A Story About a Story. And Copyright.

020

Back in the early 1970s, when I was struggling to get something–anything!–published, I sold a copy of a short story to a children’s magazine for one free copy.  “Never give your work away,” I was admonished, but I did anyway. I kept the copyright, though.

Much to my surprise, after the story was published, I received a request from another magazine to reprint it, and this time they were offering a payment of fifteen dollars.

And another request a year or so later. Then another. And another. Each time with a slightly larger payment.

I kept on writing stories and eventually began selling them regularly. Always keeping my copyright. I really liked that first story  and when I finally felt that I was ready to write a full-length novel, I decided to use it as the first chapter and go on from there. I could do that because I had kept my copyright. (Do you see a trend emerging here?)

024That story became my very first book, published by Scholastic in 1977, called “A Year for Growing.” It stayed in print for many years and went through a cover change and a title change. And all the time, the original story was still quietly being picked up by one magazine after another. The main character was sometimes a girl, sometimes a boy. Sometimes a First Nations boy, sometimes a Black youth. I was happy to authorize those changes, but no one could make them without my consent because…you guessed it. I had kept my copyright.

022The book finally went out of print three years ago. During the over twenty years that it was in print it earned me a substantial amount of money.

And the short story? Over the years it has earned me almost as much.

I just received a request last week from an educational publisher to reprint it yet again.

The moral? Keep your copyright. Not always easy to do nowadays, but copyright is a writer’s right and protection.

About Karleen Bradford

I am an award-winning author of children's and young adult books.
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2 Responses to A Story About a Story. And Copyright.

  1. twigstories says:

    This is excellent advice, Karleen. Fortunately my sister, an author long before I published, gave me this same advice. Anyone can ‘do-it-yourself’ online, too! Even copyrighting a draft is a good idea. You maintain rights over the story no matter how many changes occur later. Thanks for bringing up a useful idea for novice and experience authors alike.

    Also, I am so glad to hear you ‘gave away’ a wonderful story that impacted so many young readers in different ways. What the point of writing a story anyway, if no on ever reads it? Good for you!

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