Sometimes, it’s not until you build up a body of work that you really appreciate what you have created. And that’s when the consequences of being a little slap dash with the rights you grant others in your work becomes apparent.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to be swayed into granting more rights in a piece of your work than you’d like. You know you really ought not give a publisher copyright in your article, but they are going to publish it (which is what you really want) and, let’s face it, who is going to turn Ten Alternative Uses Of A Nose-Hair Clipper into a movie?
While I will say that there can be a time and a place for assigning copyright, retaining as many rights as you can is important because you never know what opportunities may arise in the future. More opportunities can arise as your body of work builds up over time.
Freelance writer Susie Kearley has just published The Little Book of Freelance Writing. The book draws upon material and quotes she initially gathered for many of her articles. Had she sold the copyright (or granted a magazine All Rights, which is, effectively, the same thing) then she would have found producing such a book much more difficult.
So it’s because she’s been careful with the rights she’s granted in her work that she’s been able to exploit this opportunity. Having written so much, she now has a wealth of material from which to draw, something that probably didn’t cross her mind when she wrote her first article.
Some of you may know that a few years ago I collected together some of my short stories that had been published in women’s magazines, and I repackaged them into my own anthology of stories: Ten Teatime Tales. This collection continues to sell today: an opportunity I couldn’t exploit had I sold the copyright in those stories as one womag market demands.
Yes, the rights the womag markets seek these days are different than those of a few years ago, but in many cases it’s a limited exclusivity period they seek, rather than a more detrimental All Rights or Copyright clause. And although this impacts upon what else I can do with my material (which is why Ten Teatime Tales 2 has been a little while longer in coming out than I first anticipated, but it will be out soon) those limited exclusivity rights haven’t stopped me from exploiting my body of work further in in the end. So Ten Teatime Tales 2 can happen because I’ve been careful as to whom I submitted my material and, therefore, which rights in my work I’ve granted.
I know from my own experience that when you sit down and write something that you hope will become your first published piece you don’t think about how many more pieces you will write, let alone might be published. But if you are a writer, and you write on a regular basis, you will build up a body of work. And sometimes new opportunities will arise enabling you to exploit that work further. But those opportunities can only be exploited if you’re careful as to which rights you grant to a magazine or publisher in the first place. And that includes those first early pieces that you successfully get published and push you down the road to writing even more material.