Selling Your Writing? You Don’t Own That

One of the hardest things about selling your writing is seeing how others use it.

As a freelance writer and professional blogger, I know that selling your writing is a great way to make money, no matter where you are. It's a great location independent “job” that can potentially provide for your family.

When you sell your writing, though, it's important to realize that you don't own it anymore. Unless you specify how your work can be used ahead of time, there's really not much you can do about it.

selling your writing

Ad Insertion

I write for a number of web sites that pay reasonably well. One of these sites inserts paragraphs in my published articles, meant to sell their premium newsletters. One of my Twitter followers noticed, checked out the product in the ad, and then approached me. He realized that, when following everything I write, this particular newsletter didn't fit with my investing style at all. It didn't even really fit in with the information I provided in the post the ad was a part of.

But that's one of the pitfalls of selling your writing. Sometimes, the client inserts ads, or paragraphs, attempting to sell something. I guess part of the reason this client pays so well is due to the fact that money is made on the newsletters.

It's true that you can specify in your contracts that these types of ads can't be inserted. But if that doesn't fit with the client's goals, you could lose the gig. And, if it really bothers you, you could always walk away from the gig. Just make sure, if it's a major gig, that you have a backup plan.

I don't know what's happening with the client in question; I just received a mass email to all the writers to halt writing projects while the company tries to figure out a new content direction. If things get even more sales-y, I may walk anyway.

Another option, if you want to keep the money but are worried about sullying your good name, is to ask that a pen name be used. I'm not going to lie: There have been times when I've written something that I don't particularly agree with, for sites that I don't think are “the best,” and I've used a pen name, just to keep my real name out of it.

Ghostwriting

Another possibility is that your writing could be used by the buyer as his or her own work. For the most part, a good client will be up front about the ghostwriting, and give you a chance to determine whether or not you want the credit for something.

I often add a premium to ghostwritten pieces, since I'm not getting the glory. This is especially true now, since many of the people I ghostwrite for see their work appear on major sites. There are times when it's hard not to be upset about this arrangement. But remember: You've been paid for a product. You don't own it anymore. You're selling your writing, and that means you essentially release your right to complain about it — especially if your name isn't even in the mix.

What do you think? Does the buyer have the right to use your words however he or she wants? Do you include information in your contracts restricting the use of your byline and words?

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