Syndicate Your Work

From Dan Smith:

Syndication was once the backbone of print publishing and remains a significant part in nearly every medium, including – maybe especially – the Internet. Syndication is the act of getting your work published widely, often paying you for a small fee per outlet, priced depending upon that outlet’s readership numbers.

Dan SmithThe New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and other huge newspapers have had their own syndicates for years, featuring their own employees’ work. Other syndicates have published everything from comic strips to editorials to old television shows.  Seen “I Love Lucy” lately? If you have, it is likely the result of syndication. Darrell Laurant, who founded and operates The Writers Bridge in Lynchburg, Virginia,  publishes, on a daily basis, calls for writers who can do a variety of tasks. Many of those are requests from syndicates looking for specific content for Web sites, magazines, newspapers and the like.

If you have a non-fiction book based on some kind of expertise, you would do well to write a number of articles related to what’s in the book and push them to print and electronic outlets. Publishers love that because it gives your book exposure. It also helps establish your commercial appeal and brings in a little money while you sleep, as my brother always is quick to point out.

When you have a few examples of your work (weekly newspapers are a good place to start, since they are often underfunded and open to running columns of all kinds; they won’t often pay for them, but you’re in print) put them together and shop them to a syndicate that appeals to you or specializes in your topic.

Just like any publisher, a syndicate will have submission guidelines. Find them online and adhere to them. All too often in publishing, initial impression and adherence to form is as important as what you’re submitting, so don’t deviate.

Here’s a brief look at steps you can follow:

  1. Determine if your work has value in a specific market or geographic area. Look for similar articles in publications by performing a Google search.
  2. Get your work published somewhere. Small newspapers, magazines and generalist websites are a good start. Join the Writers Bridge or other writers' resource sites and take an active part in the daily listings.
  3. Write a good – but brief – bio of yourself and your publishing history. A cover letter or introductory email should express what you offer the publisher and how you might market yourself. Present your published work attractively.
  4. Find specific syndicates, newspapers, magazines or whatever your interest is, check their preferences for print or electronic submission, and send your information.
  5. Follow up with an email, letter or phone call to someone specific at the publisher.

Lists of syndicates may prove of value for finding markets for your work such as these from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the DMOZ Open Directory ProjectPenelope Trunk's guide to print syndication may be useful, as may be Gina Graham Scott's "how-to" on syndication (several years old, according to the publisher, but still worth a look).

Like so much in publishing, it is not likely that syndication of your work will result in enough compensation for you to quit your day job, but it will widen the audience for your work and provide its own brand of satisfaction.

Dan Smith, a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, is editor and co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

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