One Lawyer’s Freelance Article is Another’s Syndicated Column By Jill Pertler

One Lawyer’s Freelance Article is Another’s Syndicated Column By Jill Pertler

I’m a self-syndicated columnist, but that’s only the tip of my writing iceberg. You have to buy groceries, you know? And, I’ll be darned, but my kids have this weird idea they need to eat every day. So write, I must.

I do freelance writing for a variety of sources. One is a regional glossy magazine owned by a large publishing company. I had a regular writing assignment that involved writing a first-person essay for the inside back cover.

I’d been writing for the magazine for four years and had a contract in place, giving the publishing company first rights to my work. Three months after publication (90 days) all rights returned to me and I could re-publish my articles elsewhere. It was a fair and equitable situation.

Then the lawyers stepped in. With a new contract. Demanding all rights. Forever. Period. They requested I sign on the dotted line. Please.

There are some smart and talented people in this world who don’t blink an eye about signing away all rights. In some cases, I might agree. Good writers can always find more words, different messages and alternate ways to tell a tale. The stories I told on the back page were essays – about my family. I made an individual decision; I couldn’t bring myself to sell all rights.

The lawyers didn’t care about my stories – personal or not. Contracts are clearly more important than any story. They told me to sign. Or else.

For a moment I figured I’d lost my back page gig because I knew I wasn’t going to sign the contract. Then I remembered: I am a syndicated columnist!

I asked the magazine if they would be interested in working with me not as a freelancer, but as a syndicated columnist. The very nature of syndication involves the right to reprint and reuse. I figured I’d fired a long shot, but it was worth a try.

The magazine got back to me pronto. They had one question: Would they incur an extra charge for working with me as a syndicated columnist? In other words, their answer was, ìYes!î I went on to write the back page article as a syndicated column and never signed my rights away.

The lesson: If you are faced with a contract making demands you aren’t willing to live by, perhaps you can rethink the job and switch hats from ìfreelancerî to ìsyndicated columnist.î Any lawyer will tell you it’s all in the verbiage; and if anyone can beat a lawyer at that game, it’s a writer or, better yet, a self-syndicated columnist!

Jill Pertler has touched people’s hearts and funny bones with her well-loved column, Slices of Life, since 2002. She self-syndicated it in 2009 and it currently appears in over 75 newspapers in six states.

Her book on the subject, “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” is now available through 

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