Saturday 7 September 2013

Rights To Writes

     Selling the rights to your work can be confusing, and often a new writer will sign away rights just because they are eager to get that contract. Some contracts are horrible and take advantage of writers. Make sure you understand your contract and what rights you are giving up before you sign that contract. If you are unsure, contact a lawyer. And remember, many contracts can be negotiated. Below is an article by Deborah Owen, CEO of the Creative Writing Institute--an on-line writing school which I am now a tutor at also.

     Beware of Selling Your Rights
Learning about Writer’s Rights
Most creative writers are so eager to sell their work that they don’t stop to consider what rights they are selling. “Rights” refers to how a publisher can use your work. “Rights” has nothing to do with what you are paid or the copyright of your work.
  • First North American Serial Rights − Known as FNASR, are the most common rights purchased. The purchasing magazine has the right to publish the author’s work for X amount of dollars, while the author grants the magazine permission to publish his story (or article) one time in North America. If you are offering these rights to a magazine, place “Offering First North American Serial Rights” at the top of the document.
  • One-Time Serial Rights – If you are simultaneously offering your story or article to several publications, place “One-Time Serial Rights” at the top of the page. This grants the first magazine that snaps up your work the right to publish your story or article one time.
  • Second Serial Rights – If you have previously sold the story or article, you will be offering Second Serial Rights to the next magazine. They will be able to publish your work once.
  • All Rights – Unless someone is hiring you to develop a piece of work for them (such as developing a course for a school) shudder at the sight of these rights. It means you are signing away “all rights” to whoever bought your work. You may never sell the work again, publish it, copy it, download it, or transfer it. You have no rights left whatsoever.
  • Work for Hire – This is another “right” that should cause you to shiver. Work for Hire can only exist in two ways: you have created a document as an independent contractor and you are selling the rights to it, or you are being paid as an employee and your work was created during your work time – which gives your boss all rights.
  • Non-Exclusive Rights – This one is not desirable either. Although the “rights” refer back to you after one year and you can sell the work again, the original buyer may continue to use it and reproduce it in syndication without sharing the profits with you.
  • Exclusive Rights – If you sign these rights, you have given away the farm. An example of this would be Associated Content and other like places that assume full rights when they buy your work. You will not be able to reproduce it or sell it again. It’s gone. Ker-plunk! Down the toilet.
  • One-Time Rights – You can sell one-time rights simultaneously to as many people as you want. Columnists use this right to sell their articles to multiple markets.
As you can see, there is only the difference of a hair’s breadth on some of these rights. There are many more types of rights, so understand them thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line.
Keep this article in your safe and don’t sign anything without referring to it!
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Know you rights, don't give away any rights that you don't want to, try to negotiate a better contract if you don't like the terms, or you can always walk away. And always, always be professional.

As an author, I have walked away from a contract because I didn't like the terms. I have also been burnt by a different publisher's contract that tied my book up for one year and never produced the book.

Strange things happen in the writing industry. Before signing, make sure you are dealing with a reputable publisher. You can check out the reputation of publishers at Preditor and Editors:

Visit my author's website:

copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013


  1. Wow! I never most of these rights, as they referred to both magazines and books. But the tenacity of anyone who grabs all the rights of work you created is scary at best. First time authors, be it magazine or book, really need to look and read everything. At least share the contract with an author you trust and get their opinion. At best, talk to a lawyer. The lawyer could save you more than his costs.

  2. Great advice, Sue, to consult with an author you trust. New authors, don't be so eager to sign that you sign away everything. This is important information to share with other writers.

  3. I cannot imagine all the work that would go into a book, only to give it away, eager to be a "published author." I was reading today about a contest with huge rewards, but in return, even just to enter, you must give away all your rights in perpetuity. Of course, you must seek out the terms of service, and contest rules to get the complete picture.

    Just so everyone knows, this is not being run by a publisher or any company generally know in the writing world, but a rather new Internet service I will not give free publicity to by mentioning its name. Just read EVERYTHING, even before entering a contest or submitting your work for anything.

  4. Yes, always read all of terms and conditions before signing any kind of writing contract, even with a publishing house. There are too many companies all too willing to take advantage of an unpublished writer or an unpublished piece of writing.