Writers and rights

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If you write something and publish it on a blog, an ezine, or some obscure-already-bit-the-dust website, do you still have the right to offer First Rights to another publication, either print or online?

Writers Digest recently published Shades of Gray by Jordan E. Rosenfeld which addresses this quagmire of ambiguity. You need to read Mr. Rosenfeld's article in its entirety.

Unlike print publishing, the rules about online publishing aren't so cut and dried.

Mr. Rosenfeld gives a little checklist for you to determine if what you wrote and put online can be considered previously published.

Answer these questions for a "previously published" litmus test.

Did you grant first North American serial rights?

Was it edited by someone considered part of the editorial staff of the site?

Did it appear in an online journal, even though that journal may no longer be published?

Did it appear in a print publication, regardless of the size of the print run?

Did it appear in a literary anthology?

By the way, in case you don't know, it doesn't matter whether you received pay of any kind in exchange. If you "published" online, meeting the criteria above, then you published and no longer own First Rights.

Now, if it won a prize but wasn't printed, it's considered unpublished. You still have first rights. The same applies if it was entered online for a workshop or if it was on your blog or someone else's blog, but this is changing. Personally, I can see where blog postings may eventually be considered First Printings especially since the NEA recognized online publication in 1998 as credit toward receiving a grant.

Before you offer first rights for something published on a blog, either yours or someone else's, check the current interpretation. Most editors won't pay you for first rights and reprint something you published on a blog, regardless of how good it was, because, well, just because.

There are many different rights that a writer possesses. If you don't know the difference between One Time Serial Rights and First North American Serial Rights, then educate yourself. At the very least, go read Mr. Rosenfeld's article on Writers Digest.

That's what a pro would do.

Sling Words out.

Challenges

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Joshua J. Marine said: Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

Don't you ever want to throw your hands up and shout: Life is interesting enough. All right? Give me boring for a bit.

Twenty dollars

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You may have seen this before. I had posted it on my website and got emails asking for the source. I wish I knew who created this because it's really profound.

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A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of two hundred people, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?"

Hands started going up.

He said, "I'm going to give this $20 to one of you, but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill. He then asked, "Who still wants it?"

Still the hands went up in the air.

"What if I do this?" he asked and dropped the bill on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.

He picked it up. It was crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" he asked.

Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends," he said, "we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It's still worth $20.

"Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.

"We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

"Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who LOVE you.

"The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE.

"You are special."

"Don't EVER forget that."

Selling book: No Plot? No Problem!

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This is the book that launched NaNoWriMo, or was it the other way around? {g} In any event, No Plot? No Problem! is by Chris Baty, published by Chronicle Books, copyright 2004, 176 pages, softcover, excellent condition, original price $14.95.

No Plot? No Problem! is billed as "a low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days. This is certainly worth a read because it's all about turning off the internal editor and letting your muse out of the editorial prison and being free to create. Many writers participate in the NaNoWriMo each year. Some actually do write enough manuscript pages to equal a novel, but we're not talking polished here. There aren't too many natural-born writers around so most of the manuscript pages need editing.

Many writers take part in order to push a stalled project to the front burner so to speak. Some just need a kick start to get going.

I'm selling this pristine copy for $5.00 plus postage. Email me at: joansells @ joanreeves.com if you want it.

Happy Birthday, Anita Loos (& Perry too)

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On April 26, 1893, Anita Loos was born. Who, you ask is Anita Loos?

Interesting question because far more of you probably know her work than the writings of Shakespeare whose birthday was celebrated a few days ago. True, no one really knows if Old Willy was born on April 23, 1564, or not, but the date is considered close enough by historians. (He was baptized on today's date by the way.)

Sure, you all know ABOUT Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet to mention a couple of his works, but how many of you have actually read Shakespeare? Sleeping through English lit doesn't count, you know.

So who was Anita Loos?

She's the writer who penned that classic GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. Bet most of you out there have seen the movie version starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

When my daughter was in high school just a few years ago, she and all her friends adored that movie. It was a must see at slumber parties. Weird how a movie of my mother's generation was so popular with them.

Bet you've seen it on late night TV or been forced to watch it with your girl.

Oh, today is also the birthday of one of my long-time friends. We've known each other since we were kids. Happy birthday, Frank Perry Lofton! I'm wishing you many more.

Literary agents and authors

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Every selling writer also must be a business person. Enter the agent.

Gone are the day when authors huddled in cold garrets and penned their masterpieces which they in turn gave to gentlemen publishers, trusting that the publishers would fairly compensate them. Some authors were treated fairly. Some weren’t. Some were taken advantage of.

