Do you Know your Rights?

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I am an author, but I’m also a multi-published freelance writer. In fact, I got my start in writing by freelancing small pieces such as articles, devotions, stories for anthologies, etc. I have been freelancing successfully since 2010 and now have somewhere around 200 published pieces in numerous publications. I also teach workshops on freelancing at writers’ conferences. When I do, I always start with a brief lesson on writer’s rights. Understanding the different types of rights is so important!

These rights are true regardless of whether you are negotiating a contract for a small piece or a larger work. It’s always good to know what your contract says; what rights you are selling the publication / publisher and what rights you are keeping.

Types of rights:

First Rights also called First American Serial Rights (FASR): If you sell a publication First Rights, it means you are selling them the right to be first to publish the piece. (In other words, you are telling them that it has not been published before, and you will not allow it to be published until after whatever time stipulated in the contract. Contracts differ on this—many say one year after the date it appears in their publication, others say six months, and a few say it can be published again immediately after the date it first appears in their publication.)

When you sell first rights, after the time stipulated in the contract, the rights revert to you as the author and you can use it any way you like (you can post it in a compilation of your own, or sell a reprint to it.)

First rights can only be sold once—the first time it is published.

Reprint Rights sometimes called Second American Serial Rights: If you sell a piece that has already been published, you are selling the new publication reprint rights, i. e. the right to publish a reprint of your work. Not all magazines will purchase reprints and those that do often pay less. Not always though; my highest paying article the first time for .25 a word (it was a 1500 word article so that came to $380), the second time as a reprint for another $375 to a magazine that paid just as much for reprints as it did for 1st rights, and has sold two more reprints since then (for $75 & $240) and I’ll sell it again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can sell reprint rights as many times as you can find someone to purchase them. You own the rights to the piece.

One-time Rights are a little tricky. They work more like reprint rights in that the writer owns the rights to his or her piece and can sell them as often as possible. Some well-established writers sell these because there is a demand for that writer’s work. Most publications do not buy these, though. Most stipulate in the writers’ guidelines what kind of rights they are willing to buy, and it is usually first rights, reprint rights, or all rights.

All rights or Exclusive Rights: I generally caution against selling all rights or exclusive rights to a piece. If a magazine buys all rights that means they will own the piece if the writer is willing to sell it. Personally, I do not ever sell all rights to my work. It feels to me like I am selling my babies. They are mine, created from my head and though I am happy for someone to publish it, I do not want that entity to then own it. I want to own my own work! All rights you sell only once, because then it is no longer yours to sell. Selling all rights do, however, tend to pay more and some writers are happy to sell them.

Work for Hire is a term that also refers to the kind of rights a writer will have to a piece. It means the publication has hired you to write for them. Therefore, that publication owns whatever you write. Many journalism jobs are work for hire—where the writer writes for that newspaper, or magazine and as such, writes whatever that magazine wants them to write, and the magazine then owns the content.

I do take some work for hire jobs. I have taken and will continue to take assignments from a couple different devotional magazines. These assignments are considered work for hire, so I do not own the devotions I have written for them. The two I write for are Open Windows (Lifeway) and Reflections (Smyth & Helwys) These are the only instances where I give up ownership of anything I write.

That’s it in a nutshell. Usually you find the rights a magazine wishes to buy in their writers’ guidelines.

Click to Tweet: From @harrietemichael Do You Know Your Rights? What you need to know about writers’ rights. @InspiredPrompt #devotional #writer


Writing Prompt: Write why you would or would not be willing to write on assignment where the publication keeps the rights to your work.

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the world, the people continued as they always had with no idea of the event—the advent—that would happen the next day. In the streets of Jerusalem, the people did not think they needed a new king. They served Caesar and he was the most powerful man on earth. The people didn’t think they needed a savior. They obeyed the Roman laws and were not in trouble that they needed saving from, as far as they knew. And the people in Jerusalem and elsewhere could have cared less what was happening in an obscure little town called Bethlehem.

