The Secret Language of Editors: Evergreen = More Green in your Wallet

Abigail GreenFreelancers’ Phrase Book

By Abigail Green

Last month I talked about lead time, and timing your pitches to coincide with a certain season or event. But what about those story ideas that could run almost anytime? Editors have a term for the types of articles they can always use: evergreen. How many times have you seen stories like, “Walk Off the Weight” or “Tips to Improve Your Memory” or “Top 10 Super Foods” or “Secrets for Better Sex”? Hundreds, I’d bet.

Some subjects, like these, are perennial favorites. On the one hand, that beats trying to come up with the latest, greatest trend that an editor has never heard of. On the other hand, neither editors nor readers want to see the same old tired topics recycled again and again. “Fresh” is a favorite editor catchphrase. The publications that have the hardest time staying fresh are the ones that run the same stories year after year, like wedding, pregnancy, and home décor magazines, to name a few.

So how do you make an evergreen idea fresh again? Find out what’s new about it. Has a recent study come out on the topic? A new book? Can you tie it to current events or pop culture? I once sold an article on a several-thousand-year-old Indian interior design practice called vastu. What’s fresh about that? I pegged it as “the new feng shui” and interviewed an expert with a new book coming out. Bingo!

Other topics I’ve written about again and again include wedding planning and staying fit while traveling. Not much changes from year to year, but I can always include a fresh anecdote or a new book or product. Do a Google News search on your subject. Better yet, set up Google Alerts to e-mail you news on specific search terms. (On Google.com click on “more” and then “even more” to find the Alerts page.) Go through your Rolodex and call your contacts to ask what’s new in their industry. Consider major milestones that may renew interest in a topic – say, the tenth anniversary of an event or the bicentennial of a town. Dust off some of your old stories and see if there’s anything happening in the world that makes them fresh again.

With a little bit of research and creativity, evergreen stories can put a lot of green in your wallet.

Abigail Green (www.abigailgreen.com) is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written about health, travel, weddings, business, education and more for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog: http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com/.

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