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Travel Writing Resale and Rights
Travel Writing Resale and Rights

This article will explain the different copyrights assigned when a piece is sold. It will discuss subsequent selling of an article or other travel piece.
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Your Rights to Your Writes

Selling the right to publish your work comes in different forms. This article will only focus on rights to articles. Book rights and publishing are more complicated and should be negotiated with the assistance of a good literary agent. The term "serial rights" indicates that the piece is being published on an installment or "serial" basis. Serial rights usually pertain to articles, short stories, poetry, chapters of books and other short written works.

First Serial Rights. This gives the publisher the right to run your piece for a certain period of time for a set amount of money. After it has run in their magazine or whatever publication it is being used for, the rights revert back to you. This means that the publisher has the exclusive right to publish your piece once and you may re-sell the piece elsewhere after the agreed upon time has expired. No other publisher or editor may run the piece while the first purchaser is running it. Be sure that you are not including any foreign print rights with the sale. You may earn more money from the piece by selling second serial rights, packaging it with other pieces in an anthology book or by selling foreign first-run rights.

First North American Serial Rights. This specification is usually clearly stated when selling first rights. This simply means that the publisher can only run the piece exclusively in North America. If they want to run it in a French version of their magazine, they cannot do so unless they pay you for those rights.

Second Serial Rights. This allows the publisher to run your piece for a certain amount of time with the caveat that they must list the name of the publication and the date where the piece was published first. Second serial rights are non-exclusive, meaning that you are free to re-sell the piece to many different publishers at the same time. After those publishers' allotted run time has expired you are again free to re-sell it again in the form of an anthology book, to foreign publishers or even to another publishing venue in North America.

All Rights. When you sell "all rights" to your work you are essentially turning over ownership of the work to whomever is paying for it. This means that once you are paid, you can no longer sell any rights to the work. The company or person buying it, however, can re-sell it and make a profit from those re-sales without having to pay you further. You may, however, use the work as a sample of your writing to secure other work. This manner of writing, which is usually commissioned and sold in full, is also called per diem. New writers, or seasoned writers looking to earn extra money between assignments, often sell their work per diem. In some cases, you will not get credit or even recognition for this writing.


When it comes to written work or ideas for written work, such as outlines for books, screenplays, etc., the general copyright law is that as soon as you've recorded it, (written it down in a computer, on paper or recorded it with a tape recorder), it belongs to you. As long as you can prove that the work, idea or outline came from you before someone else sold or marketed the idea, you will usually win a copyright case.

The theft of someone else's book ideas, outlines or even completed work happens rarely and it only becomes an issue when big money is involved. Although many new writers think their work and ideas will get stolen if they send it somewhere for submission, this very rarely happens. Similar ideas often do converge, however, as is evident by how many people exclaim, "I had that same idea, but never acted on it." When big money books sweep the nation, or useful, money making-inventions come out, everyone wants in on the excitement and cash. Chalk it up to group consciousness, but sometimes a flurry of books about one similar topic will be published within weeks of each other, and it has more to do with the consciousness of a nation than it does about idea theft. On the other hand, if an idea that is already out there becomes very successful, you will see a quick response from publishers (and everyone else) pushing similar ideas, trying to "piggyback" and profit from the frenzy of current interest.

Write, submit and email your work to yourself if you must, but don't hide your writing away for fear of someone stealing all your ideas. A good writer will have a continuous supply of ideas, if they don't, they should find something less stressful to do for a living. Work on being a good writer.


You must be careful in considering what rights you are willing to sell to any given publisher. When you are first starting out, it may be in your best interest to take a lower fee in exchange for a byline. If you need money to pay your bills while you create your travel masterpieces, then you may have to sell all rights to some of your work until you are at a point of self support. In any case, be sure that you are clear on what rights you are selling by reading contracts very well before signing and/or by consulting with a mentor or lawyer about unclear or vague terminology. Remember, once you write it, it is yours. If you feel more comfortable, send yourself an email attachment of your work or back it up on a memory stick. The point is, if you are a good writer and you continually strive to perfect your ability to write well, you will succeed. People who must steal work to get published will never gain long-term success because they can't produce original work on their own.

