What is a syndication service?
A syndication service or a syndicate is a distributing service for columns, news features and other items for newspapers and magazines. Most cartoons are with a syndicate as well as puzzles and columns like Dear Abby and Miss Manners, but syndicates also seek feature articles and columns under such topics as politics, sports, entertainment, op-ed and travel. Some syndicates cater to an age demographic, like Senior Wire listed below, or a region or an ethnic group.
A syndicate gives a writer the opportunity to have one article published in multiple newspapers and magazines throughout a region or even the nation. Most want an on-going series of articles/columns from their writers, but some will consider one-time stories. Be sure to check the guidelines or ask the editors before submitting.
Do you have to use a syndication service?
You can syndicate yourself and if you're just beginning, that may be the way to go. However, you would have to do a lot of work to set it up. Once you have the type of series or column you want to write, go to your local paper and talk to the editor about publishing it. It's the old "Catch-22" of writing and publishing: you can't really get published until you've been published.
Now that your work is in one paper, research other markets for the same column. 50States.com is a great website for this type of research. It links to over 3,300 United States newspapers.. You can usually find editors' email addresses or telephone numbers on these websites so you can compile you list of potential markets and start sending out queries.
Then you set up a schedule for sending each paper your column and once it is written you shoot it out to everyone at the allotted time.
If you can sign on with a syndication service, all this work is done for you, usually on a much wider scale. All you have to do is write and submit one time. The service does the distributing for you.
How do you submit to a syndication service?
First, you need a definite topic for your column or series. Are you a reviewer? Do you like to write family travel tips? Maybe you're a wine collector or a frequent business traveler or you are a part-time pet trainer. You are going to have to "pitch" your idea so you want to describe your column in one sentence, two at the very most. For instance, a column from a stay-at-home dad could be described as Dave Berry in Erma Bombeck drag.
Don't forget to you need to commit to a submission schedule. How many columns can you produce per week? One a week is usually considered the minimum. Be sure you can live up to any schedule you propose.
If you can get your column published locally, you'll have samples and a track record to present. All the syndicates listed below want somewhere between five and ten sample columns. If you don't have a column but you've published multiple individual articles in your theme area, for instance book reviews or travel articles, you can use those as your samples.
Of course, your query should include the other items you would mention to any editor: your publishing background, your expertise in this topic, why you're a good match for this syndicate, and your target audience.
To find syndication services, read your newspaper. Stories bought from a syndicate will have its name usually beneath the byline. You can also search “syndication service.”
Click on the service's name to go its website.
Environmental News Service - seeks news and articles on environmental issues, including legislation and politics to recycling and economics, query by email.
National News Bureau - stories on travel, how-to, beauty, fashion and other lifestyle and entertainment topics, 1500-2500 words, photos encouraged.
Senior Wire - specializes in "mature market publication," seeks seasonal features, travel tips for seniors, personal travel experiences, essays, etc., will look at stand-alone pieces, word count: 500-1000, query with clippings.
Tribune Media Services - query with six to eight samples and a brief cover letter.
United Media - query with four to six samples, 500-600 words.