Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Guest post by Della Galton – Selling All Rights

Today's guest, Della Galton, is probably known to all of you as a very successful womag writer.

Selling All Rights

Long ago when I joined a creative writing class – which was what got me started as a writer – I was told by the tutor never to sell All Rights to my work.
All Rights meant that you no longer owned your work. You literally handed it over lock stock and barrel to a new owner, who could if they wished make a film script from it, put their name on it, sell it on to someone else, enter it in a competition, all without asking your permission, or, of course, paying you any extra fee.
For the above reasons selling All Rights was a financially unsound thing to do, especially in the days when you could sell the rights more than once. However it could possibly be considered as an option if the buyer paid handsomely. Not many writers did it though. Not ones who knew what they were selling anyway.
There was another very good reason not to do it. After all, if a few writers were to start selling All Rights to their work then what was to stop all markets demanding that all writers did it?
If this happened then sooner or later writers would be redundant. Why would a market pay for new work when they could simply reprint old work without payment?

Have things changed? Is it OK to sell All Rights now? Obviously it’s up to the individual writer what they do with their work, just as it always has been. But everything I’ve said above still applies.
I often hear writers say that it’s OK for well paid bestselling authors but that the poorer ones among us have no choice.
We ALL have a choice. Although not necessarily a very palatable one.
Everyone has bills. Lots of us – myself included – are self supporting with no partner to help and no other income but writing related earnings. When Woman’s Weekly decided to buy All Rights I made my choice not to sell them any more work. This meant I took on a cleaning job, to supplement my writing income. Not a choice I particularly relished. But a choice none the less.

So now Take a Break has followed suit and I know some writers will be saying, Oh no, but I have no choice. If I don’t sell All Rights I won’t be able to pay my mortgage/rent/bills.
There is actually still a choice.
I have now added an invoicing job to my cleaning job and my writing job. I think they call it portfolio working. This enables me to continue working for markets that don’t take All Rights for fiction. I’m very happy about that.

To end on a very positive note, I’ve been approached twice recently by publishers asking if I still owned the rights to my short stories. I now have an anthology of short stories aimed at teaching people English coming out in Russian and English. I can’t wait to see what my work looks like in Russian.
I was also approached and given a very good fee for a story to be reproduced as part of an educational course used by Oxford University Press. Neither of these things would have happened if I’d sold the rights to what is MY work. Please think about it before you sell the rights to what is YOURS.

If you enjoy Della's writing, you might like to take a look at her latest novel, Sunshine Over Bluebell Cliff Hill. I've not read that one yet, but I've read and enjoyed several of her other books. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Liz said...

Della makes a very good point about fees for having your work reproduced, if you own copyright.

I worked in educational publishing for a while, and we sometimes reproduced short stories in our textbooks (usually English, or Literature, but also Media Studies, History etc). Usually the textbook author recommended it to illustrate a particular point being made in the textbook. Our permissions people would have to contact the copyright holder for the right to reproduce it, and that copyright holder could ask for a fee. So yes, if a writer has sold all their rights to a magazine, then that magazine would get the fee for reproducing your work.

Thanks for the post, Della and Patsy.

ados123 said...

All very good and very valid points, Della, and good for you for taking on other work. I too won't sell to WW anymore - not so much because I use the stories again, but I often use the ideas behind them again and again.
Thanx, Patsy for organising this post too.

Laura said...

This was an interesting post to read and I agree wholeheartedly. It's up to us to defend our rights and our livelihoods. I love the writing I do and pour my heart into it. It should not be able to be resold, reprinted or reused without payment or acknowledgement of my efforts as author. Thank you, Della, for adding your voice and Patsy for continuing to champion this issue.

Anonymous said...

In an ideal world a protest like this would work but these companies couldn't care less about a tiny niche market. Bauer went to war with its photographers ten years ago with the same contract and it hardly inconvenienced them. I'm afraid realistically all this posturing and virtue signalling is a waste of time. What we need is a law to protect us.


Patsy said...

Thanks, Della.

As anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know, I'm very much against all rights contracts.

