In my November 28 post, I talked about copyright issues and I promised to blog about selling rights to your work.
Children’s book Editor Harold Underdown, Kensington Publishing Editor Gary Goldstein and President of Bayou Writers’ Guild Jessica Ferguson have all given me some great advice about writer’s selling their rights. Here are some brief descriptions of the rights most commonly offered by publishers.
First Serial Rights or First North American Serial Rights: When a writer sells first serial rights, or First North American Serial Rights (abbreviated as FNASR), the publisher, newspaper or magazine is granted rights to first-time publication of your work. You retain all other rights and may resell them accordingly.
Gary Goldstein says you should be offered approximately $3500 for your first novel. Take it, it’s a good chance. You can always make more from royalties when your sales skyrocket!
First Word English Rights: Similar to FNASR, First Word English rights give the publisher not only the right to publish your work first in North America, but in any English-speaking country. If you sell First Word English, you can't turn around and sell First British Rights or First Australian Rights because those are all English-speaking countries. It is usually better to sell FNASR rather than First Word English because FNASR gives you the right to sell your work to other countries as a First.
Translation Rights or Language Rights: This is the right to publish your written work in other languages, such as Spanish or Japanese. This is a popular form of rights for books, as they are often distributed in foreign countries where English is not the primary language. Magazines also sometimes purchase Translation Rights if their distribution is international.
Excerpt Rights: This is one of the least-common types of rights sold, but is often used for educational purposes. For example, if a company compiling a textbook were to run across an article that might fit well in the book, they may contact the author for Excerpt Rights so that they may include a portion of the work in their textbook. Remember, however, that the concept of "Fair Use" allows other publications to quote small portions of published works as long as proper attribution is given.
Archival Rights: This means that you are giving a publication the right to archive your written work forever. The work will always be available in its medium and it is almost impossible to sell any other rights while your work is archived.
Simultaneous or One-time Rights: The right is given to publish the work on a one-time basis. These rights are NOT exclusive. So you may sell your work to other publications at the same time. Most publications do not care for this arrangement because they want to have exclusive rights to your work.
Second Serial or Reprint Rights: The publication has the right to print an article or other piece of work which has already been printed in another publication. Exclusive rights are not granted in this case; you, as the author, have the freedom to resell your work.
Anthology Rights: Even if you sell FNASR they will have to purchase Anthology Rights if they want to publish your article or story again in a collective work. Anthology Rights can be purchased by the original publisher of the piece or by another publisher who has seen your work, but you must make sure that Anthology Rights do not infringe on any previous rights sold on the work.
All Rights: If you should agree to sell all rights, you will never be able to use that work again. Once sold, the written piece is no longer yours. You might want to do this if you have an opportunity to sell a piece to a very prestigious magazine. You could gain recognition and coverage from having your work in that publication and it might afford you more high-paying assignments.
Harold Underdown suggests if you are giving away all rights for a book, make sure you’re getting 50% of all sales, subsidiaries and royalties. Also, be sure you specify what their minimum sales requirements are to get your rights back. In other words, if they don’t sell X number of books after X amount of time, the rights revert back to you.
Work-For-Hire: This agreement usually exists between a writer and a business or individual to compose a piece of written work. When you write under a Work-For-Hire contract, you relinquish all rights to the work you perform, unless stipulated otherwise in your contract or agreement. This means that you can never claim copyright to the work you perform and you can never attempt to sell the work elsewhere. The owner can publish the work under his or her own name.
Electronic Publishing: Because of the opening up of electronic markets, writers now have more opportunity to see their work displayed in e-zines. Unfortunately, electronic rights are still somewhat of a gray area as the law struggles to catch up to modern technology. Electronic rights give the publisher permission to use your work in any electronic form - on the Internet, through e-mail, on CD-ROM and other venues. It is sometimes best to sell Internet Rights to reserve the right to publish your work later on CD-ROM, but you must be careful here.
Jessica Ferguson says some print magazines purchase your article and then assume they also have the right to put it in their Webzine for no additional payment. The Association of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and National Writers Union (NWU) are working to secure the rightful payments for writers in this regard. For more details, visit www.nwu.org or www.asja.org
Exclusive Rights/Non-Exclusive Rights: Any of the types of rights listed above can also contain the words "Exclusive" or "Non-Exclusive".
When you sell Exclusive Rights, you are granting the purchaser full rights to your work as long as he or she keeps the work in print. For example, if you sell Exclusive Rights to Associated Content, you are saying that they will be the only ones to publish your work while they intend to keep your work available. Sometimes, a publisher will attach a time frame to Exclusive Rights, and sometimes they won't.
Non-Exclusive Rights, on the other hand, means that you have the right to sell your work to as many people as you want as long as they are all purchasing Non-Exclusive Rights.
As you can tell by the long list above, there are many types of rights you can sell to your work. Make sure you know exactly what you're selling and that you speak to an attorney if you are at all confused. For information about contacting a pro bono lawyer, see my November 28 post.