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.
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.
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.
Last Saturday I was assisting with a workshop on self-publishing run by Wrekin Writers, as part of the Wellington Festival, and the topic of Hybrid Authors was briefly discussed. So I thought I’d take the opportunity of posting my recent Writing Magazine feature where I chatted to two writers about being a hybrid author.
Traditionally-published or self-published? Simon Whaley chats to two writers with a foot in both camps.
A few years ago, a writer’s life was binary: either you sought a traditional publishing contract for your book, or you self-published it. Traditionally-published authors liked someone else picking up the costs of editing, proofreading, jacket design and production (in return for a reduced royalty rate), while independent authors were proud that they were in complete control of the whole process, despite having to finance it, in return for a higher royalty rate.
However, the business of writing is changing. No longer is it necessary to be one or the other. Some writers are choosing the hybrid route: having a mixture of traditionally-published and self-published projects. Why be pigeon-holed into one, or the other, when you can have your cake and eat it?
Leah Mercer (https://www.leahmercer.com/books), whose latest novel The Man I Thought You Were, published by Amazon imprint Lake Union Publishing, believes being a hybrid author offers many benefits. ‘Hybrid authors really have the best of both worlds,’ she explains. ‘By self-publishing, they have the freedom to publish what they want at a price they choose, and they can plug the gaps that often occur when publishing with major houses.’
It’s that time of year when writers might see some ‘free’ money pop into their bank accounts, but not everyone will be lucky. The secondary rights organisations (ALCS and DACS) are making distributions, as follows:
Many of you will know that I’m a Scrivener fan. I understand that Scrivener isn’t for everyone, in the same way that Word isn’t for me. But for those of you who are using the software, have you ever thought of using it for keeping track of your writing projects, in addition to creating your writing projects with it? Let me explain …
Last weekend was the annual NAWGFest writers’ weekend, full of fantastic workshops and talks. The highlight is the Gala Dinner on Saturday night when the women dress up and look absolutely stunning, and the men dig out an old shirt they once wore for work a few years ago.
It’s at this dinner that the winners of NAWG’s writing competitions are announced. Judges, like myself, have read all of the entries, cogitated, considered and then picked a winner and some runners up. However, none of the entrants knows which of them is the winner. All they know is that they’ve been shortlisted.
A couple of days ago I shared a post on facebook that said:
“Dear friends older than 37: You don’t have to put two spaces after the period anymore. That was for the typewriter era. You’re free.”
It resulted in a raft of comments ranging from:
– “I never do.”
– “Why not?”
– “But I use at least three.”
The post was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying to those writers who were taught to type on a typewriter (including myself), that we should have broken this habit by now. I must admit, it took me many years.
It’s been a busy week in the writing world on two different fronts: one which fiction writers may already be aware of, and another that probably won’t have registered with writers using Windows computers.
The first event concerned Woman’s Weekly magazine, whose staff issued an email, out of the blue, last week to advise that following a restructure at Time Inc (owners of the Woman’s Weekly brand), the entire fiction team was moving on.
Last week, I shared a post on Facebook (dating from March 2016, so it wasn’t new) from the Guardian’s Books Blog by Ros Barber who explained why she doesn’t want to self-publish. It was in response to the many comments she received on her own blog following a post she’d made about the derisory incomes authors earn these days, even those who are traditionally published. She was making the point that we’re not all offered the six-figure advances that many readers think we are. (Heck, we’re not always offered an advance at all these days!)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that over 98.276% of all first draft beginnings could be improved dramatically. Okay, I made that up, but whether you’re writing an article, short story or a novel, the beginning has to hook your reader and draw them into your piece. If you don’t do it at the beginning, the reader won’t be bothered to find out what happens next. And don’t forget, the first reader who sees your work is an editor or publisher. So if your writing doesn’t grab them by the scruff of the neck, then it won’t even get the opportunity to do so with any other readers. Here are five ways to strengthen your beginnings:
Something in this photo has not stood the test of time. And I’m not referring to the 13th century castle.
Four years separate the photo on the right from the one of the left. The one of the right was taken last weekend. It’s for an article I’m writing, and it’s a great example of how things can change. Things that you least expect.
Bigger windows? No. I’m not talking about a new Microsoft Operating System. Instead, I’m talking about broadening your window of topicality.
Topicality is important. Write something well in advance, with a topical hook aimed squarely at a publication’s readership and, if the editor likes it, it could be used in that topical-dated issue.