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Friday, October 8, 2010

Get Contract-Savvy: Three Ways to Retain Reprint Rights

Earlier this week, I gave you five good reasons to sell reprints. But to sell reprints, you must own the rights to your work. I've written before about how to negotiate more writer-friendly contracts, but let's focus specifically on how to retain reprint rights. Here are three options to consider:

1. If you're presented with an all-rights contract, ask if the magazine has another version you can sign instead. Many national magazines have more than one "standard" contract--one which requests all rights, and a more writer-friendly one which lets you retain some rights to your work. Sometimes simply asking will get you the better one.

2. If an all-rights contract is offered, ask if you can change it to something more writer-friendly. I've had success changing all rights to first N.A. serial rights and nonexclusive web rights, which lets me resell the work to other print publications.

3. If your editor insists on an all-rights contract, ask if you can retain nonexclusive reprint rights. This was the only option I had when writing web stories for a giant corporation with an ironclad all-rights contract. While my editor wanted all rights, he was willing to let me amend the contract to let me retain nonexclusive reprint rights to my work. That simple change has meant thousands of dollars in income from print magazines that purchase reprints; the editors there don't care that a story appeared online several years ago.

Hey, I do write for markets that insist on purchasing all rights, and won't let me retain anything. But I always try to negotiate a better contract--worst case scenario, the editor says "no." I've found it never hurts to ask.


  1. Great post, Kelly. Thanks for sharing this info.

  2. Such helpful information, Kelly. Thanks for sharing. Quick question: is all you need to be able to legally sell reprints that little "nonexclusive reprint rights" clause? Or is there more to the contract that prohibits you from selling reprints even if you are able to add that part? Thanks!!

  3. Hi, Kate--
    As long as there's nothing else precluding you (e.g. an exclusivity provision for a certain amount of time), yes, you're fine re: selling reprints.