To be a full time writer, you need to understand the rights that you are selling to publishers. Ignorance can be very costly. In the first part of this article, I discussed the situations that you should try to avoid. In this part, I will discuss the way to sell your writing that will allow you to make the most from each piece.
The best case is to sell First Rights which is sometimes called First Serial Rights. What that means is that the publisher is buying the right to be the first one in that country to publish your piece. You can sell first rights in many places. You might sell first Australian rights, first North American rights, and First Japanese rights- all for the same piece of writing. That means three pay cheques. Doesn't that sound so much nicer than one pay cheque for all rights?
In this case, the publication gets to publish your piece first in that area, but you retain all rights to the work. Most publications are buying first rights. If it is not written in their guidelines, you could mention that is what you are selling when you submit.
One Time Rights
Some publications buy one time rights. They want the right to print you piece once, but not necessarily first. Again, all rights remain with the writer and you still hold first rights in all of the countries where the piece has not appeared.
Reprints and Second Serial Rights
After your piece has appeared in a publication in a certain country, you can still sell reprint rights or second rights to another publication in that same country. In this way, you get yet another cheque for the same piece of writing.
The best case scenario is to sell first serial rights to as many publications in as many countries as you can. After this, search out publications that accept reprints; there are more than you would expect. Be careful of the internet. Some publications say they are buying first serial rights then you see your story on their web site. Once it is on the internet, it is almost dead for re-publication as most consider that a world stage.
Sometimes as writers we don't have a choice about what rights we are selling since publishers, in so many instances, have the upper hand in these types of negotiations. Nevertheless, you should be armed with knowledge. If you know that you have no option but to sell all rights, make sure that you are receiving a cheque which reflects the fact that you have sold all rights. The best way is to sell your piece to as many publications around the world as possible selling first rights. When you have exhausted those rights move on to reprints. Keeping your work out there earning money for you is the best way to stay a working writer.
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time, award winning writer living in Botswana. Her writing has appeared in publications in Australia, United States, Canada, South Africa, England, and Algeria, to name a few countries. She writes for radio, television, and the page. Read her blog, Thoughts from Botswana.