Writers and rights

If you write something and publish it on a blog, an ezine, or some obscure-already-bit-the-dust website, do you still have the right to offer First Rights to another publication, either print or online?

Writers Digest recently published Shades of Gray by Jordan E. Rosenfeld which addresses this quagmire of ambiguity. You need to read Mr. Rosenfeld's article in its entirety.

Unlike print publishing, the rules about online publishing aren't so cut and dried.

Mr. Rosenfeld gives a little checklist for you to determine if what you wrote and put online can be considered previously published.

Answer these questions for a "previously published" litmus test.

Did you grant first North American serial rights?

Was it edited by someone considered part of the editorial staff of the site?

Did it appear in an online journal, even though that journal may no longer be published?

Did it appear in a print publication, regardless of the size of the print run?

Did it appear in a literary anthology?

By the way, in case you don't know, it doesn't matter whether you received pay of any kind in exchange. If you "published" online, meeting the criteria above, then you published and no longer own First Rights.

Now, if it won a prize but wasn't printed, it's considered unpublished. You still have first rights. The same applies if it was entered online for a workshop or if it was on your blog or someone else's blog, but this is changing. Personally, I can see where blog postings may eventually be considered First Printings especially since the NEA recognized online publication in 1998 as credit toward receiving a grant.

Before you offer first rights for something published on a blog, either yours or someone else's, check the current interpretation. Most editors won't pay you for first rights and reprint something you published on a blog, regardless of how good it was, because, well, just because.

There are many different rights that a writer possesses. If you don't know the difference between One Time Serial Rights and First North American Serial Rights, then educate yourself. At the very least, go read Mr. Rosenfeld's article on Writers Digest.

That's what a pro would do.

Sling Words out.

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