But what happened in that little town the next day changed the trajectory of history… and changed the lives of so many throughout the years, including you and me. Except for that event, we wouldn’t be celebrating the Christmas season today. But more importantly, we would not be looking forward to spending eternity in heaven with God.

For in that obscure place, the next day, Jesus, God’s own Son, came into the world as a tiny baby. A tiny, helpless baby who looked just like any other baby with ten little toes and ten little fingers, and needed a mother and father to take care of him.

No, most of the people living at that time didn’t realize the magnificent event that occurred in that little town of Bethlehem.

But the ancient prophet, Micah knew what a special place Bethlehem was going to be in history. He foretold it so many years earlier when he said in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Click to Tweet:  Twas the night before #Christmas @InspiredPrompt

Writing Prompt: Write about something you are too busy to notice this Christmas.

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A Lot Can Happen in 10 Years!

by Harriet E. Michael

When I thought about this topic, so many things came to my mind. So much has happened in the last 10 years, nationally, internationally, with friends, with my family, and with me. It was hard to decide what to write about. I chose the single biggest change in my personal life that has occurred in the last 10 years.

10 years ago, I was not a published writer!

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Writing is a new work God is doing in my old age. It’s a huge blessing to me and I can only hope it blesses others too. I thank Him daily for opening these doors, even though as is often the case, it was born out of adversity—from a difficult and even dark time in my life that started in the summer of 2003.

By 2009, I had an unpublished manuscript written on the topic of prayer. This is what later became my book, “Prayer: It’s Not About You” which started out four years earlier as a journaling exercise as I sought to learn more about prayer. Interested in writing, I attended the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference, hoping to learn how to get a manuscript published. I came home thinking that goal was not achievable, unless I self-published but I had learned three things: 1) I knew very little about the publishing world, even after the conference, 2) I have editing issues. 3) I didn’t have a platform.

I now know that a writer can pay an editor, and hire out other parts of the publishing process and turn out a good independently-published book. But at the time, getting a book out seemed impossible.

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Writing still intrigued me. Actually, it did more than that; it pulled like a magnet. I had words I wanted to share and had spent the previous four years honing my ability to put them down on paper. (Learning to write on a computer came later. My 60,000+ word manuscript and my first few articles and devotions were all hand-written and transcribed onto a computer.)

The wheels started turning in my head. If I could start getting small pieces published, then I would be scratching that writing itch while building an income and a platform. So, I sat at my kitchen table one day, shortly after returning from the writer’s conference, sharing my thoughts with my daughter. I sheepishly told her about the great workshop on how to freelance small pieces and confessed my desire to try my hand at it. But who did I think I was fooling? I was not a writer.

My daughter looked up from her orange juice and said profound words that jump-started my writing career. She said, “You know mom, the average American reader only reads at a sixth-grade level.”

I burst out laughing and replied, “I can write at that level!”

And I sat down immediately and began transcribing a devotion I had handwritten in my journal onto my computer to send to The Upper Room. That devotion, titled, “The Day of Small Things” based on the question posed in Zechariah 4:10, “For who has despised the day of small things?” became the first piece I ever submitted. It was not the first piece I ever had published, because it takes a very long time from submission to publication with some devotional magazines. It was published a year and a half later in the February 2011.

Today I have somewhere around 200 small pieces published in magazines, devotionals, anthologies (more if you count each individual devotion separately). The places I have been published as a freelance writer include: Chicken Soup for the Soul, several Lifeway magazines and their devotional, Open Windows, several David C. Cook and Standard Publishing magazines, The War Cry, Upper Room, The Secret Place (just to name a few).

Now I also have three books published, both independently and traditionally, two more under contract to be released this winter and next summer, and others at different stages of publication.

And, to think that 10 years ago, I was not a writer. Today, I cannot imagine not writing! I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

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(Click to Tweet) I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. #amwriting #freelance

Writing Prompt: Ben highlighted, then deleted every word of the story he’d spent two hours creating. Now what?

