If your article or story has not been published, I recommend you sell “first rights,” rather than simultaneous rights. Many editors will not show interest if you are shot gunning your material to a number of publications at once when the piece has never been published. Plus, you will usually be paid more for first rights.
However, once your article is published for the first time, by all means feel free to sell “reprint rights,” sometimes called second rights, on it. You will probably earn a third to a half as much for reprint rights. Nevertheless reprint rights are an excellent way to earn extra money by selling your manuscripts over and over.
“One-time rights” give a publisher the opportunity to print your material one time. Use this terminology when selling a piece for a book compilation since books take a long time to come out in print. In the meantime, you can resell reprint rights on the piece. Also, one-time rights may be confusing to the editor, who may wonder whether or not your material has been published before. As a result you may be paid a lower amount than first rights would be given. Also, you can offer one-time rights to publications in other countries, particularly in the Third World, on material for which you own the copyright.
Rights are different than copyright. Be careful not to confuse them. When you sell “First Rights” to a publication, you are offering one-time rights to publish your material for an article or story that has not been published before. Your article must come out in print before you send it to another publication. Sometimes these are called First North American Rights, which includes the U.S. and Canada, or First North American Serial Rights if it is a serial publication.
Once your manuscript is printed by the publication to which you sold First Rights, you may then sell “Reprint Rights,” often called second rights. When you sell Reprint Rights, your duplicate manuscripts can be sent out simultaneously to many different publications. Try to avoid selling to two publications with overlapping audiences, however, such as two periodicals or take-home papers published by the same company or denomination.
When you sell First Rights or Reprint Rights, you still own the rights to that work. After it is printed, the rights revert back to you. Selling reprint rights doesn’t affect your rights in any way. Someday you may want to put that material in a book.
Fair Use is defined as the right to use copyrighted work without permission or without making payment to the owner. Copyright law provides for the fair use of another’s work without infringing on their copyright. How much can you copy from a source and stay within fair use?
The law is designed to be vague. If you are copying a magazine article, you can probably copy a paragraph or two. Also, you can probably copy several paragraphs from a book without infringing on copyright law. Be careful though not to copy the essence of something in the book. Poems and songs can only be copied without paying a high fee if they are in public domain. If a song is currently popular, use only the title. Titles are not copyrightable, but if a book is in print, you cannot title a new one by that name. Capitalize trademarks (Xerox, Kleenex) to avoid problems there or, better yet, use the words “photocopy” or “tissue” instead. For detailed information on copyright law, see my previous blog series on copyright law.
Always give the authors you are quoting credit for their material, even if you are within fair use and aren’t required to obtain their permission to use it. Cite your source within the text of your article or book or in an endnote.
The copyright registration is effective on the date of the receipt in the Copyright Office. For the material written after January 1, 1978, your copyright lasts for seventy years after your death. For manuscripts you wrote before that date, your copyright is for twenty-eight years plus a renewal for forty-seven more for a total of seventy-five years.
Once a copyright expires, the work goes into public domain. The public may use it at no cost at that point as long as the copyright isn’t picked up and re-registered by your heirs.
Also, public domain only applies to the original work. If material is revised or updated, it may not be in public domain. So be sure to check your sources before quoting information.
If you need information or guidance on legal matters, such as disputes over the ownership of a copyright, suits against possible infringers, the procedure for getting a work published, or the method of obtaining royalty payments, it may be necessary to consult an attorney—although the Copyright Office may be able to answer your questions. See previous blog for telephone numbers.
However if you are publishing a book with a publishing house, whether royalty-based or self-published, they will obtain your copyright information for you. It is important that the material you submit to Washington DC, for any of your writing, is your final copy. This concludes our series on copyright law.
Most magazines are copyrighted, and their copyright doubly protects your personal copyright. Newspapers are seldom copyrighted, although syndicated columns are protected. Government publications are not copyrighted either. If you write a book, the publisher will register your copyright; but make sure they register it in your name, not the name of the publishing house.
An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: A completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of work or works being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office. You can register as many of your articles, stories, and poems as you like under the same copyright, as long as all the material is sent to the Copyright Office at the same time. Also wait until you have your final editing done. If you rewrite your work at a later date, you must register it again as new document/s.
Here is the fastest and most cost-effective option for registering your copyright. Online Registration: through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register literary works. The filing fee is $35 or $55 if you use a credit card. See www.copyright.gov and select register a copyright. The telephone number is 888-407-9211. Beware of organizations offering to obtain a copyright for you. They will charge at least $95 for what you can do yourself.
More information will be given in next week’s blog.
What is a copyright? A copyright is a way to protect something you create, whether writing, painting, or drawing. A copyright gives you four specific rights:
- Copy the work.
