Understanding Your ALCS Statement – published in the March 2018 issue of Writing Magazine
I love this time of year. March is when we get our free money from the ALCS. Free money? Oh, yes! However, from the many comments I’ve seen on social media, not everyone understands their ALCS statement. Many simply look at how much they’re getting and then file it ready for their tax return. But having a clearer understanding of what you’re receiving the money for may help ensure you claim everything to which you’re entitled.
What is ALCS?
The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society collects money generated by secondary rights from various sources and then distributes it to writers. When you sell an article or a short story to a magazine, you sell a primary right – a right to publish your work, for which you should be paid. But once a piece of your writing has been published, there are legitimate ways in which it can be scanned or photocopied. Organisations and business pay for this legitimate right to copy your work.
The results of the Flash 500 short story competition have just been announced, and I’ve been waiting to see who’s won … not because I entered, but because I was the judge.
When you judge a competition you judge it blind, which means you have no idea who wrote each entry. You judge the entry, and assess its impact upon you as a reader, out of the batch you’ve been sent to adjudicate. So it’s always with excitement that I look to see who the writers are, when the results are finally published.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to repeat my judge’s report here, because you might find it useful to see why I chose the stories I selected as my top three (along with a Highly Commended). Writing something of 500 words is not easy. Not when it needs to be a complete story in its own right – not just an anecdotal observation. Writing a 500-word story is a brilliant exercise in writing succinctly, but effectively. And, as these entrants have learned, if you do it well it can earn you some nice money!
The latest issue of The People’s Friend magazine carries a short story I’ve written, called Blackcurrant Jelly. It’s about a father wondering how his young daughter will cope on her first day back at school, after spending several months off school recovering from meningitis. In particular, he’s worried how she’ll cope now she’s lost all of her fingers and thumbs, through the illness.
This year, 22,108 writers are receiving a PLR payment next month. I’m one of them.
I always find PLR statements fascinating documents because, although it’s just a snapshot from a handful of libraries across the UK, they reveal interesting information about which of your books were most popular.
Writing Can Seriously Damage Your Health
Yes. Writing can seriously damage your health. And it doesn’t take long. Hunched up over a keyboard all day, or staring at a computer screen for hours on end (without blinking) can have some devastating consequences.
And then there’s the diet. The constant grazing (usually chocolate) and the copious amounts of tea, coffee or wine. No wonder Jane Wenham-Jones spoke of Writer’s Bottom in her book Wannabe A Writer?
There’s a technique for book writers (both fiction and non-fiction) called book journalling. David Hewson calls it a book diary in his Writing A Book in Ulysses. The idea is simple: any thoughts relating to your book are entered into one journal for that book. That could be a physical notebook, or it could be a file on your computer. (I create a file in my Research folder in Scrivener.)
One of the most common resolutions writers make is: to write more. Actually, if you’re seeking publication, a better resolution would be: to submit more, or to ship more.
It’s easy to seek perfection. (Attaining it is another matter.) However, that search for perfection meets the resolution of doing more writing. But does it actually achieve anything?
If you’re toying with the idea of self-publishing a book, then I would encourage you to read Andrew Franklin’s blog post on the Society of Author’s website.
Andrew Franklin is the joint founder of Profile Books. Therefore, he understands the costs involved when it comes to publishing a book. In his blog post (which was also an article in the Society of Author’s Journal published back in the autumn) he candidly talks money. A lot of money. Particularly when you think that as a publisher he’s capable of exploiting economies of scale, something that self-published authors can’t necessarily access.
While he admits that the costs of publishing one book varies from book to book, he mentions some general figures:
Social media was buzzing with more contract queries last week, after one magazine began issuing fiction writers with a new contract.
I haven’t seen the entire contract because I am not one of those writers on their preferred supplier list, but many of the queries were around a clause that appeared to request the transfer of all intellectual property rights.
Clearly, without seeing the whole contract, it would be inappropriate for me to give advice. And, anyway, I’m not a legal expert, so I’m not trained to give such advice. But I did think it would be useful to remind writers of potential basic steps they can consider when faced with a situation like this.
Many of you will know that I’m a fan of the Scrivener software. I use it for all of my writing (articles, short stories, novels, non-fiction books and even for recording my pitches).
Last week saw the launch of the updated version (for Apple Macs). Scrivener 3 is an amazing piece of software, although regular users will spot many changes. Some of the tool options have changed locations. To help with this, Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies, has produced a free online course that quickly reviews the changes. It can be accessed via her website here: https://scrivenerclasses.com/course/jump-into-scrivener-3-your-transition-guide-for-mac/
Last week I read a blog post from Frances Garrood (http://francesgarrood.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/farewell-womags_15.html) about her decision to stop writing short stories. It was a short, interesting piece about how she’d arrived at this decision. And it struck me that, when it comes to the business of writing, sometimes you need to accept that it’s time to move on.
There are many reasons why a writer stops writing in a particular genre or for a specific market. Frances wrote about how she used to write lots of short stories for the women’s magazines, but now finds her time is spent focussing on her novels. As a result, she said she now finds writing short stories harder, because she’s more used to writing novels. She’s evolved as a writer.
Last week’s post (What To Do With My Business After I’m Dead) looked at a book that fellow Writing Magazine columnist Tarja Moles has published. This week, another fellow Writing Magazine columnist, Lorraine Mace, explains why she’s bitten the bullet and self-published her children’ novel, even though it was something she swore she’d never do.
“Vlad the Inhaler was the first book I wrote,” Lorraine explains, “and so it has always had a special place in my heart. In 2007 I was taken on by one of the UK’s top children’s agents. She loved Vlad and was certain she could find a home for him in one of the big five. We came close, but it wasn’t to be.”
“In 2012 Vlad was picked up by a US publisher and looked set to do very well. I wrote the second in the trilogy and that was also published by the same company but it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven. I was able to take back my rights just over a year ago and, sadly, believed that was the end of Vlad’s publishing lifespan.”
Nobody likes to think about dying, but have you considered what might happen to your writing business after you’re dead? Don’t forget, everything you write is protected by copyright for another 70 years after your demise. That’s 70 years when others could make use of your intellectual property rights.
But would they know that? Where would they go to look for information about your writing business? I keep all of my information in a database in my computer … which is password protected. Which is no use to anyone when I’m dead.
Covers. They are hugely important but, generally-speaking, not where a writer’s skills lie. Yes, we often know what we like, but that doesn’t mean to say we have the right ideas. Nor does it mean we shouldn’t think about them.
If you write a book that is traditionally published, then your contract will usually contain a clause stating that you will be consulted on the cover. That does not mean you will have the final say. Far from it. It just means that the publisher might approach you and say, “Here are three ideas, which do you prefer: A, B or C?” You might reply that you love B, detest A and are indifferent with C. Your publisher will probably go with A. But it doesn’t matter because you were consulted. They have met their contractual obligations.