It’s time. You finally have your work ready to submit. You’ve written, edited, and re-written. You’ve formatted according to the publisher’s guidelines. Now, before you send it off, what rights are you selling if this publisher should want to buy it?
Somewhere on your document or in your cover letter, you should state what rights you offer for the manuscript. The most common rights purchased for articles are:
- First rights. This work has never appeared in print or online. The publisher will be “first” to publish it. Sometimes, the publisher who buys first rights will require that you not sell the material as a reprint for a specified period of time after first rights publication.
- Reprint rights. The work has been published before. When submitting a reprint, it’s helpful to state when and where the work was published previously. It’s also advisable to mention if this is a simultaneous submission (you are submitting to multiple publishers).
- Non-exclusive rights. The publisher will have the right to re-publish the work at any time. You will have the right to sell it as a reprint also. Often a publisher will buy first and non-exclusive rights. In that case, you will have to wait until the piece is published on first rights before you can use it as a reprint.
- Work for hire: I include this term because you should be aware that, if you do work for hire, you have no rights to the material ever again once it’s sold to the publisher. Work for hire is usually assigned, and the publisher provides a written agreement before the work is written.
Some publishers will ask you to sign a contract or writer’s agreement stating exactly what rights the publisher is buying and what the conditions are under which the rights revert to the writer. Others include rights information in the guidelines. Sample Guidelines: Light & Life Magazine.
You definitely need to know what you’re selling when you submit your work.
If you still have questions about copyright, the best place to learn more is the government website, www.copyright.gov.
First Rights Means First Rights by Roger Palms
Know Your Copyrights, published in Writers’ Digest