Most writers want to sell their articles — that’s their bottom line. However, if you want to make a living writing articles, you’ll need to learn about selling international rights to your articles. This allows you to sell the same article multiple times, thus earning multiple avenues of income. To keep yourself out of legal hot water, it helps to understand international rights and how they apply to your article.
Most publications offer payment on a sliding scale pertaining to the types of rights you offer. For example, an article written as a work-for-hire piece is probably going to garner a larger initial payment, but you won’t have the right to sell that article ever again. The same goes for any time you sell an article with “exclusive rights”; this is an all-encompassing rights package that strips you of the ability to make more money from it. Selling international rights helps you to compartmentalize where and when you sell your article, which leads to more money in the long run.
The most popular way for writers to sell international rights is to sell the article in the U.S. first for FNASR (First North American Serial Rights). This means that you’re granting the publications the right to publish your article for the first time in the U.S. and Canada and keeps you from selling that same article again in those countries. However, it does leave the option open to sell it in the U.K. or Asia or South America any time you choose.
Of course, you also have to look at the exclusivity of selling international rights to a particular region. For example, many writers choose to sell language-specific rights so that their options aren’t limited to a specific region. For example, if you were to sell First European rights to an England-based publication, you couldn’t turn around and sell it to a French publication the following month. To circumvent this limitation, you could sell it to the first publication for English rights. Then, you wouldn’t be prevented from selling it to the French publication as long as it was printed in French.
You should also be aware of the differences between “exclusive rights”, “non-exclusive rights”, “one-time rights” and “first rights”. Ideally, you would publish all of your articles non-exclusively for one-time rights, which gives you the option to make additional money at a later date, according to your contract. If you sell your article for exclusive rights, you are essentially selling your rights away, which will have a large impact on multiple streams of revenue.
And finally, make sure that you scour your contract for other provisions that might catch you later. For example, many publications are now including electronic rights to their contracts because they publish articles both in print and on the web. This is dangerous because if you sell exclusive electronic rights, your article can never be sold to another Internet publication; furthermore, you are usually granting rights “in perpetuity” since articles remain on the Internet for as long as the publication is still in print.
Selling international rights is a great way to further your freelance writing career, but if you have any questions or don’t understand a contract, your best bet is to ask an attorney to look it over. If you were to violate your contract and illegally sell additional rights to your articles, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble.