Does Selling All Rights Mean I Can't Use the Same Topic Again?

Author:
Publish date:

Q: If a magazine buys all rights to a non-fiction article I wrote about my granddaughters' medical problems, can I have other articles or a book published which would include the same information? I use the same description of the disease for everything I write about it. So far I have only published articles about them in small-town newspapers. –P.S.R.

A: Yes, you can use much of that information in another article or even in a book as long as you change the focus or angle of the piece. Though, you have to be careful and make sure it's different enough.

When a magazine buys all rights to your work, they own that particular piece and the specific way the article is written. By writing another article on the same topic and giving it a new twist, you will have created a new piece of work that has it's own copyrights.

For example, let's say I write and sell an article to Parents magazine called "How to Potty Train Your Child" that focuses on different methods of potty training. If I've sold them all rights, I can't go to Today's Parent magazine and sell the same piece. But I can pitch Today's Parent an article called "What to Do When Your Child Pees on the Floor." This article may briefly mention one or two of the methods, but it really focuses on the emotional struggle that you deal with as a parent—a different angle.

Do everything you can do to ensure that the articles are different in as many ways as possible. Also, when selling the second piece, it's a nice courtesy to inform the publisher that you've previously published articles on that topic and include clips of it. This not only gives you credibility, but also allows the publisher to offer feedback (and possibly advice on how to attack the topic from a new angle).

Want more?

Image placeholder title
  • Pick up your copy of the Beginning Writer's Answer Book. For more details about the book, click here.
  • Follow the WD Editors on Twitter: @writersdigest@BrianKlems@JaneFriedman @robertleebrewer @JessicaStrawser @ChuckSambuchino
  • Become a fan at our Facebook page
Vintage WD_Conder Soule 11:26

Vintage WD: Poetry without Rhyme—Or Even Thees and Thous

In this article from 1977, children’s writer and poet Jean Conder Soule explores the question, “How will I know when I’ve written a poem?”

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 26

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a thankful poem.

Richard_11:24

Building Better Worlds: Five Tips to Guide Your Planning Process

Writer and WD editor Moriah Richard shares her top advice to help you fight world-building overwhelm and organize your story.

March_11:25

Why I Write Mysteries

Mystery writer Nev March shares how she found herself writing historical mysteries and what she hopes readers will get from her storytelling.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exaggerated poem.

Chow_11:24

5 Tips on How to Write a Cunning but Cozy Mystery Novel

Author Jennifer J. Chow shares her expertise on what makes a great cozy mystery novel engaging and thrilling.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 24

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's two-for-Tuesday prompt is to write a love and/or anti-love poem.

steal_vs_steel_vs_still_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Steal vs. Steel vs. Still (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use steal vs. steel vs. still on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.