Know Your Rights By Diane Stark

When I first started writing, I would find a market I was interested in writing for, send them a query and then wait to hear back from them. If they liked the idea, I’d write the story, they’d print it and I’d cash the check. End of story.

But it wasn’t the end of the story. Or it shouldn’t have been.

Because, what I didn’t know was that my story still had value. I could sell that piece to another publication, netting another check with little work on my part.

Back then, I didn’t know my rights. But now I do, and my bottom line reflects it.

Now, when I look for markets I’d like to write for, I look for several that might run similar stories. I send my query to the highest paying publication first. If they’re interested, I write the story and cash their check. But I pay very close attention to their writer’s guidelines and to the contract I’ve signed. Both of these documents should tell me which rights that magazine has purchased.

If they’ve bought first rights or one-time rights…really anything but all rights…then my story can be re-sold to another magazine. I keep track of when the initial publication will be using the story and then I’m free to shop it around to other magazines.

Maintaining good records is vital if a writer is going to sell the same story multiple times. The last thing you want is to sell first rights to a magazine, only to have another publication print the story first. That’s a major no-no, and the chances are good that neither editor will want to work with you again.

It’s also important to be honest about when and where a story has already appeared. Always be upfront if your story is a reprint. Many editors won’t mind that it’s already been printed somewhere else, but they’ll be really upset if they find out that you weren’t honest about it. This is another way to anger an editor and miss out on repeat business.

Many regional parenting publications buy one-time rights to stories. They don’t care if the piece appears in other magazines at the same time, as long as the other magazines don’t overlap their readership, which is any located in their geographic area.

The same is true for many of the small religious publications. They usually buy just one-time rights and will allow the story to be printed simultaneously, as long as it doesn’t overlap their readership, which is any publication in their specific religious denomination.

As long as you play by the rules, re-selling your work can be a great way to cash in. Remember, it pays to know your rights when it comes to your writing.

Diane Stark is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Her work has been published in more than a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul books, A Cup of Comfort for Mothers, and The Ultimate Teacher. She is the author of Teacher’s Devotions to Go. Diane can be reached at Dianestark19 – at –