Sunday, March 04, 2018

What are: "one-time rights"?

If a journal publishes the chapter with “one-time rights, the rights revert back to author after publication,” is that a problem later on? In other words, will that part of the book be considered previously published by editors down the line? I don’t want to publish an excerpt somewhere and then have to remove it from the book if it gets picked up.

There is no such thing as one time rights.
What there is, is licensing the right to do something with your chapter. What is it?

Rights is used to refer to the bundle of license opportunities associated with publishing a book. Audio rights for example (and unsurprisingly) is granting a license to the publisher to publish an audio version of the book.

This is hugely confusing to writers, and also important to know, it's hugely confusing to a lot of people who are writing contracts.

I review all the contracts my clients sign for short stories and I've seen some stuff that makes me weep with frustration.

Most likely the journal you've queried wants to publish your chapter non-exclusively, in print and electronic form. You want to specify the language (or all languages) and the territory (North America or most likely world)

World English is the right to publish something in English around the world.
World rights is shorthand for the right to publish in any language.

Non-exclusive means someone else can also publish the chapter without infringing the agreement you've entered into with the journal.

Exclusive is generally when the journal can keep you from publishing the chapter with someone else. You want to make sure there's a time frame for the exclusivity. Exclusive for three months, a year, five years. Without a specific end date, you've licensed them in perpetuity and that's not not not what you want to do.

As to the actual question you asked: publishing a chapter before the book is sold isn't a problem for book publishers. You simply make sure they know about it ahead of time. Publishers can and do publish work that has been published before. Jane Austen hasn't been a debut in quite some time.

In fact, interest in your book, as manifested by publishing chapters of it ahead of time, is a selling point. You'd include that information in your query letter.

What you want to make sure the contract with the journal says though is: a non-exclusive license to print the Work (that is the chapter) in English, throughout the world, in print and electronic form for a period of X years.


Elissa M said...

These kinds of contract details might sound boring, but it's exactly the sort of thing I like to know about. It's also what reminds me that I really want to work with an agent and not try to figure out these things on my own.

Beth Carpenter said...

Very helpful. It's easy to skim a contract and not realize exactly what you're agreeing to.

I'd not imagine a magazine that's paying, say $100 for a flash story would negotiate for weeks over a contract, so I wonder if the writer says "I want to limit the exclusive to 1 year" if the publisher would usually agree quickly, or if they'd tend to say "No thanks, I'll find a different author who will sign our standard contract."

Joseph S. said...

I'm curious,OP (and Janet Reid) (and anyone else who knows).

When publishing a chapter from a future novel, do you leave it as it will appear in the novel or do you modify the chapter to complete the one-chapter story?

The Sleepy One said...

Joseph Snoe, you can probably find examples of published short stories that are also part of a novel if you want to read several. The first that comes to mind is Karen Russel's SWAMPLANDIA, as it started out a short story in her short story collection ST LUCY'S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES. I'll try to think of other examples.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

I also find this post very helpful. Thanks!

I am particularly nervous about a future publisher being able to change my manuscript as they like, since they will have bought it. That's at least what someone told me can happen.

Craig F said...

Joseph: The answer is that depends.

Some journals like to use excerpts, others like a completed story. If you get something accepted they will let you know.

It is posts like this that turned me into a lurker. Then I tripped over the foot in my mouth and vommented all over this place.

I have some knowledge of contracts and rights. My advice?

Read this until it is firmly ingrained in your memory. The people who write contracts like to mess with people so they change the names on things. This post is about the primal parts of what you need to know, on character and story rights. Some of them will be dressed like Halloween costumes or Christmas ornaments when you see them but you will know where their bones lie.

Joseph S. said...

I recall reading the first chapter of John Grisham's "Calico Joe" in an issue of Sports Illustrated. SI told us up front it was the first chapter of the book.

I also recall reading one of Jean Shepherd's novels (I think it was "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash") in which jean took a bunch of what I call short stories he published elsewhere, mainly in Playboy magazine, created a narrator talking to a bartender about his days back in Indiana, and called the collection a novel.

But I'm unaware of my reading a seemingly complete short story that was a chapter yanked from a novel.

BJ Muntain said...

Often, a magazine will use the term 'one-time rights' as shorthand for 'we just want to publish it in our magazine once. After that, it's all yours to do with as you will.' But that's on their web page, not in their contract (I hope), just to be clear what they want. If it says that in the contract, they need to see a publishing lawyer.

BJ Muntain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BJ Muntain said...

Beth: Yes, there is always a risk a magazine will walk away rather than negotiate. The author can, too. And if the magazine insists on things the author doesn't want to give, then walking away is okay. It's usually a good thing to have someone knowledgeable about publishing law to look over a contract.

One of us: The publisher shouldn't own it; they should only have the right to publish it according to the contract. Do get a publishing lawyer or someone else familiar with publishing contracts to read the contract and explain exactly what the publisher wants.If you don't like it, don't sign it.

Beth Carpenter said...

Thanks, BJ.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Thank you, BJ Muntain!