If Fiction Authors ARE Fictional, How do REAL Authors Find Success?

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As fiction writers we see the world in a different way than most. We’re magicians in a land of skeptics; the court jesters who, for a brief moment, help the downtrodden forget how much they hate their rulers.

We create hope for the hopeless, unlimited possibilities where everything seems impossible. Even when our own reality is less than ideal, even the face of relentless obstacles and disappointments, we write on.

We’re not actors pretending to be someone we aren’t. We’re not copy-cats, or cogs, or cubicle dwellers content to live a “normal” day-to-day existence. We know, deep down, that we are unique, our talent is as exceptional as the words we put on a page, each and every one in an infinite combination of letters. We do this in the hope that someday, someone, somewhere will read our labor of love and validate our self-worth.

Which really sucks.

Yet, even in fiction, the epitome of success and reason to celebrate is being able to say “I’m published”.  Entire television series are created around fiction authors of fiction. The irony that there is an actual writer putting words in the mouth of the fictional writer doesn’t escape me. Nor does the fact that the fictional writer is a lot more famous and a LOT wealthier than the actual writer who created him escape me as well.

It probably doesn’t escape anyone else either that Nathan Fallion, the actor who plays the writer Richard Castle on Castle, not only has two mystery novels on the best seller list, but Castle also has a full fictional bio, Facebook page and twitter account. He’s a world famous writer who has never written a single word. Or that his fans who line up for book signings neither know, nor care. Except for the ghost writer who can’t tell anyone that he or she actually wrote the book.

So, he kills the phony actor-writer, which come to think of it would make an excellent plot for an episode of Castle!

On a recent episode of Bones, where the lead character receives a royalty check of $75,000 for her not-really-published novel and another gives his fellow scientists and friends a notebook with his completed written novel for them to read and critique, (because none of these brilliant scientist have an ebook reader?) Of course the book is awful, of course his friends lie to him about how good it is, and of course just as they’re about to tell him the truth, he announces that he’s just heard from a publisher (another brilliant scientist who doesn’t know about agents?) and that he, too is getting published. It seems that even fake terrible writers can get published if the real writer with real talent makes it so.

I’d like to strangle him.

In a literary world where fake writers, 6 year-old kids, angst-ridden tweens and sexually frustrated color-blind hacks are achieving, literally overnight success, what do the real, talented, dedicated writers do?

We do what we’ve always done. From the first day we could talk, we told stories. From the moment we could pick up a pen, or a pencil, or type on a computer keyboard, we created worlds and characters and plots no one else ever thought of. We continue to make the magic, and pull a few more rabbits out of our hats whether or not there’s an audience to perform for. We continue to jest for those who remain to applaud. We’ll always create hope and dream of those unlimited possibilities where everything seems impossible and we will continue even when our own reality is less than ideal, even the face of relentless obstacles and disappointments…

… we write on.

 

 

 

 

 

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Break Free From the Herd and be Heard

cow[1]Before the publishing world was hit by the tsunami of digital and on-demand self-publishing, there was a certain amount of admiration and prestige associated with being a published author. Our family would congratulate us and brag to their friends about their mother, father, son, daughter, second cousin twice removed, whose name they would drop at any party right after “my (insert relation here) just published” a novel.

We authors had it easy. We wrote to and were rejected by agent after agent, until one day the phone rang and a contract would follow. Then, we sat back and waited while that agent submitted to and was rejected by publisher after publisher, until one day when their phone would ring and a contract would follow.

During those anxious times spent waiting and hoping, we also had the time to work on the next novel. And depending on how long that waiting lasted, the next and the next and the next.

And then, after that publishing contract was signed, the publisher would do their job of marketing, distribution, arranging book signings and book fair appearances, leaving us to spend those times in between events, to write the next novel, and the next and the next and the next.

How times have changed.

Today, authors need to spend just as much if not more time on the marketing and promotion of our work then we do actually writing.  Where once we were small number of cows out in the field easily noticed among the tall grass, we’re now just another one of the herd, trying to moo louder that all the other cows just to be noticed.

And the pasture is getting more and more crowded and it’s getting harder and harder to moo. So, we must find a way to break free and make sure that the rest of the herd won’t instantly follow. The dilemma is to discover where the exit.

