freelance writingWhen you’re newer to publishing, it can feel as though unfamiliar terms are pelting you like pebbles of hail. Simultaneous submissions? Reprints?? One-time rights??? First time rights???? All rights?????

What does this all mean???????

Fortunately, it sounds more complicated than it usually is in reality – and, once you understand how all works, a stunningly simple formula can help you topic spoke your way to a higher income.


Concept #1: Reprints and Rights

Let’s say that you want to write about parenting. There are significant numbers of regional parenting magazines that might be interested in your article about, say, making your own healthy baby food. And, what’s great about regional magazines is that they only care about their geographically-specific audience and typically don’t mind if you sell what you wrote to other regional parenting magazines in a different geography.

So, let’s say you’ve got a brand new, non-plagiarized article to sell and you approach a parenting magazine in Boise, Idaho – and the editor says yes. You’ll want to make sure that she either wants first rights or one-time rights. First rights (or first-time rights) means that she wants to be the FIRST to publish this article – and, since you haven’t sold it anywhere else, that’s fine. One-time rights is the least restrictive of all, meaning that she just wants to know that you have the legal right to offer this article for sale – and, in this example, it’s a brand new piece, never sold anywhere else, and so you can sell those rights.

Now, take that article and offer reprints to multiple other regional parenting magazines that want one-time rights – and you can make money on this article, over and over again.

Concept #2: Simultaneous Submissions – and a Caution

Now let’s say you’ve written a health and fitness piece and you’ve identified three magazines that interest you, but they each want first-time rights. What can you do? One route is to see if they accept simultaneous submissions – and, if they do, then you can submit to all of those magazines, letting them know that you’ve simultaneously submitted – meaning, submitted the exact same query or article to more than one magazine.

Then, if one magazine accepts the article, you simply notify the others that the article is no longer available for sale. If that’s how it works out for you, great! But, here’s a caution. That sounds ideal in theory, but the reality is that if you’ve written a query or article that seems to fit multiple publications, then you probably haven’t targeted any of them well enough to get an acceptance. Each magazine has a unique style – and so a one-size-fits-all article is often too generic to be of interest to anyone.

Concept 3: Topic Spoke!

In cases when the reprint route isn’t feasible, topic spoke. This means that you research one particular topic and then re-slant the research to create different articles on the same general subject for different audiences.

Here’s the formula. Look at:

  • the tone or voice of the publication
  • the age and/or gender of its readers
  • the scope, geographically speaking, of the audience

Then choose the right sub-topic for each magazine that seems a solid fit from your overall topic – and then select the most appropriate combination of anecdotes, quotes and narratives for each magazine that you’ve targeted. Make sure your opening line lets the editor and readers know that you are targeting them in your article.

For example, I write a lot about boomerangs. So, here are real-life examples of how I’ve used topic spoking and audience targeting to repeatedly reuse my research: boomerang freelance writing

Publication A, Women’s Sport + Fitness:

  • audience was female
  • voice was of a tough, independent, can-do woman
  • first line of my article: “Betsylew Miale-Gix is fearless. She knows what she has to do and she just does it.”

Publication B, International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports:

  • audience was interested in hearing about female athletes
  • voice is academic, straightforward and factual
  • first line of my entry: “Boomerang throwing is a recreational and competitive sport in which participants try to achieve specified effects in their throws: distance, tricks and extended time aloft.”

Publication C, Boys Quest:

  • audience was preteen boys
  • voice was light and engaging
  • first line of my article: “If you’re looking for a terrific sport to play alone or with friends, try boomerang throwing.”

Publication D, Works Magazine: Dedicated to Campus Life

  • audience was college students on a budget
  • voice was cutting-edge
  • first line of my article: “Toss a rang and hope it isn’t a blow by. English translation: Go ahead and throw your boomerang. Just don’t let it disappear into the sky.”

Publication E, Beacon Magazine

  • audience: people living in Northeast Ohio
  • voice shows pride in local connections
  • first lines of my article: “Dazzling objects spiraled across the night sky. People stared in amazement as mysterious lights spun in a circle, magically stopping when the circle was complete. The event? A lighted boomerang demonstration during the 1994 Individual World Tournament, held in Hiratsuka, Japan. And, throwing that twinkling boomerang was Canton’s own Gary Broadbent.”

These are only some of the ways in which I’ve used my boomerang research. I also wrote a book about boomerangs, plus several other magazine and newspaper articles – and even covered a national tournament for a cable television channel. Think of a topic that intrigues you – and then explore the possibilities!

All rights

As you might imagine, when you sell all rights to a piece of content, you cannot sell it to anyone else after that. You can certainly write other articles on the subject, as long as they are significantly different from the one in which you sold all rights. Some writers make it a policy to never sell all rights. I entertain the possibility but only when the money is worthwhile or the potential exposure is significant – or the assignment would allow me to be published in an area of interest where I previously hadn’t made headway.

Check out other posts about freelance writing jobs.

By the way, are you trying to find a new freelance writing job, but running out of places to look? I can help you out! Visit The Ultimate List of Freelance Writing Jobs and 100+ Paying Websites.

 

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Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert is a freelance writer living in Lorain, Ohio. She has 26 years of professional writing and editing experiences, and has coached other writers for nearly 20 years, including for Writer’s Digest. Recently, she received writing credits for a PBS documentary, Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story. She can be reached at kbsagert@aol.com

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I had never heard of topic spoking before, but your boomerang example made it easy to understand. Thank you for a very informative post. 🙂

  2. When I first started to read your article I thought ‘Oh Goodness’ here we go on who(s) rights! But, as I was getting my teeth into the nitty gritty you explained topic spoken so easily by different approaches to the subject, why, all I can say is Thank You Kelly of giving me confidence not to shy away of approaching and approving any writing bids. Thank You

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