Can you simultaneously submit one article to many newspapers?

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You bet. A few don’t buy copy that others have used, but most newspaper editors simply want your article to appear exclusively in their greater distribution area, like 100 miles out.

The sports section may buy freelance, but travel, op ed, and food sections are the best targets.

Travel, for example. You write about Inhambupe, Brazil, “on the edge of the end of the world” as a Brazilian friend (from there) once described it. You write a broad piece full of detail and fun that describes a visit there, what to see, how to get there, where to stay and eat, and what makes it unique. You tell the editor that you also have 25 jpegs (digital photos) and you either offer to send them or you post them on a (free) website and provide the link for the editor’s selection (and payment–I’ve never been stiffed, yet!)

That’s the usual procedure. You send it to 12 newspapers, say, all far more than 100 miles from each other. You leave out the nationals–NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor (now digital), and U.S.A.Today. If you use snail mail (still advisable for new clients), include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a reply. But also put your e-mail address with your snail address in the cover letter that you send with the full article. Then wait. A couple or three might buy, most also buying a photo or two. Where they reject your gem, send it to another major newspaper in the same geographic area.

Sometimes, though, your article provokes the editor to suggest a rewrite for their specific readers. Say you want to use a timely baseball example. And if it’s 2012 and major league baseball has been around since 1876, you may want to write an article about “The National League Since 1876,” taking advantage of the 136th anniversary to write a funny, fact-filled article about the heroics and foibles of that organization. You sell it as a simultaneous submission to the sports editors anywhere that there is interest (mostly in cities with a National League team). No problems there. If everybody buys the same manuscript, bingo!

But there may be a wrench in the works. One or two buy it; alas, the Cincinnati sports editor lauds the article but says that it needs a stronger local orientation. Read: modified reprint. More material about the Reds of now and yesteryear must be woven into the basic article that other editors bought unchanged. You have 70% of the research completed and copy written, with 30% to add, sometimes from sources you’ve already used. Is it worth the extra time and effort to custom-wrap a general piece for a particular editor?

That’s your decision, but if the pay is worth the additional hassle, modified reprints can be a lucrative, efficient path to salvaging otherwise lost sales.

A quick check of my two blogs that appeared here a few days ago, about reprints (second rights) and rewrites, will help decipher the next paragraphs, if you are interested in getting in print more and using used copy again and again. (There’s a lot more about the writing, selling, and simultaneous submission processes in my Travel Writer’s Guide.)

Think of offering modifications when you pursue resales. If you write an article that you suspect is close to an editor’s interests but not quite usable as is, suggest in your cover letter with the copy of the original printed article that you would gladly provide the material “as is or with modifications you suggest.” The ideal is to sell reprints as they are, to try to get as much mileage out of a sold manuscript as possible. Better than no sales, though, is selling reprints altered to fit a different readership’s needs.

A modified reprint, if sufficiently altered to create a distinct piece, has all the virtues of a rewrite. There’s no reason it can’t be sold to the publication on a first-rights or lesser basis, then resold later as a reprint once it has appeared in print. It’s a reprint of a rewrite, really. Remember, a rewrite is a new manuscript with its own rights. Even it can have reprints!

It all starts with a first-rate original piece sent to the simultaneous markets, though.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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