I cannot emphasize enough how much you need to read thoroughly through the terms of any publication before you send your writing to them. It is mandatory that you know and understand what rights you’re giving away when you’re trying to get published.
Just the other day I was emailed by a relatively new indie journal looking for writers. They made it very clear that they did not pay writers for their work, so I figured I’d probably be passing, but I took a look at their Copyright policy out of curiosity and it was a nightmare. They wanted “non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide license and right to use, display, reproduce, distribute, and publish the Work on the internet and on or in any medium” (that’s copy and pasted btw) and that was the first of 10 sections on their Copyright agreement page. Yikes. That’s exactly the type of publishing nightmare you don’t want to be trapped in.
Most journals will ask for “First North American Rights” or a variation on “First Rights” which operate under the assumption that all right revert back to you and they only have the right to be the first publishers of the work. That is what you need to be looking for because you do want to retain all the rights to your work.
You want all rights to revert back to you upon publication in case you, say, want to publish it again in the future or use it for a bookmark or post it on your blog, or anything else you might want to do with the writing you worked hard on. Any time a publisher wants more than that, be very suspicious. Anyone who wants to own your work forever and be able to do whatever they want with it without your permission is not to be trusted. Anyone who wants all that and wants you to sign away your right to ever be paid for your work is running a scam.
Protect your writing. It’s not just your intellectual property, it’s also your baby. You worked hard on it. You need to do the extra research to protect yourself so that a scammer (or even a well meaning start up) doesn’t
steal you work right from under you nose and make money off of it.
Exclusive publishing rights have to have a set time frame! Do not agree to anything that doesn’t clearly state “up to five years from signature” or something like that.
What if the publisher goes defunct? What if they get bought by another publisher who doesn’t care to promote or publish your work? You still can’t to anything with it, you don’t own it anymore!
For a thorough overview of what you should be aware of regarding your intellectual property and publishing rights, please read through this collection of post [https://kriswrites.com/business-musings/contracts-and-dealbreakers/] by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Protect your IP. Do not give away your stories.
Every writer needs to read this before signing that contract: