I’m not the biggest fan of kill fees, mostly because they tend to mean that I completed a project to the best of my abilities but my client decided not to pay me the full price for my time. If I’m working on a piece that gets killed, I won’t turn down a kill fee, but I also won’t abandon the piece.
I’ve actually been seeing fewer kill fees of late: while magazines, newspapers and some other publications will offer them to writers when a story is killed, many online publications and other websites do no such thing. That fact makes it even more important to explore alternatives to simply jettisoning a project.
Selling a Killed Story
When one of your articles is killed, all rights should immediately revert to you, which means you can publish the article anywhere you’d like. That offers you a lot of options.
- Pitching it to a competing publication: Just because your article wasn’t right for one editor doesn’t mean that you can’t submit it to another who publishes similar material. Personally, since I almost never submit work on spec, I tend to use articles that haven’t gotten published for one reason or another as a way to break into markets that want to see the first article on spec. Since it’s written already, there’s nothing to lose.
- Submit it to a content site: I have several articles that somehow never managed to get printed up on Constant Content.* I get a solid trickle of money for the articles I have up there, without having to run around finding new publications to submit to. It’s certainly not my largest income source, but it’s useful to me. It’s worth noting that Constant Content is not a content mill — you set the price for people to use your article. You don’t have to worry about page views or anything like that to make money. Evergreen content is the most likely to make you money on Constant Content.
- Use it in your own projects: Hopefully, you have a couple of money-making projects of your own in the works, like a blog or an ebook. If your killed article fits in with the topics of your personal projects, you can use it to move that project along. It’s not the sort of upfront money you’ll make by selling the article, but you may be making money off of it for years to come. You can even use it as a guest post to market your work.
The only thing you shouldn’t do with a killed story is let it sit around gathering dust. If it’s a timely article, you need to get it in another editor’s lap or posted somewhere else before it becomes irrelevant. It can take a little work you weren’t planning to do, but the alternative is receiving no payment for your work, except some fraction of what you expected when you agreed to write the article.
*That’s a referral link. If you sell articles through Constant Content after clicking my link, I get a cut of their commission.