So there you are, looking at the guidelines for a new market, and with every line you read you’re more convinced that it is, in fact, the ideal market for your work. Your manuscript has everything they’re asking for and everything you’re reading makes perfect sense - that is, until you come to the section telling you which Rights the publisher wants and will pay you for.

Suddenly, you can’t quite remember the difference between First Rights, All Rights and One Time Rights. Immediately your enthusiasm wavers and you put down the guidelines telling yourself you’ll look at them again when your brain is a bit clearer on the differences.

So here, to ease the confusion, and to improve your confidence when signing a contract, is an outline of the more common rights used by publishers.

First Rights
This is a promise the manuscript has not previously been published anywhere, through any media. Often this might read First Australian Rights, or First UK Rights and so on, which means that the work has not been published within the specified country or area before. Once you have sold a manuscript’s First Rights in one location it is possible to go on and sell them to other areas, but not in the same area again.

Second Rights
Offering this shows the editor that the work has been bought previously (in the same area) and that they are being offered the opportunity to purchase it a second time. As with First Rights this can also be sold in areas. Payment for Second Rights is less than that for First, but these rights can be sold more than once.  

One Time Rights
As it sounds, this gives the publisher the permission to print your manuscript only once. The editor is aware their right to produce the work is non-exclusive which enables you to sell the manuscript many times.

International Rights
This is similar to First Rights except it is not limited to one geographical area. The publisher has the authority to print your work and sell it in any country.

All Rights
Once All Rights have been sold you can not print, or sell, the manuscript again. The Rights become the property of the publisher or publication. Since this allows them to print your work as they please, consider carefully before offering these rights. The main reasons a writer would accept these terms are 1) to help create an impressive byline (a list of published work), 2) because the payment is high, 3) because the writer has no doubt that they can easily produce the same standard and genre of work again, 4) because nobody else would ever want this piece of work.
There are many publishers who ask for All Rights, but the area that seems to request them most is the American magazine market. Sadly, this is also one of the biggest English speaking markets for articles and short stories.

Of course, everybody’s decision is their own and everybody has different reasons for their choices, but before signing away all the rights on your manuscript ask yourself one question. ‘Is what you’re receiving an equal trade for your time and skill?’
First Serial Rights
In this field, any regularly produced publication is referred to as a serial. Therefore, by offering First Serial Rights you are saying that this particular piece of work has not been published in a magazine, newspaper or similar publication before.

Electronic Rights
This covers any work printed by electronic means such as, on the internet (including ebooks and ezines), or interactive games. When selling Electronic Rights there maybe specific areas that the publisher is interested in, always clarify these before signing a contract.

This is relatively new form of Rights and is often used in books made up of a variety of stories from different authors. The publisher is paying you a once off fee for the privilege of using your story. It covers them for one publication, unless otherwise stated, and leaves you free to sell the rights elsewhere, unless otherwise stated. This is similar to One Time Rights.

No Rights
Should you have a manuscript commissioned to you by a publisher you, as the author, have no rights to sell on the work, nor do you hold the copyright. Since the editor came up with the idea it is considered that the article, the rights and the copyright, all belong to the publisher.
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