The First Rights Problem

I’ve got a problem. I’ve been trying to write a new flash fiction piece for the blog for a couple of weeks now, but every time I start, it morphs into a longer piece. And as soon as it crosses into the territory of short stories, I can’t post it. The trouble is something called “First Publication Rights.”

First publication rights is exactly what it sounds like. Every story or book only gets it once and the minute you’ve published it, it never has them again. This is what publishers are buying: the rights to show your work to the public for the very first time. This used to be easy to do; before the rise of easy online publishing. Now, I can publish anything I want on this website, whenever I want to post it. But as soon as I do, the first publication rights are spoiled and no editor will touch it.

I love blogging, but as a writer with aspirations of publication, I have to use discretion. I can’t post everything I write on my blog. As much as I want to show off to you all, I can’t risk using those precious first rights and losing my chance to sell my work to a literary journal or other publication.

So, my hands are tied every time a flash fiction piece turns into a short story. Still, it’s better to play it safe in the hopes of hitting the big time than publish it on the blog and never know what I could’ve been.

— 30 —

I’m a writer in Flagstaff, AZ. Seeing as I’ve relinquished the first rights to this post, the least you can do is check out my Twitter feed: @jonnyeberle.

More on First Rights of Publication

Related Posts:
Flash Fiction Friday: Running Away
The Best of Unfriends
First Blogiversary

Published by Jonny Eberle

Writer, photographer, blogger and filmmaker in the City of Destiny. You can find my blog at

6 thoughts on “The First Rights Problem

  1. I stress out about posting anything in its completed form online, even flash fiction. After all, some literary magazines seek out flash fiction for publishing! I understand the purpose behind first publishing rights, but it’s such a racket if you want to cue folks in to what you’re working on creatively. Hence why I only post 300-400 word snippets from various parts of my novel that will be probably be revised or altogether removed by the time it goes out to publishers. 🙂 All of my short fiction remains offline.

    But, you know, you could always e-mail me a copy of your short works and I would totally want to read them. Just sayin’.

      1. Most excellent. If my e-mail isn’t listed on my Facebook “about” page, message me and I’ll be more than happy to provide it for you!

        And just so you know, some friends of mine from my intermediate fiction class and I are going to be arranging write-ins during the summer, and you’re more than welcome to join us and get motivated to write. Sometimes having a support group helps, you know?

        1. It’s been a while since I’ve been in any sort of writing group (my last experience wasn’t so great), but I think it would be worth a try. Accountability in groups, right?

          1. My last writing group experience was for NaNoWriMo some years ago, and it was pretty discouraging too. But the folks who have expressed interest in the writing group seem pretty focused. They’re all really good people to boot. I’ll let you know when we start meeting and give you the details. 🙂 No pressure, of course.

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