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Revise, Resize, Recycle!

Perhaps you’re familiar with the adage “Don’t work harder; work smarter.” Although writing is always hard work (because it requires a lot of serious thought, organization, and precise word choice), we writers can save ourselves a little bit of unnecessary work if we learn to do what the title of this blog post says: Revise, resize, and recycle. Another way of saying it might be “Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

It took me a while to learn this important lesson, but it’s one that I’m reminded of quite often. Here’s what I mean by “revise, resize, and recycle.”

For quite some time after my first published article appeared in May 1981, I labored to turn out completely new articles, every one of them researched from scratch and freshly written. After numerous rejections and a few isolated acceptances, I became aware of something called “rights.” (Yes, I know. I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer, or just plain dense!) I learned that if I sold only first rights to a newly created article, I could later market the same article to a second publication after it had appeared in the first publication. I began to submit some of my previously published articles to other publications, offering reprint rights. And they, too, began to sell.

The work required to sell reprints was still tough. It required that I study the possible markets to determine which publications published the types of articles I was offering, match the length and scope of each article reprint with each prospect, and, if the original article didn’t meet those qualification, revise and/or resize it until it did meet the editor’s specifications. That usually meant cutting, sometimes reorganizing a little, providing references and/or photographs, or doing something else until the original article met the standard. Even at that, it required less work than I had put into the original. The benefit, however, was that I could sell and resell essentially the same article over and over ad infinitum. That’s working smarter rather than harder.

I was reminded of this important lesson by some of the mail that arrived in my box as recently as yesterday. I received contributor’s copies and a check (an important matter for any serious writer!) of a publication that included my article “Spiritual Anorexia Nervosa,” which was originally published in the March 1985 issue of Good News Broadcaster. (That article proved to be a foot in the door, leading to the sale, five years later, of two other articles to Confident Living, the successor publication to GNB.) Since its original publication, I have been able to resell essentially the same article, usually with a few tweeks or updating of statistics and with the editors giving it slightly different titles, at least three or four times. All told, that’s not a bad return on my original investment of time researching and writing! (Incidentally, or perhaps I should say providentially, a few days after the original print publication reached readers, broadcaster Ken Boone read it over his national Family Radio Network program–and I just happened to be listening at the time!)

I have several other articles I could use as examples of this sell-then-resell lesson, but I think you get the point. Sometimes, I haven’t even had to do the marketing; editors contacted me after having read the original and asked permission to reprint the articles in their publication. Always for another fee. Although that fee is usually less than that received for the original, it’s still money in the bank! The gift that keeps on giving!

So when you’re preparing an article, don’t think only of the first publication to which you’re submitting it. Think of other potential markets to which you can submit the same article later. Just be sure that you sell only first rights to the original publication and then offer reprint rights to all subsequent publications to which you submit it. Also, be sure to check each publication’s guidelines and adjust your original to meet those requirements, if they are different. It also helps to think of topics that are “evergreens,” that is, subjects that can be used year after year over a long period of time. (My original “Spiritual Anorexia Nervosa” article was published in 1985, and it’s still being published in 2018, more than thirty years later!)

Now, get busy digging through your tearsheet file, and begin identifying possible articles you can market as reprints. Then revise, resize, and recycle!

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

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