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Thread: Changing an Article for Re-Publication

  1. #1
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Changing an Article for Re-Publication

    I've read that a lot of writers will essentially sell the same article to different places, simply by tweaking the content. My question is, how much variation is required for you to sell the same article (with first rights) to more than one magazine?

    To illustrate, I have an article I'm pitching to a national sewing magazine on how to sew doll clothes. Originally, the article was a three-part series, about 6,000 words long. To pitch it to the magazine, I condensed it to a single article, about 2,700 words. (This may still be too long, but I'll discuss that with the editor if/when they approve the idea.) Now, I have another magazine that I regularly write for, which specializes in historic costuming. I thought perhaps I could sell them the same article, provided I changed it enough. I would return to the original three-part series, and I would angle the subject matter so it focuses more on historic costumes, rather than sewing in general.

    As I was revising the article, I realized there's a lot of content that, by its very nature, must overlap. The section about how to draft your own patterns, for example. I can rephrase sentences and adjust things so you're drafting historical costumes rather than modern doll clothes, but it's still the same basic idea. Is this okay? Basically, both articles would have the same bullet point outline, but I would tweak each one to be either modern or historical, based on which magazine I'm selling it to. Some paragraphs might essentially be saying the same thing, just rephrased. Is that okay?

    I don't want to get in trouble for selling the same concept twice, so I really need to know where the line is drawn.

  2. #2
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin *Amel*'s Avatar
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    I think it is okay to use the same basic format for the articles so long as you do not use the same words. From the way you are describing things, it sounds like they will be two distinct articles, each one focussed on a particular topic. The way your articles appear in each magazine will ultimately be decided by the editors, who may have a specific format they want you to follow. Like you said, 2,700 words may be too long for the sewing magazine, and they may ask you to condense it further. Assuming you write both articles in the format you have in mind, though, you might set them both aside for a couple of days and then come back to each one separately to tweak the language further.

  3. #3
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    What worries me is that each article would be teaching the same basic things: how to draft patterns, how to choose fabric and tools, how to sew doll clothes. I can rephrase each paragraph and change the order around, and I can slant each one differently, but it's still teaching the same subjects. Anyone with half a brain could look at them side by side and say--Look! This is the same article, just rewritten. That bothers me.

    Here's an idea: Maybe I can remove a couple of topics from the one I'll be submitting to the national magazine, since they'll want a shorter article anyway. Rather than just condensing several subjects, I could zoom in on one or two in detail. That might help, since it would change the focus of the article. Then there would be a more obvious difference between the two. Does that sound better?

  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin *Amel*'s Avatar
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    It is hard to say without actually seeing the articles and the specific language you are using. But I think the more you narrow down the focus of each topic, the less similar the articles will seem. To me, sewing doll clothes is very different than sewing historical costumes even if I am following the same basic steps. It's kind of like making different kinds of juice in a blender. The basic steps are the same, but the flavors will be different depending on what kinds of fruit are used.

  5. #5
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    True, but the steps for patternmaking, for example, are the same, regardless of whether you're making a Victorian gown or a modern business suit. Sure, you change it up based on the shape and dimensions of what you're making, but the directions are going to be the same: take some muslin and fit the pattern to the doll. There isn't much I can do to change that, unless I showed, step by step, the process of making a historically inspired pattern versus a modern pattern. And I don't think there's enough room in either article to go into that much depth. So the basic article would remain the same in both cases, describing how to take a piece of muslin and fit it to the doll. I could go into more detail about each historical layer, for the second article, but I'm not sure that would be enough to set it apart. There would still be too much overlap--or at least, that's what I'm fearing. I guess the only way to know for sure is to contact the national magazine and see exactly what they want to focus on and go from there.

  6. #6
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    I think that the basic steps are always going to be similar, and, unless the magazine in question runs a standard 'Basic Info' page (many crochet or needlework magazines routinely describe the basic stitches) you have to explain the basics for the brand-new reader.
    Check the house style, they may have a preferred format for that kind of thing. I have a couple hundred back-copies of 'Doll Crafter' from when porcelain dolls were hot, most 'how-to' articles start out with a bullet-point list of all the supplies, and how to pour the greenware.

    I'd go with taking the historic costuming stuff out of the national magazine article, if they're going want it shorter, anyway. Slant them differently, a general article on doll clothes would describe the scale of the fabric and the pattern, while for historic doll costumers, natural fibers are going to be preferred over modern synthetics, etc. I know that in the 1800's the sleeves were cut differently. (And I don't know much else - it's thanks to people like yourself writing articles that I picked up this much.)

    There are writers in a lot of the big specialty hobby magazines that have made a career out of really plumbing all the details of a particular subject, I don't see why you can't do the same. There are always new readers coming along, and people who haven't tried basic techniques.

  7. #7
    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    If you have sold to other magazines or journals, what did your contract stipulate about your rights. Did you keep the rights? Was the article you sold exclusive. What was the time frame if exclusive?

    Many writers do resell articles they have sold in the past, but updated with any new information and or relevant additions.

