I’ve never managed to sell a story to Woman’s Weekly, and now I doubt I ever will.
You see, they’ve changed their contracts to demand All Rights. Yes, ALL!
Up to now, their contract has been for First British Rights, meaning that they get to publish your story first in this country, but the copyright remains with you to sell on elsewhere or self-publish as part of a collection. Another magazine amended their contract for First World Rights a while back, meaning that they retain the right to publish it elsewhere in the world too, should they choose to do so. But that wasn’t exclusive – you are still free to do as you wish with it, and you retain the copyright. At the time I followed the forum chats on this, and the general consensus was that we had to suck it up, or take our stories elsewhere. I chose to suck it up – I was relatively new to the market, and that mag doesn’t currently publish in other countries. I could live with it.
ALL rights, though… That means they keep the copyright. If they choose, they can republish your story elsewhere, and not only do they not have to pay you, neither do they need to acknowledge you as the author!
It means you have no further right to that other piece of work. Ever.
You can’t sell it on.
You can’t re-use the character, or write a spin-off story about a secondary character.
You can’t expand it into a novel or a movie.
But Woman’s Weekly is owned by TimeInc Media. If they chose to, they could. And they would never have to acknowledge you as the original creator, or pay you anything after that first payment.
And I think that sucks.
The Womag writing world is up in arms about this. If you get Writing Magazine, or Writer’s Forum, you’ll see features in there about it. And it’s not just the short story writers. The big gun novelists aren’t happy either. Joanne Harris, of Chocolat fame has been tweeting and blogging about it, among others, as they realise this is the thin end of the wedge.
So why am I (a relative nobody), bothering to speak out, when louder voices are doing the job already?
Because I might have the ear of a few other nobody’s (who’ll one day be somebody’s!). Because I understand that in the excitement of an acceptance, you wouldn’t suspect such a big corporation to slip this past you, so you’d (and I expect many have), sign in ignorance. Or if not, you may consider it worth the risk to get your work out there.
But don’t forget that The Shawshank Redemption began as a short story. Just imagine if you’d written that and couldn’t claim it!
But, more importantly, consider this; The writing world is such a supportive one. Established writers are so often willing to share advice and experience, because they started out just like the rest of us too. It seems wrong, to me, to repay that with a knife in the back.