Dividing Your Time

A long time ago, in a writing and publishing galaxy far, far away, authors could write all the time and the publisher would do all the marketing. Not any more. These days, authors must do their own marketing.

But who has time for that?

Dividing timeWell, you’d better make time for it. Somehow. Sure, you want to spend your precious time writing and you don’t like marketing. That’s why you became a writer. Still, it turns out that your preferences don’t really enter into this—you must do most of your own marketing (or pay someone to do it for you).

Let’s assume you’re done grumbling about that fact and have reached acceptance. You know you must spend some time marketing, and now it’s just a question of how much.

After all, marketing does consume time. Book marketing activities include blogging, blog tours, author interviews, arranging for reviews, book signings, podcasts, social media, and making promotional videos.

How are you going to balance all that with your writing? Let’s take two extreme examples, those of authors Ty Prighter and Mark Etter.

  • Ty Prighter wrote all the time. He disdained marketing and refused to devote any time to it. After all, he said, that’s the publisher’s business. Ty believed the more he wrote the better author he’d become; if he became skilled enough, readers would find his books and want more. His books would market themselves.
  • Mark Etter wrote one book. He got so busy marketing it, he had no time to write another. He enjoyed the social interaction of marketing. Mark discovered which marketing methods worked best for him, and ceased the ineffective ones and focused on those that increased sales.

Which of these authors was more successful? Actually, neither writer practiced a good time management strategy.

It was a long time before readers noticed Ty’s books. He did improve his writing, thanks to the time he spent doing it, but improvement was slow due to the lack of reader feedback. He missed out on a lot of sales he could have had if he’d reached out to readers early.

As for Mark, his book did sell, but some of his readers wanted more. He had no more. Popularity of his one book didn’t rise as high as it might have, had there been a sequel, or at least other books written by that author.

Ty and Mark are fictitious examples, of course. For you, in the real world, it’s going to take a balance. More than that, you’ll have to experiment to find the optimal split of time for you between writing and marketing. You may have to force yourself to do the marketing activities, or you may learn to enjoy them.

I wish I could offer you a numerical percentage of time that has worked for me. However, I’m much closer to the Ty Prighter end of the scale. I don’t spend much time marketing, other than blogging. I do enjoy that, but the effect of blogging on sales of my books has been lackluster. I’m working toward a better balance of marketing and writing time, but it’s difficult.

May the force be with you as you figure out your proper time balance. Once you do, consider sharing your wisdom, and leave a comment for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

December 27, 2015Permalink

Know Your Rights

I blogged about copyrights awhile back, but this topic is a little different. Today’s discussion is about your rights to your story.

Bill_of_Rights

No, the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights is not where you go to find out about them. Your story rights are embodied in the laws of the country you live in, and by agreement with the country where your publisher is.

How do rights differ from copyrights? The copyright (©) to your written story is something you own and always retain. Think of the copyright as a bundle or collection of individual rights. If you want your story published or distributed by someone else (the usual case), then you’ll likely end up agreeing by contract to transfer part of that bundle of rights, usually in exchange for payment to you. But you always keep the copyright.

Rights are exclusive in nature, meaning you are granting one, and only one, publisher the right to print and distribute your work. No other publisher may do so legally. Also, since you are selling your rights to a single publisher, you are prohibited from selling those same rights to another publisher. This exclusivity is the normal case, but some contracts may specify nonexclusive rights.

There are three aspects to rights: media, term, and territory.

  • Media means the form of publication, for example hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook, podcast, serialized, etc. The contract should specify the payment type and amount for each of the different media types cited in the contract. You retain the rights to any types not cited.
  • Term refers to the time period for which you’re granting rights to the publisher, usually expressed in years after the date of the contract. After that time, the specified rights revert to you, and you may then sell them to someone else if you wish.
  • Territory is the geographic region in which the publisher may exercise these rights.

There are two categories of rights:

  • Primary Rights, or just Rights. When the publishing company buys your rights, they have certain media immediately in mind that they intend to exercise. Maybe they want to publish your work in hardcover now, and paperback later. These uses of your work are the subject of the primary rights.
  • Subsidiary (or Secondary) Rights. The publisher has no immediate intent to exercise subsidiary rights, but would like to buy them from you now to allow later use. These often include movie and TV rights, merchandizing rights, dramatic and performance rights.

You’ll encounter some other terminology with respect to story rights. These definitions assume you’ve sold the specified right to a publisher.

  • First Rights: The publisher can publish your story for the first time anywhere and in any format
  • Second (Reprint) Rights: The publisher can publish your story following a first publication elsewhere.
  • One-Time Rights: The publisher can publish your work once.
  • First Serial Rights: The publisher can publish your story for the first time, and may do so all at once or a piece at a time in a periodical publication.
  • Second Serial Rights: After initial publication, the publisher can publish excerpts of your story in several magazines or newspapers.

If you’re offered a publishing contract, read the Rights section with care. Look up unfamiliar legal verbiage or ask someone with contracting expertise. You can negotiate with publishers and get them to change the contract before you sign; contracts are mutual agreements between two parties.

Here, here, and here, are some very good websites with more information about story rights.

