In the space of a few weeks I received emails from a few travel writers asking very similar questions. They wanted to know: “can I resell my online stories to other websites” and “can I resell an online story to print magazines?”
These are excellent questions, and if handled incorrectly, they can cause some problems.
Let’s look at each question individually:
Yes, you are correct. It is bad form to give, or resell, any of your identical articles to another website or blog. Both sites may suffer ranking and traffic loss due to the duplicate content.
And the editor will be very upset if you haven’t disclosed that its been published online somewhere else. They expect original content.
One choice is to remove the article from your website and then donate (or resell) it to another website. Or, you can write fresh content about the same topic for the other website.
The exception to this is syndicated sites, where the syndicator gives credit to the originating site. Also known as syndicated content, you want them include a link back to your original content, and to use the proper metatags. If handled properly, this tells the search engines where the content originated and keeps duplicate content from becoming an issue. (Although beyond the scope of this article, you can read more at this link at Google support.)
Savvy magazine editors will check to see if your story is anywhere online before they accept it for publication. I once got caught out by an editor when I forgot about an article already posted on my writer’s website.
I learned a valuable lesson: always check online prior to pitching an editor.
Editors don't want to see the same, or similar stories online if they’re considering publishing it in their magazine. Editors believe that any story you’re selling should be original. They should not see it online.
This is fair. If travel writers start selling their website stories to print magazines, the magazine editors will get complaints from their subscribers. "Why should I pay for a subscription if I can find the stories online for free?" they will ask.
If you want to resell a story to a print publication, make sure you remove it from your blog or website first.
Now for the good news about this situation:
After your story is published in print, you can wait a suitable period of time (3-6 months is acceptable) and then post it back on your blog or website.
But, there are a couple of exceptions:
So, if you re-post your story back on your website after a magazine posted it to theirs, it will be duplicate content. You’re taking a risk with search engine algorithms for having duplicate content online.
Oh, the irony! After all, it’s your story!
I received this thorny question from a PitchTravelWrite newsletter subscriber:
This excellent question affects most freelance writers during their careers. It’s a major point of contention in the freelance writing community.
Theoretically, editors are supposed to ask our permission to post our articles on their websites.
However, if the editor issues a contract stating that your article may, or will be, posted on their website, you won’t have any recourse. After all, if you signed the contract, then you’ve agreed to this condition.
Now it’s time for a reality check. The vast majority of magazine editors do not issue contracts. Of the 200 magazines, specialty magazines, custom publications, newspapers, trade journals, in-flights, and on-boards I’ve written for, perhaps only 15% have ever bothered issuing contracts.
This means that if a magazine has not issued a contract, or purchased any rights, you have recourse to confront the editor about publishing your article twice. You can claim that your agreement (usually via email) only permits the editor to publish your story in their print magazine.
You are then within your rights to demand an extra payment for the publication posting your article online.
The exceptions are:
(a) If the editor has issued you a contract, or,
(b) If the editor mentioned in his email to you that it is the magazine’s policy to also post your work on their website.
However, now let’s look at the practicalities of this situation.
If you’ve been writing for a publication for some time and they’ve published several your articles in print and online, and things are going swimmingly, do you really want to make a fuss?
By confronting the editor with demands for extra payments for your online articles, you might suddenly find your relationship with that editor go cold, very quickly. The editor is likely to think you’ve become a high maintenance, or “difficult” writer and is not going to be as keen to accept your future story pitches for publication.
Certainly, you’re legally entitled to request extra payments from any magazine that runs your work online, unless the magazine states otherwise on a contract or in a letter. But that is not the issue here, unless you’ve made this one of your standard business practices.
I do know of some freelance writers who request extra payments for any of their stories published online. If you can do this gracefully early in your negotiations, do it. However, if not done with professionalism and finesse, I think you can scotch your chance of establishing a long and fruitful relationship with that editor.
My personal view is that if an editor chooses to additionally post my articles online, they’re helping me establish a stronger online presence. This, in turn, enhances my credibility with other editors when they check me out online.
I may be missing out on some short-term ca$h here, but at least my freelance writing reputation and image online has been improved. And, I haven’t trodden on the toes of editors with whom I’m trying to cultivate a productive relationship. I’d rather continue my relationship with a print editor for future paid assignments.
Ultimately, you’ll have to make a personal business decision as to whether you want to request extra payment for these articles. Or, simply to leave it alone, as I have done.
So those are three tricky situations. Related to this topic is this question:
What about reselling your previously published print articles to other print publications? Is this okay?
I’ve resold as many as 300 reprint articles—and made a ton of money from them. I’ve resold some of my print articles as many as ten times, with very little extra effort.
In my article, The Art of Reselling Your Articles I cover this topic in depth. Reselling your articles can work in many situations, but there’s an art to it.
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past nine years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.