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.

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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

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