Preparing "Clips" For Editors, Agents and Publishers

Creating a portfolio or compilation of published and/or written pieces is a writer's best strategy for getting hired. This section will show the student how to create a well-rounded, outstanding, professional portfolio that will increase assignments. Three travel-writing portfolio methods are offered in this section; however, if time restraints are a problem, focus on creating a hard copy and electronic (email-able portfolio) and save the Web folio for later. Remember, the term "clips" comes from the day when writers would literally clip their work out of the papers and magazines where they appeared. In these modern times, clips are often photocopies or digital versions of published work.

Hard Copy Portfolio of Clips

In the digital age, it may be hard to believe that you will find use for a hard-copy portfolio, but you will. These are most often used when visiting various editors personally. They also are used when you're asked to meet with publishers and/or editors, and when you're looking for full-time staff writing work. With hard copy clips, you can create two types of portfolios. An attractive loose-leaf or three-ring binder is the first option. Or, you can purchase a sturdy carrying case to place your work in. Art satchels work well for this purpose. You can find cases, binders, folders, and satchels at art, office, and/or craft supply stores such as Pearl, Michael's, Staples, Office Max and Rag Shop, or at online supply stores. If finances are an issue, there are many cardboard carrying cases with nylon handles that will work just fine until you can afford something else. These sturdy cardboard art portfolios cost about $20 dollars.

After you have written and published several articles, whether in your local paper or in local magazines, these companies will send you a complimentary copy of the issue in which your article appeared. It is important to save these in a safe place. These will make up the body of all your portfolios. Most writers make a photocopy of the article as it appears in the magazine or paper and then they mount it on heavy paper. If you can get a second copy of the issue(s), by all means use the traditional method and "clip" your article from one copy, reserving the other intact for your records. If you have web articles that have been published, print them out on good resume paper and follow the next step to create a useful clip.

To create your hard-copy portfolio -- print, clip, or photocopy your article. Then, on a separate piece of paper, or an index card, or on the back of the copies and printouts, list the following "seven pertinent information points" concerning the piece:

  1. The name of the publication it was published in, even if the name appears in the printout.
  2. The name of the editor who hired you along with his or her contact information, (phone and email).
  3. The title of the piece.
  4. The date it was published, (month, day and year).
  5. The rights that were sold with the piece.
  6. How many words the piece is.
  7. Photographs? If so, attach them or include photocopies of them.
Staple the index card or paper to the printout, along with the photographs not shown in the printout of the article, and add it to your art carrying case, or add it to your binder. As you have more pieces published, add them to your binder or case.

Web Portfolio

If you have computer skills, or can pay someone who does, you can create a great multimedia web portfolio. This can be a blog that features your articles with their accompanying images or it can be a website created with the URL you have purchased and paid hosting fees for. The point of a Web portfolio is to create an accumulation of your work in a manner that is easy to access by anyone with an internet connection. It is relatively easy to provide links to web published pieces. However, print pieces are a different matter. Some writers choose to scan the piece as it appears in the publication and add the seven pertinent information points as a text entry. Others simply provide the title, date, and issue number of the print piece. The only problem with this method is that you are not getting an opportunity to show your photos or any sidebars as they appeared in the piece. For visual interest you can ask the publications you published in if they have a JPEG of the cover that was used for the issues your pieces appeared in. Some publications may have digital versions of their issues that they would be willing to share with you. Alternatively, if you have used digital photos for the piece, or can have developed photos converted to digital and placed on a disk, you can add them with the article text on your web page or blog page.

Email-able Portfolio

An email-able portfolio is simply a folder in your computer that holds the text versions of your published articles. Since digital communication and media is so prevalent these days, odds are that you have been using digital photos for your pieces, or can have printed photos converted to digital and placed on a CD. A good method is to create each piece in a word processing program, or Adobe Acrobat if you have it, by inserting your images into the document that holds the typed text of your article. You can create a few lines at the top that include the seven pertinent information points. Once you have created document versions of your work, you can email one or all of them as an attachment to editors. They also can be copied and pasted at the end of proposals later on.


A portfolio of clips is not only helpful for securing future jobs, they are often requested before a publication will consider you for an assignment. Do the best job you can and create a visually pleasing portfolio that gives the seven points of pertinent information. If you cannot create all three portfolios suggested in this section, focus on the hard copy and the email-able versions. These will be the two you use the most when you are a beginning travel writer. The web folio can come later.

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