Repurpose Your Prose to Make the
Most of Your Time and Effort
by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter
Although An American Editor usually tackles all things editing, I was asked to consider occasionally writing about writing. Because writing is my first love in terms of my freelance services, I’m delighted to do that, so here goes. In a way, though, this is about both!
Whenever you have a good idea or write a good article, it’s worth thinking about how to make the most of it—ways in which you can reuse or “repurpose” the same information in different ways. Among the possibilities are other articles, press releases, white papers, books and booklets, blog posts, tweets, and speeches or webinars. Even if you’ve signed a contract giving rights to the article to the initial publishing outlet, you may be able to reuse your notes and quotes in other ways, either print or online.
If you’ve written a series of articles or blog posts, you could turn them into a booklet or book (a good example of how this is done is The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper, the content of which began as An American Editor blog essays). In these days of self-publishing, that is increasingly doable.
Turn to a resource like the venerable Writer’s Market or Literary Marketplace for ideas about where else to sell the information—maybe even the same article, depending on the rights you sold for the original version. Just be sure to let new editors know that you’ve already published something on the same topic or about the same person. If you pitch the idea of reprinting or repurposing a published story, be sure to mention that the new outlet has a different readership or geographic reach, or how you would edit the original version to be different enough to be appropriate for the new one.
For me, short posts to LinkedIn have been jumping-off points for full-length articles here, as well as ones for my Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication. I’ve used the same idea, from slightly different angles, for posts and articles for different organizations—the common thread might be, say, New Year’s resolutions, but I tailor each version to the specifics of a given publishing, writing, organizational, or freelancing niche. That is, I edit myself.
If you’ve written several articles on the same topic, you might have the makings of a syndicated column—having the same pieces used in several different publications—and being paid more than once for the same work. Do some research on how syndication works, and give it a shot. Just be prepared to keep the topic rolling over time. Syndication may mean one article getting published in a dozen places, but it usually isn’t a one-shot deal; it means keeping a flow of articles going.
You also could take an original article and develop a longer, deeper version for a website, which is a popular technique for many publications nowadays, especially for newspapers. The time and space constraints of a daily paper may limit a story to a short-and-sweet version of a story, but the website offers scope for more in-depth reporting, analysis, images, and more.
Repurposing your writing doesn’t always mean going longer on a finished article; it can also mean chopping it up into smaller pieces. You could turn excerpts from or shorter versions of your articles into online posts—blogs and tweets, for instance. One article could become an entire month’s worth of posts to your Twitter account.
And articles aren’t the only projects that can be used in multiple ways, or the only ways to reuse information. I’ve used my notes from conference presentations for both onsite newsletters and subsequent articles for magazines and newsletters covering the industries or professions that were the focus of the presentations.
The outlines and talking points from an early speech about freelancing became the basis for my self-published “Get Paid to Write! Getting Started as a Freelance Writer” booklet. I just had to flesh out my notes and outline, and they turned smoothly into a booklet, which I’ve updated a few times now and may be about to expand further into a book. A couple of years later, I used the content from that publication as the starting point for a new one on “Freelancing 101: Launching Your Editorial Business” for the Editorial Freelancers Association, recasting some of the original material and adding information to make it relevant to people who are editors, proofreaders, indexers, and other members of the editorial field, as well as writers.
I’ve used a section from my “Getting Started” booklet as the basis of a column for the newsletter of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES). My editor said I could use that section just as it appears in the booklet, but I preferred to do some fine-tuning to make it unique to that publication. How much self-editing you do on repurposed articles is up to you.
I’ve also converted both speeches and articles into webinars. There are differences in how you talk about a topic and how you write about it, but the essential information can be the same. You might make more use of contractions in a speech or webinar than in an article, and you would have to practice your timing and use of emphasis, but the same material often can make both a great article and an effective presentation.
Those of us who write put a lot of time and effort into crafting our work. Capitalize on that time and effort by looking for ways to reuse the same information. Your income, and fame, will increase!
Now to think of more ways to reuse some of my own recent work …
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, author of the Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.