Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Savvy' Successful in Self-Syndication

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Savvy' Successful in Self-Syndication

Article excerpt

Jim Miller discusses why he's in 400 papers -- and on TV

About 6,500 mailings and thousands of phone calls brought "Savvy Senior" columnist Jim Miller 400-plus newspapers and three appearances on this week's Today show. The writer is scheduled to demonstrate "senior gadgets" during his Aug. 12, 13, and 14 spots on the NBC morning program. Among the products is a talking pillbox that reminds people when to take their medication.

Miller, who also appeared on the show last month, has become nationally known in an extremely short time. His weekly information feature entered self-syndication just last year, yet he already has more papers than all but 10 or so columnists distributed by major syndicates. How did he do this? Low prices, and hard work.

The average syndicated-feature rate of under $20 a week is already modest, but Miller's prices are between $3 and $5. "I'm not in this to make a lot of money," he said. "I want to reach and help a lot of people." Indeed, Miller is only earning about $20,000 a year from the column after expenses and taxes, despite his numerous clients (many of them weeklies and small dailies; his biggest subscriber is the Las Vegas Review-Journal). And he spends at least 40 hours a week on the column and related tasks.

The hard work first involved mailing packets to 6,500 potential clients. "Then I got on the phone and called and called and called," said Miller, not stopping until he got a yes or no. "If I hadn't done the follow-up calls, I would be in maybe 30 papers."

Miller -- who made 3,500 phone calls a month (on an $80-a-month unlimited-long-distance plan) -- added: "People who are writers don't always have the salesman mentality. You have to be able to shake off the 'no's.'"

It also didn't hurt that "Savvy Senior" has an easy-to-understand and not-too-serious approach. "A lot of senior news is depressing and complicated," Miller said.

The Norman, Okla., resident answers one question per 600-word column, while also answering several dozen other reader questions he receives during a typical week. Among his many topics are volunteerism, employment, taxes, grandparenting, health, insurance, travel, Medicare, and Social Security. Miller researches answers by calling experts, reading manuals, looking on the Web, etc. …

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