Read the fine print.

It’s amazing that writers are the worst ones when it comes to reading the directions or fine print. It’s a joke, but it ain’t funny, honey. Especially when you’re the one that reminds other writers to be careful on this and then get caught doing the exact same thing.

 When you submit your work to a publisher or a contest, read everything carefully. Make sure you understand the terms.

Are they asking for your First North American Rights? If so, is there an exclusivity clause for a certain time period? You can sell subsequent rights, have your work republished elsewhere, after that time frame lapses.

Do they take all rights? Do they promise to give you a byline or copyright credit, or intend to run it without your name.

I’ve sold stories to True Confessions Magazine (Dorchester, NY) and they take ALL rights. You can’t use or sell that story ever again.

In the event that you’ve “accidentally” given all rights, and want them back, you can simply send a letter requesting said rights. Most publishers will release subsequent rights. You can ask for those rights before you sign the initial agreement.

I recently submitted some stories to a contest online. The rules said they would always make sure that the author would be given a copyright line when the stories were used. Great, right?

Another line said they assumed all rights to the stories submitted. It was easy to assume that meant ONLY THE STORIES THAT WON. But the “outfit” did indeed mean they would use all stories and hold all future rights.

After submission, I re-read the rules and saw that wording and requested that I have all future rights reverted.

Also, they published my story without my name on it–which means they violated their own rules AND copyright law. That gave me leverage, I think, when I stated that, and requested my rights be reverted.

They gave me a letter that stated they released the future rights. It was easy, done by email, and nothing to stress over–but I did stress. And I reminded myself once again not to be stupid, or unprofessional in future. You GOTTA read that fine print. Pour over those rules/submission guidelines, make sure you understand what you’re giving up.

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