Thursday, October 1, 2015

Which Rights are Right to Buy for Your Compilation? - How to Write a Compilation - Part 4

These are some of the compilation
books Dianne has contributed to.
I received a follow up question from Pierre (who started this whole series with his question on how to write a compilation). He asked me about the "rights" to the stories that we, the one who is putting together the compilation, purchase from the writers who contribute. (Tweet that!) So this month let's talk about "rights" to your written work.

This will apply not only to authors heading up a compilation project but also to  writers who write for magazines, compilations, or other short works. (Tweet that!)

First we will talk about each type of rights. Then I will talk about how this right might apply to you in the context of gaining permission to use other authors' written stories in your compilation books. (Tweet that!)


I'm not an attorney. What follows are my own understandings and unofficial definitions of the rights to our written pieces as we sell them to publishers (or purchase / obtain them as a publisher) based on my own research and work experience. You may want to consult an attorney. Other people may have different opinions. If you're writing a compilation, make sure you clearly communicate what you intend to purchase or obtain in your contract with writers.

For rights to your entire book manuscript when you are ready to sell it to a publisher, it would be best to ask someone with more experience in that area.

First Rights:  

The right to publish a piece first. Offered to one publication exclusively because only one place can publish it first. You can only sell First Rights once. Often publishers pay more for first rights. Sometimes seen as: FNASR which stands for "First North American Serial Rights." This includes the United States and Canada. If you sell FNASR it's possible to sell first rights again to a publisher outside of North America (Europe, South America, Australia, etc.).

If you are obtaining stories for a compilation book, you need to decide if you want only material that has never before been published. Is it necessary that you be the first one to publish this piece? Or are you willing take already-published material? Make a decision and go with it.

Consideration the overlap of your audience with the audience of wherever they piece has been published before. What are the odds someone has already read this? If that chance is small, why not take previously published material? You'll have more writers able to send you material if you will accept "Second" or "Reprint" rights.

Second Rights: 

The same as Reprint Rights. The right to publish a manuscript that has already been published, after it has appeared in another publication. Usually understood to be a simultaneous submission, although some markets accept reprints but not simultaneously. Savvy writers should specify on their manuscripts if they are submitting simultaneously.

If you are obtaining stories for a compilation book and are willing to take previously-published material, state in your guidelines that you will accept "Second" or "Reprint" rights.

Note: Even if a written piece has sold two, three, four times or more, these are still called "Second Rights."

Reprint Rights: 

The same as Second Rights. See above.

One Time Rights:  

The right to publish the work one time. This may (or may not) also be the first the time the piece has been published, so if it has not been published before the first rights will also be gone.

If you are obtaining stories for a compilation book, think about if you will want to use the same material in another project? If you might, you don't want to obtain One Time Rights. If you do think this is the only time you'll publish the material, this might be the way to go.

You don't need to pay more if it is the first time it is published. You're buying or obtaining the right to use the material once, in your compilation book. It doesn't matter to you if it's the first time the piece has been published or not. If you want to use the material again somewhere down the road, you'll have to go back to the author and ask them for more rights.

Simultaneous Rights: 

This means the writer is offering the same piece to more than one publisher at the same time. It is not exclusive rights to anyone. Usually these are reprinted materials.

Savvy writers should inform all parties involved that the piece is being offered elsewhere at the same time, however they are not required to give you a list of the other publications.

If you are obtaining stories for a compilation book and you feel you need that information to know if your audience might overlap with another publication's audience that might publish it at the same time, ask the writer where else it has been submitted. Writers should not refuse to give that information if asked.

Writers often offer simultaneous rights for timely manuscripts that will be out of date soon, such as breaking news stories. However at times it is simply a way of speeding up the submission process to offer the piece to more publishers and get more pay checks, which is certainly understandable from the writer's perspective.

All Rights:  

Just what it says: you would be purchasing or obtaining all rights to the piece.

This means you will basically own it as if you had written it. The writer will no longer have any right to it at all.

You would be able to reprint it as often as you like, use it in other books, and do pretty much anything you want to with it, all without paying the writer anything more and never getting any more rights.

Sound good? Think again. I advise writers to NEVER sell All Rights.

Most writers make precious little from their written pieces they sell. So writers need to sell their work again and again. This means that if you are going to insist on obtaining All Rights to any written piece, savvy writers are going to be reluctant to work with you. You're going to have a hard time filling your compilation. And you're not going to have happy writers.

Think it through. Do you really need all the rights? Why? It may be good for your book and your sales if your authors do sell their stories elsewhere. You can ask them, as a courtesy if they sell their piece elsewhere please tag it with the words, "This story first appeared in [Name of Your Compilation]." Voila. You just increased your exposure of your book exponentially. See what a smart compilation author you are?

Work for Hire: 

This is when you, as the publisher, come up with an idea and hire a writer to write it. It's your idea – and you own it. The writer is usually paid a flat fee, not royalties. All Rights then belong to the publisher (you).

If you have stories you need written for your compilation, you can hire a writer to write it for you. Make sure they understand you will own all the rights to it when they are finished. Put that in writing and get their signature. A lot of writers make their living doing work like this, so it's a win / win for you and them.

Electronic Rights: 

If you plan to make your compilation book an electronic book (e-book), make sure you put that in your contract.

The important thing is know what rights you are buying or obtaining and that you make sure you clearly communicate that to the writers, put it in writing, and get their signature on it. (Tweet that!) It may be very wise to consult an attorney. Then you can move ahead with your compilation book with confidence.