There is no dearth of marketing opportunities out there. The key is knowing which one is legit and which might be a scam. If the service charges a fee, how much is too much and how do you know if you’ll see any results from however much you spend?

Here’s a list of guidelines that created that may or may not be helpful for your own marketing efforts. As far as paying for services:

1)      If you find a service you think might be beneficial, set a limit as to how much you can afford to spend on any 1 marketing plan and stick to it.

2)      Avoid web sites that describe themselves as “authors helping authors”

3)      Offers to review your book in exchange for reviewing their book. These aren’t necessary for a fee, but do you really need to be spending your time reading someone else’s books instead of writing your own?

4)      Internet radio interviews. The first one may be free, but there may be a charge for an archive of the show which is really necessary for people to find you.

5)      Contests that charge an entrance fee. (my personal bias)

6)      Unsolicited email offers that start with “Dear Author”

7)      Unsolicited email offers from sites you’ve never seen that start with “Dear.. your name”

These are just my top 7, but you get the point. Marketing opportunities will present themselves , just plan how much of your valuable time and hard earned money you’re willing to spend.

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Break Out of the Herd and Be Heard

cowBefore the publishing world was hit by the tsunami of digital and on-demand self-publishing, there was a certain amount of admiration and prestige associated with being a published author. Our family would congratulate us and brag to their friends about their mother, father, son, daughter, second cousin twice removed, whose name they would drop at any party right after “my (insert relation here) just published” a novel.

We authors had it easy. We wrote to and were rejected by agent after agent, until one day the phone rang and a contract would follow. Then, we sat back and waited while that agent submitted to and was rejected by publisher after publisher, until one day when their phone would ring and a contract would follow.

During those anxious times spent waiting and hoping, we also had the time to work on the next novel. And depending on how long that waiting lasted, the next and the next and the next.

And then, after that publishing contract was signed, the publisher would do their job of marketing, distribution, arranging book signings and book fair appearances, leaving us to spend those times in between events, to write the next novel, and the next and the next and the next.

How times have changed.

Today, authors need to spend just as much if not more time on the marketing and promotion of our work then we do actually writing.  Where once we were small number of cows out in the field easily noticed among the tall grass, we’re now just another one of the herd, trying to moo louder that all the other cows just to be noticed.

And the pasture is getting more and more crowded and it’s getting harder and harder to moo. So, we must find a way to break free and make sure that the rest of the herd won’t instantly follow. The dilemma is to discover where the exit.

There is no dearth of marketing opportunities out there. The key is knowing which one is legit and which might be a scam. If the service charges a fee, how much is too much and how do you know if you’ll see any results from however much you spend?

Here’s a list of guidelines that created that may or may not be helpful for your own marketing efforts. As far as paying for services:

1)      If you find a service you think might be beneficial, set a limit as to how much you can afford to spend on any 1 marketing plan and stick to it.

2)      Avoid web sites that describe themselves as “authors helping authors”

3)      Offers to review your book in exchange for reviewing their book. These aren’t necessary for a fee, but do you really need to be spending your time reading someone else’s books instead of writing your own?

4)      Internet radio interviews. The first one may be free, but there may be a charge for an archive of the show which is really necessary for people to find you.

5)      Contests that charge an entrance fee. (my personal bias)

6)      Unsolicited email offers that start with “Dear Author”

7)      Unsolicited email offers from sites you’ve never seen that start with “Dear.. your name”

These are just my top 7, but you get the point. Marketing opportunities will present themselves , just plan how much of your valuable time and hard earned money you’re willing to spend.

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Can Visualizing Success Make It Happen?

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The other day I was in a convenience store and noticed a rack with several books on sale by an author I didn’t know. My first thought was “that will never be my books”. Then, my inner voice smacked me in the face (metaphorically, of course) and replaced that thought with a vision of my books being on that rack someday.

A positive image superseding a negative one.  For a moment, I could actually see my books for sale in the display, and I thought “why not?”

If there really is such a thing as positive thoughts creating a positive reality, then this was definitely a perfect example.  

