Q. I recently made an e-mail submission simultaneously to several non-overlapping markets. The first editor to respond was interested in buying it, but only if he could get first rights to publish it in an upcoming issue. He assumed that was what I was offering. Since this is a timely article, on a film being released about the same time as his issue, that will prevent me from selling it to any of those other publishers I contacted. I'm sure no one will want it after the film releases. What should I do now?
A. Apparently the reason the first editor assumed you were offering first rights is because you did not specify what rights you were offering when you contacted him (or he failed to notice what rights you were offering). If your intention was to sell it to as many of these non-overlapping markets as possible, it should have gone out offering simultaneous rights or even one-time rights—not first rights. If you did not specify what rights you were offering, it was logical for him to assume it was first rights. In your query letter, you should have made a statement similar to this one: “Due to the timeliness of this article, I am offering simultaneous (or one-time) rights to as many publications as interested. I will be submitting to the following non-competing publications.” Then list those periodicals so they can be assured that if they purchase it a competitor will not be coming out with the same piece at the same time.
As far as what to do at this point, you can either go ahead and sell first rights to the first publisher, convince him to buy only simultaneous or one-time rights (since other buyers will be non-competitors), or withdraw it and hope some of the other publishers will accept it on a one-time or simultaneous basis. If you withdraw it, and there are no other takers, you could go back to the original publisher to see if he is still interested in first rights, but it may be too late at that point.