Today, the smart writer learns everything possible about the business aspects of being a writer. Preferably, they do this before they actually receive money so they’ll know what to do with the money when they get it.

The first step in being a professional author who makes a living wage is to get not just literary representation, but literary representation that is competent, conscientious, honest, smart, and, representation that matches your career plans and your personality.

If you haven’t already started drawing up your own lists of A agents, B agents, and C agents, then get moving. The A agents are the dream agents. Those power brokers who play with the big boys and girls. B agents are the established agents who can perform. C agents are kind of like you. They’re just starting out so they’re hungry. Get a good one and grow together.

If you are new to thinking about this agent business, then your first stop should be learning about the Association of Authors’ Representatives. It’s exactly what it sounds like, an organization of literary agents. The AAR was founded in 1991 when the decades-old Society of Authors' Representatives and the new kid on the block, Independent Literary Agents Association, founded in 1977, merged.

Many writing organizations say to make sure an agent is a member of the AAR because membership requires agents to conform to a code of ethics along with having other beneficial objectives. Visit AAR online and learn all about them. Use their searchable database of agents to learn more about those agents you put on your lists.

Authors usually have a lot to say about literary agents. My favorite quotation is from an anonymous wit who said: “Changing literary agents is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Funny, yes? It also points out the necessity for making a good choice. A literary agent is necessary in this business so educate yourself so you can make an intelligent choice when the occasion presents itself. AAR is a good place to start.

(If you'd like to read more Business of Writing articles, check out my website. Business and Craft of Writing articles can be found on the WRITING page, the subscription newsletter WORDPLAY, and in ARCHIVES.)

Craft of writing

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Why do writers talk about the craft of writing? Because writing is a craft, with certain learned skills. Inspiration is not enough to create a compelling story. If you’re going to be a professional writer, you must learn those skills and respect the craftsmanship involved in becoming a selling writer.

Sometimes writers may work all their lives to learn these necessary skills in order to tell their stories in a way that will garner them a publishing contract. Perhaps, if you aren’t selling yet, it’s because you haven’t learned enough of the required techniques or haven’t practiced them enough. In other words, you just haven’t written enough words.

Dean Koontz said a couple of decades ago that a writer must write X thousand words before anything can be written worthy of publication. What that X is varies from writer to writer.

Just what are these skills one must learn in order to be a selling writer?

I think Jack E. Bickham, author of Writing Novels That Sell hit the nail on the head when he said, “A story is the formed record of a character testing conflict, told from a point of view.” In his book, Mr. Bickham discusses each of these elements - formed record, character, conflict, viewpoint - at length. I urge you to read this book if you can find a copy (it’s out of print).

Briefly, formed record means an author controls the material. There is a formal structure. There is a consciousness of narrative principles. Classical ideas of dramatic architecture are followed. In other words, great stories just don’t happen.

A character is not just a person. In fiction, a character is a creation of many things. A character is an exaggeration of a real-life person in some respects. A character is much easier to understand than a human being, because their “tags” and traits, their attitudes, internal and external wants and needs, their conflicts are played on the stage of our minds. Often, it’s much easier to understand what makes a created character tick than to understand why your spouse gets depressed during the holidays. Or it should be much easier. That’s the author’s job: make the character understood by the reader and make the reader want to know the character.

Conflict is the driving force of fiction. Conflict is struggle. It is a fight that plays on stage for the reader. Yes, sometimes conflict is a character at war with himself, but this isn’t enough. There has to be an external conflict driving the external plot and reflecting the internal struggle. Don’t confuse adversity, which is bad luck, with conflict.

Point of view, is the scale that makes the story someone’s story. Viewpoint is necessary to fiction, because a reader wants and needs to identify with someone. The reader wants to cheer for someone and relate to the story. Viewpoint is a carefully wielded skill by the writer. A writer must make careful decisions about what kind of viewpoint to use, whose viewpoint to use, and how to use that viewpoint to not only relate the events of the story but also reveal character to the reader.

If you are just starting out, your writer’s tool box probably has lots of empty space. Add these skills as quickly as possibly, and you’ll be well on your way to writing salable fiction.

Writing and monitor resolution

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I thought my Dell monitor purchased four years ago was really good. Until my husband bought a new computer six months ago. The resolution was crisp and clean, like a plasma television. When you write something on his PC, the text is so sharp that it rivals a skinny model's cheekbones.

