Reprints can be a very useful way to make a little extra money as a writer. Most publishers are interested only in buying the rights to publish a given article once. Some have some restrictions on whether they’re interested in first rights or reprint rights, but with a little effort, you can often find some publisher ready to pay you to reprint an old article.
But I haven’t been making much effort to sell reprint rights to my work. One of the main reasons is that most of my writing these days is for online publications. Many online publications don’t want articles that have appeared elsewhere online — that’s because they’ll take a hit with Google if they have too much content that is duplicated elsewhere. At best, I can find a print market interested in reprints and sell my work there — but it’s becoming harder to find print publications that don’t also offer an online version.
It doesn’t help that I do a lot of blogging-for-hire. I try to write about very topical issues — many of my blog posts aren’t easy to reprint because by the time I get around to reprinting them, they are no longer relevant.
I don’t particularly feel like I’m leaving money on the table, though. I routinely rewrite articles for different publications. I reuse my research over and over again. And the contacts I’ve developed are always willing to give me a new quote for a different market.
There are certain pieces that I do make an effort to sell reprint rights for — especially when it comes to the occasional fiction piece that I write. It’s just not a priority for me: I can either spend time writing or hunting for markets that will accept my reprints.
With all that in mind, though, I do think it’s worthwhile for writers to hold on to reprint rights. It’s not always possible — while we all ideally get great contracts, many blogs and online publications hold firm on getting unique content. When it is, though, you do have a resource for future projects.