Career Advice

Report It Once, Write It 5 Times

By Bonnie Burton May 28th, 2012

When a great idea comes along, a good writer will take action quickly by crafting a well-researched article. However, a smarter writer will figure out how to retool an idea into several articles for different magazines and blogs.

For freelance writers like Rachael Berkey, who writes for multiple blogs including CulturShock, DailyBLAM, and Huffington Post Books, being able to recycle article ideas is essential to her success as a writer.

“The more my writing is out there being read by more eyeballs, the better,” Berkey said. “For the most part, any byline is great. If I can duplicate a topic without the content, I preserve a little of my own creativity for my other writing goals—like fiction—and still get my name and voice out there regularly.”

Stretch your research

When interviewing someone on a specific topic writers should ask a variety of questions, covering multiple angles so they can use those answers to write articles for several publications. Author Michelle Ruberg suggested in Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing that writers organize their research into topic files. Fill these files with potential leads and clips about the topics that will be expanded into different article assignments.

“Central to being an expert scribe on a topic is knowing what the trends are and having plenty of story ideas to pursue,” Ruberg said. “Every few months browse through the folders, both those online and in your files to refresh your memory and keep your research up to date.”

More money and exposure

Writers can legally resell their articles if the publication doesn’t own all rights. When sending out queries to other publications, the writer must inform them of where the article was previously published.

If writers don’t have time to send out query emails, they should consider a syndication service that will do the work for them. According to Get a Freelance Life from, “In most cases, you hand over in their entirety the articles you wish to resell and the syndicate uses its resources to sell your articles to publications all across the United States and abroad. You’re paid either a percentage of what the syndicate makes from selling your piece or a set fee that the syndicate gives you for the rights to sell your work for a certain amount of time.”

Recycle ideas

If reselling articles isn’t an option, a writer can still retool an idea to make a new article. The publication or blog will appreciate the fresh take on the topic.

“When I recycle ideas, I always start with a blank document,” Berkey said. “I have seen duplicated topics from other writers where it looks like they only changed a few phrases here and there or a paragraph. That’s not really recycling an idea to me. That’s recycling your whole piece. If you’re going to recycle for different publications and make sure you’re giving that client unique content, not just something you’ve done a find-replace command on to make it different ‘enough.'”

Change your tone

Every magazine or blog has a set voice and agenda. Writers should read both current and back issues of publications they’re pitching to get a feel for the readership. If it’s a blog, read every post and pay close attention to the readers’ comments to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.

“The nice thing about the sites I write for is that they have very different audiences so I can shift my tone significantly and reuse topics simply based on that,” Berkey said. “For instance, I write about books for HelloGiggles and aspects of geek culture, but the audience is primarily young, female, and usually looking for something more tongue-in-cheek. For Huffington Post Books, I write about books obviously, and DailyBLAM, I review books and movies, but I try to write with a more journalistic voice rather than from the personal narrative.”

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