The topic of copyrights and craft writing came up recently between myself and some fellow crafters, and I thought this was a good item to include in my Getting Craft Work Published series because it is a really important topic for crafters and and writers.
As I mentioned in another blog post about how to submit to magazines, there are a boat-load of magazines out there these days for craft designers to submit work to. While this may not appeal to everyone, magazines can be a really good way build a reputation for yourself in your chosen craft field as well as promote other work such as a book or product you have which you hope to sell. I’m sure you’ve seen this done before where a magazine will have a project and it is either from a book or it is from a kit which you can purchase from the author of the project. But, even if you don’t have a book or gizmo to push, by publishing in magazines you can get your name out there and recognized so that other opportunities (like books and gizmos) may eventually come your way.
When you do get work accepted for magazine publication, you’ll receive a contract to sign and return to the publisher. Among other stipulations in the contract, you will be required to agree to a certain type of copyright. Now, let me put in a disclaimer here: I am not a copyright expert by any means, but here is what I know. Ideally, most writers prefer to give North American rights, which basically means the writer allows the publisher the rights to first printing of the work, but the writer owns the work and can republish it at a later date. However, I have rarely seen this offered, especially in the craft publication world. Instead, they often ask for all rights, both hardcopy and on-line, which again “basically” means they can reprint it anywhere, anytime, for any reason, and not have to provide any compensation to the writer. If they want to publish a book and include your project and not even give you a copy of the book, they can. If they want to slap it on a t-shirt and sell it at the mall to a million people and not even give you a t-shirt, they can. And, very often, publishers will reuse your work, so it is best to just assume they will if you do agree to this.
Now, when they do buy the rights to your project, unless it states otherwise in the contract (they all can be very different depending on the publisher) they are purchasing your words and images, not the actual jewelry design. So if you created some super fabulous bracelet design, they do not have the right to make a zillion of them and sell them on QVC.
Whether or not giving up all these rights to your ideas is worth it or not is really a personal decision. I wrote for a number of different magazines for years, and it worked for me back then because I was building a reputation for myself as I got to know publishers and editors in my industry. (All of whom I found on a personal level to be very nice people by the way). It also helped me get into the book writing business. Now, my circumstances are very different. Writing a how-to article for $75 (the low end of the pay scale for most magazines) and giving up all rights to my work forever is not as appealing to me. I’m not saying I will never submit to magazines again, but it is not something I plan to do in the near future because it doesn’t provide me with anything but a $75 check, which I feel is not enough compensation for what I’m giving up.
As I end this post, I just want to clarify that I’m not poo-pooing craft magazines. They have to make money, and it is a very tough market for all of them these days. Magazine submissions can be a good way to earn a little cash and kudos as you form a craft career, but at some point, many of us come to a realization that it just may no longer fit our needs.