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Reprints - Sell Your Writing Multiple Times

You can multiply your income when you sell your writing multiple times

Congratulations! You've written and sold an article! Take a deep breath and consider how, with little or no rewriting, you can you sell it again and earn even more money. It's done with reprints.

What, exactly, is a reprint?

A reprint is is a second (or third, etc.) impression or printing of an article or book or other work that is either identical to the first or has no substantive changes. For example, if I sold this article as is to another website or to a print magazine it would be a reprint. The type style might change, even the title might change. A new editor might change a phrase or two, and/or correct something either because it was a mistake, or the publication wanted it to match house style. Essentially, however, it would be the same article.

On the other hand, if I made substantial or serious changes in the writing - not just a sentence or two, but subtracted or added information, changed the tone, etc., I'd have a new article and not a reprint.

More about this later.

Your rights are the key

The rights you sold with the original piece determine how, or even if, you can sell the piece to someone else. If you sold all rights, you're stuck and cannot resell the work without substantial rewriting, unless you get written permission.

If, however, you sold first rights in one form or another, you can resell the work after the first publisher has used up those rights. In the case of a magazine, you usually sell first serial rights and after your article has appeared in the magazine, you're free to sell second or reprint rights again, and again. Or, if you sold only the electronic rights, you could sell the article to a print publisher.

Obviously, rights are important and you want to negotiate the best deal you can, keeping as many rights as possible for yourself. If you're a brand new writer, you may not have much bargaining power, but it's always fair to ask.

Where to sell reprints

It's amazing where you can sell reprints. If you watch for it, you'll often see a phrase like "reprints accepted," or "buys second serial rights" in market listings or on the publication's web site. These magazines actively seek out reprints. Even major magazines and other markets will accept reprints in certain situations.

The key is finding non-competing markets for your article. As a general rule, Fortune won't reprint an article that appeared in Business 2.0. But, if your Fortune article was about the
economy in San Diego, you might be able to sell it to one of the San Diego regional magazines. Or if you wrote about a particular facet of the computer industry, you might be able to sell the reprint to a couple of computer trade magazines that addressed a totally different part of the industry. In both of these examples, the audience of each magazine is limited and, for the most part, non-competing. Finding non-competing audiences is the key.

In fact, regional magazines are obvious targets for reprints, assuming your article addresses something that would be of interest to people in multiple regions. And trade magazines are also targets, assuming your article talks about something that is useful to people in multiple industries.

How to present your article for reprint

When you query, include a copy of the printed piece, explaining clearly when the article was published and what rights you are offering. Be sure to include an SASE and keep your fingers crossed. Or, you can submit a copy of the manuscript, indicating where and when it was first published, etc.

Generally, you'll be offered less for the reprint than for the original article. Which is fine, because you've already done the bulk of the work. If you're clever, you may be able to get several checks for each article.

Rewriting v. Reprints

It often makes more sense to rewrite a piece than to offer it as a reprint. Since you've already done the research, the chances are you can create a new article with much less effort. The question is how much editing or rewriting makes a new article, and there's no formula. It must, however, be a substantial rewrite. A couple of sentences, or a paragraph isn't enough.

One way to think of this dilemma is to ask yourself if the reader of the first article would immediately recognize it in its second incarnation.

Probably the easiest thing to change is the focus. If, for instance, you wrote and sold an article on growing roses for Southern Living you'd need to refocus it for Sunset which markets in the west, because the areas have different growing conditions. An article on email marketing for Business 2.0 would be quite different than a magazine that deals with sustainability like Yes!

Stay honest and creative and you'll probably find you can easily increase your writing income with reprints and rewrites.

Write well and often, again and again.



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