Q. About 18 months ago, I sold three stories to a children's take-home paper, and they were to have been published about 4 or 5 months ago. They promised to send contributor's copies when they were published. I did receive copies of the first one about two months before publication, but the proposed dates for the second and third have passed and I still haven't seen any copies. Should I assume they decided not to publish them? Or that they did and forgot to send the copies? If they decided not to publish them, can I ask to sell first rights to another publication?
A. I would start by contacting the editor by e-mail or mail asking if the stories were published as planned, and letting him know that if they were, you did not receive your contributor's copies. Also, if they were not published as scheduled, have they rescheduled their publication? Wait for their response before taking any additional action.
If they were published, the editor will likely let you know that and send along the contributor's copies. However, if the response is they have rescheduled them at a future date, wait for that new publication date. If the samples don't arrive, or the response is that they have decided not to publish, you can then ask them to release the rights to you. In that case, you would be able to sell first rights to the two that were never published. In either case, you can sell reprint rights to the first story as long as you sold them only first rights.