Freelance writers can increase their incomes exponentially by getting a syndicated newspaper column since each article will be published in several publications rather than just one. As an added bonus, the exposure in multiple markets can lead to more writing assignments. There are different ways to accomplish this career goal, including self-syndication or using a syndicate. Regardless of the approach, the most important aspects will be the writer's perseverance and the column's marketability.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Contact the section editors of your local newspapers via phone or e-mail to suggest story ideas and ask for any writing assignments on a freelance basis. Getting a few articles published in a local paper will allow you to build a portfolio and a solid reputation. Poynter Jobs Page Editor Joe Grimm states that no newspaper editor will give you a column without seeing proof of your skills, talent and reliability as a writer first. Those first articles will help you become familiar with the publication's style guidelines and pave the way for your future career as columnist.
Write a query letter that describes the topic, length and frequency of your newspaper column as well as the legal rights you are offering. The topic should have a wide reach and you should keep the copyright for maximum marketability. Columnist Moira Allen stresses the importance of a "broad appeal." In other words, the less localised your articles are, the more they will appeal to a nationwide audience. Most importantly, strive to be an expert on the subject. The article length should be a fixed number of words since newspapers plan their layouts accordingly. Frequency can vary from daily, weekly to monthly, depending on the publications' budget and publishing schedule.
Select five to 10 of your best articles and make multiple hard copies, or "clips," of each one. Decide whether you want to self-syndicate or use an already established syndicate to sell your column to other newspapers. The major difference between these two options is in the end result. Because a syndicate sells content to all kinds of publications, it bills the writer for its services by taking a cut of his earnings--up to 50 per cent, according to syndicated columnist Dr. Gini Graham Scott. Self-syndication lets you keep 100 per cent of your pay but takes time away from writing.
Mail the query letter and clips to newspaper editors at different publications or to selected syndicates. If you want them to return your clips, include a self-addressed envelope with postage. Writer's Market suggests to follow up with everyone you mailed a package to by calling or e-mailing in accordance with the publications' submission guidelines.
Tips and warnings
- Build your portfolio without focusing on the pay. Once you have proven your worth as a writer, the money will follow.
- Beware of signing all rights away for higher pay per article. You are better off earning less per article but getting that column published in more than one publication, since this not only results in higher total revenue but also more visibility for your work.
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