It's extremely unfair of publishers to impose them – they don't need all rights contracts as they can still use the work multiple times and in multiple formats with other types of contracts – as DC Thomson and others do. Those who insist on all rights don't even pay extra for them – in fact they tend to reduce pay rates.

I also think it's a mistake for writers to sign them. It does them, and all writers, no good at all. Accepting all rights terms tells publishers that the writer doesn't value their work enough to wish to retain any rights to it – not even the moral right to declare it is their work. If authors don't value their own writing, why should publishers?

Celia said...

If someone as well known as Della can't make them think again, what chance does the cause have? Like her, like Patsy, like many others, I won't write for WW any more either (oh, the old payment for serials was so good!)or Bauer's Fiction Feast (mind you, I've not published in FF for about 8 years anyway, so no hardship there) but why should the mag publishers care? There'll always be someone else who WILL write for them and sell all rights. Fudge is right, a law protecting us would be great but somehow I can't see that happening.
Thanks Della for 'guesting' and thanks Tosh for inviting her

Patsy said...

@ Celia and Fudge and everyone else who thinks there's nothing we can do – After Yours were asked by myself and others to rethink their policy of taking all rights they did, and dropped that requirement. Yours are owned by the same company as Take a Break.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I suspect Yours only did that because their payment's are so low they were struggling to get any subs anyway. If they took all rights as well they knew their new 'Special' would sink without a trace. Also, they're not actually set up to take only first rights, hence having to sign a new contract for every single story sold. This arrangement might only be temporary in other words. It is definitely not the policy at Bauer. It might be more fruitful to find out how it was done by the editor. Though again, the editor at Fiction Feast is hardly the type who is invested in the mag enough to supply any help even if a mechanism existed. She isn’t Norah.

Signing a contract doesn't mean you've given up fighting for your rights either especially if another way can be found to do it. I know somebody who’s speaking to an editor today who will be asking about this subject. She signed, but she hasn’t given up. I think blaming people for signing at this stage is simply dividing what ought to be united.

Any members of the SOA ought to be asking them to look at the Bauer contract. Though they are a pretty toothless organisation they could have at least sent a letter to Bauer to ask them to reconsider or change some of the more extreme contract terms. I believe some were altered for photographers years ago but the core of the contract remained the same. Joanne Harris has already offered her support to any members who wish to ask for help.


Patsy said...

I'm sorry if it seems that I'm blaming writers. I'm not – we're the victims here. Every writer must, of course, do whatever they think is right.

What I ask is that before selling all rights authors are sure they understand the implications and are sure it really is the right thing to do.

Marguerite said...

I am really just on the periphery of this. I have sent a few subs to a few magazines over time and been unsuccessful but this timing seems so very bad for any of us to break in to. Trying at the moment with Yours and PF but realise I am up against it. The biggies in the main do nothing but use bully tactics. Makes me wonder how they have been allowed to grow so big - but then, that's happening in all walks of life. I reiterate those above and thank Patsy and Della for bringing it to the fore - I for one would have been blissfully unaware of all the implications.

Anonymous said...

Has the Society of Authors actually engaged with this issue at all? Or is it largely a social organisation?

Thank you Patsy and Della. Writing is pretty isolating and it's good to know that there is a gang of other writers out there who feel as indignant as I do. SL

Anonymous said...

I was told that the SOA sent a letter to Ti Media and got nowhere. Ti Media has since sold everything to Future publishing so there is now an opportunity for members to ask the SOA to get back in touch about the Woman's Weekly all rights contract. They could also contact Bauer. The Bauer contract could also be looked at as it's particularly brutal.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the post, Della and to Patsy for hosting. So glad that many of us are sticking to our principles on 'All Rights' contracts. I can really only see some of these magazines folding. Maybe then something will rise, Phoenix like, from their ashes - could be a good name for a new magazine there. Or, it could be when some of the 'All Rights' magazines fold, because we've all stopped buying them, there will be a real market for our own short story collections, online. but If we give away our rights we won't be able to consider a place in that market. Good wishes. Stay strong. Kate Hogan.

Lynn Love said...

