Eric Makes An Ebook: 6 – I Sold My Story Last Year, Do I Still Have the Rights To Publish My Work

I sold my story last year... how can I sell it again? Answer... the magic of copyright.

For this week's post we are going to talk about the rights questions #6 and #7. This will be especially useful for short story authors who are anthologizing their work, and for people who bought the NOLO copyright book. Just as a reminder, here are the Ebook questions we are looking at, and what we found out so far.

Ebook Questions For Smart Beginners

  1. Who sells ebooks besides Amazon? Kobo, BN, Tolino, Apple, Smashwords and Draft2Digital; + lots of other places
  2. How much does it cost?   All companies work on consignment. So the upfront cost is free.
  3. Do I need a bank account, EIN or DBA?  Yes you need a bank account and it's easier if  you keep a separate business account.
  4. Do I need a ISBN?  Mostly not. Not for Amazon, but other top vendors do require an ISBN. Luckily, distributors such as Smashwords will give you one for free. To control my book's message, here's why I did buy ISBNs.
  5. Do I need copyright?YES you should but you don't have to. You need to read this book to understand copyright. But get legal advice if the word "contract" is mentioned.
  6. Do I have the rights to my work? 
  7. What about previously published work? Find Contracts!
  8. How do you format an ebook?
  9. Do I need a print book?

You automatically own the copyright to any work that you create as soon as it is put down in physical form. So you do not need to register the copyright to control it. However, copyright to a work  can be sold in small slices, or in its entirety. If you sign a contract stating that you "Assign" the rights, you have sold all of the copyright, in all forms of media, for all time... for a lousy one-time payment. Hope you read the contract!

In a short story contract it is most common to sell First North American Serial Rights and non-exclusive reprint rights. If you are looking to anthologize previously published work, then go back and dig up your old contracts. What copyrights did you sell?

They're about to learn what happens when you mess with the wrong caver... Cordi Akelarre is an exoplanetary cave explorer, on the verge of the discovery of a lifetime. When a group of eco-terrorists sneak into Cordi's cave and try to steal her latest find, she's ready for them. There's a reason she's kept that cave a secret. It holds a mystery that could change the entire planet (and make her the richest woman in the solar system). Did they really think she was going to give up that easily?

This is the first of a series of novellas featuring Cordi Akelarre, exoplanetary cave explorer, disabled heroine, and semi-professional bad-ass. 

She's not afraid of the dark. She's afraid of what she might do to protect it. For sale everywhere.

First North American Serial Rights, gives the publisher the exclusive rights to be the first person to publish your work, in North America. Many times the word "North American" is replaced by "English", which means you have sold the publisher the right to be the first person to publish your work in English exclusively.

Now, usually that exclusivity has some term limits, so it will be about 6 months or a year. This avoids unfair competition on your part. Say you sold a story to Analog, and then sold reprint rights to Asimov's a week after it's published in Analog. Technically, you've done nothing wrong, since one company got to publish you first, and the other got to reprint your work. But since they overlap during the initial publication period, Asmiov's and Analog would compete. That's why they put a term limit on the exclusive period (By the way, this would never happen, since these two magazines publish very different types of science fiction, and they're the same company).

So your next step (and mine) was to find my old contracts for these short stories and ensure I hadn't sold or assigned all rights. I verified that each contract had purchased (really, licensced) First North American Serial Rights, and that the terms had expired. Then I checked to make sure I still retained reprint rights. Even though I had sold some non-exclusive reprint rights, the word "non-exclusive", meant we both got to resell the work.

Hooray for the magic of copyright! Thank you founding fathers!

Copyright  2018  E.C. Stever  - Posts on the 7th and 21st of each month



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