Reprint Submissions: Old Stories, New Markets

Looking to expand the ol’ publications list and get some of your best work to a wider audience? A reprint submission may be the way to go. If the term reprint is unfamiliar to you, it’s simply a story you’ve already published. (It’s also a story where certain rights have reverted back to you. More on that in a sec.) When you send that story to another market who accepts previously published works, it’s a reprint submission.

I’ve sent a fair amount of reprint submissions over the last couple of years (even published a few), so I thought I’d talk about some of the basic info I’ve learned along the way, plus a few pointers on how and where to publish them. Let’s get to it.

The Right to Reprint

One thing you must know before you send a reprint submission is if you currently have the rights to republish the story. You might be thinking, “Hey, this is my story. How could I not have the rights to it?” Well, when you sold the story initially, you  signed a contract that granted the publisher certain rights to the work. Some of those rights were likely exclusive, and you can’t publish the story again until that period of exclusivity ends (usually six months to a year).

Your contract should include language that addresses the rights the publishers is looking to obtain (print, electronic, audio, etc.) and how long they’re looking to hold onto them. If you’d like to see examples of the language I’m referring to, the SFWA model contract (a good standard by which to judge such contracts) is an excellent place to start. Keep in mind I’m not an attorney, and my understanding of contract law is, well, embryonic, so do your research and read your contract carefully. Make sure you understand the terms you’ve agreed to and make doubly sure you have the right to republish a story before you send it out as a reprint.

Finding a Reprint Market

If you have the rights to republish your story, you need to find a market that accepts reprints. The good news is almost every publisher addresses reprints in their submission guidelines with a pretty straightforward yes, we take ’em or a no, we don’t. If a market does accept reprints, the guidelines will look something like this:

We don’t mind if your story has been previously published online or in print (though we do need to know publication and date).

Now the bad news. In my experience, a lot of standard genre markets don’t accept reprints. For example, according to Duotrope, there are currently 58 pro or semi-pro science fiction markets open to short story submissions. Of those 58 markets, 15 accept reprints. With fantasy, it’s 56 and 17. Horror, 31 and 8. There’s a ton of crossover here. It’s not 40 markets accepting reprints, it’s more like 17 that accept some combo of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Note, I left a certain type of publisher out of the numbers above; you’ll see why in a sec.

If you’re looking to submit a reprint, certainly look at your favorite markets to see if they accept them. You might have more luck, however, if you focus on a specific type of publisher:

Audio Markets: Podcasts and other audio markets are one of your best bet for reprints. They generally love ’em because they’re not really reprints to them. If a story has never appeared in audio, an entirely different media format, most audio markets don’t care one way or the other. Some might pay you a bit less for a story that’s been published elsewhere; others don’t even make that distinction. Here are some of my favorite pro and semi-pro audio genre markets (all take reprints):

Preparing the Reprint Submission

A reprint submission is often just like a standard submission with a few minor changes (always read the guidelines carefully). The publisher might ask you to alert them in the subject line of the email that the submission is a reprint and may ask you to tell them where and when the story was initially published in the cover letter. That cover letter might look something like this:

Dear Editors, 

Please consider my short story “Night Games” for publication at Pseudopod. The story is approximately 4,300 words in length. This story was original published by The Devilfish Review on June 27th, 2014. It is available to read on their site at this link: [link to story].


Aeryn Rudel

Some publisher may also ask you to provide a link to where the story was originally published if it’s available to read online. This publisher, for instance, even added that link to the podcast.

That’s the basics on reprints, so dust off those old published stories and get them out there again. There may be a whole new audience waiting to read them. 🙂

Have any thoughts on reprints? Maybe a hot tip on a market that accepts them? Tell me about it in the comments.

Running the Reprint Gauntlet

So, miracle of miracles, you sold a story and it was published. You can now put that story in the special folder of honor on your hard drive—mine is called the “X-File” because its contents are as rare as actual extraterrestrials. But hold on there, buckaroo, that story might still have some life in it yet. I mean, you sold it once, who says you can’t sell it again?

Yep, I’m talking about reprints. What is a reprint? Simple, it’s a story that’s been previously published elsewhere. Some publications are happy to accept and consider them as well as works of original fiction. I’ve found a couple of publications that even prefer reprints.

I just started sending out reprint submissions, and I’m primarily doing it because it’s a way to present what I consider my “best” work to a wider group of markets with fairly minimal effort. Usually, the extent of the work I need to do for a reprint submission is write a cover letter, and I don’t feel compelled to tinker with a story I’ve already sold (If it ain’t broke, right?). But, honestly, the thing I like most about reprints–and I know it’s silly–is when they’re rejected, I hardly notice. The fact that I’ve already sold the story, that I have concrete evidence that someone out there likes it, makes hitting the ol’ send button a little easier.

As I’ve learned, there are some things you need to think about before you send out a reprint submissions:

1) Check your rights. When you sell a story and sign the publisher’s contract, you are granting them certain rights on how and how long they can use your work. I’m not going to go into the specifics here because a) I’m not an expert on the subject, and the last fucking thing I’m going to do is to dispense anything resembling legal advice; and b) the subject has been covered at length elsewhere by folks who actually know what they’re talking about (like in this article here). I’ll just say you need to make sure you have the rights to sell the story again. If you’ve forgotten which rights you sold for your work, it shouldn’t be difficult to find out. Most publishers put the rights they’re buying in the submission guidelines, and it absolutely should be in the contract you signed.

2) Find a reprint market. Okay, so you confirmed you have the rights to sell the story again, now you need to find a publisher that actually accepts reprints. Duotrope is a great resource for this, by the way, because you can search their database specifically for reprint markets. Almost every set of submission guidelines I’ve seen covers reprints, and, obviously, don’t send a previously published story to a market that doesn’t accept them. That kind of thing can come back to bite you in the ass.

If a publisher does accept reprints, there’ll be a few extra things to consider compared to a standard submission. Many publication will ask you to let them know it’s a reprint in the subject line of your submission email, and they may ask you to describe where and when the story was previously sold in the cover letter (I think you should include this even if they don’t ask for it). Also, it’s very common for markets to pay substantially less for reprints than they do for original fiction.

3) A reprint is not a magic bullet. It might seem that a reprint has a greater chance of publication than original fiction because, hey, someone already liked it enough to send you cash monies for the privilege of publishing it. But, in my experience, a reprint is just as likely to be rejected as original fiction. Why? This is purely conjecture (and, editors, please correct me if I’m off base), but I don’t think the fact a story has sold somewhere else carries much weight with many editors. If your reprint first appeared in The New Yorker, that might be something an editor notices, but at the end of the day, a reprint is like any other submission—if the editor doesn’t like it, no amount of previous publications are going to change that.

The Ugly Side of Reprints

Okay, now let’s talk about what I like to call accidental reprints. My writer pal Christina Dalcher covered this subject on her blog recently, but I think it bears repeating. The definition of what constitutes a reprint is surprisingly broad, so broad, in fact, you might have put one of your stories into the reprint zone without even realizing it. Many publishers consider a story you posted on your personal blog or even a public message board as “publication,” meaning you can’t send them that story as original fiction (or at all if they don’t accept reprints). Sucks, right? So before you post your favorite story on your blog or share it on a public message board, stop and think about it. If it’s a story you hope to someday sell as original fiction, it’s probably best to keep it under wraps until you do.

What are your thoughts on reprints? Have you sold any? Tell me about it in the comments.