Is That Right?

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keep right.jpgFirst rights, all rights, simultaneous rights--what do they all mean? Let's talk about these terms and others in relationship to magazines. First, the eight terms below refer to North American serial rights, which includes the United States and Canada.

1. all rights - the rights to those words in that order. You may not resell or reuse this piece. Some magazines who buy all rights will sell the piece elsewhere and split the proceeds with you--usually those resales are to a market most of us don't have access to, such as an assessment test or inclusion in a textbook. Decide if it is worth sending your manuscript to an "all rights" magazine, knowing it can't be reprinted by anyone else without the publisher's permission. Some high profile magazines buy all rights.

2. first rights - the right to print those words in that order first. You may resell it to someone else, who accepts reprint rights, second, simultaneous, or one-time rights. Sometimes first rights include limitations such as "first rights for 60 days following publication." Make sure any succeeding publishers are aware of any limitations if it will affect them.

3. one-time rights - the right to print those words in that order once. Again, you may resell. A lot of religious magazines are open to this option as their audiences are very separate.

4. second rights - the right to print those words in that order once, after it has been printed one time elsewhere. Reselling again is permissible.

5. reprint rights - the right to print those words again and again. Except for the initial printing, you may not know when they use the piece again. It's okay to sell elsewhere yourself.

6. simultaneous rights - similar to one-time rights--it doesn't matter when someone else is using it.

7. first and nonexclusive reprint rights - the right to print those words in that order first, and to print those words again and again. This is an alternative to all rights that some publishers are offering. The author may resell the piece as well.

8. regional rights - the right to print those words in that order in a specific area of the country. You'll often see this with local parenting magazines or newspapers. A parent in San Francisco won't likely be reading a Boston parenting magazine, so editors of noncompeting magazines might be interested in the same article. However, these often have sections or sidebars with strong local focus.

What rights do magazines buy? It depends on each individual magazine or magazine publishing company. This is why it is vitally important to check market books and each magazine's current writer's guidelines.

What if a magazine accepts a variety of rights? How do you decide what to give them?

1. Most magazines that buy all rights only buy all rights. If they offer more than that, different rights may change your pay, so it will depend on what you've already sold or are willing to sell.

2. If they buy first or one-time rights, they may pay more for first rights. If you haven't sold the manuscript elsewhere, offer first rights.

3. If a magazine buys one-time and simultaneous rights, offer the latter if you plan to submit elsewhere now. You may offer one-time if you don't plan to submit again until an acceptance/rejection comes from this magazine on this manuscript.

4. If first rights on a piece have been sold, offer second rights or one-time rights before offering reprint rights.

How do you let those magazines who accept different rights know what rights you are offering? In your cover letter and on your manuscript below your word count. If you're not offering all or first, it is common courtesy in your cover letter to let them know who published the article or story and when.

But what if you want to write another article on that topic and you sold all rights? Can you do that? Of course. Above I mentioned "the rights to those words in that order," it doesn't mean they bought the ideas, only this particular piece. You could take the facts you learned when researching or interviewing and write an article with a different slant. You won't use any sentences from the original piece. Your paragraphs won't look like the original piece. It's very doubtful you'd use the exact same quote.

For a short story, you can write the same theme with a different aspect of the same problem. Of course, you'd use a different main character. Or perhaps you'd choose to write about a younger or older or opposite gender character who has a similar problem--it would be a different story. This new story or stories might also be in a different setting. i.e. instead of a city, a rural location.

One final question I've heard: But what if you want to use that character in a book and you've sold all rights? This isn't likely to happen, but if it does, you can always ask the magazine for permission. But remember, a magazine character isn't as fully developed as a book character. Neither is the setting in a magazine. Your character will change and morph when you give her a book length problem. Your setting will likely expand as well. Don't limit yourself by being stuck on only one name and personality.

Thanks to heirbornstud of morguefile.com for the above image.


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