Thank you Patsy and Della for this. I've been published quite a few times in PF but not any other women's fiction markets as yet. I split my time between working as a florist and writing already and am sure that's the way it will stay for the foreseeable future. Much as I'd love to write full time and would like to appear in other publications I'm not going to sell myself short to a publisher who doesn't value my work. Writers are under valued in all publishing - including novel writing where publishers have taken bigger bites of profits over the last decade or so - and it has to stop. I know some will still sell to Bauer etc but unless some don't this attitude will continue to spread.

Della G said...

Thank you for hosting me, Patty. And to everyone who has commented. I think that chipping away at things day by day, little by little, is often the best way forward. What is that saying, 'the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'
That may not be the original quotation but its meaning is clear.
I am not anti writers. I have spent years helping writers to get published. I think we need to carry on speaking out, making our views known.
H Bauer would care very much if they had no writers methinks!

Alan C. Williams said...

Thanks Della and Patsy for giving me more food for thought.
I've never managed to sell to WW so it was no hardship for me although I was on their author list. I've done okay with TaB these past few years selling stories I wrote years ago. I was about to run off the contract today to read properly but won't bother. Unlike you and many other authors Della, I don't need the money but I can appreciate your issues and so will stand by not signing the contract at this time. I'm happy doing novels for DC Thomson. Might I ask is the rumour true that That's Life in Australia are no longer printing fiction after their take over by Bauer? That's a shame if true. That's Life successes prompted me to become a writer.
Take care everyone.

Chris Sutton said...

Hi Patsy, Della, everyone,

A contact in Australia told me that That's Life still use fiction, Alan, but in the same way that Woman and Woman's Own UK have been doing, i.e., recycling previously published stories with no more payment to the author. I understand that Jude Durrant is no longer the fiction editor and although short stories will still appear, TL are not open to new submissions at the moment. Whether that will change once things get back to 'normal' remains to be seen.

The All Rights issue is such a contentious one and clearly continues to cause a lot of friction. I agree with pretty much everything that has been said about it - it is unfair, heavy-handed, and just plain wrong. But I do want to make one thing clear. Signing such a contract does NOT imply that the author doesn't value their own work, or that they are in any way happy about giving up those rights. I know how long it takes me to write a story, how much thought, care and attention goes into getting it as good as I can before trying it with a mag. I signed the Woman's Weekly contract only after weeks of soul-searching and discussion, both on this site and at my writers' circles. In the end I did so under protest and I continue to do that even now. The fiction editors we voice our frustrations to are not the ones responsible for this situation, yet they field our grumbles and complaints with patience and good humour. They know how much we hate this.

Thirty years ago we had at least twice as many fiction markets to send work to. If one mag didn't want a story there were plenty more left to try. And if you WERE lucky enough to make a sale, there was also the chance of being able to sell your work again overseas a few months later. I resold dozens of stories to mags in India, Bahrain, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and America. Every one of those foreign markets has now gone. As far as I know, only the Scandinavian markets and You magazine in S Africa will still consider a previously published story, the others are a distant memory.

The point I'm making is that in signing an All Rights contract I and anyone else who did so was simply being realistic. To sell work even once in the UK's diminished marketplace is a real achievement, something any writer can feel justly proud of. And since the chances of being able to do so a second time overseas are now so slim, maybe it's not such a loss to sell it just the once. I totally respect all the reasons you and Della have voiced for deciding not to sign, Patsy, it's a tough call to make either way. I took the decision to continue to sub work to WW because the stories I send there are of a length and type that would be hard to place anywhere else. Without WW they would just sit idle on my laptop, so I'm happy that they are out there and have earned me a respectable amount.

We all have to make up our own minds about this but please, please, don't make anyone who does still submit to an All Rights publication feel that they are somehow letting the side down. They're not and shouldn't feel guilty about doing so.

Alan C. Williams said...