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Declaring my Independence

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By Harriet Michael

I started writing in 2005 when God laid a burden on my heart and a desire to understand prayer better. By 2009, I had a 63,000-word manuscript written but no idea how to get it published. I attended a writers’ conference and came away having formed a few conclusions: 1) the only way I could get my book published at that time would have been to go the Indie route, which I was not comfortable with, and 2) even though my book was not going to be a reality any time in the near future, I could try my hand at freelance writing (articles and devotions). writers conference

In 2015, I picked up a traditional publisher for Prayer: It’s Not About You , my book on prayer, and it was released by Pix-N-Pens Publishing a year later. And the freelancing has worked out quite well for me too.

Why was I afraid of Indie publishing? I knew very little about it, and I have a weak area in my writing—I need help editorially.

But since 2009, I have learned a lot more about Indie publishing and have, in fact, published two books through the Indie route. One is no longer for sale, but will be back up on Amazon soon. The other is: The Whisper of the Palms.

My concern? I didn’t want to put a book out there for the public to read that was not a professional-looking piece. What have I discovered that made me change my mind? Two things: freelance editors, and freelance cover artists.

My opinion of Indie publishing now? There are some real advantages, but you need to be careful who you work with (if you choose a subsidy press to help you) and how your book is set up. One of my Indie books is set up under my name instead of the subsidy press name and I am extremely happy with that one! I can see the sales reports myself, and the payments come directly to my bank account … and of course, you earn a higher percentage of the royalties since you do not have to split it with a publisher. 

My advice to anyone considering Indie Publishing is, be willing to pay for a professional editor and a professional cover design.

Click to tweet: My advice to anyone considering Indie Publishing.


Writing Prompt: What do you want to do to declare your independence? Write about what you have longed to do but you were afraid. How do you plan to overcome the fear, and make your desire a reality?

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Gathered Fragments

by Harriet E. Michael

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” John 6:12 (ESV)

I first noticed this verse in an old handwritten book my father has on his shelf. It was handed down to him by his mother who got it from her mother. It appears to be an old journal of some type. On the pages of the book are poems gathered and carefully written by its first owner. Some are famous poems while others are original work by family members. My grandmother and even my father have some original poems hand written by them in this treasured book. The book is titled, “Gathered Fragments” and this verse is written in beautiful penmanship on the first page.

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These words in scripture were actually an instruction by Jesus to his disciples after the miraculous feeding of five thousand people. The crowd which gathered to hear Jesus was hungry. It was lunchtime and the people were without food. Most of them had come spontaneously without planning ahead even enough to have brought lunches. Rather than going home, the disciples found a little boy with a small lunch of five loaves of bread and two small fish. After blessing the food, Jesus broke it into pieces, and offered it to the hungry crowd who consumed it eagerly. Then, when the crowd had eaten all they wanted, the disciples were told to “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

Isn’t that a beautiful instruction? How do you gather fragments? Do you have a collection of some kind? Perhaps you collect rocks, coins, or stamps. Maybe you like to make scrapbooks? Do you keep old photos and relics from years gone by; polished and put in a place of honor in your home or give them away as special gifts? My father has a plaque hanging in his home of an old letter he wrote to his mother from camp when he was a child. His sister found the letter and made a very special birthday gift for him one year. Maybe you have carefully held onto family heirlooms so you can pass them to the next generation. Or perhaps, you gather fragments in other ways. Maybe you can or freeze garden vegetables for winter eating or maybe you gather and dry herbs, fruits, or vegetables.

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I have written about this concept before. In fact this blog post is drawn from a previously published magazine article I once wrote. But as I thought about our topic this month, this verse and practice kept coming to my mind. I think one of the best ways to keep costs down is to have a habit of gathering things that can be reused at another time by us or by others.

When the disciples gathered the fragments in the Bible story, they had twelve baskets left over. Though this was a miraculous occurrence, the underlying principle is still valid. If you or I form fragment gathering habits, we will find abundance in our lives too. And so will others whom we bless with our fragments–carefully gathered and lovingly given.

Click to tweet:  “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

Writing Prompt: Share about something you gather and reuse. How do you keep / alter it for future use? How/ when do you use it again?

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