Ask Wendy: Your Writing Questions Answered

Wendy Burt

By Wendy Burt-Thomas

Q: What is the difference between writing for print vs. online publications?

A: The main difference is in the rights that you’ll be selling. When you write for online publications (e.g., you’re selling electronic rights (often referred to as “e-rights”). This can make it more difficult for you to resell that article to larger print publications because they view it as work that is already accessible to…well, the world!

For the most part, larger consumer magazines want to purchase AT LEAST First North American Serial Rights (meaning they’re the first to print it in North America) or First World Rights (first to print it in the world). In addition, many large print publications now have their own online version that uses many if not all of the same articles. In other words, a print publication like Men’s Health that wants to buy your article on “Why Your Heart Loves Dark Chocolate” also wants to run the article on its website. Men’s Health is paying you $1/word because they want ALL rights: First World Rights, electronic rights, reprint rights and the rights to OWN your article.

Smaller-circulation magazines and newspapers (such as local, regional and trade), however, may not have online versions of their publications. This means that you’re likely only being asked for one-time or regionally exclusive rights (i.e.,”don’t sell to any other publications in Boston”). So you could sell the same article (at say, $100 each) to a 55+ newspaper in Houston, New York City, Boca Raton and Atlanta while still retaining ownership of the article.

Selling to online publications and websites is fine; just make sure the money is worth it. Once your piece is on the Web, it may be more difficult to resell.

The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as,, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at or her blog,

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