Some Publications features to support authors' rights

Service: Narrative

As both a publication owner and an writer for a publication that is not my own, I am concerned about the lack of control that publication writers have over their content. In particular, writers are producing Works for Hire for publication owners, but unlike how this traditionally works, they are not getting paid upfront, and are instead relying on future royalty payments as compensation. The problem is that they are agreeing to hand over ownership of their content based on the current percentage of revenue sharing as indicated in the publication info, but owners have unilateral control over revenue sharing, and could theoretically change the revenue sharing to 0% for the writers at any time, the writers having absolutely no recourse.


  • Have any reduction in the writers' cut trigger an option for the writer to leave the publication AND remove any content that was published after the most recent rewards period, since the author has not yet received any rewards from that content.
  • Have any reduction in the writers' cut >25%  trigger an option for the writer to leave the publication AND remove ALL content from the publication.
  • Alternately, allow for different terms with different writers, or even individual pieces of content. 

I'm sure that other people have different suggestions on ways to fix this, but for now, I'm going to work on a piece explaining what Work For Hire means.

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I understand the publications product was intended to be a product for brands to own a publication for marketing and publishing purposes. That's a great idea! As a content marketer for 13 years and counting, and someone who has written about the benefits of publishing a brand publication, I praise this idea!

However, not all Narrators will want a branded publication. Some may want to publish poetry and literature, others may want to publish scientific or academic essays, and some may want to publish pop culture articles or political opinion pieces. I think the surest path forward is to give publication owners the ability to set their own terms for writers and then writers the ability to accept those terms or not. In the short term, this can be a simple options list for publication owners:

  • Accept previously published
  • No previously published
  • Publication secures all rights
  • Publication secures first serial rights
  • Publication secures a non-exclusive license to publish
  • And so on

With similar options for the payment scale. 

Long-term, I like @Malkazoid solution presented on another thread. I favor the ability for writers and publishers to negotiate the terms of each article.

Publication owner's should only be able to change the percentage they charge once a month and for only the week following payouts.

This is to avoid bringing in writers under a low take and raising that take just before payout.

So far, Publications have too much control and I would never contribute to them under the current conditions.

To recap, writers transfer ownership of their content in exchange for some more exposure (6k unique visitors, currently...) and a few reward points. While, owning the content, they can republish on Medium and get dollars, republish on any other site, feed a funnel, and reaping the benefits of the long tail.

What a deal. I guess that quality authors will come running.

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