We recently had a bit of excitement behind the scenes at New Hampshire Writers’ Network. The publisher of a new textbook asked Jamie if they could reprint one of her L2W-W2L posts. Her very popular 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer to be exact.
This was no small self-publishing effort. The publishers were planning a first print run of 150,000. More good news, they were not looking for exclusive rights and were willing to pay. Without suggesting a figure, Jamie was asked to submit an invoice. Maybe they forgot or maybe they were being coy but the company never specified a figure. The word token was bandied about in describing said payment.
As we often do, the Writers quickly held a virtual discussion via email to exchange a few ideas. After a few woot-woots! for Jamie, her good work and good fortune, we all agreed that token could mean anything. So first and foremost, we agree if anyone offers $$$ but asks for an invoice without agreeing a figure, go back and ask for a figure first and send the invoice later. Jamie was glad she asked and was well satisfied with their answer.
During our email discussion we shared some of our experiences with nonexclusive contracts to help Jamie evaluate their answer and proposed payment. In case you are wondering what we came up with … here goes:
Syndication is the ultimate in non-exclusivity. You sell your work to many, if you are lucky thousands, of publications. Maybe you have a gardening or technology column that you’ve been selling to your local newspaper for peanuts. If that’s the case, you may be thinking of syndicating or selling the column to every newspaper within a 1,000 mile (or more) radius and websites from here to infinity and beyond.
When you syndicate your work you retain the rights and the individual payments are small. If you self-syndicate you can expect payments of $10-15 per article. If you work with an agency, they will take a percentage but don’t begrudge them their cut. If they are any good, they have considerably more marketing, sales and admin muscle than you have on your own. You may make less per insert but you should more than make it up in the volume.
But what about what about Jamie’s situation … non-exclusive rights to an article? A non-exclusive contract saves a publisher money so many don’t mind if you re-sell it. Of course there is a catch. (There’s always a catch.) While a text book may pluck articles from blogs and magazines, most magazines want first dibs to your work.
They don’t mind if you re-sell but their contracts usually stipulate exclusive first North American Serial Rights. The period of exclusivity will be stated in the contract, usually three, six or twelve months. At the end of the exclusivity period you are free to re-sell the material to another client.
However, it can be difficult to re-sell a piece without a significant rewrite or new hook. As much as the next editor loves your idea, chances are her contract will also insist on exclusive first North American Serial Rights. Her ardor for your story will quickly cool when she learns that another magazine ran it verbatim six months ago.
But don’t despair, you’ve done some research and put a story together. You can always rework and reuse parts of the original story. Plus quotes and information that didn’t make it into the final version might come in handy in a new story. While it’s not instant money, it’s better than starting from scratch.
For this short-term exclusivity, regional magazines are apt to pay 25-50 cents per word. However as little as 10 cents per word (and unfortunately sometimes even lower) is not unheard of. On the plus side, national publications will usually pay more (and sometimes much more).
What’s your experience with non-exclusive contracts? We’d love to hear from you?
Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned writer. Her favorite topics include food, family, marketing, small business and green living. Feel free to visit her food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or Susan Nye 365 her day in a life photoblog.
© Susan Nye, 2012