Making the Most of Your Inventory
by Dana Cassell
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One of the neatest things about writing for a living (even if
it's only a part-time living) is that we get to re-sell our
"What inventory?" you ask.
All that information you have stuffed in file folders and
computer files. You know -- the interviews you've conducted and
transcribed. The how-to tips and advice and backgrounders you've
gathered from all those experts whose brains you've picked. The
statistics you've dug out of government studies and academic
research. The anecdotes you've collected from people who have
experienced what you've written about.
Chances are you have a bulging manila or hanging file folder for
each article you've written, stuffed full of "inventory" -- some
of which you used in the article, much of it sitting unused.
And not using that inventory is what keeps so many writers from
earning a decent living -- because time is such a precious
commodity for the writer. You are limited by the number of hours
in a week or a month as to how many projects you can research and
write. But all that "inventory" hidden away in those folders is
virtually time-free. You've already spent the time to gather it.
About all you have to do now is package it -- which means your
time invested in the next uses of it could yield way more per
hour than your original project did. Or, you can sell it for
less and still make the same amount per hour invested.
So how do you use your inventory? Here are eight ways to sell
your research material more than once:
- Use the information from several related articles to make
others. Let's say you've written a bunch of articles about all
the tourist and vacation spots in your area or state. Pull out
those spots that cost the least and put together an article on
"10 Fun Weekends for Frugal Families."
- Look for different audiences for the material. For example,
you've researched the dangers of poisonous house plants for a
child safety article. In the process, you discovered that many
of these same house plants present similar dangers to pets. Use
the basic information again for a similar piece targeted to puppy
owners. In instances like this, you may need to make a few extra
phone calls to obtain some quotes from a veterinarian or two, but
the time investment will still be minuscule compared to starting
a brand new topic from scratch.
- Look at different age groups. Information on the damage the
sun's rays can do to the skin could be slanted to a baby care
magazine, a teen magazine, a seniors magazine.
- Keep a list of reprint markets that buy articles in your field
of interest. Once you've sold first rights to a piece and it's
been published, offer reprint rights to other publications and
websites. This can be especially profitable, because you
probably will not have to do any additional research or writing.
- Cannibalize your articles. Look at your sold articles to see
where bits and pieces can be resold as fillers or stand-alone
photos and captions or quizzes or "10 Ways/Tips" pieces.
- Look for non-competing magazines that have different readers
with common concerns. For example, if you've written an
article for a pet store trade journal on dealing with
shoplifting, you can reuse most of the material in an article for
a sporting goods trade journal. Similarly, an article on family
values or dealing with tragedy written for a Baptist magazine
could likely be reslanted with little effort for a Presbyterian
- Pull out your articles every few years to see which can be
updated -- probably for the same magazines. You see these
articles regularly -- such and such revisited 10 years later.
Where are they now? What has happened in the last three years?
These articles require a bit more work than the previous six, but
the sales are usually easy and the research quick because you
already know where to go for it. Plus, a nice chunk of the new
article will be a recap of what you wrote the first time around.
- Consider other media. If you've done several articles on one
subject, consider reusing the material in a book, a column, a
seminar, an audio tape, a newsletter, and so on.
So think about scheduling a day or two every month, or one week
every quarter to review your inventory and parlay it into
- The 20% Solution: How Much Do You Need to Change an Article to Make it Original?, by Moira Allen
- Can I Sell a Previously Published Article? by Moira Allen
- One Article, Many Checks: Selling Reprints, by Kelly James-Enger
- Selling Reprints, by Moira Allen
Copyright © 2001 Dana Cassell
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Dana K. Cassell has published more than
2,000 articles in nearly 200 publications, and has authored or
ghostwritten several books, including Food for Thought: The
Sourcebook of Obesity and Eating Disorders (Facts On File) and
four e-books for Intellectua.com (How to Market Your Freelance
Article Ideas for Maximum Income, How to Set Your Fees as a
Freelancer or Independent Consultant, How to Market Your Writing
or Editing Skills, and How to Break in as a Freelance Writer).
Dana is also founder of Cassell Network of Writers and webmaster
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