keep an eye on multiple sales. “Look for markets that will buy more than one story from you—I have a market that only pays $40 to $65/story, but they’ve bought a dozen stories from me over the last few years, and the money does add up,” James-Enger says. “I have another market that pays $100, and buys three or four pieces a year—nice little checks that eventually do add up. Reprints also help you build your platform as a writer, and introduce you to new markets/possibilities you may not have thought of.”

Freelancer Marcia Layton Turner says that pitching reprints has become part of her business routine. “The work required to market available reprints is so minimal that any payoff is almost always lucrative. For instance, I sold an original news piece to Beauty Store Business and ended up selling it twice more to its sister publications, each for half the original fee, effectively doubling my money,” she says.

Often, the reprint-buying market is paired with the original magazine of purchase, which makes your marketing task easier. “I used to write quite frequently for a retail trade magazine, often doing cover stories,” Turner says. “A couple of years ago, the magazine updated its website and wanted to make past articles available online for free. That was fine with me, for a fee. So I asked for and received several hundred dollars for that right. It took two e-mails back and forth and a few weeks later, voilà, a check in my mailbox.” It pays, quite literally, to ask.

TARGET YOUR SEASON

Send a letter of introduction along with your story list timed for seasonal purchases. “I sent a letter this summer to some regional parenting markets, noting that I had a breast-cancer story that would be appropriate for October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; a piece on adoption that would work for November, National Adoption Month; and the like,” James-Enger says. “I highlighted a handful of stories rather than sending my entire list, and it’s working.”

Another key concept of marketing: Know your market’s lead time. Are they working three months or six months in advance? You can almost always find this information in a market report or on the magazine’s website.

PITCH CORRECTLY

Send a letter of introduction via e-mail to the editor you’ve seen listed on a current masthead (check out mastheads.org), and keep your opening paragraph short. Editors don’t have time to read a giant block of text about your years of health reporting and how rewarding it is to encourage women to take better care of themselves. Just get right to it. “Dear [editor], As a health reporter for the top well-being markets, I have 10 articles available for your consideration as reprints.” Immediately proceed to your list of article titles, word count and single, concise pitch paragraphs for each. At the close of your submission letter, sign off with: “I’ll look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll be happy to answer your questions about any of these articles. Please feel free to visit my website for my complete list of credits, as well as several of my clips in PDF format.” And while some freelancers do report success with a cold-send of entire features, most editors say a pitch paragraph is best for an introductory letter.

WISE UP YOUR WEBSITE

You might think that featuring your available articles on your website is a surefire marketing strategy. Editors will see them and want them, right? Actually, it’s a better strategy to keep the content private. Establish on your site a reprints page where you’ll list your pitch paragraphs, including article title, word count and those sidebars, quizzes and charts. Editors may find this list on their own and contact you, or editors you’re pitching for new features may discover your reprints list while checking out your credits. But even if you have a list of reprint titles on your site, it’s a far better marketing strategy to actively send your pitch paragraphs to targeted editors and markets. There’s no better way to get your work in front of a buying audience than to do it directly. It’s crowded out there on the Internet.

“You’re not going to get rich selling reprints, but it’s definitely a worthwhile venture,” James-Enger says. With smart marketing strategies, good professionalism and of course great reporting, your reprint sales could catapult you to the top of an editor’s assignment list. [WD]

[Exercises]

For each article you’ll consider for reprints, ask yourself the following questions:

1. WHICH MARKETS CAN YOU APPROACH? Health? Women’s? Parenting? Gourmet? Yoga? Business? Write down every category that comes to mind.

2. HOW CAN YOU MAKE THIS ARTICLE APPLY TO DIFFERENT MONTHS, SEASONS OR HOLIDAYS? A healthy-drinks piece can appear in summertime family issues, winter holiday issues, college websites and sports magazines.

3. WHAT ARE THE SPECIAL FEATURES OF THIS ARTICLE? Write down the sidebars, quizzes, expert quotes, statistics from current surveys and so on. Name your selling points.

4. WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE NEW TITLES THAT CAN BE USED FOR THIS PIECE? —SN

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