Kathryn Page Camp
In last week’s blog, Louis Martinez encouraged writers to find markets for their short stories. Some of the best markets out there are print magazines and ezines. And as Louis noted, what rights you sell them determines what you can and cannot do with that same content in the future. So this week and next I’ll talk about what those rights are.*
Since I don’t want to have to use “print magazine or ezine” and “story, article, or poem” repeatedly, I’m going to do the lawyer thing. When used in these posts, the words magazine, publication, and periodical include both print magazines and ezines. References to story, piece, or item include stories, articles, poems, and any other type of work that can be submitted to a magazine.
Some periodicals, such as Highlights for Children, buy all rights. That means the magazine has complete control over what happens to the story you submitted. Essentially, the publication now owns the piece, and you are not allowed to resell it. You don’t even have the right to post it on your own website without the magazine’s permission.
Selling all rights does not usually prohibit you from writing another story on the same topic (but read your contract). However, the new piece cannot be merely a revision but must have a fresh approach. In other words (pun intended), you may have to start all over again.
Highlights pays well and is a prestigious name to have among your credits, so some writers are happy to sell it all rights. That’s your choice, but it should be a deliberate one.
First Rights, or First North American Rights
Most magazines buy first rights. That’s the right to be the first to publish the story. Similarly, first North American rights give the publication the right to be the first publisher in North America. Once the magazine has published the piece, however, control reverts to you and you are free to post it on your website, include it in a compilation, or resell it.
Reprint or Second Rights
The biggest advantage of first rights is second rights—also called reprint rights. Once the first rights holder has published your story, you can resell it as many times as you want. Reprint rights don’t usually pay as well as first rights, and some magazines won’t buy reprints at all. But when a magazine does buy reprint rights, it is paying for work you already did, so any size check is good. And second rights aren’t limited to the second time you publish the item—they also cover the third sale, and the fourth, and so on.
Since you can only sell first rights once, subsequent submissions should explain where and when the story previously appeared. You should also wait until the item is actually published by the first rights holder before submitting it elsewhere. This ensures that the second rights holder doesn’t publish it first by mistake.
I’ll cover several other types of rights in next week’s post.
* The two posts in this series are taken, with modifications, from pages 166–170 of Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal by Kathryn Page Camp and are used by permission from me to me.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer who writes adult non-fiction as Kathryn Page Camp and middle-grade fiction as Kaye Page. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014, and her first middle-grade historical novel, Desert Jewels, was released earlier this month. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.