Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Explanation of Different Publishing Rights - Publishing as a Second Language

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

Often I'm asked questions about rights. 
  • What exactly does that mean? 
  • Is it okay to sell all rights? 
  • Why do I need to know about rights?
  • I wrote it so doesn’t that mean I have the rights to my own material?

Rights is a rather complex area of writing. Every writer should be aware of the different types of rights and what they mean.

When you submit an article to a publisher, part of what is noted in the top right hand portion of your manuscript is what rights you are offering. Before submitting make sure you understand exactly what rules exist with the rights you are offering.

The Most Common Rights 
First Rights is the most common and most desirable.
First Rights—This is the most common and most desirable type of rights. First rights means the publisher has the right to publish your work for the first time, one time.

All Rights—An all rights sale is just that. You have sold all rights to the material and it now belongs to the publisher who can do whatever he chooses and publish it as many times as he wants without any further payment to you. However, you need to understand that you have not sold the ability to use your story again; you have just sold the story in that version, that exact arrangement of words. In other words, you can rewrite the same story with other words and offer it again as first rights to a different publication. In most cases, it is best not to sell all rights.
Occasionally you may decide to offer all rights. If you have submitted to a high-profile magazine and want to be able to include it in your clip file, you may want to accept an all rights contract. Or if you have an opportunity to share your story in a unique way and you probably wouldn’t use it in that format again, you may consider all rights.

Reprint Rights are sometimes called second rights.
Reprint Rights—Once an article has been published, you may offer it to another publication with reprint rights. Sometimes reprint rights are called second rights. Another good reason not to sell all rights is so you are able to offer reprint rights to other publications. Be sure to check your contract, however, because most publications have a certain amount of time you must wait after your article is in print before the rights revert to you. Noncompeting markets are a good place to look for reprint opportunities.
For example, if your article was published in a denominational magazine, look for opportunities in magazines of other denominations. If you published an article in a regional parenting magazine, look at parenting publications in other parts of the country. There are many publications eager for articles and reprints can be a good way to increase your income with a minimum amount of additional work.

First North American serial rights—When I first started writing, I thought this type or rights sounded extremely complicated. But it actually means what it says. You are offering rights for your article to be published in North America for the first time in a magazine or periodical (serial).

Rights need not be confusing. But it is something that writers need to understand in order to make the best choices for their work. Hope this helps a bit!

An explanation of different #publishing rights - @LindaGilden on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Don't let the different rights in #publishing confuse you - @LindaGilden (Click to Tweet)

Linda Gilden is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She finds great joy (and excellent writing material) in time spent with her family. Helping writers understand PSL is one of the things she also loves to do through her newest book, Called to Write. This month she is excited about having a chance to set new goals for the new year and maybe even do a few more rewrites!

To find out more about Linda, her writing, and her ministry, visit You can also connect with her on Twitter @LindaGilden and Facebook at Author Linda Gilden.


  1. Linda, Thank you for shedding some light on this subject. I am no longer confused. May God bless you as you serve Him.

  2. Thank you Linda. I'll print this off as a handy reference.

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Linda. Great picture, by the way.

  4. Linda, great post! Would you be interested/willing in doing a webinar for authors on this topic? I'd love to chat with you! Reach me at or 502-445-6539.

  5. Thank you for all your positive comments. Please keep in mind that this is an abbreviated look into publishing rights. But it is important to know the difference as you begin selling your work. To all our readers, may you have great success with your writing and if you have other questions about rights, be sure to ask.