We asked two experts -- Liz Martinez DeFranco, Managing Editor of (major print syndicator) United Media, and Tim Hilchey, Deputy Editor of New York Times Syndicate. Their answers:
- Lower your expectations. Papers pay far less than $100 (and sometimes under $10) per syndicated column, and if you're selling through a syndicator, they'll take a 50% split to cover their costs. Hilchey says, "Syndication is a business of small transactions. Unless you make a lot of them, you don't make a lot of money."
- Print publications are buying less outside content right now because their ad sales are down too, while newspaper paper-stock and magazine mailing costs are increasing dramatically. DeFranco says, "Our excellent sales people talk themselves blue in the face making the point that syndicated features are better in a dollars and cents perspective [than in-house reporting staff]." But it's emotionally easier for a typical editor to "take the path of least resistance and get rid of syndicated features" than to cut a reporter from his or her own staff.
- Big names sell. Motley Fool, Slate and Salon.com are all syndicating to print. DeFranco told us she could sell a column by Bill Clinton easily. Hilchey (unprompted by us) said he'd love to carry a column or feature article by Hilary.
- Outstanding writing that fills a specific need sells. Don't expect to replace a syndicated column or feature that already exists, look for a new general-interest hole. Hilchey says he's most interested in features on "sophisticated" hobbies (although not travel.) DeFranco is looking for humor columnists who will appeal to middle America (no swearwords or references to sex); but, if you pitch yourself as "the next Erma Bombeck" she'll toss you in the trash. "We want somebody with a unique, original, strong voice."
To submit to United Features:
To submit to New York Times Syndicate:
Attn: Editorial Submissions, 122 East 42nd Street, 14th Fl, New
York NY 10168
Useful Editor & Publisher Column on (mainly) print newspaper syndication news (Note: Editor & Publisher have been hit by the same worm that's hurting many sites this week, so load time can be very slow.)