Monday, 18 April 2016


Norah (aka Glenda) posted this in the 'got a question?' section -

Hi Patsy, could you please write a blog post outlining copyright and what we are entitled to do with our own copyrighted stories after they have been published in a UK woman's magazine?

I'm particularly interested to know how - and if - I can do the following:
1. Submit the story to an overseas magazine.
2. Publish it myself for Kindle or in paperback
3. Offer it to another UK magazine - is this a definite NO!? 

Firstly it depends on the rights you've sold the magazine. If for example the story has been sold to Yours in the UK, you'll have given up all rights and won't be able to do anything at all with it as it will no longer be your story. You could write another with a similar theme or idea, but you can't ever use that story again, even if you do change the names. 

Other magazines, such as Woman's Weekly, have an exclusivity period. You can't do anything with the story until that period is up, but afterwards most rights revert to the author. In other cases, such as Take a Break and DC Thomson, the publishers retain the right to reuse the story in other publications or formats, but these rights are non exclusive, meaning the author may also reuse their story.

It is the author's responsibility to read, understand and follow their own contracts and letters of agreement. If you don't understand then ask. If you don't accept the terms then don't sign. Contracts vary greatly from publisher to publisher and it's possible that different writers may have differing contracts with the same publisher, so don't rely solely on what other writers say or do.

I'll answer the different points, assuming you haven't sold, or otherwise given up your rights, and that any exclusivity period has passed.

1. Submit the story to an overseas magazine.

Yes. But check their guidelines first as some (many!) only accept stories which haven't been published elsewhere. Keep in mind that if the first magazine have the right to reuse the story in another publication, they can do so at any time and it might appear in the country in which the second magazine is based.

2. Publish it myself for Kindle or in paperback.

Yes*. Although if you've signed a DCT contract and the book will be entirely or mainly stories published with them, you'll need their permission first. (I've heard of people asking for, and being given, this permission.)

3. Offer it to another UK magazine - is this a definite NO!? 

You may offer it, but again you'll need to check that they accept previously published stories. I'm not aware of any UK magazines which do.

Finally contracts aren't retrospective. If you sold a story to a magazine before a contract was introduced or updated, then the previous terms will apply.

*I've done this myself with several collections, including this new one which is currently available for 99p (99c).


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great idea to have questions and answers, Patsy - thanks for this.

Carolb said...

A very useful Q&A too, thanks.

Jan Baynham said...

This made very interesting reading, Patrsy. Thank you.

Bubble said...

Just a quick check as I haven't yet submitted already published stories elsewhere (I tend to move on to the next story). DCT have exclusive rights to first publication (worldwide). The story I'm first thinking of subbing abroad now was published a couple of years ago and I can see no time limit on the contract. There are all sorts of non-exclusive rights outlined as well e.g. re archives and databases but also to repusblish in any media anywhere, (I assume it's a standard DCT contract). So does this means I can sub to another market? Or not.

Patsy said...

Thanks for the question, Bubble.

Someone else asked me something similar elsewhere on the blog, so I'm going to do a post on this in the next few days.

Quick answer is yes, you can sub stories published by DCT elsewhere – but you need to be careful and the other market must be willing to take reprints.