I believe that I’m a good writer. Not because I wrote three novels, but because I read all three novels. More than once. I have full confidence that my stories are exceptional, and that the time I spend agonizing over every little word that I write will somehow be recognized by millions of readers one day.

I started singing,badly I’ll admit, a song from Funny Girl “I’m the greatest star, I am by far, but no one knows it.

Once I replaced those negative thoughts with the positive ones, a strange thing happened. I checked my Smashwords account and discovered 31 Ebooks had sold in a week, another 6 one day later! I had actually broke the 900 mark!  

Then, I received an email from a literally agent I had sent my book proposal to several months ago that she was very interested in representing me for Undercover Reunion and possibly the next two novel works in progress as well!!

Maybe this positive thinking idea really did work. Then again…

I remembered another best-selling book called the “Secret of Attraction”, wherein the theory is that if you send out positive energy to the universe, it would “attract” positive things in your life. The problem with this theory is that it goes against basic physics that states just the opposite. Or more precisely, opposites attract.  A common magnet validates this theory. So, based on reality, if you throw out positive energy, what attracts is the opposite… negative results.

When we buy a lottery ticket, there is a certain amount of time to dream of the what if. That time between the purchase and the dropping of those balls, the world is wide open to imagine so many possibilities. Then, the inevitable happens and not one of our numbers comes up. But we spend yet another dollar, or two, or five just for few more days of hope and dreams.

We imagine all those lovely possibilities.

So, as I looked at that rack of books that were written by someone else and imagined those were mine, and all those lovely possibilities, I went home and booted up my laptop and started writing. Even if it is only this blog. Even if only 154 people read these words, taking action was so much more gratifying than sitting and hoping and quoting some old song.

Positive thoughts are great, but positive actions are so much better! Dreams come true with a great deal of hard work and a bit of luck. The only real positive energy is the action that we take based on those positive thoughts. Buy that lottery ticket. Send your resume to that perfect job you want. Go to conferences, network, email, write blogs, re-tweet, contacts and follow everyone to build your fan base. Don’t just sit around sending positive vibes into a black universe that has no interest in your dreams. Make those dreams reality!

So, keep dreaming, keep hoping and if it helps, keep praying. But most of all…

Keep writing.

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How Do You Come Up with Ideas for a Novel?

When you introduce yourself as an author, the second question you’ll probably hear most often, after the inevitable “are you self-published?” is “how do you come up with ideas for your novel?”. Setting aside the first question for now, my response is how do I not come up with ideas for my next novel?
           
For those of us who are cursed with an overactive imagination, stories, characters, plots and themes exist in every second of every minute of each and every day. Take a walk on the beach on a beautiful sunny California day and stop, along with many others, to watch the surfers ride and get wiped out on the waves. While there have been hundreds of stories about the surfing world, what I noticed was the one guy, slightly balding, looked like was maybe 45 or 50 in a solid black wet suit, surf board by his side, doing stretches before joining the younger crowd.

I began to think of story of an aging baby boomer who, in his day, was king of the beach, and now could only gaze at his passing youth riding the waves he could only remember. Perhaps he was still king of the surf, I didn’t see him get into the water. Perhaps he was contemplating hitting the water and showing everyone how it was done. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Sitting outside a Paris café with my daughter watching a very odd elderly woman as she drank coffee and lit a cigarette talking to herself in French and English and some landguage neither of us understood. I told my daughter that the woman had been a spy for the French during World War II and was captured and tortured by the Nazi’s, so her mind was gone. Or, perhaps her mind was perfectly fine and she was only pretending to be a bit crazy because she was still working as a spy and it was the perfect disguise. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

There are only a small handful of plots; Romance, boy meets girls, boy loses girl, boy finds girls again and they live happily ever after. Of course nowadays it could be boy meets boy, or girl meets girl, but the idea remains the same. Murder mysteries; someone dies, one or several find out who done it, etc. And while the number of core ideas may be recycled over and over ad nauseam, what follows , it the writer has even a smidgeon of imagination,  can introduce take readers to characters they want to know and care about and travel to worlds that are, literally, beyond their wildest imagination.

