Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Giving Up Your Rights

Recently, I was doing an "ego" search and found that Amazon was selling a craft article which I had sold years ago to Child Life. It was listed at $5.95! As I was only paid $25 for the original article, I was at first amazed. Then, I was angry. Who gave them the right to do this?

It's a good thing that I didn't send off a hasty, "what the hell do you think your doing?" letter. When I pulled out my old records, I realized when I sold the article in 1994, I had sold "all" rights. At the time, I was a "newbie" writer and I still recall being absolutely thrilled that I had sold something to what I thought was a good market. I believed in the magazines that Children's Better Health Institute published. In fact, I purchased some for my own children. It never dawned on me that I should be quibbling about what rights to sell them. Fortunately, as my writing skills and reputation have grown, I no longer sell all rights when I sell a piece to a magazine. I try to sell only first rights, or one-time rights if its a regional publication.

With the Child Life article, unfortunately, the damage had already been done. I have no idea how many of these articles Amazon has sold or how much additional money the publisher has earned. I do know that I haven't seen any of that money, nor will I ever see it.

Don't short change yourself. If you believe in your work, fight to retain most of your rights. If the editor likes the article or story, she will either accept your terms or counter-offer. At any rate, once you make the effort, you can then decide whether you are willing to give up all your rights. Oftentimes when we are just starting on our writing careers, we are willing to give away our work. If this is what you want to do, it is your personal choice. However, keep accurate records so at some later date if you see your piece being sold on Amazon, or elsewhere, you won't be tempted, as I was, to rant and rave about being ripped off.

Happy writing.


  1. Sometimes in our enthusiasm we are our own worst enemy.

    As the old saying goes, "We live and learn."

  2. Isn't that the truth. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.