How to Turn One Story into Three
First let me explain that it was International Living Magazine that sent me to Thailand. My brief was to do an article for the magazine and some “postcards” for the website. However, the editors also wanted a “journal” for a special issue for their long-time subscribers, plus a real estate article for Island Properties Report. I’ll get paid separately for those.
I spent 14 days in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and on the tropical island of Phuket. Keeping a journal, even if you haven’t been asked to write one, is something I’d really recommend you do. My “IL journal,” over 13,000 words long, has 35 entries. I’d say at least 25 of these have potential to be turned into full-scale articles for other publications.
Take Bangkok. Why cram all my experiences of the city into just one article? I can do a full-length piece on “Bangkok’s Scenic Backwaters: a long-tail boat trip down the canals of the Chrao Phraya River.” I can do a piece on Spirit Houses. Another on the city’s five must-see Buddhist temples. Another on what it’s like to undergo a traditional Thai massage. And if I can find the right publication, a piece on the city’s seedy nightlife.
But that’s not the only way I operate. With a bit of tweaking, I can sell the same story twice — or more. Look at the opening paragraphs of these two articles:
- Sample One
Can you hear that strange rattling noise across West Bow’s cobblestones? It’s the death coach of the Satanist Major Weir – a noose awaits him at the Grassmarket gallows.
Those muffled bagpipes? A piper’s ghost, trapped in passageways below the Royal Mile. Now sniff the air — there’s a meaty smell wafting down Canongate. This street is haunted by an aristocratic madman. He roasted a kitchen boy on a spit — then ate him.
- Sample Two
A moonless night at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile — and it’s Ghostbusters gone mad. Thirty people are following a black-cloaked witch down Advocate’s Close. From the screeches, something nasty is happening in the City Chambers porticoes… maybe it’s to do with the body-snatcher now racing down High Street. And here comes a vampire, chivvying his charges behind St Giles High Kirk. There’ll soon be more screams if the trailing brown-cowled monk is a “jumper-oot.”
Sold to different publications, both basically tell the same story — a story about Edinburgh ghost walks. Get into the habit of thinking up different openings… of telling your story in a different way. Do that, and you can get paid twice — or even more times — without doing any more research.
Some travel stories are classic. If you use a fresh approach, they can be sold over and over — and over. For example, I’ve placed the story of Ireland’s annual pilgrimage to the mountain where St. Patrick reputedly banished the snakes to four different U.S. publications.
Here’s another way to increase your travel writing income. Many U.S. publications buy “First North American Serial Rights.” This means they have the right to publish a particular piece in the U.S. first. There’s nothing to stop you re-selling the piece — exactly as it’s written — to another U.S. magazine, so long as you inform the editor that another publication has already used it. You probably won’t make a packet on “second-time rights,” but hey, it’s basically money for nothing.
And unless a U.S. magazine has bought “world-wide rights” to your story, you don’t have to recycle it in a new form to sell to other parts of the world. Don’t forget that Britain, Australia, and other countries in the English-speaking world all pay money for good articles.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]