I demand CocoPuffs..oh wait, you meant "serial", nevermind

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm wondering about the excerpted works you sometimes see in magazines, for example a chapter of Ian Frazier's On the Rez that was printed in the Atlantic Monthly around the time of the book's publication (reading that chapter made me buy the book as soon as I could get my hands on it). You also sometimes see citations of prior copyrights for certain chapters inside books. I once read an essay that was clearly a early version of a scene in a book, although neither the website that published the essay nor the book acknowledged the connection.

If I'm querying agents, unsure if my novel will ever see print, is it a bad idea to try and sell a chapter of it to a magazine? Would that ultimately complicate rights more than it's worth, or would an agent be more inclined to consider a new author who has already published a chapter of the novel in question?

Thank you for your help.

Those are called "first serial rights" and they refer to your right to publish some (not all!) of your work in magazines or other places before the book is published.

Many agents, and I do too, encourage people to submit parts of their work to magazines cause it makes it easier to sell your work when you say "This dear Snarkling has an excerpt from her novel "My Life as a Snarkling" in this month's New Yorker"

The trick is how much. First serial rights are covered in book contracts. Sometimes they spell out the number of words, sometimes not, but it can be negotiated. If the boilerplate contract says first serial not to exceed 10,000 words, and your story was 15,000, your agent just goes back and says "fix this" pretty much. Publishers of books LIKE sold first serial rights for exactly what you described about with Ian Frazier...it whets the appetite of readers. Even if it complicates the deal, it’s a good thing.

Just keep track of where you sent things and what the response was. And of course, keep track of anything that SELLS!!

1 comment:

Ira Rosofsky said...

I asked my agent about magazine excerpts and was told it gets dicey with the publishers over the rights issue, but added that the publishers themselves like to take the lead with magazine placement and considering how long it takes to publish there'd be plenty of time. Do you agree Miss Snark?