Friday 29 August 2014

Rights and Short Stories

Most writers of short stories will sell their stories several times over. I use the word sell slightly ironically. Very few writers or even publishers make a lot of money from short stories – unless they’re really well-known and put together a single author collection.
I edit for two imprints, one of which is online but which publishes the “best of” each year as a print and e-book anthology of about 35,000 words. The other produces paperback and ebook story collections.  
In the second case we ask for exclusive rights for a year and in the first case we allow reissues of the story immediately. We suggest that the author should mention that we had published first but we don’t insist. Even where we keep exclusive rights for a year we’ll usually allow an earlier re-issue if the author or their new publisher asks.
Most small press publishers are fairly generous this way. As the authors tend to list their works and where they’re published in their bios it actually becomes a form of publicity. A few won’t publish if the story has ever appeared anywhere before but are happy to release it later.              
So we were a little stunned last week when we went to put together our “best of” collection to find that one author had published elsewhere, perfectly within her rights, actually, but that the new publisher wanted to charge us for a story that we’d published first and which indeed is still online. Unfortunately we’ve had to drop that story form our “best of collection”. A missed opportunity for both the author and the publisher.   
Er, remind me, who did the editing?
This is atypical of what happens between small press imprints.         

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