Can you sell the same article to a magazine, newspaper, and blog?

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(1) Can you sell the same article to a magazine and a newspaper?

(2) And can you use the same article or item in both print on paper and in the digital market, like blogs, at the same time?

The real question for both is “Should you…?”

With a big healthy dose of caution and common sense you probably could. But with a bit more common sense you probably wouldn’t.

#1 has a stronger protocol in place. If you query a pay-on-acceptance magazine and they agree to publish the article, in print it’s theirs, even if they only bought first rights. You can then create a different query, write a different article (you can use many of the same facts, with discretion, and maybe a few of the earlier quotes), and sell it again to another magazine. I’d make sure they aren’t competitors or you’d likely lose both for future sales. Best if they hug different coasts. That’s the rewrite system.

On the other hand, you can use the same copy from the first buyer, without a whit of change—and sell it as second (or reprint) rights to anybody who will buy it. In that case you copy the article once it’s in print and send the copy to your other potential buyer(s) with a cover note that explains (a) “I sold first rights to XXX Magazine on Y date, (b) it appeared in print on Z date, as you can see by the copy enclosed, and (c) I an offering you second (or reprint) rights. Who would buy it? Those that buy second or reprint rights. It tells you who they are in the Writer’s Market.

Incidentally, you can sell a rewrite of the original the same way too. And all photos that were sold on a one-time rights basis to the original magazines can be resold with the reprint(s)—plus all those that remain unsold.

Then you can sell reprints of the rewrites! Does it ever end?

#2 is more good business than a traditional, accepted procedure. You can fairly well track a printed article if it’s to a reclusive niche market; there may be no rights conflict. But digital sales somehow travel around the world like lightning and nobody will be pleased if the reader/viewer finds it popping up “free” just when the other paid for some exclusivity.

Instead, do what professionals do when they find a chewy fact bone. They cut it into pieces, focus on some distinct element in each segment, get particular quotes about each bonelet, then write the devil out of it so none of the articles or items look (much) like the others—then they sell each to a different market. The best of all worlds would be to also write each in a different language!

Think of baseball as a field you could play on. If you focus your writing solely on retelling Lou Gehrig’s “goodbye” speech, heavens. Even if you’re a magic-word genius, where do you go to sell it the fourth time?

But you could play your whole life following, say, the National League teams and players and the World Series from 1876 to now. You could even start with the Cubs (then the White Stockings) winning the very first pennant that first year, beating the Louisville Dark Blues in six games…

There’s a lot more about rights, reprints, rewrites, and resales in about five of my blogs at this site. Just put those words in the search box near the blog title. Also see my Travel Writers Guide, which is a few books short of being O.P. The ebook lives on, though, and lots of the bound versions hide in libraries.

Patience. You still have to write and sell that first article. By that time you will be so rich and brilliant these reuse answers will just ooze out of you!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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