(Above: my "Mom Voicemail" cartoon. I sold this cartoon to First for Women maybe ten years ago. The next week another magazine market, Good Housekeeping magazine, emailed me, wanting to buy the now-sold cartoon. They must have had an old batch of mine collecting dust on a desk, and had only opened it recently. Me: I had assumed that they did not want it since I didn't hear back in thirty days and sent the cartoon to First for Women.)
From the email this week:
Question: In the event 2 magazines pick the same cartoon-- what is good wording to say to the 2nd magazine that it is not available?
Mike Lynch responds:
Most magazines want first-time rights. That means that they get your new cartoon first and they get it exclusively for 90 days after publication. Some magazines (New Yorker, Harvard Business Review and a couple more) buy ALL RIGHTS and you have to sign a contract to that effect -- so you should know. Assuming that the magazine you first sold it to wants just initial first rights, I would let the other magazine know what's up and see if they still would like to by. Funny Times, for instance, buys one-time rights and doesn't care if a cartoon has been published before.
So, I would word an email like this to the late-buying mag:
"'NAME OF FIRST MAGAZINE THAT JUST BOUGHT YOUR CARTOON' just bought this same cartoon from me, and its first time rights to publication. I am glad that you want it too, but you would only have secondary republication rights. If this situation if OK with you, then let me know and I will send an invoice."
I am making a lot of assumptions here. I am assuming these are standard publications with standard practices. Small clients, such as companies that buy material for newsletters, may not care much about all this.
Hope this helps.
Best of luck and congrats on the sale(s)!