- Take excerpts to use elsewhere.
- Sell selected rights to the work and make money from it.
- Perform or display the work.
What can you copyright? Anything that is your original work: articles, poems, stories, pictures, songs, grocery lists. Anything you write down can be copyrighted except ideas, concepts, and titles. Anything regarding the expression of ideas can be copyrighted.
Since the laws were changed in 1978, you do not have to register your work with the copyright office to hold a copyright on it. Once your original material comes off your printer or pen, you own the copyright on it. If someone plagiarizes your work, however, and you want to sue him for copyright infringement, then you need to register your work with the copyright office in Washington, D.C.
Here is the final blog on tax tips.
If your writing expenses add up to more than your gross sales, you can claim a loss and deduct it from your declarable income—lowering your taxable income. Be careful! IRS rules state that you must show a profit after the third year. If you are audited and you failed to show a profit by the third year, the IRS can declare the whole thing a “hobby.” The hobby tax rules are different from the business ones, and you could find yourself owing taxes on back years for expenses claimed that are not allowed to be recognized because they exceed the income (i.e., no losses are allowed for a hobby). You need to be able to prove that you are running a business and attempting to make a profit. Check with your tax preparer.
If your net business income is $400 or more within one year, you must file the Form SE for your self-employment taxes. The IRS free publications on how to file these forms are excellent. The one I have found most helpful is Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Businesses. Call your IRS office at 800-829-3676 to obtain forms and pamphlets, or contact them on their website at www.irs.ustreas.gov/.
Remember! If you are actively writing and seeking publication, you are a businessperson. Be sure to run your business accordingly with accurate records and receipts to back up your deducted expenses. Again, check with a tax preparer (enrolled agent, registered/licensed tax preparer, or CPA), the IRS, and/or your state tax agency if you have any questions.
Treating your writing as a business, taking expenses you are entitled to, and cutting down on your declarable income leaves more money to donate to church and mission organizations. Thus, one ministry can serve another.
There are expenses related to having an office in your home that are also deductible, including a percentage of your utilities, maintenance and upkeep, and even depreciation. You must have a designated room as an office that is not used for anything else to take these deductions. You measure the size of the room and see what percentage of your entire house it is to determine what percentage of utilities you can deduct.
Deducting a portion of your home as depreciation can be tricky. A word of warning: Watch the laws concerning the sale of your home. Deducting an office can affect your capital gains. When you sell your home, any depreciation taken in prior years has to be claimed as income and can impact the tax line.
The deductions do add up. Personally, I have written off six computers, two college degrees, and an assortment of other expenses. The computers have all been used for my business, not for family computer games. Both of my degrees (a BA in Religious Studies and an MA in Communications) were considered job-related. When I go on vacation, I often incorporate business into my trip, so that I can write off part of the vacation. However, I only write off the percentage that directly relates to my freelance writing.
More tips will be given in next week’s blog.
When a publishing house pays in excess of a certain dollar amount to an individual within a year’s time, currently $600, they are required to report it on a Form 1099 to you and the IRS. These forms reflect income you’ve earned during the year. Make sure you keep these with your tax records. Often a publishing house will send you a 1099, even when your payment is under $600. Be sure to report all 1099s on your income tax return.
Let me reemphasize that even if you did not make a profit, you can still fill out a Schedule C, claiming your expenses for the year. Save your rejection notices. They are excellent, documentary proof of your intent and effort to earn money as a writer.
Keep a ledger and save your receipts. Quicken and Excel are excellent computer programs for tracking your income and expenses. Some of the deductible expenses you need to keep track of are your stamps, business card expenses, stationery supplies, computer supplies, publications, books on writing, writing conferences, and dues to writing organizations. They add up quickly. You can also deduct travel costs for business purposes, as well as a percentage of your meals and entertainment, if they are directly related to your freelance writing.
More tips will be given in next week’s blog.
Here are some tax tips I have learned through the years. However, I am not a tax expert, so please check with a tax preparer (enrolled agent, registered/licensed tax preparer, or CPA), the IRS, and/or your state tax agency if you have any questions. If you are actively writing and seeking publication, you are a professional freelance writer and have a business that entitles you to deduct expenses.
Many of you may think the work involved isn’t worth bothering with, especially if you didn’t realize any income—but it is! There is a certain period (usually three to five years) allowed for a beginning business to start showing taxable profits. You may think of your writing as a hobby or avocation, but if you are trying to market your product, then you are in business. Claim your expenses and lower your income tax!
So even if you did not make a profit, you can still fill out a Schedule C, claiming your expenses for the year. Save your rejection letters and emails. They are excellent, documentary proof of your intent and efforts to earn money as a writer.
More tips will be given in next week’s blog.