    I have seen articles reprinted with disclaimers of previous publication in such and such magazine or journal on such and such a date. It did not stop me from reading since I had never read it the first time.
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  8. #8
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thothguard51 View Post
    If you have sold to other magazines or journals, what did your contract stipulate about your rights. Did you keep the rights? Was the article you sold exclusive. What was the time frame if exclusive?
    The other magazine I regularly sell to buys first publication rights and six months of exclusivity. After six months, I can republish the article wherever I please. They will consider articles that have been previously published, too.

  9. #9
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I would suggest putting the previous work aside and rewriting from scratch the sections that cover the same material. Repetition of remedial content is unavoidable but you should avoid looking like you are recycling any actual text even if this would be legal.

  10. #10
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Thanks.

  11. #11
    figuring it all out Lia_joy's Avatar
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    I have a very similar question about using material from my blog in articles I submit elsewhere.

    I'm very new to submitting articles. Most of my ideas overlap with things I've written in my blog, or in some cases, I find that I blogged something that I expected to just be sharing about my day, but I later see how that piece, with considerable editing and polishing, would be a perfect fit for a magazine or blog that is calling for submissions... Many say they don't want a piece that's been published online already, but if I used a a couple of the same paragraphs with an article that had a very different slant and a lot of new/different content, and mention that it's been re-worked? Would most places dismiss it as being already published?
    Lia Joy Rundle
    Typing one-handed with a baby on my lap. Please forgive typos and the hurried nature of my posts!
    Self Directed Woman -- Self Directed Childbirth

  12. #12
    Freelance Writer Orianna2000's Avatar
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    Just a quick update. I decided to make the two articles as separate as possible. One covers patternmaking, the other doesn't. One only briefly mentions necessary sewing tools, while the other goes into detail about what supplies you need. The parts that absolutely must overlap will be trickier.

    I went ahead and pitched the article to the magazine. An assistant wrote back almost immediately and said she'll pass the idea on to the various editors and they'll get back to me, but it might take a few months. I hate waiting that long, especially when I know I'd get a much quicker response from the other magazine, but I'm just going to have to be patient. I want to give the national magazine first shot, since they (probably) pay more and the publicity is greater. Once I know what slant they want me to take for their article, I'll be able to write the other one, ensuring that it's different enough to pass.

  13. #13
    Tribal Scribe Neporsche's Avatar
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    I have actually done this on a regular basis and while the core concepts are exactly the same, I find that here are always multiple ways to present it. The art of writing becomes presenting the same thing in a different light. While I couldn't make a doll to save my life, I do tend to write about children and education. Kids not doing hw is always a hot topic and in reality there are only four reasons a child won't do hw. Every article I have published touches on these four, just presented in a different slant. I think your real battle shouldn't be focusing on the material, but the slant of the whole article. Ultimately, in non fiction, the audience dictates how we write as you adjust your perspective to each audience, the alterations should fall into place.

    ~N
    Last edited by Neporsche; 01-27-2013 at 06:09 PM.
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  14. #14
    figuring it all out Lia_joy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neporsche View Post
    I have actually done this on a regular basis and while the core concepts are exactly the same, I find that here are always multiple ways to present it. The art of writing becomes presenting the same thing in a different light. While I couldn't make a doll to save my life, I do tend to write about children and education. Kids not doing hw is always a hot topic and in reality there are only four reasons a child won't do hw. Every article I have published touches on these four, just presented in a different slant. I think your real battle shouldn't be focusing on the material, but the slant of the whole article. Ultimately, in non fiction, the audience dictates how we write as you adjust your perspective to each audience, the alterations should fall into place.

    ~N
    Do you find yourself ever repeating a really strong phrase or paragraph? For example, I have a blog post comparing planning a wedding to planning a birth. Most of it could be re-written, polished and made to fit the slant of the publication i wanted to submit to, but my idea is to basically re-write the piece around this one paragraph:

    The bridezilla doesn't get told again and again that her experience is insignificant, she isn't reminded condescendingly by every professional she encounters that a healthy marriage is all that matters. She doesn't ask for permission to have the wedding of her dreams. She plans. She obsesses. She throws tantrums. She enlists her husband to argue on her behalf. She doesn't back down.

    Would it be in bad taste to submit someplace that requests only unpublished work while re-using that paragraph?
    Lia Joy Rundle
    Typing one-handed with a baby on my lap. Please forgive typos and the hurried nature of my posts!
    Self Directed Woman -- Self Directed Childbirth

  15. #15
    Tribal Scribe Neporsche's Avatar
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    Hey Lia,

    I find myself renaming terms and rewording things over and over. The worst was when I had to do an interview about an article and had to keep track of which terms I used in the related article. In my opinion, it would be in bad taste to lift the paragraph as is, but not if you reworded it.

    ~N
    You have been criticizing yourself for years and that hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. - Louise Hay

    Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.- Jack London

  16. #16
    figuring it all out Lia_joy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neporsche View Post
    Hey Lia,

    I find myself renaming terms and rewording things over and over. The worst was when I had to do an interview about an article and had to keep track of which terms I used in the related article. In my opinion, it would be in bad taste to lift the paragraph as is, but not if you reworded it.

    ~N
    that helps, thanks
    Lia Joy Rundle
    Typing one-handed with a baby on my lap. Please forgive typos and the hurried nature of my posts!
    Self Directed Woman -- Self Directed Childbirth

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