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Monday, November 8, 2010

Double-Dip Technique #4: Pitch Two (or More) Articles at Once

How do I make the most of my limited time as a freelancer? First off, I almost never write about the same story once--I reslant everything I can. Take the evergreen topic of changing the way you eat to lose weight. I’ve covered it with the following angles:

• How eating breakfast can help you lose weight.
• How eating more fiber can help you lose weight.
• How eating more low “GI” (glycemic index) foods can help you lose weight.
• How eating more fruits and vegetables can help you lose weight.
• How eating more protein can help you lose weight.
• How using smaller plates and bowls can help you lose weight.

That’s six ways of reslanting the same basic ideas and I remembered and wrote them down in less than a minute. Yet I wrote those stories at different times. An even more efficiently way to reslant, and one of my favorite ways to "double-dip" is to pitch two very similar ideas to different markets at the same time. As long as they’re not competing markets, you’re fine even if they both get assigned.

Here's an example. Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to write about social media. Number one, I knew next to nothing about it—and needed to figure out what the heck it was. Why not get paid to do so? Number two, one of my good friends had just written a book that discussed social media and I knew I could use her for a source (and plug her book as well). And number three, just about everyone I know wastes time on Facebook and Twitter, so I figured it was a timely topic.

I pitched the idea to two of my regular markets—Chicago Parent and Complete Woman. Because I write for both of them frequently, a short pitch is all I need. Here’s the relevant section of each of the queries I sent:

Dear Tamara:

OK, you asked for some ideas for May and beyond…I’m focusing on the CP reader as woman *and* as a mom, not just as a parent, as I have in the past. Those are the pieces that interest me the most…

1. [Pitch omitted]

2. Your Online Identity: What Social Media (and How You Use it) Says About You. Millions of us log into Facebook, Myspace, and Linkedin every day, but is the use of social media helping or hurting your social life? I’ll interview a couple of experts about this subject (including Sharon Cindrich) and talk about how social media can help support your IRL (In Real Life) friendships as well as how to know when you’re going overboard with it. I’d also like to take a fun look at what certain things say about you (i.e. your choice of profile photo, types of posts, etc). I think this would be a fun yet informative piece, with a sidebar on the most popular social media sites. Again, I’m thinking 1200 words.

3. [Pitches 3 and 4 and rest of query omitted]

And here's the pitch I sent to Complete Woman:

Hi, Stephanie!

Great to hear from you…here are a couple of ideas for you and Bonnie to consider:

Your Online Identity: What Social Media Says About You

Hooked on Myspace? Spend half your day on Facebook? This piece will describe how women use Facebook, Myspace, and other forms of social media, and what their use of social media says about them. (For example, your choice of profile picture, type of posts you make, what types of people you connect with online, and how often you check in with social media all give clues to your personality—and that of your friends as well.) I’ll interview at least one expert on this timely subject and interview several “real women” for the piece, which will be a fun look at this ubiquitous technology. I estimate 1000 words for this light yet informative piece but that’s flexible depending on your needs. (I’ll also give readers an idea of how to interpret potential romantic candidates’ FB and myspace pages as well…and what to look for in a promising guy as well as “red flags.”)

[Pitch 2 and rest of query omitted]

Note the similarity and yet differences of the queries? Both sold, by the way, so next post we’ll talk about writing two articles about the same topic at the same time, a continuation of this double-dipping theme. In the meantime, if you want more queries that sold--from both me and other successful freelancers, check out Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money, second edition, or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money.


  1. Excellent post, Kelly. I find that the more I'm writing for a regional parenting pub, I'm wondering if I should be reselling the idea to another parenting pub, but then I'd have to reinterview local sources there, and that would probably take as much time? Thoughts?

  2. Hi, Kristine--

    Given the typical pay rates of regionals, this might not be worth your time. However, if they take reprints (and some regionals do), that's an easy way to resell your story with minimal time and effort.

    My $0.02.

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing "how" you did the pitches to two non-competing mags. I always wondered about that!

    And like Kristine, I have had some success with regional parenting pubs but figured I'd have to find all new local sources to resell a particular article to another market. (I just figured a publication in one state wouldn't want an article with sources from a different state.)