Good things come...

WHEN WE object to "all rights" snatches, editors sometimes say that they can't vary the standard terms of commissioning agreements. Don't believe them. I'm not exactly Nick Hornby (though I'm working on the hairstyle) but I have recently negotiated individual variations on "standard" terms and conditions with two magazines.

  • New Scientist (Reed) tried to impose an all-rights contract with Draconian conditions. When I refused to sign, the editor came up with a personal contract which allows me to re-use material. He also deleted a gagging clause which would have prevented me revealing details of the agreement.
  • Stuff (Dennis) modified its contract to agree to pay me for any work syndicated or licensed on.

These are minor victories, and both contracts still contain objectionable clauses. In particular, Dennis says it will pay only 50 per cent "kill fees" for satisfactory material which is not published. I have written to Felix Dennis asking if he buys his groceries on this basis. He has not replied.

The good news is that my small success shows that publishers are beginning to realise that "all rights, everywhere" deals are unacceptable. They are, it seems, giving editors some room to manoeuvre. So -- use that room!

  • Another member, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes:

I was commissioned to write a 1000-word article for the Evening Standard. They offered me £350, which I accepted. Then I mentioned that I sell First British Rights in my work. They wanted all rights, and I agreed -- provided they pay me an additional £100. The commissioning editor accepted without a quibble.

...to those who ask

Nov/Dec 1998
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