I am an author, ghostwriter, and an editor for many other authors.
I also write and sell my stories and articles. This is a very interesting question you have posed! It’s one we should all think about when selling creative writing.
If I had sold you a story, it would be very likely that you were taking my services as a ghost writer. Therefore, I’d expect that under a commercial agreement, you were going to publish the story under your own name. It would honestly never cross my mind that you would sell it on again. (Although, you could sell it under your own name as a piece you had written–that’s very standard when buying ghostwriting).
To sell on a story to a third person or company would not be what I’d expect when selling my story to you. However, I still rather suspect that on this occasion, you’re legally entitled to do whatever you like with it because of the fact they didn’t specify the terms of their stated commercial use.
‘Commercial use’ within freelance writing usually would mean that you can use it within your business–such as on your website or blog. It doesn’t usually mean you can resell. However, they failed to specify, so you’d be right to say, you can do with it as you please–in my view. I sell a great many pieces to bloggers and to online magazines, who publish the pieces online as if they have written them themselves.
I think the advice others are giving you is very sound indeed; I’d do as others say, and for the avoidance of a dispute with the author, I would request a refund and let this author keep their story.
Even though it seems to me that you’re legally entitled to resell it if you wish to, I would recommend you avoid any ownership disputes as these can ruin what you’re trying to achieve, in the longer term.
Give the mean and argumentative author their story back and take your money back–and place it with someone else who will be happy to sell you a story to re-use or re-sell as you like. There are many of us about on Fiverr!
I don’t think any service provider who chooses to make life difficult for a client is worth staying with. And bear in mind, you may well want to buy more stories so it would benefit you to find an author you feel you can work with, avoiding these kinds of disputes and disagreements.
And in my view, a good writer can always turn out more and more great work, so for that writer to be upset about a misunderstanding pertaining to one piece, and to let that drag down an otherwise good client relationship, seems short-sighted on the author’s part. And a shame.
Just as a heads-up, for an author to write a 30,000-word piece could take them a long time. It’s not a small story but a novella. I’d expect to pay at least £1,000 for a piece of this length, if it’s any good, and original–as it should take more than a week to write. I only mention this because perhaps that’s where their grievance comes from; maybe they have under-charged for the time input and now fear you’re going to earn more from the piece than they earned themselves. You’d be perfectly entitled to do that, but they would probably feel quite miffed if so.
Mod Note: Link removed.