Do you really want to give up your first rights?

I told a friend the other day I’d submitted a short story to a publisher and was waiting to hear whether they were going to accept it for their anthology.  After giving me a firm lecture on why I should self-publish instead of waiting at the mercy of a publisher to make up their minds, he congratulated me and hmphed some more.  I asked him what the big deal was, why he was so against traditional publishing.

He started out by asking me if I realized I would sign away my first serial rights to the publisher if they decided to accept it.  Serial rights.  Yeah.  Heard about those and if my novel or short story finds the perfect home with a publisher, I’m okay with giving the publisher first serial rights.  But what exactly are these first rights to publication?

It’s exactly what it says it is.  If you are self-publishing, you have given yourself as publisher the first rights to publish your manuscript.  If you are going the traditional publishing route, you are giving the publisher first rights to print your story.  In the U.S., this is known as the First North American Serial Rights, and it is highly valued by publishers.  During the time the publisher holds rights to your manuscript (this will be in your contract), you are not allowed to sell it to any other publisher, magazine, movie house…nada.  At the end of that period, the copyright reverts back to the owner and you can do whatever you want with it.  While you can never get back first rights to that work again (obviously), you can sell Reprint Rights, Anthology Rights, etc.

Is is possible to give up your first right of publication and not realize it?

Yes, especially if you have posted your work in a public domain.

Some agents and publishers will tell you a work is not considered ‘published’ if you have an excerpt of your manuscript on your blog or website.  Others will tell you in big letters, YES, IT IS!  Some will tell you it’s okay to post as long as the work is in an online critique group, and password protected.  Other publishers will tell you it doesn’t matter…published is published.  Who do you believe?  And what difference does it make?

It makes a big difference if you are going the traditional route.  To avoid the issue, I suggest not posting any of your works in a public domain.  I have some of my works posted in an online critique group, but they are password protected and there are further privacy levels to restrict which members I choose to critique my works.  Call me anal, but I don’t want my chances blown with a publisher because I posted something online in a public forum and now it’s considered “published”.  

As someone who wishes to follow the traditional publishing path, keeping my first rights until I find the right publisher is important to me.  If you plan on self-publishing, then it probably won’t matter to you.  Just be aware of the buzz surrounding this issue and plan accordingly to your publishing taste.

“P” is for Publishing – It’s no longer a ‘romantic’ industry

Hi, everyone!  This post is part of the A-Z challenge. Please take time to visit the other blogs that are participating.

We all know the publishing world is turning upside down, and don’t let anyone convince you that the industry is dead.  

The numbers I read from Bowker reports  dated April 4, 2010, and May 18, 2011 are astounding:

247,777 books were published in 2002
266,322 in 2003
295,523 in 2004
282,500 in 2005
296,362 in 2006
407,646 in 2007
561,580 in 2008
1,335,475 in 2009
3,092,740 in 2010

At this rate there could be tens of millions of ISBN numbers issued in 2012. Did you get that? Tens of millions of possible books!

The number is mind-boggling, and you know as well as I, those books aren’t coming out of the Big 6.  This means most of the influx (even if only half of are published) will come from self-published authors.   This saddens me to a certain degree.  Many years ago, it meant something to say you were a published author.  It was romantic.  You were looked upon with a certain respect.  You were special.  Unique.  After all, not everyone had a way with the written word.

Not anymore.

Now, thanks to Lulu, CreateSpace and Amazon (among others), anyone can be published, whether they have talent or not.   There’s nothing special about being published anymore.   If you have a thousand bucks in your pocket and words thrown into a .pdf file, you can be published.  That’s not to say there aren’t some good self-published books out there.  There are, but the self-gratification process negates the romantic element of being published…the being picked.

There is something romantic about a publisher choosing a particular short story or novel for publication.  After all your time, hard work and persistence, someone notices and thinks you’re pretty darn special.  Your publishing ‘soul mate’ has picked you, YOU, out of the millions of hopefuls, to represent.  It’s romantic.  It’s exhilarating.  You won!  Your ‘voice’ spoke above all the others.

Where is the romance with self-publishing?  You plunk down your hard-earned money, gratify your needs, and then congratulate yourself for a job well done.  I will admit there are some lucky self-published authors who sell lots of books, but those are few and far between.

And what is with this eBook stuff?  I know it’s the wave of the future, but where’s the romance of pointing to something on a screen and saying, “I wrote that”?  Imagine giving birth to a baby and never being able to hold it, touch it.  All you can do is look at it on a screen and say “I created that.”  I know this is an extreme example, but there’s not much difference to me.  These are my words, my creations.  I want to touch them, see them.  I want to autograph a complete novel, not a cover page. To me, digital isn’t real.  It isn’t physical.  It’s not the actual work.  It’s cold. It’s cyber.  It’s not romantic.

I fear tangible proof of an author’s work will someday vanish completely, like so many other crafts.  Physical books will be found only in museums or private collections.  They’ll be rare, but you know what?  They’ll be real.  They’ll outlast the Kindles and Nooks, and you’ll never have to worry about out-dated software.  All you’ll ever need with a tangible book are your eyes and imagination.  And when you’re done, all you have to do is pass the books on for someone else to enjoy.  No worrying about copyright infringement or too many downloads  per ‘license’ or ‘share’ rights.

Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I think this old-fashioned, romantic girl is going to keep it ‘real’. I know there’s a publisher out there who’s going to think I’m special, and my writing will find a home.  All I have to do is hold out and wait.  Be patient.  The best is yet to come.