Every story begins with one question; what if? Where it goes from there, and how that story is told is what makes this work, if one would call it work, the best job there ever is. W

Which just gave me an idea for a story of a writer who….

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Technology is Robbing Authors of Our Immortality

handwritingPick up a pencil. Right NOW pick up a pencil. Or if you prefer a pen, if you can find one, and write you name. In script.  If you remember how.

Now, look at your signature. The name you wrote is probably shared by millions, but the way you wrote it is unique and special and no one else in the entire world can write your name the way that you do. It’s yours alone.

Now, on your keyboard, or your laptop, or whatever device you’re reading this right now, type your name.  Use whatever font, size or color you want, it won’t matter because all those millions who shares your name can do the exact same thing in the exact same way. Electronically typed, your name is indistinguishable millions of others and what makes that name truly your own is gone.

Your signature contains a small piece of your personality, a tiny microscopic atom of your very soul that flows from your brain down your arm, to your hand and fingers, through the instrument that writes the word onto a piece of paper. For an author, their signature scrawled on the face page of your book is forever inscribed on the first page of our book.

Artists sign their paintings; chisel their name in sculptures made of marble, or glass, or bronze. Their unique signature tells the world that their creation is theirs and theirs alone.  For as long as that piece of art exists the artist’s signature, and in a way the artist themselves, lives on for eternity.

But you can’t sign an ebook.

There was a time, not that long ago, that bookstores would hold book signing events for authors. There would be lines of fans waiting for a chance to see the creator of the worlds that existed within the covers of the books they carried with them for the author to sign. Each signature, a unique, individual part of that authors personality that each fan took with them when that brief moment in the presence of the author had passed. That signature would last many years, sometimes long after the author had also passed on.

But those days are long gone. Bookstores are vanishing, and book signings are vanishing with them. The birth of the ebook was the death of personally signed books.

With every new technological advancement, we are moving further and further away from personal contact. We don’t hear other’s voices, we read text messages. We don’t interact at social functions, we “go to meetings” on webinars, or video conference. We are so desperate for physical contact there is now a new cottage industry of paid “huggers” those who will cuddle with you for a price.

Our new “social media” is anything BUT, and we’re all jumping on the anti-social bandwagon.

Why write a letter when an email will do? Why take the time to shop for that perfect card , sign your name and hand write the address when it is so much quicker and easier to send an ecard?  Why buy a book when you can read electronic texts, one that looks exactly like the other, lacking any personality or uniqueness.  We are becoming homogenized clones, losing our individuality and uniqueness to the technological cyber world.

Text all looks exactly the same no matter who the writer. One book looks exactly the same as another. Words on a computer screen, ipad or cellphone are cold disconnected and distant. There was a reason we used to cuddle up with a good book, now we pay to cuddle up with a perfect stranger.

As authors, we must strive to keep that very special part of ourselves alive. On one hand, we want to sell as many books as we can, whether they are hard copies or ebooks. I recently sold several copies of Undercover Reunion to one of the organizers of Arundel – 17, an annual Man from U.N.C.L.E. convention which takes place in Sussex, England. Although I was unable to attend the event in person, I printed labels with the organization’s logo, signed each one and mailed it to her to put on the front page of the books.

I sent a few extras in the event that other attendees wanted to purchase the “signed” book. Each label was personally signed by me. Knowing my signature, a tiny part of me, would be traveling across the ocean to attend a convention, I was very careful to make each letter look a bit like the author who could not attend in person.  It felt wonderful!

Now, pick up that pen write your name. Then look at your signature. That very unique individual signature that represents you and only you and write it again. Now, imagine you’re sitting at a table, a stack of your best- selling novel on your left and a huge line of fans in front of you waiting for you to give them that unique part of you that only you can give. Your signature. Your first edition will be passed on to their children and grandchildren and even if it ends up at a garage sale or a used bookstore, it will always have a part of you that flowed from your hand through the pen onto that page.

That is immortality.

And it is what we have all lost because you can’t sign an ebook.

Now, I need a hug.

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Get OUT of the Publishing Traffic Jam

traffic jamIn the early days of publishing the road to riches was a small highway littered with rejected manuscripts and abandoned dreams. Few who started out on the journey actually made it to the finish line. Many more either crashed and burned, or simply abandoned the trip altogether.

