The Business of Writing

Simon Whaley's Resource For Writers

Experience: Ninety Years On

 

Ninety years ago, in April 1927, a new publication hit the newsstands: The Countryman. Buy a copy of the April 2017 issue (out now) and you’ll find it comes with a facsimile copy of that first 1927 issue.

Inside this, there’s a request from the editor, which says:

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Confused By Your ALCS Statement?

This week is an exciting week for writers, because those who are registered for ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society) will be receiving their March 2017 payouts.

Statements became available to writers online about ten days ago and, funnily enough, when writers are offered free money, most of us log into our accounts to find out how much we are getting. (In previous years we have managed to crash their system, such is our eagerness to see whether we can afford a celebratory drink, or a celebratory meal.)

If you don’t really understand what ALCS does, where it gets its money from, or how it gets its money, then a quick glance at the statements might have you scratching your head. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to get in touch with ALCS and ask them some of those questions, in the hope that it might help you.

My thanks go to Jade Zienkiewicz and her colleague De’Anne Jean-Jacques at ALCS for their time in answering these queries. Please note, this is quite a long post because of their detailed answers. Here goes …

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Do You … Evernote?

As writers, we’re constantly collecting ideas, undertaking research, and filing useful website addresses for future use. What we need is a big bucket.

However, no matter how big your bucket is, we need to be able to get stuff out again for it to be of any use.

My bucket is Evernote (https://evernote.com), which I’ve been using for more than a year now. It allows users to create notebooks, and put as many sheets, or notes, inside each of those notebooks. Tags can also be added to these sheets/notes, offering further ways of retrieving the information.

 

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It’s A Writer’s World

 Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Last week, I had an email from the lovely Jill Finlay at The Weekly News. She wrote to say that a story I’d sent to her a couple of weeks ago would be in the next issue (out now – dated 4th March). 

The Weekly News usually publishes two stories in each issue, and the story accompanying mine was also written by a male writer. According to Jill, this is a first – both stories in the same issue written by men.

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Turning Sunflowers Into Birdfeeders

Payments come in all shapes and sizes. But it doesn’t matter what the format is, it’s important you chase up what is rightfully yours, even if it is ‘just’ a prize.

I’ve finally received my prize for a submission I made to a gardening magazine, which was selected as the Star Letter in their January issue, published at the beginning of December. A neighbour had spotted a sunflower growing out of a branch of a tree. While it wasn’t the World’s tallest sunflower, the branch was certainly giving it an altitude boost.

So I snapped a photo, wrote a 54-word letter and submitted it. I was delighted when they published it as the Star letter, not just because of the prize, but because it meant I had another published photo to add to my DACS claim. My prize turned out to be an RSPB Premium Bird Feeding Station with additional bird feeders and bird food – worth £65. So £65 for 54 words and a photo was not to be sniffed at.

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Negotiate. Nicely.

I recently had to renegotiate a contract with a magazine I’ve done work for in the past. Looking back, I realised that the current contract which I was working with was over ten years old. And ten years is a long time in the magazine world.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t like the revised contract. But that didn’t matter, because these things are always just a starting point.

When you receive a contract, take yourself off somewhere quiet and read through it. If it helps, read aloud each clause. Do whatever it takes for you to understand it.

  • Highlight in one colour clauses you don’t understand.
  • Highlight in another colour the clauses you don’t like.
  • Then put it to one side and do something else.

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Crystal Clear

Making A Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation, by David Crystal

Crystal clear: thats what the rules of punctuation are not. But David Crystal’s journey through the history of punctuation is, and this guide not only clarifies when is the right time to use a specific punctuation mark but it also explains the history of how these marks came into existence. It also clarifies why confusion reigns about usage.

Do you remember being taught that you used a comma when you needed to stop and take a breath? This was important advice at one time … especially if you were a monk being given a new piece of text that you were going to have to chant with fellow monks in the next 15 minutes. It was handy to know then, when to pause for a breath, so that you spoke in unison with your fellow monks. But if you were in a silent order, then the need for commas to denote breaths was …

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Creative Equilibrium

I’ve just come back from a week’s break in the Lake District, and now I’m raring to go (which is good, because I’ve lots to do). But it reminded me of a comment I heard in a podcast by author Joanna Penn, who spoke about Creative Equilibrium.

