No. Just . . . No. Except Sometimes

NONaturally I was thrilled when I got an acceptance email from a terrific new magazine. The editor was abundant with praise. And the payment being offered was generous. But, I’ve been in the writing biz a while now, and while one always likes to hear compliments, I was reserving judgement. Sure enough, my caution proved justifiied. The contract they sent was for the purchase of ALL RIGHTS, plus copyright.

No. Just, no. This was a piece of writing that was just perfect for later inclusion in a collection or anthology, acknowledging the original publication, of course. I was not prepared to preclude that option.

I expressed my concerns to the editor and he couldn’t have been more charming. He offered an additional clause by which I could reprint the piece, after I had secured their permission. But, sadly, I explained, that clause didn’t really fix the underlying issue. The corporate entity would still own the rights and the copyright. So, again, no. Not in this case.

Most calls for submissions state in the guidelines what rights are being sought. If I had seen these conditions in the initial call, I would not have submitted at all. It would have saved everybody a lot of time and effort. Alternatively, I could have queried the editor about this issue in advance of my submission. That didn’t occur to me at the time, but it’s something to think about for the future. 

Have there been other cases where I’ve willingly sold all rights? Absolutely. If a piece is so specialized that I could never publish it anywhere else. Or if it’s not something that I could include later in a collection of similar pieces. If it was one and done. But, early on in my writing career, I made the mistake of selling all rights to one piece before I understood the implications of what I was signing and which I later regretted doing. Luckily it was a minor work and not a career maker. But it was a hard lesson to learn and an experience I hope I don’t repeat. Once burned, after all. 

Having said that, there may be instances where some of you, my writer friends, have reason to sign such an agreement. There may be cases, as there were for me in the past, where it’s worth it. Just know what you’re giving up. No one will be looking out for your own interests as much as you will yourself. Carry on, and happy writing!

About Lida Bushloper

writer and poet
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8 Responses to No. Just . . . No. Except Sometimes

  1. Lida, wonderful that you caught that! Hope you will send it out quickly, if you haven’t already.


  2. Oh yeah, I’m pretty terrible when it comes to rights, and I sometimes wonder if I’m signing away too much in my attempts to get published. Anyway, it’s great that you know your path. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Vicki Batman says:

    I was very naive about rights when I sold to some magazines. When the magazines were sold to another publisher, I asked to purchase my rights back. They have said no many times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lots of us are in that boat, Vicki. From what I read, writers are more successful getting the rights back for entire books from defunct publishers than from some magazines that have been swallowed up by other entities. We’re hardly talking big bucks here, so I don’t understand the objection. Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. Lida


  4. trishafaye says:

    I’ve been caught by that too early on. A small children’s press. All rights. For a mere $15 purchase. I was so excited to have something accepted at the time, I kept submitting and sending them a lot of stories. Until I caught this. They were upfront about it, I just didn’t catch it. That was my error!


    • Indeed, Trish. They are usually upfront about it, it’s us who sometimes don’t understand the terms. And yes, it’s often because we just want to be published. But so what? We live and learn. Then, if we do it again, at least it’s because of a clear choice, not just being naive. Thanks for reading and commenting. Lida

      Liked by 1 person

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