Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writer's Rights

In the comments on my last post I tried to explain why I can’t publish my article on the Black Death on my blog, and this got me thinking that I should maybe say a little something about writer's rights.

The vast majority of publications ask for "first serial rights," this means that the writer grants a magazine the right to publish their work one time only. After publication all rights to the work revert to the author.

Sometimes first rights will come with an additional proviso, usually some sort of time constraint. The magazine may ask to retain rights for three months, or they may pay you an additional fee to publish it on their web site for an agreed amount of time, in which case rights don’t revert to the author until that time has elapsed.

So if a magazine wants first rights to your work they don’t expect it to have been published elsewhere, and with most editors that also includes blogs.

Now in the case of the Black Death, I wrote this for a kid’s history magazine and if they publish it they want "all rights," that means exactly what it says. If a writer grants all rights to a piece of work it means they forfeit the right to use it ever again. A lot of children’s magazines take "all rights." Neither does this particular magazine publish articles on their web site, so no links either.

I should point out that I write very few things for publications that take all rights, for obvious reasons. In this case I don’t mind giving up all rights to the article, it’s what I call "a throw away piece." And it doesn’t mean that I can never write another article about the Black Death, after all, the magazine doesn’t own all rights to history, but it would have to be a different article.

I hope that clarifies things a bit. And this list of rights is not exhaustive, there are few others, but these are the main ones, so if any of you write with a view to publication make sure you know your rights.

Anyway, if the magazine doesn’t publish the Black Death, and there are seldom any guarantees in this game, then all rights revert to me, in which case I’ll post it up here.

And I'm sure you've all dozed off by now, so I'll wish you Night night and sweet dreams.


Raquel said...

How interesting! I never knew. Hope you do get it published - one way or another! Much love, Raquel XO

Gill - That British Woman said...

I am glad you explained that as that was interesting. I hope the article is published to.

One thing I am always worried about is Plagiarism, as with the post I wrote today, I thought I had done everything right when I made sure I quoted everything and said it was from the Toronto Star and posted a link to their site. If you ever see something that concerns you on my site, would you let me know? Generally dd tells me, as she is in University doing her graduate studies so is up on that. However she does not read my blog everyday.


pamokc said...

Very interesting indeed. I know very little about the "business" of writing so this is a good little nugget to know.

Janet said...

Raquel, thanks, I hope so too.

Gill, you can only be accused of plagerism if you blatantly copy someone else's work and present it as your own. You only quoted from the newspaper, and gave links to the original article, so you've nothing to worry about.

Pam, thanks, I'm glad you found it useful.