Not long ago, I made lots of money for doing absolutely nothing.
I hadn’t won the lottery, and the size of my student loan hadn’t compelled me to join some kind of criminal organisation (yet). All I did was sell the licensing rights to my gap year photos.
A few months earlier, while kayaking in New Zealand, a baby seal clambered onto the back of my boat. I grabbed my camera and started filming. Back in London, I reminisced about my incredible trip by posting the footage on Reddit. When this proved popular, I sold the photos and a short clip to the news agency Barcroft.
While I didn’t make millions, and you won’t find me gracefully swan diving into piles of cash any time soon, I did make enough to recuperate the cost of my return flights. As a graduate returning from a gap year with a hefty overdraft, this was a welcome development. Selling your story to a news agency is a great way to earn some extra funds. Here’s how to do it.
I’m in – what can I sell?
If you’re hoping to go the same route I did, you’ll need a story to tell. The clue is in the name really: news agencies buy news. Think about what yours could be, and then offer the chance for someone else to tell it with one complete media package.
Note: Make sure you don’t post any photos on social media if you want to include them, because outlets can and will lift them without paying you.
In my case, I had photos and videos of the seal, as well as photos of me in the park and near Adele Island, where the seal caught up with us. These were later used to illustrate my story in news articles and videos. It helps if your story is particularly news-worthy or quirky.
You don’t need to worry if your camera isn’t high-tech and your photos aren’t perfect – I used an old underwater camera, which I’d dropped in the car park just before heading out. If your photos are the only ones available of a great story, then the agencies will no doubt still be interested.
Next step: negotiating
So you’ve got your photos ready – what next? You’ll need to find agencies to pitch to. This sounds scary, but just search online and start emailing.
They can specialise in different things, like animal videos or celebrity gossip, so try to find one that fits. In your email, explain what happened and include some sample photos as a taster. I didn’t watermark mine, but it’s probably a good idea to do so. It also helps if you have evidence that your story will be successful – I sent the URL to my Reddit post.
If you have a good story, it won’t be long before you get responses. I emailed Barcroft with my seal video, and within 10 minutes they gave me a call.
The news agency will take a cut of whatever they sell your story for, so use this call to negotiate how big that cut is. They’ll probably start by offering you 50:50. It doesn’t hurt to play hard ball – I didn’t accept the first offer and ended up with a better deal.
If you’re selling a video, it’s important to make sure you’ll also get paid for the YouTube views. These will never amount to more than a few pennies unless your video is the next viral sensation, but it all adds up.
Another thing to watch out for is the contract’s length. Make sure you can cancel your agreement with the agency at any point, because you never know who might offer you more money down the line. Also ensure that you will retain the copyright, because this means you’ll still be the owner of your material.
What happens next?
Once you’ve hashed out the agreement, you’ll be sent a contract. Make sure you read it carefully, and check everything you agreed has been worded correctly. Once the contract is signed by both parties, you can store it in a safe place and send your files.
Now, all you need to do is wait – the agency will handle the rest. You’ll be sent statements of who your story has been sold to, and it won’t be long before you see it popping up online. Mine appeared in the Daily Mail and the New York Post, to name a few!
You’ll only get a statement when you’ve made a sale, which is fun because you’ll receive variable amounts of cash out of the blue.
On Facebook your photos would only get a few likes; make this work and they’ll be generating royalty cheques.