Prepare five articles when you submit one

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Article writing (for magazines, newspapers, or other publications) doesn’t pay much, the money comes slowly, and if you research and write each article separately, that will quickly earn you a ticket to the poor house.

So the best thing is to think spinoff articles while you zero in on the core piece, and do your research and interviewing, if possible, for all of the target pieces at the same time.

I presume you are querying for the core article, then doing the prep after the editor has given you a “go-ahead” (send it in, on speculation) or an assignment (rare for new writers). Usually, in the query response, the editor will indicate the length article they want, slants they like for their readers, some photo direction, and (if you didn’t promise it on a certain date, often three weeks after their query OK) a date certain they want the article received.

Study the articles in print about your topic to see if your key topic is unique and timely. Then list three other, closely-related topics that you can research about the same general area. A quick example: if your core article is about Bahia (Salvador), Brazil—a general travel piece about the city and huge bay—why not write another article about capoeira (a Brazilian dance/martial art brought by the slaves from Africa) and a third about candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian religion also of slave origin)?

You query about all three articles to get the go-aheads and guidance before leaving, and once in Bahia you visit each and interview appropriately when you are there. You also take lots of sharp digital photos.

The fourth and fifth sales? Or many more? These will come from selling second (or reprint) rights of the magazine articles after they see print. (No rewriting necessary; they will buy the original article, and probably a different photo or two.) Or from reslants of any of the three for newspaper travel sections in the U.S. (Here, you might particularly seek U.S. capoeira teachers and programs, using the related U.S. blogs and newsletters to pinpoint groups and publications.)

The advantages of bunching articles or topics from the outset are obvious: (1) you spread the travel costs and time over many future sales, (2) you can often get interviews about related topics from the same person, (3) photos often work in several publications, and (4) you have more time at the location to focus on the topics rather than having to scrounge for anything that looks interesting (to you!)

This is not only how you survive with freelance writing, it’s how you create topic-spoking themes (core ideas from which related articles can come) that can move you from several hundred dollars of income for one article to many thousands for many articles, all at about a third or less of your time and expenses.

See more about this at my Travel Writer’s Guide book.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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