Tag Archives: writer’s rights

JoAnn Johnson

Protecting Your Work

Here is an overview of the options you have when offering your work to a publisher:

FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS – rights the writer offers to a publisher to publish the written work for the first time in any periodical or online.  Sometimes, “North America” is added to these rights to specify a geographical limitation to the license.

ONE-TIME RIGHTS – nonexclusive rights purchased by a periodical to publish the work once…the author can sell the work to another publication at the same time.

SECOND SERIAL RIGHTS – nonexclusive rights given to a newspaper, magazine or digital publication, to publish a manuscript after it has already appeared in another publication.

ALL RIGHTS – an author is selling every right they have to the work.  If you license all rights to your work, you forfeit the right to ever use the work again.

ELECTRONIC RIGHTS – rights that cover a broad range of electronic media, from online magazines to CD-ROM anthologies.  A contract should specifically indicate when electronic rights are included; otherwise, the presumption is that unspecified rights remain with the writer.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS – rights, other than book publication rights, that should be covered in a book contract.  These could include, movie, television, audiotape, etc.  A contract should specify who controls the rights (author or publisher) and what percentage of sales from licensing of these rights goes to the author.

DRAMATIC, TELEVISION, MOTION PICTURE RIGHTS – these are rights applying to stage, tv or movies.  Often a one-year option to buy such rights is offered (generally for 10% of the total price).  The party interested in the rights tries to sell the written work to other people.  Some properties are optioned numerous times, but most fail to become full productions. In those cases, the writer can sell the rights again and again.

Information gathered from Writer’s Market Companion, 2nd Edition.