Syndicated columnists write for newspapers. They are often employed by newspapers. Being syndicated is practically a full-time job. You have to be dedicated and really focus on the syndication-end of your career if you want to make it work.
True? Not from this syndicated columnist’s perspective.
Syndication can mean all those things. But it can be so much more – and bring added income to your freelance writing career – if you think outside the syndication bubble.
Many writers have topics they return to regularly. Parenting, gardening, money matters and food are just a few. Freelance away with your topic of choice. Sell first rights to your articles. Then, when you have a bunch – say a dozen or so – group them together as a “syndicated series” and offer them to the local newspapers in your area (or beyond). You can sell the group for much less than you’d be able to if you were giving away first rights, but you’ve already been paid for first rights. Anything you can take in now is gravy.
As a freelancer, you probably deal with at least a few contracts with magazines, businesses or other entities hiring you to do their writing. Typically, those contracts talk about rights – which ones you keep and which you give up to the publication.
When you approach an entity as a syndicated columnist, offering syndicated work, you are assured of keeping your right to publish your article elsewhere in the future. With some articles, this may not be a major consideration, but it could be very important with others. Syndication can help you maintain your rights as a writer. (And, as an added bonus, you may not have to sign as many nasty contracts!)
As a freelancer, you may do copy writing for businesses in the form of brochures, annual reports, even press releases. Local businesses benefit from local newspaper coverage and they know this. Take your copy writing to a whole new level by approaching a local business with the idea of ghost writing a newspaper column. Think Q & A column for a law firm, cooking advice column from the owner of a local restaurant, health column from the local medical clinic.
You do the writing; the business takes the credit and gives you a paycheck. Newspapers are looking for good, quality copy. They also prefer local pieces to ones that they pull from the Associated Press. If you offer a newspaper a quality-written column submitted on a regular basis – for free – most will jump at the chance to publish it. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your syndicated (ghost-written) columns in more than one newspaper. What will your business say about this? Two words: Thank you!
Once you get going on a certain topic, or ghost writing for a particular business, you’ll find your stockpile of words builds quickly. What do you have when you’ve amassed a bunch of columns that center around the same topic? Book fodder, my friend: You’ve got information for a book. Compile the articles. Put them in an order that makes sense. Combine when needed. Lengthen when needed. Write more. Edit. But, in essence, your column writing has served as a foundation for a book. If you’ve been ghost writing for a business, there’s a good chance that the folks you’ve been working with will welcome the opportunity to collaborate (i.e. finance) with you on the book. For instance a medical clinic may self-publish the book as a marketing tool to give to new patients.
You don’t have to go book length to cash a paycheck. Perhaps the law firm you write for prefers a booklet format to give to potential clients. The same could go for a financial planner. Or greenhouse owner. Or veterinarian. And the list goes on. Bottom line (because the bottom line is important to a freelance writer) is that you get paid to ghost write the columns. You will get paid again after editing and putting those columns into book or booklet form.
Not all syndicated columnists are named Erma, and an era where columnists are employed as full-time newspaper staff is no longer the norm. The world is changing; the way we communicate is changing. By thinking outside the box, good writers can find any number of ways to syndicate their work, selling it over and over and reaping the profits. All it takes is a little creativity and my favorite four-syllable word: syndication.