I know what you’re wondering at this point, and the answer is no. After this exploration of story rights, there will not be a companion blog post on the subject of story lefts, written by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Technical Difficulties

I know I said my latest book, the two-story compendium of “Rallying Cry” and “Last Vessel of Atlantis,” would be released today, March 1st.  I’ve just been informed that due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the book launch will be delayed a few days, perhaps as much as a week.

Please Stand ByMy many fans around the world, and on other planets, and those in alternate universes (I know you’re out there and that you read my stuff) must be disappointed.  I assure you, no one is more distressed about this than I am.

Why the delay?  The fact is, publishing an e-book is a complicated business, so I’ve been told.  There’s the virtual ink to pour in, the imaginary rollers to align, the invisible type to set.  There are gears that turn, levers that snap, boots that kick buckets over, marbles that roll down inclines into chutes, balls that fall into bathtubs, cages that catch mice.  It’s very involved.

With all that bewildering complexity, it’s amazing that e-books get published at all, let alone on any kind of schedule.

Meanwhile, you were surfing to the various bookseller websites all day since midnight, searching for my book, ready to put it in your shopping cart and to hit ‘place order.’  And now you have to wait.  I know what a frustration this must be.

But think how much worse things are for me.  I’ve had to postpone the lavish book launch party, reschedule the reservations on the yacht, tell all the celebrity guests to come back in six days, delay the skywriter service and the fireworks team.

Still, I feel pretty bad about the whole thing.  As a service to you, I’ll make some suggestions for fun things to do while you wait, things to take your mind off the anticipation.

1.  You could buy and read any of my earlier books.

2.  Read them all already?  You could read one or more again.  They are all good for re-reading since you can pick up subtle and enjoyable nuances you missed on first reading them.

3.  You could peruse my earlier blog entries.  You’ll find some real gems there.

It’s sad this has happened, but we’ll get through this challenge together, you and me.  Think of it as just another of life’s little trials.  Are you going to mope around, wallowing in misery?  Or are you going to pick yourself up, shake off those blues, rise above your gloom and despair, and manage to make it through the day?  Be brave, be resolute, and be patient.

I’ll tell you just as soon as the book is available, believe me.  Soon enough your persistence and suffering will be rewarded and you’ll be the happy owner of the latest book by—

                                                                       Poseidon’s Scribe

Scamming Writers for Fun and Profit

As long as there has been money, there have been scammers trying to separate people from their coin while providing nothing in return.  Today I’ll discuss scamming writers, from the scammer’s point of view.  (Note:  I am not encouraging scamming; I’m trying to make a point to budding writers.)

Writer ScamIn general, scams work best when your mark has a strong need for something, but not a lot of knowledge of the world.  You’d think that a rare combination, but there’s enough of them out there for you to get by.

People who want to be writers are particularly susceptible.  Why?  Glad you asked.

1.  New writers without much experience are confused by the process.  After all, it’s not like other businesses, where you get a company-paid training session on Day 1.

2.  Writers can get really, really desperate to be published.  They’re willing to do anything to see their name in print.

3.  Writers work alone, so they’ve got no one to turn to for advice, guidance, or support.

4.  Beginning writers are used to rejection, since they’ve been submitting stories and getting turned down often.  That means you can string them along with vague promises awhile; for them, a half assurance is better than outright rejection.

5.  In a lot of other businesses, you really do have to pay a little money now to make a lot of money later.  Therefore, you can easily convince new writers that writing is the same way.  Newbies don’t know that money should almost always flow to the writer.

6.  The writing biz is just complicated enough so you can set up your scam at almost any point in it.  You can be a scam-editor, a scam-publisher, a scam-agent, or a scam-marketer.  You can offer a scam-writing workshop or scam-conference, run a scam-contest, or dozens of other things.

7.  It’s difficult for new writers to distinguish your scam from a legitimate business.  As long as your website looks professional, how are they going to tell?  There are plenty of editors, agents, publishers, etc. that are legitimate and not scammers but are just bad at their job.  Unlike us, they provide something to the writer, but it’s of low quality.  We’re just one step across the line from them; our task is to give nothing in return for the writer’s money.

8.  There’s no place a beginning writer can go to find out information about us scammers.  Well, okay, there’s Writer Beware, but how many of them know about that?  Besides, our message is positive and enticing (You can be published!  You can have guaranteed sales of your stories!), but “Writer Beware” is just a downer.

I’m done thinking like a scammer.  It felt so wrong and I had to scrub down in the shower for ten minutes just to get the slime off.

You understand my overall point.  The scammers are out there, and they’re after your money.  As a writer, money flows to you, not the other way around.  There are resources out there to help you.  Whether you’ve been scammed or not, whether you’re a scammer or not, I’d love to read any comments you have about this. Remember, it costs you nothing to leave a comment for—

                                           Poseidon’s Scribe

January 12, 2014Permalink

The Publishing Times, They Are A’Changin’

To distort a line from a Bob Dylan song, times are indeed a’changin’ in the publishing industry.  In the long march from storytellers to clay tablets to papyrus scrolls to bound books to electronic books, each technology has brought a revolution and we’re now in the middle of one.