The idea behind it is a simple one: balance.

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The Geology of Writing

What’s writing got to do with geology? Well, it’s all to do with prioritisation and focus.

I did this as an exercise, last week, at one of the writers’ groups I go to, and it’s a great way of showing how important it is having your writing projects correctly prioritised.

First you have time, represented by this jar:

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DACS Details

You may remember that at the start of the year I posted about the upcoming changes at DACS and ALCS regarding the way we can claim secondary rights for any images used in our work.

For those who don’t know, when our work is published it becomes available for photocopying. The Copyright Licensing Agency collects money from various sources (organisations such as schools, universities, public sector organisations, etc), and they redistribute that money to writers and illustrators, via a couple of distribution agencies. To receive a share of the cash you need to be a member of the relevant distribution agencies: ALCS and DACS. (I should point out that it’s not just photocopying money that is redistributed by these organisations, but it’s one of main sources of their income.)

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Advice From More Than 50 Writers

Regular followers will know that I often comment how small steps lead to bigger journeys. Write 500 words every day and in 200 days you have a 100,000-word novel. (Well, the first draft, anyway!)

Several years ago I had my first article published in Writing Magazine, and then another, and another, and then in 2014 the editor asked me to contribute on a regular basis. The Business of Writing column was born.

For these articles, I often chat to other writers about how they deal with various elements of their writing business, and it struck me that, over the course of the column so far, I’ve gathered a wealth of information from these people. It seemed right to gather together some of these pieces and put them in book format.

So, guess what?

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More Mistakes

He’s at it again. No, not making mistakes, but helping newbie writers from making them. Alex Gazzola’s latest ebook in his Mistakes Writers Make series is now available, and this one looks more at the practical side of things when starting out on the road to publication.

50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make takes a closer look at targeting readers’ letter pages (something I still do – I have the star letter in January’s Garden Answers magazine, and am looking forward to receiving my star prize), as well as generating ideas for articles, pitching them to editors, and crafting an article.

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DACS Change

It’s all change at DACS. There are two dates you need to put into your shiny new 2017 calendar:

  • 16th January 2017
  • 17th February 2017

The first date is when the DACS Payback Scheme opens for your 2016 claim, which is much earlier than usual (traditionally, it’s opened in August). The second deadline is the cut-off date for claims.

For those of you who don’t know, the DACS Payback scheme is the system photographers use for claiming money they’re entitled to for any secondary uses of their work (the most common example of which is photocopying: a magazine might pay you for using your photo in their publication, but if someone else then photocopies that magazine article you’r entitled to be paid for that use too). It’s similar to the ALCS system for words.

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So Were You On The List?

Have you been good this year? Were you on ‘the list’? No, I’m not talking about Santa’s list of good little children, but of Take A Break’s list of preferred good fiction writers?

Last Thursday some of us received an email advising us of changes being made at TAB Towers, where Fiction Feast is put together. There were two different emails issued, depending upon which list you were on: one to those who were lucky enough to be on TAB’s list of preferred fiction writers, and those, like me, who were not.

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Don’t Expect A Marriage Proposal

“When the bell rings, that’s the start of your ten minute time slot. You must go to where your booked agent is sitting. If the last person is still sitting in your seat you must evict them from it. Pull them off the chair, pull the chair from underneath them, or simply sit on their lap, the choice is yours. Whatever you do, do not let them finish their conversation, because they are eating into your ten-minute time slot. Got that?”

What had I let myself in for? I thought this was some civilised event at a writers’ conference where I would get the chance to chat to a top London agent and perhaps get some feedback or guidance on my novel. Instead, I seemed to have stumbled across some sort of writers’ Game of Thrones event. Were we expected to fight one another to the death?

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