A lot of people ask me how to become a syndicated print columnist (because I am one), and while I was answering someone’s questions the other day, it occurred to me that this is information that all bloggers can use as a way to make money from their blog.
Like publishing AdSense links or using affiliate programs, print syndication will not make you rich, but it’s another way you can add a bit of money to your coffers. And, even if you don’t need the money, you can use print syndication as a publicity tool by getting your blog name and URL in the newspaper so you can attract new readers to your blog.
Here’s how to do that:
1. Edit your post for print.
A column is 600-700 words. This rule varies, but it’s a safe one to start with. There are no URLs, and unless you’re writing an op-ed column, your best bet is sticking to giving people advice they can use. The same stuff that does well in the blogsphere — How-to’s and lists — does well in print.
2. Understand how newspapers buy columns.
Newspapers usually either promote a staff reporter to a columnist position, or the paper picks up columns from the syndicates they already pay to subscribe to. If you do get picked up by a paper, it is a risk for the paper, and the first two or three times you will probably be a test column rather than a weekly column.
4. Don’t bother with print magazines.
Magazine columns are more than twice as difficult to get as a newspaper column. There are fewer opportunities and the pay is often more than double what newspapers pay. Because of these factors, most magazines will not let you syndicate what you write for them — they want to hold all publication rights for themselves. Which means you can’t use your blog.
3. Don’t charge a lot.
My syndicated column runs in a wide gamut of newspapers. The large papers pay nearly a dollar a word. The small papers, which are most of the papers in this country, pay less than five cents a word.
You can buy a mailing list of newspaper editors in your field (e.g. sports, travel, etc.) Each week, send a column with the headline in the subject line of the email. Write at the top of the email that if they want to print the column they should email you for pricing. This is how many syndicated columnists get started.
Keep in mind that in this situation the subject line of the email matters a lot. Study the headlines at CareerJournal to get a sense of how to write good headlines for an emailed column.
This is slow going, but you can pretty much automate sending your column out every week, so when a paper does run your column, it’s easy money.
5. Get signed with a syndicate and they do the work for you.
This might be your holy grail for syndication. There are three big syndicates: King Features, Creators, Tribune Media. These companies are famous for handling people like Dave Barry and Ann Landers. These companies pick up very few new columnists each year. They only pick up columnists who are already running in ten or fifteen newspapers. And in a lot of instances, you would have to wait for someone to die in order for you to get picked up.
Smaller syndicates will pick up writers who are not already well established as print columnists. You can send a place like that five or six sample columns, and ask if they will pick you up on a weekly basis. Then send one blog post each week.
6. Think in terms of publicity instead.
For many of you, the money to be made in print syndication is not worth nearly as much as the increased exposure for your blog. Many people offer columns to newspapers for free because it’s a great exposure.
You can ask that in exchange for giving the column to the paper for free, you want mention of your blog in the byline spot where the paper normally mentions the writer’s book or company.
Print exposure is a great way to expand an audience for your blog. I have written earlier about how to get print exposure for a blog via interviews with print journalists. But rather than waiting for a journalist to call you, syndicating is a little more proactive. And when it comes to personal success, it feels better to take action rather than wait.