Rights and the Writer — Updated

When Writer’s Weekly appears in my Inbox each week, the section of the ezine I’m always eager to read first is “Ask the Experts.” When one writer asks a question, the answer is apt to be helpful for many writers and I welcome all the help I can get.

This week’s question was about Exclusive First Rights. A questioner, identified only as A, had been waiting for nine months for a magazine to schedule a publication date for one of Writer A’s articles. Then the magazine sent a contract asking for Exclusive First Rights for use of the article on the magazine’s website — still without paying the writer or scheduling a print publication date. The writer was to be paid when the article was uploaded onto the website, but that would take place at the discretion of the magazine’s editorial staff.

Writer A was wise in thinking that the publication could sit on the piece forever (they’d already been sitting on it nine months) and a check might never be forthcoming. Writer A rightly thought that payment should be made when the article was accepted and the magazine should schedule a publication date for it when the contract was signed.

But there was a bit of wavering involved. Writer A needed some good print clips and really wanted to see the article in print. Plus the writer wondered if there would be an advantage to having the article appear on the magazine’s website.

Writers’ Weekly publisher, Angela Hoy, is known for coming up with no-nonsense solutions to writers’ dilemmas. “Tell them to give you a no-later-than date for payment or for publication and make them adhere to that date,” she said.

“If they balk at that request, withdraw your submission. No company has the right to sit on somebody else’s work (and money!) for an indefinite period of time. All writers should insist on a ‘no-later-than publication/payment date’ in their contracts!”

I plan to check my future contracts carefully to see if an Exclusive First Rights clause is included, and I’ll add a ‘no-later-than publication/payment date’ clause to every contract. So far, I’ve never been faced with an Exclusive First Rights dilemma like Writer A did, but if I were, I’d heed Angela’s advice.

In no other business can a company hold a supplier’s product for months without paying for it. We writers are suppliers and our articles are our products. Freelancing is a business and we must learn to be businesslike. That means paying attention to the terms of contracts we sign and standing up for our rights.

I’m grateful for the practical advice I get from Writers’ Weekly. I look forward to reading it every Wednesday, not only for Ask the Experts and Angela’s excellent advice, but for being a source of overall support for writers.

The Paying Publications and Freelance Jobs section helps writers tap into new markets, Whispers and Warnings issues alerts about publications that don’t treat writers fairly, and Interview Requests helps writers find experts or diverse sources for articles. (Very diverse sources — among this week’s requests, writers were looking for animal experts, angry teens — or people who know one, and online dating stories from women). There’s also an online forum for writers.

I chose to have the ezine delivered to my Inbox, but you can get it by RSS feed if you prefer.

Please leave a comment.
© 2007 by Laverne Daley

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2 Comments on “Rights and the Writer — Updated”

  1. chocmoon says:

    Wow, nine months. I could not take it. I’m already getting anxious with one pub for having an assignment for two weeks with no response.

    Thanks for passing along the advice.

  2. ldaley says:

    Thanks for your comment, Chocmoon. Two weeks with no response–that’s not a really long time, especially here at the (maybe they’re having lots of parties). Hope you hear from the pub real soon. LD

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