Good information concerning book reviews. I am off to Ireland in the morning for 10 days. I’m attending a Book Conference in Dublin and then playing tourist with my husband. I’m excited. Have a great couple of weeks. Shirley
Most writers I know fall into 1 of 2 camps: people who are (overly) concerned that someone will steal their work, and innocents who don’t take time to learn what rights they ought to be protecting.
So I’d like to outline the 5 things every writer should know about their rights (and, by extension, other people’s rights).
- Your work is protected under copyright as soon as you put it in tangible form.
Your work doesn’t need to be published to be protected, and you do not have to display the copyright symbol on your manuscript to have it protected. (One of the reasons there is so much confusion surrounding this issue is that the law changed in the 1970s.)
Since your work is copyrighted from the moment you create it, the existence or validity of your copyright will not be affected if you don’t register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. (And, in fact, you can register the work after you find infringement and still be afforded all the protections as if you had registered it earlier.)
- For shorter works (non-books), publications automatically acquire one-time rights unless specified otherwise in the contract.
The current law puts the burden on the publication to notify the author in writing if it wants to acquire any rights other than one-time rights (that is, the right to publish the work one time). The law also contains termination provisions that allow an author to regain rights she assigned to others, after a specific period.
- Your work cannot accidentally fall into the public domain.
Any published or distributed material on which a copyright has expired is considered to be in the public domain—that is, available for use by any member of the general public without payment to, or permission from, the original author.
It used to be that your work might accidentally fall into the public domain if not protected under copyright or published with the copyright symbol. This is not the case any longer.
- Selling various rights to your work doesn’t affect your ownership of the copyright.
Various rights are all part of your copyright, but selling them in no way diminishes your ownership of the actual work. The only way you can give up copyright entirely is if you sign a contract or agreement that stipulates it is a “work for hire.”
- You can quote other people’s work in your own work, without permission, as long as you abide by fair use guidelines.
The downside here is that there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what constitutes fair use of a copyrighted work.
The law says that four factors should be considered in determining if a use is fair:
the purpose and character of the use (commercial vs. not-for-profit/educational)
the nature of the copyrighted work
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the entire quoted work
the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the quoted work
Most publishers have their own fair-use guidelines that they ask their own authors to abide by. But, if you’re picking up only a few hundred words from a full-length book, it’s probably fair use. Always be extremely careful when quoting poetry or song lyrics—ANY use at all usually requires permission (and a fee).
For more authoritative info on this topic, I highly recommend signing up for an online educational session next week, with lawyer Amy Cook, who specializes in publishing law. You’ll be able to ask questions live: Copyright and Contracts
Alternatively, you can read more from these authoritative sources:
This is useful information for all of us who use Amazon with some helpful links. Shirley
Some writers have been fortunate enough to land book contracts, but unfortunately for the majority of writers that’s not the case. Ryan Van Cleave says, “reach beyond the obvious to achieve success.” Ryan is a Florida basted writing teacher and author of twenty books.
You have a terrific book manuscript that’s ready to submit. Thats great! Or maybe your’re pas the halfway point on a new project and you want to start thinking about the next step. Before you start stuffing envelopes or firing off email queries, take a moment to reflect on pre submission and pre contract realities. Is there anything you can do now that might increase your odds for success?
Writing advice espouses the obvious: Take classes, write well and solicit quality feedback on your work. Here are five actionable, less than obvious steps you can take right now to stand out from the crowd and earn a writer friendly book contract once you’re ready to put your work out into the literary world.
1. Change your attitude. Literary agent Lisa Hagan says to strongly consider your “attitude regarding changes that need to be made to make the manuscript the best that it can be.” It’s not about ego or sticking to the original plan. It’s about producing a publication worthy book. No one willingly chooses to work with an inflexible stickler. Be open to suggestions, especially those from publishing experts.
2. Prepare your own pitch. “The writing may be wonderful,” says Sourcebooks editorial director Todd Stocke, “but can I distill it down to something quickly and easily explained. Ultimately, that’s the publisher’s job, to find ways that connect the author and the readers. But sometimes those of us who do this for a living still can’t find the pitch.” Clearly share your vision for the pitch. The publisher is still welcome to come up with a different one for the back cover, catalog copy or PR materials, but sometimes you’ll bowl a publisher over with you well-reasoned, compelling pitch that leverages angles they hadn’t considered.
3. Be proactive with your BISAC. With more than 3,000 BISAC(Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject codes available for a published book, it’s imperative that yours gets the right one(s). When Random House changed the BISAC for a strong-selling title from “Fiction-General” to “Fiction-Suspense,” the sales increased by 55 percent. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what BISAC codes the publisher intends for your book. Do some research so you have ideas ready in case they’re missing ways to increase visibility. Having the wrong BISAC can make your book essentially invisible.
“Go to a bookstore,” Stocke advices. “Spend time in the stacks, really understand where your book might sit in that store. What books will be around it? What authors am I most like? With what am I competing?” Or is your book better suited to readers finding it in other venues than a traditional bookstore? Figuring all this out can help your future sales immensely.
4. Chase down the co-op. Most publishers have money set aside to spend on book promotions, front of store displays at Barnes & Noble that cost thousands of dollars a week but have huge results in terms of sales. Make sure you ask any publisher offering a contract if co-op is available for your title. If not, consider offering to match any co-op dollar for dollar, up to whatever amount you can afford. Sometimes that’s enough for a publisher to commit those limited resources your way.
5. Run from red flags. Is the publishing company undergoing big changes? If so, be wary, warns Hagan. In terms of book contracts, she prefers to have the “right of first refusal” clause deleted. It’s not exactly a red flag, but “it saves time for future projects,” she explains. ” I don’t like to be locked in.”
Stocke says one red flag is if publishers don’t have extensive experience publishing books similar to yours. They also should have initial competitive/comparative research if thy’re offering you a contract. “What’s their plan for the format, the price, the size, the brick verses e-tail opportunities? How are they going to title, package and pitch it to get it in front of people? What does success look like, and what does the opposite of that look like?” Anything but good, reasonable answers here are red flags for sure.
Far too many writers spend months on a manuscript but then fire off the final product like it’s a radioactive hot potato. Take your time to create a clear, informed plan so when you do put that masterpiece into the hands of a literary agent or publisher, it’s with no regrets. Listen to the experts and give yourself the best chance to earn a great book contract with writer-friendly terms.