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Writing Columns and Getting Syndicated

A syndicated column is the dream of many freelance writers

Long ago I decided I wanted to become a syndicated columnist - you know, an advice column like Abby or Ann. I even had a topic - single parenting. It would be, I determined, a Q & A - a question and answer - column. People from all over the country would write questions that would allow me to create pithy and helpful answers.

Write Sample Columns First

Of course, I had to make up the first batch of questions as well as the answers. I ended up with six columns, most consisting of two or three questions with answers. I packaged these up with a cover letter and began marketing to small newspapers.

Lo and behold, a local daily called and I was so excited I had a small car wreck on my way to the appointment, which, thanks to a passing friend, I actually made on time. The editor had just been served divorce papers and knew he would soon be a single parent, so he bought - for way less than I had hoped - but I was on my way.

Creating Your Own Syndicate

With several weeks' copies of actual tear sheets (actual copies of the printed page), I resumed marketing and after maybe five months, I had a syndicate of three papers! As I recall, my monthly income from my own syndication was $27.50, give or take a few cents.

Each week I looked for questions in my mail box, and each week I created more questions and answers. Over almost two or three years, I got, I think, two questions, neither of them usable. A girlfriend was teaching a course on parenting and she asked how many in her class read the column; most did. Knowing I wasn't getting questions, she asked why, and the general answer could be termed "not enough interest." 

A major syndication company contracted with me for a different sort of column and managed to sell three or four articles. My take was less than $50.

Parlay Your Column Writing

I parlayed the column into my first published book, which for a variety of reasons, including the divorce of that publisher, and my lack of knowing how much promotion an author needs to do, barely earned out its advance. Eventually I may reissue it. First one paper, then the other two cancelled and I was glad for I was getting really tired of the whole thing.

So, yes, you can write a column, and you can sell it, and it may be worth it. It will build credits and lead to other things. It was worth it for me, although not the way I had anticipated.

Knowing what I do now, I'd do more marketing, always more marketing. I'd set up speaking engagements for both the book and the column. So much of success in writing seems to boil down to marketing - either by the author or someone else, or, more often by both.

Give it a try... you may surprise yourself.



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Email Anne: Anne@AboutFreelanceWriting.com

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