Contract Terms Series (IANAL)
There’s a bunch of contract terms for writers that can be difficult to parse for newcomers to the genre, so I want to go over a few in a short, easy contract terms series.
(Note: I am not a lawyer. I am merely speaking from experience on the author side.)
First rights are essentially the right to first publication. This means that the words being licensed have never been published before in the specific way they are being sold. In other words: The words are not being reprinted. They are original.
There are many kinds of first rights, which is why it’s important to know and understand them. First rights also tend to be worth more than reprint rights, which is another reason they matter so much.
For instance: You can have first audio rights, which are different from first paperback rights. You can have first English rights, which is different than first Spanish rights. You can have first anthology rights, first eBook rights, first audio, etc.
Any contract that attempts to claim ALL first rights, particularly without actually having any intention of using all those first rights, should be contested and requested to have a rewording.
By allowing a particular contract access to all first rights without them having clauses giving those rights back to you, you can end up with a story that can never be published in certain formats. Which is not cool.