For the financially independent, there was the alternate toll-road. Self-publishing and subsidized publishing (also, unfortunately called “vanity” publishing) was a path less traveled by, but one which many authors hoped would lead to riches, or at least lead to enough wealth to cover the cost of the toll.

Until the latter part of the twentieth century, those were the only two courses for an author to embark on if they wanted to be published. No longer. Computer technology, high speed printers and the Internet has changed the entire highway system. The rocky road of agent to publisher to bookstore to reader has been replaced by the manuscript to hard drive to reader highway of the Cyberspace Transit System. In today’s high tech market, ebooks are downloaded in a fraction of the time it would take to print a book. Print-On-Demand publishers produce a hard print copy in a few days, with no huge stacks of inventory piling up in warehouses, or author’s garages. Seemingly overnight, anyone with a computer and a modem became a “published” author and the “road to riches” has become twenty-four hour traffic jam.

With thousands of authors worldwide driving their new found published work on the same road at the same time, it’s getting harder to see the finish line, let alone reach it. With hundreds of new titles going on-line daily, and hundreds of new authors adding to the massive list on Amazon.com, the problem is no longer getting your book in print. The problem now is getting your book noticed, purchased and read.

Those who have already made it need not worry. Established authors will continue to attract an audience, whether they publish in paper or in cyberspace. The rest of us are only hoping we won’t run out of gas while we’re stuck in traffic. The goal may still be the same, but the length of time it takes to reach that goal just became a whole lot longer. The influx of POD and Ebook publishers has more than doubled since 1999 when Writers Club first announced their new print on demand program. iUniverse entered the scene in October of that same year, followed by Xlibris, 1stBooks, and a number of others. Ebook publishers began paving their own roads early on, and now there are more than fifty, with more than a hundred titles each!

At a meeting of the National Writers Union, Literary Agent Sandra Dykstra commented that iUniverse’s goal to publish 30,000 titles was admirable, but how were they going to find 30,000 readers? Wouldn’t it be better to stay on the well paved road, built by traditional publishing houses that have a more select list and sell 30,000 copies of one title? She had a point. To a point. With so many authors publishing so many titles, how does one avoid the traffic jam on the road to riches? The solution is not to u-turn to the old ways. The solution is to get off at the next exit, find an alternate route, or build your own road!

The old ways worked in the old days, but the 21st Century put an end to the “old” ways and there’s no turning back. While technology has made it easier than ever to publish a book, it has also made it that much harder for newly published authors to break away from the pack and find an audience. The Internet has given authors the golden opportunity to reach an international readership. It’s up to the authors to use this technology to construct their very own road to riches.

Web sites devoted to the promotion of new books are begin created almost daily. The key is in knowing where these sites are and the best way to use them. Any search engine will help you begin the search, but don’t stop there. There are many Egroups listed in Yahoo specifically designed for new authors. These are an excellent source for promotion ideas, plus you can attend any of these ‘round the clock in all kinds of weather without ever having to leave your desk. Members exchange information, support and motivation for each other in cyberspace. Some sites run weekly or monthly live “chats” with a variety of industry guests. DO NOT BE SHY about self-promotion. Lean on that horn long and loud. Post your reviews on all on-line bookstores. If someone gives your book a decent review, copy it and post it everywhere you can. Build your own resource list for your specific genre and promote yourself at least once a day someplace on your list. If you write romance, don’t try to be the “next” Danielle Steele. If you write horror, don’t try to be the “next” Stephen King. Whatever you write, be the very first YOU.

It takes time, hard work and effort, but if you keep your eye one the road ahead and hold tight to that wheel as you speed down your own highway, your own road to riches will leave everyone else far behind eating your dust.

Good luck and good writing!

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What Writers Need to Do When We Run Out of Gas

out of gasThere have been numerous articles written about writer’s block- that horrific time in our lives when our “Muse” takes a vacation and all creativity comes to a screeching halt. Web sites abound on the subject, with many experts giving their opinions on the causes and solutions, most of which we’ve all heard before. But the topic of this article is not about this well known malady, but a more serious affliction: writer’s stall. What happens when we run out of gas on the “Road To Riches”?

