Ask a Freelancer
I Have No Idea How to Syndicate My Work. What Should I Do?By Nicole Dieker August 11th, 2015
I’m publishing a lot of work these days but as soon as an article goes live and I get paid, I forget about it. I feel that I might be missing out on a lot of opportunities to syndicate my existing content or adapt it for use elsewhere.
—Joining The Syndicate
Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is that it’s going to be very hard to syndicate your own work. The good news is that you have plenty of opportunities to adapt your work into multiple articles.
A quick overview: “Syndication” refers to publishing a piece more than once for different publications. It’s like watching The Simpsons reruns on networks that aren’t Fox. When you syndicate your work, you’re essentially creating your own reruns.
Publications syndicate their content all the time. You’ll go to Time, for example, and read a piece with a disclaimer at the end that reads: “This article originally appeared on YourTango.” Syndication tends to travel upwards; that is, a larger publication will syndicate content from a smaller publication. The larger publication benefits by getting high-quality content; the smaller publication benefits by getting its content distributed to a larger audience.
But this is usually handled between editors. And even if someone reaches out to you directly, that might not mean much.
Why? First, you may not have the right to syndicate or reprint your own work. One of my contracts, for example, gives the publication 90 days of exclusive rights to my story, with nonexclusive rights thereafter. Another contract gives the publication the copyright on my finished work as well as future distribution rights. Understand your rights and talk to a lawyer if you need to.
Even if you do have the rights to reprint your own work, you have to be careful. Many publications specifically ask freelancers not to submit work that has been published elsewhere. These publications don’t want reruns; they want fresh pieces. Part of the reason for this comes down to editorial protection: Each publication has its own voice, and there’s a good chance whatever you’re trying to republish will need to be edited. And part of it comes down to originality. A piece published elsewhere loses some of its luster—it’s like driving a new car off the lot.
So taking an article you’ve written and trying to pitch it to another website is probably not going to go well for you—and it probably won’t make your original client very happy either.
However, there is one straightforward way to repurpose your writing for syndication. The first way is getting publishers to pick up work off your blog (you need a relatively high profile to get to this point). Contently co-founder Shane Snow discusses how this type of syndication benefits both you and the publication:
My own blogs are occasionally syndicated by publishers like Business Insider or Time, and this builds my audience. Those publishers can benefit from in-depth content (much like the kind that S.S. McClure brokered) that their audience hasn’t been exposed to, and I can reach more people with my brand.
How do you get a publication to syndicate your blog? Well, if your blog post is compelling enough (read: viral) they’ll probably reach out to you. But you can also pitch them, as Belle Beth Cooper at blogging platform Ghost.org explains:
Republishing usually happens in one of two ways: either as a one-off agreement to republish a single piece, or as an ongoing agreement to republish any new content from a particular writer or blog.
Some editors with ongoing agreements will reach out to their writers when they see a piece they want to republish. In other cases, the writer will send appropriate pieces to their republishing editors for consideration.
Her entire article, which includes a sample republishing pitch email, is worth reading. Cooper notes that, as with any other type of pitch, you want to make sure your work fits the publication and its audience—and that it helps if you already have a relationship with, or an introduction to, the editor. You also want to make sure you’re reaching out to a publication that syndicates content; not all pubs do, so do your research beforehand.
Don’t forget that you can often get multiple stories out of the work you’re already doing, which is a more lucrative path than syndication. I recently completed an interview that I’m going to develop into two separate pieces, with my editor’s knowledge and approval. As I’ve written before, there are many ethical ways of getting multiple stories out of the same subject or source. I quoted journalist Ann Friedman in a past “Ask a Freelancer” column, and I’m going to quote her again:
Write every piece three times. And I don’t mean three drafts. I mean you should be pitching and writing every idea, with three similar but not identical angles, for three different outlets.
So don’t forget about your work after the article goes live and gets paid. Share it, put a link on your personal blog, include a link in your weekly email newsletter, send the “ICYMI” tweet, craft a Tumblr post that includes an article link plus a behind-the-scenes anecdote about your writing process, and keep on putting in the work to get that piece in front of as many people as possible.
And then, start doing it with the next piece you publish.
Nicole Dieker stopped doing her weekly Tumblr roundups when it started taking her 30 minutes just to link to all the pieces she published that week. She would rather use that time to answer your freelancing questions, so send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.Image by Bohbeh