First Publisher Rights

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Thread: First Publisher Rights

  1. #1

    First Publisher Rights

    Greetings all!!

    I am new here and don’t understand the first publishing rights. Can people please explain?

    I tried to use the search function but way too many threads came up with none of them titled “Publishing rights for dummies” or “Publishing rights for Newbies”.

    Any help would be great great before I give away my first born child and a golden goose.

  2. #2
    First publishing rights are what publishers usually want. It just means they get to publish the piece first, whether it's a novel, nonfiction book, short story, poem, essay, etc. As the name implies, you can only use your first rights once. After something is published somewhere, anywhere, once, first rights are usually considered gone.

    This is why you should be careful posting your writing on a personal blog that's not behind a password or in a contest that's not behind a password, for a couple of examples. If the general public can see it (if it's not behind a password) then it's technically considered "published" and your first rights are used up. Occasionally, a publisher won't count posting a story or whatever on a non-password-protected blog or contest as using your first rights but they usually do. If the work is behind a password, such as with the workshop section here, then it's not available for the general public to see, so it's not considered published and you haven't used up your first rights.

    After something's been published once, many, if not most, publishers will not want it. And even those that do consider "reprints" (which is what it would be called then) usually pay far less than they do for unpublished material.

    ETA: Self-publishing also counts as "published" and thus uses up your first rights. Sometimes newer writers think that self-publishing a book is a good way to get notice from publishers or agents (an agent would then send it out to publishers for you, for a percentage of the profits, if any are gotten). But as you can see from the above, that is an incorrect idea. (However, as with anything to do with writing, there has been a rare exception to this rule. But that does not change the rule).

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    First publishing rights (FPR) means exactly what it says: That the publisher in question has first rights to the story. Typically these are specified further in the contract "English language", for example, means you can publish the story in French if you want.

    There may then follow a period of exclusivity where you cannot publish the same story with another house - 12 months, etc. All this will be spelled out in the contract.

    Unless the story is signed up as a reprint, the vast majority of publishing contracts will be 'first' and may or may not include the period of exclusivity. Bear in mind if you sell the story as 'first' to one publisher you cannot then later sell it as 'first' to another...because it will not be the first publication any longer.

    My opinion:

    - If you agree to FPR, make sure there is some indicator in the contract as to when the book will be published. I am having a problem currently with having signed and been paid for 'FPR' and exclusivity on two stories which are in limbo where the book has not yet been released and the publisher has not provided me with the ETA. It's annoying, because I cannot re-sell the stories without violating the contract.

    - As a U.S author, I don't care much about non-English publishing ('murica!) and unless you are bilingual or based in a foreign country that may not be of much interest or concern to you either.

    - If there is a period of exclusivity, avoid any that goes beyond 12 months unless you are totally sure you are comfortable with it or if the story in question is not terribly important to you.

    - Avoid exclusivity agreements unless they are paying you something. I think that's basic fairness. Exclusivity agreement means you lost the ability to use the story for a fixed period. Is that something you should give up to some choosing beggar 'publisher' for nothing but 'exposure'?

    - Once again, bear in mind a story can only be 'first' published once and most publishers (though by no means all) prefer new stories, so keep that in mind with choosing your publisher. I do not recommend being too choosy because, of course, there is a chance nobody else will want to publish the story and you will end up with nothing, but the flip side of that is you may not want to 'sell' the story and its first rights (it's 'virginity', if you like) to some low-end 'publisher' who will sell very few or zero copies and will not benefit you.

    Conclusion: Be selective, but don't be arrogant. Be honest with yourself about where you are.. If this is your first outing with a story that while good is not, in all honesty, likely to set the world ablaze or win the Pushcart Prize, then the question as to who publishes it probably isn't a big deal: You will gain a publishing credit -- which is important -- a book for your shelf, and then move on and write better, hopefully more successful stories. On the other hand IF you actually think the story could be worth some serious money and time, then it's obviously idiotic to sell it off for no money and no platform just because you're desperate: Don't give away the rights to a story to 'Farting Bullet Books 'Inc'" for 'contributor copy only' if you could realistically get it in with a big place.


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