Thursday, March 26, 2009

Casting a Line for Reangling

Question of the day: I have what I think is a great idea that's been (tentatively) picked up by a national mag for a short FOB piece. I'm thrilled, but I'd also really like to write a longer version of the piece for a regional magazine -- a totally noncompetitive market. The story would be different enough that I'm not just re-pitching the same thing. What's the etiquette here? Am I OK to pitch to the regional mag if it's a totally different take on the story, or should I wait to see what happens with the national mag?

The answer, in my opinion, is a very affirmative yes. In fact, this is how a lot of writers earn their bread and butter: you can't always sit around waiting to be handed the big feature op, so many of them re-angle and refashion their previous sold ideas (and thus likely GOOD ideas) for different markets.

The key, as you already seem to know, is to ensure that they are indeed non-competitive (i.e, don't pitch both Self and Shape), and to tweak the story somewhat so it's not just a rehash. I used to do this fairly often with men's magazines: if I sold a cool idea to a women's mag, I found a way to re-angle a similar idea for the men's, and often times, I hit pay dirt. Regional magazines are also a great way to reuse pitches, again, as you've already discovered, because they really aren't competitors with the larger national ones (for the most part), yet still use general subject-matter pieces.

So I say go for it! Of course, I'm not the expert in reselling ideas (to be honest, I sometimes just got too lazy to do so), so if there are any other wiser souls out there, please feel free to chime in. Or I'd also welcome thoughts on how YOU resell ideas, it's a really interesting (and occasionally tricky) subject.


sarah pekkanen said...

I've recycled a few magazine/newspaper articles -- but this was years ago, when I was doing more free-lancing. But here are my thoughts: Definitely don't pitch to competing publications -- I'm with Allison on this. It's a way to piss off all the editors involved.
But in terms of regional/national, I've done a piece for The Washington Post that I then sold to a specialty national magazine, and I wrote another Post piece that I sold to People (after showing them the Post clip). In other words, I wouldn't necessarily try to hide the fact that you're "regifting" your pieces -- use the clips to show how you can tweak the article in a non-competing publication to better serve the needs of the new publication's audience.
But recycling is done all the time, and you can actually use it to your advantage by becoming something of an "expert" on a particular subject. I think my record was selling one topic -- how to make your home safer -- to a half-dozen publications. I interviewed all new people and re-wrote it every time, of course, but the basic structure remained the same.

Amy said...

This is SO helpful, Allison! Thanks so much for addressing my question!

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