[Note: A 6:34 audio podcast of this column can be streamed or downloaded at this Soundcloud page.]
Most publications purchase columns for First North American Serial Rights. This means they get to publish it first and after an embargo period, usually specified in your contract, the writer is free to reprint these columns elsewhere. Selling reprints has the same goal as syndication. Both aim to expand exposure and gain readers in other demographics.
Suzette Standring wrote about how to seek syndication in the April 2016 edition of The Columnist. For the purpose of this post I’m going to focus on the details of selling reprints: who wants them, how to pitch them, and how much they pay.
Who Wants Them
From locally focused to glossy national newsstand magazines, you’ll find publications that are interested in purchasing reprint rights. For example, Reader’s Digest is mainly composed of reprints. However, they buy all rights — meaning the sales stop with them. They pay top dollar for those rights and are highly selective.
The best place to look for multiple sales opportunities are regional, special interest publications. Most cities have a regional parenting publication and women’s lifestyle magazine, for example. Along with these, each region may have a magazine that captures what’s exceptional about their area — backpacking, nature, travel/ tourism/venue, lake communities, business-to-business etc.
All of these niches are prime for selling reprints depending on the theme of your column. These publications are typically ad-driven, locally focused in distribution and are free to the public. You find them in the freebie section of the grocery store, in the library and in the doctor’s office. Most of these publications can also be read online.
Finding the publications that are right for pitching your work will take a little legwork, but over time you’ll build lucrative relationships across the country for regular pitching and reprint sales. Writer’s Market is a good resource but so is good old-fashioned Google. Type in the city, the niche and the word magazine and see what pops up.
Sometimes understanding which publications are open to receiving queries for reprints is as easy as clicking on the submissions tab of the desired publication’s website. For example, take a look at the writers’ guidelines for Orlando Family Magazine.
Other times you have to email the editor and ask if they are open to receiving reprint queries. But that’s OK, too, because then you’ve introduced yourself to the editor and hopefully made a connection.
How to Pitch Them
When approaching a publication for reprint sales, there are two specific things they typically want to know in the initial query: where has it previously published and that you will offer them regional exclusivity.
Knowing this, it’s a good idea to keep track of where the piece you’re selling has appeared, especially if you have a column that is distributed throughout the country through a parent media company. You will want to focus on the cities your column does not already reach.
Again, this may take a little leg work in the beginning, but soon you will establish relationships with editors who will look forward to receiving your work. Your reprint saves them time and money. I once pitched a reprint that an editor filed away for later. She contacted me two years later wanting to know if it was still available to publish in her area. Lucky for her, it was. She bought it.
There is no expiration date for selling reprints so long as the content is still relevant and accurate for the day. For example, I wrote an original humor column for Kalamazoo Parent magazine. Then, I sold reprint rights to Orlando Family Magazine, Space City Publishing’s five community family magazines in Texas and Staten Island Family Magazine.
I consider that good traction, and I still have 45 more states I can sell it to. I typically consider 100-mile radius as regional exclusivity, unless the editor otherwise specifies. Click here to download a sample sample query letter and a few more pitching tips in PDF format.
How Much They Pay
This varies depending on the publication. Some online outlets such as ScaryMommy.com do not pay for reprints, only original material. You have to decide for yourself if it’s worth exposure to their 1.7 million Facebook followers to give them a reprint or not.
In my experience, most regional publications pay $20-$45 for reprints depending on the articles and their circulation tends to max out at 100,000. Columns will fall in the $20-$30 range for regionals, where feature-length service journalism will pay in the $35-$45 range. Note that features will require you to localize your sources, unless your sources are nationally known.
Yes, selling reprints may take a little more legwork than syndication, but it may work well for your audience. If done correctly, selling reprints can establish long-term successful relationships with editors across the country. You have to decide which direction is best for your work and the two approaches don’t have to be mutually exclusive you can do both, so long as you remember to maintain regional exclusivity for the benefit of the publication.
• • •
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp writes mainly for parenting publications. Her work has appeared in The New York Times; Brain, Child Magazine; Scary Mommy and regional parenting publications across North America. Find her at her accounts on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram.
• • •
This piece first was published in the May 2016 issue of The Columnist, the monthly membership newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.