With every two steps forward we take as writers, it seems we get pushed back three. It’s hard not to get discouraged and harder still to continue writing when the odds are being stacked higher and higher against us.

In this day of electronic publishing, it only takes a small investment to become a “published” author. iUniverse, Xlibris and a host of other print-on-demand publishers opened the door to hundreds of hopeful writers eager to see their years of hard work finally appear on bookstore shelves. But the door was quickly slammed shut as store after store refused entry to these “vanity press” titles.

E-books were a hot idea when they were first proposed and a number of writers flocked to these publishers in hopes that readers would enjoy the convenience of reading their work on-line, or through the use of the new technology of the “Rocket E-Book Reader”. But the cost of the device was out of reach for most people. Given the choice of “paper or plastic”, fans of the printed word still preferred the traditional pulp novel over the futuristic metallic device.

Organizations such as the National Writers Union and the Authors Guild have been fighting the legal battle over reproduction rights for years, taking our case all the way to the Supreme Court. Yes, we won the battle, but now it appears we may have lost the war as magazines now demand we give up all rights, including electronic ones, or they won’t buy our submissions.

And it’s not any easier on authors. Once that first book is in your hands, the hard work of promotion and marketing is left almost totally up to you. Unless you’re a Stephen King, Anne Rice or another “name” author, getting your book into stores or attracting public attention is an exhausting effort, with most of the effort returning zero results. It’s become a viscous cycle of frustration. In order to make it onto the bookstore shelves, you need to be a “name”, but you can’t make a name for yourself unless you’re on the bookstore shelves!

Once your book is published the road becomes laden with even more detours and obstacles. You send your novel to fifteen reviewers and no one responds. You hold book signing events and only three people attend, two of whom are your family and the other one wants information on finding an agent for their novel. You receive excellent newspaper, radio and cable television coverage, but sales are still under 100 for the month. And as you stare at a blank screen and an obnoxious blinking cursor at three in the morning, you begin to ask yourself: is it all worth it?

Bookstores are covered with titles from authors who have written ten, twenty or more novels and you can’t even begin the first sentence of the first chapter of your second one. The plot is in your head, the characters, the story, every detail mapped out perfectly. Yet it remains trapped for months while distractions always seem to get in the way, and you begin to wonder if you will ever be able to free it onto the written page. And if you do, will it be as good as the last one or will anyone read it, or will it too be stuck in the traffic jam on the “Road To Riches”?

Then you read about some infamous political figure who just signed a multi-million-dollar book contract and you’re thinking “I’m sleeping with the wrong Bill.” (Providing your partner’s name is Bill!) And you start having doubts that your writing is any good. Was it just a case of temporary insanity that caused you to sit at the computer for hours writing and re-writing page after page of a story no one may ever read?

Self-doubt begins to creep in, as the money begins to drain out. Hours spent working on a web site hundreds of people read, but no one hits the “donate $1.00 per story” to help sustain. Cyber pats on the back and accolades from around the world feel good, but they don’t pay the monthly access fee. So, the column slips by another month. You miss the deadline on the short story contest you were going to enter and all you have to show for your next novel is the title. Your engine is stalled, your gas tank is empty and there you sit. Stranded. Alone on a deserted highway on a very lonely road without a cell phone or an emergency flare, you start to question why you began this journey in the first place.

Then a minor miracle happens. A voice in distant cyber space “yells” at you to get off your butt and send three chapters of your novel by Thursday or else. After helping your teenager with an essay, she calls from college to tell you you’re not a good writer, you’re a great writer. Your daughter locks you in your office and won’t let you out until you’ve finished the column. The local university calls to tell you five people signed up for your class. Your e-box is filled with mail from readers saying how much they enjoyed your latest contribution to their Association newsletter. A magazine editor you highly respect asks you to interview a very “interesting” author who spends an hour and a half reminding you why you started on this journey. Not for the fame, not for the riches, but for the sheer joy of the ride.

