Fight For Your Rights
by Ian Birnbaum

In this column, the time has come to discuss the business of writing: namely, selling rights. After a piece has completed the three steps from last week, you need to decide its destiny by choosing how you wish to sell it: your choices for this sale revolve around your rights. Rights are complicated, rights are legalese, and rights are extremely, terribly boring.

As such, I had a few ideas for how to make this column a bit more fun. I could write this as it would be, cut and dry, and sprinkle in some knock-knock jokes ("Knock-knock. " "Who's there?" "Someone terribly boring." "Oh, hello, you must be Rights - and you can't even be funny in your own lame joke!"). Maybe I could quote Monty Python sketches at random or just write the whole damn thing in limericks. I have to be honest, though: no matter what I do, this column is going to kind of suck. I might as well just get on with it but, remember, I'm very sorry for this one.

Step 4: Selling your rights (in haiku - because I can)

beachjapan.jpgWhen writing freelance

your writing is a business:

you might just get screwed.

You must know your rights-

the better to pimp them out-

maximize your cash.

There are two main rights

good for you – bad for buyers:

negotiate hard.

First serial rights:

Magazines take your writing,

Print it- first time ever!

Buyers are not keen

to run writing that's been seen.
They want fresh and new.

These rights can only

be sold once: sell wisely your

piece virginity.

One-Time Rights for you

are stingy; magazines print

your piece once only.

One-Time Rights may be
sold to multiple markets
at once - be greedy!

Some hate one-time rights,
won't buy: your piece better be
some pretty hot shit.

There, that's settled. I hope you enjoyed that, because it took for-fucking-ever. Anyway, there are, of course, many other kinds of rights - like movie rights or the rights to use your piece in electronic form. To cover them all, you really just have to negotiate with the buyer.

There's also the (I think) unfathomable option to sell ALL rights - which is exactly what it sounds like. I never plan on selling this agreement: just imagine how pissed off you would be if your story about Jack and Jill and their adventures on a hilltop became an award-winning movie featuring Viggo Mortensen and Julia Roberts, but the magazine got paid for it instead of you. Remember: your writing is yours, and you need to make sure the editor(s) you're dealing with know exactly what you're selling, and exactly what they can shove up their asses.

And Now, For Something Completely Different: sorry about the boring column content, so here's a bunny with a pancake on its head:

And now a Cat that looks like Jabba The Hutt:

I hope I managed to make a quick discussion on legal creative licensing rights somewhat tolerable. Next week: Query and cover letters!

So, what projects do we have around here? What are we working on? What would we like to get sent in?

And if you see our prestigious editor, Michele, give her some encouragement and make sure she sends something in to a publication that she does not edit. I know you're reading this, Michele: you can't hide from me!

Ian could have done the whole thing in limericks. No, really. Archives


Fine. Ok. I'll find somewhere that takes short short stories.

* goes back to hiding *


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