Thanks Chris for putting some perspective on this very contentious issue.As you say agreeing to sign a contract does not mean that you agree to support this erosion of previously gained rights. You've given me food for thoughts. In one of my previous jobs any work or programmes I developed were automatically taken by the company as i was employed by them. Authors and creators losing their rights for created property affected people much more famous than us, with comic creators of Superman, Batman and most pop groups from my era, the sixties, having very little control over their songs and royalties. I am sorry to see the end of new submissions to That's Life. My last story published there in June was one already published years ago so no new payment. Sad to lose an editor like Jude who was so supportive of me. Effectively I now have two places to now submit short stories to as I'm not a prolific writer and have not had success with the other few magazines. Pity I wasn't around in the good old days. Chris, you have given me a tough decision. Should I agree to Bauer and grudgingly accept this new contract or effectively walk away from writing short stories? Much as I hate to reverse my decision yesterday - a decision that caused me a lot of upset last night, I will now consider the contract. To write short stories or not to write? I'm an author and the thought of not doing that anymore because of whatever reason... it is not something I want to face again.

Geraldine Ryan said...

"To write short stories or not to write? I'm an author and the thought of not doing that anymore because of whatever reason... it is not something I want to face again."

I hear you, Alan!

Anonymous said...

Well I've decided as much as I want to write, I want to feel valued and value myself, too, so I'm going to start a campaign in our local area for saving Hedgehogs, and also continue and ramp up my Activist activities, which involve much writing... to MPs, councils, and organisations, as well as rallying local residents to fight against the installation of 5G in our area. I've been so busy, and feeling so good about what I'm doing that I haven't missed writing stories at all!!!! KH

Anonymous said...

To those defending people giving up all rights – How would you feel if a group of writers decided they weren't bothered about getting paid, they just wanted their stories published, and told publishers they could have them for free? Would that be a legitimate choice, even if it then meant publishers stopped using work they had to buy? Or would you think that was letting other writers down and devaluing all our work?

Sure everyone has to make their own choice, but if we stuck together and refused unfair contracts then publishers would have to stop issuing them. Anyone accepting an all rights contract makes it much harder for those writers who aren't willing to do so.


Chris Sutton said...

Anon (sorry, no name supplied, so it's hard to respond personally), there are many magazines that do not pay anything to their writers, other than a contributors' copy, and some not even that. They are a way of getting a few titles on your CV, honing your craft, and seeing your work in print. We all have to start somewhere.

As I made clear in my comments above, I do not defend the publishing companies who demand All Rights, their actions are greedy and unfair. What I do defend is the right of each of us to make up our own mind abut whether to accept those terms. What would you say to a writer who, after years of trying, is celebrating their first acceptance from what turns out to be an All Rights mag? That they should turn down the offer and lose out on the chance of publication? Even if they never send another story that magazine's way, shouldn't they be free to experience the pleasure of seeing their work in print at least once?

I don't have any other strings to my bow writing-wise than short fiction. I don't write novels or how-to books, I don't do talks on the circuit. I don't have a high profile that would warrant bringing out an anthology of my previously published work. Magazine opportunities are all that are available to me and they are shrinking fast. So, in putting forward an alternative viewpoint about this, I merely defend the right of any writer to decide what's best for them, that's all.

Anonymous said...

United we stand. Divided we fall. That's aboutthe size of it really.

Jenny Worstall said...

There are many difficult decisions writers make to do with getting their work published, for example should you use Amazon, should you write for a newspaper/magazine that doesn’t pay, should you sign your rights away, should you write for a magazine that has a closed list.
I have heard arguments against all these, and counter-arguments too. In the end, surely it is up to an individual what they decide? Unless we know all their personal circumstances (financial, motivation for writing, amount previously published, availability of other opportunities etc etc), we might not fully understand their decision if it is not the same as our own.
But as fellow writers we can always respect their right to make their own decision, and trust them to have made it thoughtfully.
Worth mentioning that readers too face dilemmas in the moral maze that is today’s world. Should they buy from Amazon cheaply or patronise their local independent bookshop? Should they buy books from charity shops when authors receive no income from this (there is a lot of opposition to charity shops being allowed to sell books in the world of authors)? Again, tough decisions, but hopefully not opportunities to criticise those who for whatever reason think differently.