And you discover there’s just enough gas left in the tank to start the engine. Just enough to begin the journey again, no matter where it leads. In spite of the hazards, in spite of the road blocks and in spite of the occasional stall on the “Road to Riches”, there isn’t any other road you’d rather be on, because writing isn’t what we do, it’s who we are. And we love it!

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Know Your Rights Before You’re Left Out

When publishing was only a matter of paper and ink, and reading material was produced by hand, author’s “rights” were pretty simple. There were none. Whatever the author wrote, the author sold and the author kept the money. With the invention of the printing press, came a new industry, Publishing. The good news for authors was that their works could be reproduced in large quantities. The bad news was that authors and writers now needed protection from these same publishers in order to receive fair compensation for each reproduction of their work sold. In order to insure the author would receive this compensation, more than a handshake was needed. Thus began the first written agreement between the publisher and the author; the contract, and a new terminology was created around the phrase author’s “rights”.

The first contracts were a simple agreement between the publisher and author. Publisher agrees to pay author a percentage of each book sold. For awhile things were going along quite well and everybody was happy. Then, one day, the owner of a local theater read a novel and decided it would make an interesting play. A new contract had to be drawn up between the author of the original work, the publisher of that work and the theater owner (renamed “Producer”) who wanted to use the work of the talented author for their own profit, Thus the term “Dramatic” rights was added to the vocabulary and things started to get a little complicated. Authors and writers needed help in the ever growing “rights” industry and a new profession was born: the Literary Agent. (Not to be, but often is, confused with another profession held in equally high esteem, the Lawyer.)

In the early days of horse and buggy when books were delivered only to a small area, local rights were all one needed. But with the onset of trains, planes and automobiles, “international”rights became part of the contracts. Along with the birth of the motion picture industry, came the added line “film rights” which begat television rights, which begat video tape and audio books rights as well.

The relationship between all parties was going along quite well for most of the 20th century. Authors were writing, agents were rejecting author’s writing, author’s kept writing, agents sent manuscripts to publishers, publishers rejected manuscripts, agents got lucky, agents got 10%, publishers got rich, agents got richer, authors got burned out. Then, during the latter part of the 1990′s, the entire industry took a dramatic turn with the creation of a brand new publishing medium: The Internet, and it begat a brand new term never before heard of in the history of the published world: “Electronic” rights.

As recently as 1995, the Writers Market didn’t even show a listing for ebook rights. For the writing novice, all they listed was the usual explanation of First Serial Rights – or North American Rights, Second serial (reprint) Rights, Subsidiary Rights, and Dramatic, Television, and Motion Picture Rights, which are usually purchased on a one-year option, generally for 10% of the total price by an interested party, usually a producer, who then tries to sell the idea to other people. (Remember our friendly little “theater owner”?)

Electronic rights can cover a lot of territory. Take this article for example. It’s being read on your computer screen, but you can also download it to your hard drive, make a print copy, or several print copies, and send it out across the world in an instant. And the author, me, wouldn’t receive one dime for any of it. However, before you hit that button, check the top of this page, and you’ll see a little © symbol. Hey, it’s “copyrighted”! Which means if I catch you making money off my work, I’ll see you in court. It also means that anything I write cannot be reproduced in any form without my express, written permission. (So, just go ahead and ask first!) But the ebook rights go much further than simply the reproduction of articles. It includes full length books, and is now a very important part of any legitimate book contract. It’s also something that every author and writer should be totally knowledgeable about before signing any contract. If you have an agent, there is a good possibility they aren’t up on all the legalities of this new industry. But, I’m assuming that since you’re reading this on an electronic device, most of you are more knowledgeable than most on the wonders of ebook and epublishing.

The writing and publishing profession is changing almost daily. Print-On-Demand companies are giving traditional publishing houses a run for their money. Ebook publishers, such as Smashwords.com and many others are making huge strides in the electronic market which is growing at a furious pace. Literary agents and traditional publishers who aren’t totally aware of this new industry or thought that this is only a “temporary phase” are finding themselves out of a job.

You only need to follow the recent law suit brought by the Author Guild against GOOGLE to see where the future is going, and it’s not a good one for writers.

Authors who are not fully knowledgeable of their rights in this new electronic age, are going to find themselves losing vast sums of money to them that do. The bottom line is, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS before you sign on that same bottom line. Your reputation as well as your bank account demands no less.