Publishing

After Gutenberg’s printing press and right up until the Internet, the book publishing industry had optimized into a fairly lean and stable operation, full of specialized tasks.  Each task was fairly well understood.

The writer wrote, and sought an agent.  The agent sought a publishing house and handled all the contractual details for the writer.  At the publishing house, of which there were only a few big ones, the editor polished the prose.  Upon agreement about the text, the publisher took care of cover design, printing, distribution, and marketing to booksellers.  The bookseller catered to the reading public, offering books for sale from their stores.

Despite all the middlemen, that process had been pretty well honed such that readers could still obtain books inexpensively.

With the advent of the Internet, much has changed, and it’s got all of the middlemen wondering what their future role will be, if any.

For the writer, there are software word processors and Internet research options, but not much else has changed.  A writer still must create the prose.

At the other end, the reader has more options, including e-readers and audiobooks, but for the most part reading is unchanged.

But agents, editors, cover designers, marketers, distributors, and booksellers are all left wondering what’s going to happen to them.  These days, writers can connect directly with readers, bypassing all the former steps.  An author can work with a single website such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and others, to get e-books directly to the reading public.

These websites offer many services, but the writer must do most of the tasks formerly accomplished by middlemen.  This includes reviewing the contract, editing, cover design, and marketing.

So where is all this going?  At what sort of equilibrium state will all this turmoil settle out?

It may be too early to tell, but I think there will be places for all the publishing middlemen in the future, assuming they adapt to an Internet-based world.  Some writers still need agents, editors, cover designers, and distributors.  Some readers still want bound books.  Much like the continued (but low) demand for horseshoes and oil lamps, there will be niche markets for all these functions.

As for me, I have yet to take the full plunge into self-publishing.  So far, with my short stories, I’ve been dealing with an independent ebook publisher, and with publishers of anthologies.

If Bob Dylan’s right, and the times they are a’changin’, where do you think the book publishing industry is headed?  What change would you like to see?  Leave me a comment and perhaps we can change things together, just you and—

                                                  Poseidon’s Scribe

December 29, 2013Permalink

We’d Like to Offer You a Contract…

You’ve sent your short story around to different markets, gotten rejections, but finally one publisher accepts your story.  Hooray!  Then an e-mail arrives with a long, legal document for you to sign.  It’s your first writing contract.  It looks so complicated, and all you want to do is see your story published, so you think about signing that contract without really reading it.

Don’t do that.

At its most basic level, a contract is a written agreement between two willing parties.  Each has something to offer, something the other party wants, so the contract should be for mutual benefit.  The writer has his story and wants both money and a published story.  The publisher is able to ensure books get printed and offered to the public and is willing to pay writers for good stories.  Pretty simple, right?  What could go wrong?

Writing contracts (for short stories, with which I have experience), have a fairly standard structure.  Here are the basic parts, though contracts vary by publisher:

  • Definitions of Author, Publisher, and Work
  • Permissions Author grants the Publisher
  • Rights being purchased by Publisher and the time period (term) of the rights (when they revert back to the Author, both in case the book isn’t published and if it is)
  • Payments and Royalties paid by Publisher to Author, including Author copies of published book.  In the case of royalties, some contracts also state how the Publisher will provide periodic royalty statements.
  • Termination of Agreement – some contracts stipulate how the agreement will be or could be terminated
  • Author Warranties (author owns Work, no other conflicting contracts, Work is original, Work doesn’t defame others, etc.)
  • Author Indemnities – (Author holds Publisher blameless in lawsuits if Author has misrepresented anything in contract)
  • No competing publication (Author agrees not to publish Work elsewhere first)
  • Changes in Text or Title – Publisher agrees not change the work without Author permission (approval of galleys), but usually minor copy-editing changes are allowed.
  • Venue – links the contract to the laws of a specific country or state
  • Signatures

For several reasons, you might be tempted to sign your first writing contract without reading it:

1.  All those unfamiliar legal words are intimidating.

2.  I’m anxious to get published.

3.  It’s probably one of their standard contracts, anyway.  A lot of writers must have signed a contract just like this.

4.  Most publishers are above-board and honest, aren’t they?

If if all are those are true, read the contract anyway.  But suppose you do read it and there are parts you don’t understand.  Communicate with the publisher and ask him or her what those clauses mean.  If you’re still confused, you can hire an intellectual property lawyer, but that shouldn’t be necessary for most short story contracts.  Don’t sign the contract until you understand the terms and agree to them.

It’s a truism that contracts favor the party that writes them.  You can attest to that, I’m sure, from other types of contracts you’ve seen which always spell out in detail what you’re supposed to do and what bad things will happen if you don’t, but gloss over the expectations and penalties for the other party.

Remember–a contract is an agreement between two willing parties who each give something and get something.  So you can negotiate terms.  If there’s something you don’t like in the contract or something missing, negotiate to make it right.  Walking away from a bad deal is always an option–right up until you sign it.

Feel free to let me know what your experience with short story contracts has been.  But hereinafter in consideration of the mutual covenants herein contained, the party of the first part shall be referred to as–

                                                                      Poseidon’s Scribe