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Know Your Rights Before You’re Left Out!

copyrightWhen publishing was only a matter of paper and ink, and reading material was produced by hand, author’s “rights” were pretty simple. There were none. Whatever the author wrote, the author sold and the author kept the money. With the invention of the printing press, came a new industry, Publishing. The good news for authors was that their works could be reproduced in large quantities. The bad news was that authors and writers now needed protection from these same publishers in order to receive fair compensation for each reproduction of their work sold. In order to insure the author would receive this compensation, more than a handshake was needed. Thus began the first written agreement between the publisher and the author; the contract, and a new terminology was created around the phrase author’s “rights”.

The first contracts were a simple agreement between the publisher and author. Publisher agrees to pay author a percentage of each book sold. For awhile things were going along quite well and everybody was happy. Then, one day, the owner of a local theater read a novel and decided it would make an interesting play. A new contract had to be drawn up between the author of the original work, the publisher of that work and the theater owner (renamed “Producer”) who wanted to use the work of the talented author for their own profit, Thus the term “Dramatic” rights was added to the vocabulary and things started to get a little complicated. Authors and writers needed help in the ever growing “rights” industry and a new profession was born: the Literary Agent. (Not to be, but often is, confused with another profession held in equally high esteem, the Lawyer.)

In the early days of horse and buggy when books were delivered only to a small area, local rights were all one needed. But with the onset of trains, planes and automobiles, “international”rights became part of the contracts. Along with the birth of the motion picture industry, came the added line “film rights” which begat television rights, which begat video tape and audio books rights as well.

The relationship between all parties was going along quite well for most of the 20th century. Authors were writing, agents were rejecting author’s writing, author’s kept writing, agents sent manuscripts to publishers, publishers rejected manuscripts, agents got lucky, agents got 10%, publishers got rich, agents got richer, authors got burned out. Then, during the latter part of the 1990′s, the entire industry took a dramatic turn with the creation of a brand new publishing medium: The Internet, and it begat a brand new term never before heard of in the history of the published world: “Electronic” rights.

As recently as 1995, the Writers Market didn’t even show a listing for ebook rights. For the writing novice, all they listed was the usual explanation of First Serial Rights – or North American Rights, Second serial (reprint) Rights, Subsidiary Rights, and Dramatic, Television, and Motion Picture Rights, which are usually purchased on a one-year option, generally for 10% of the total price by an interested party, usually a producer, who then tries to sell the idea to other people. (Remember our friendly little “theater owner”?)

Electronic rights can cover a lot of territory. Take this article for example. It’s being read on your computer screen, but you can also download it to your hard drive, make a print copy, or several print copies, and send it out across the world in an instant. And the author, me, wouldn’t receive one dime for any of it. However, before you hit that button, check the top of this page, and you’ll see a little © symbol. Hey, it’s “copyrighted”! Which means if I catch you making money off my work, I’ll see you in court. It also means that anything I write cannot be reproduced in any form without my express, written permission. (So, just go ahead and ask first!) But the ebook rights go much further than simply the reproduction of articles. It includes full length books, and is now a very important part of any legitimate book contract. It’s also something that every author and writer should be totally knowledgeable about before signing any contract. If you have an agent, there is a good possibility they aren’t up on all the legalities of this new industry. But, I’m assuming that since you’re reading this on an electronic device, most of you are more knowledgeable than most on the wonders of ebook and epublishing.

The writing and publishing profession is changing almost daily. Print-On-Demand companies are giving traditional publishing houses a run for their money. Ebook publishers, such as Smashwords.com and many others are making huge strides in the electronic market which is growing at a furious pace. Literary agents and traditional publishers who aren’t totally aware of this new industry or thought that this is only a “temporary phase” are finding themselves out of a job.

You only need to follow the recent law suit brought by the Author Guild against GOOGLE to see where the future is going, and it’s not a good one for writers.

Authors  who are not fully knowledgeable of their rights in this new electronic age, are going to find themselves losing vast sums of money to them that do. The bottom line is, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS before you sign on that same bottom line. Your reputation as well as your bank account demands no less.

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