I lusted after his monitor. Until my daughter bought a new computer last month. Her 22" beauty put DH's monitor to shame.

Naturally I started thinking that I too needed a new monitor. The bigger the better. I'd been checking ads at Dell, Frey's, Office Depot, et al. Then I read Kim Komando's email news today and realized there was more to the project than buying a big, honking LCD monitor and plugging it in.

{Sigh}

Isn't that always the way it is with technology upgrades?

Sunday Sermon: Success

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How alliterative of me this fine Sunday! This little lecture applies not only to writers but also to anyone who wants to achieve something considered monumental.

Newspaper writer Earl Wilson once said: "Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure."

I remember our band director, merciless tyrant that he was, had a philosophy he jammed down our little teen throats. No reasons; results. No excuses; success.

Every now and then I hear from an acquaintance I met along my road to publication. Without exception, if I ask how the writing is going, I'll be told all the reasons they quit writing. Or they'll tell me at length about the projects they've written and a long list of excuses why they still haven't published.

Now, don't get me wrong. I, more than anyone, know how capricious the publishing world can be. I've seen writers with compelling manuscripts who never got to first base. I've had a few of those near-misses myself. I'll also be the first to admit there's an element of luck in getting a book contract.

But....

Don't fall into the trap of making excuses for not getting what you want or that other trap of rationalizing all the reasons why you didn't have the time to write or had to quit writing. If you truly want to write for publication, then, by God, write. Put aside the rejected manuscript and write something new. If that doesn't make it, then mourn and write something new.

Don't bother thinking up all those reasons and excuses because anyone in the biz won't believe you anyway. We'll just know that you threw in the towel because we already know how hard it is. We know that sometimes things get rejected for no good reason. We know that sometimes you just have to suck it up and plunge ahead.

Now if you want to quit, there's no shame in that. Just proudly say, "I just got tired of this wacko business. Life's too short to have your mental health threatened by an editor or agent (who probably got up on the wrong side of the bed, tripped over the dog and broke her toe, and got dumped by her boyfriend. All just minutes before picking up my manuscript and taking it all out on me)."

Don't make excuses. Don't disparage another's achievement by calling it lucky. You more than anyway should know how much hard work goes into this career.

Samuel Goldwyn said, "The harder I work the luckier I get." By all accounts, he was an overbearing egomaniac, but he was right.

Selling Writing Book

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I'm finally back to selling some of the books from my library. I'd listed 15 reference-type books and joyfully disposed of them. Since I like the space it created in my tiny study, which gives me room to buy more books, I'm going to continue with listing and selling books. So back to book selling on Friday.

The terms are:

1. email me at joansells @ joanreeves.com if you want the book
2. tell me how you want it shipped, and I'll tell you how much postage according to the U.S.P.S. website
3. Send me a check (I will wait for check to clear), money order, or cashiers check, and I'll send you the book.

Today, I'll start with one listing since I haven't had time to scan the others. Your Novel Proposal From Creation To Contract, by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook, published by Writer's Digest Books, copyright 1999, original price $18.99, my price $5.00 plus postage.

This book is 246 pages and is in excellent condition with original dust jacket. Perfect resource guide to writing query letters, synopses, fiction or nonfiction proposals for agents and editors.

Great book.

Cartoon heaven

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You know the Righteous Brothers song Rock and Roll Heaven where there's a helluva band?

Well, if there's a Cartoon Heaven, there's a helluva artist studio. The doors just opened for another amazing talent. Brant Parker of Wizard of Id has gone to that big studio in the sky to join his collaborator Johnny Hart of B.C.

Sure gonna miss you fellas.

Corpus Christi weekend

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I'm tired from the weekend. My dh and I went to Body of Christ. For those who aren't Texan, that's the Latin translation of Corpus Christi down on the ocean in South Texas. I love Corpus, that's what most Texans call it. Beautiful ocean front. That's the reason the tourism trade touts it as The Sparkling City by the Sea.

If you're looking for a relaxed atmosphere, visit Corpus. It's certainly won a lot of awards and titles like All-America City, Digital City (has city-wide Wifi), Best City to Stretch A Paycheck, and Least Depressed City.

Great place to set a book because there's a wonderful ethnic diversity, lots of scenic "stuff" and tourist-y things all within proximity of oil refineries, a Naval Air Station, universities, etc. Corpus is a big city (200,000+) in small town wrappings.

If you've ever been a spring breaker in Texas, it's the city near Padre Island. You probably just overlooked it in your hormone-infused party fever.

I need an extra cup of java this morning to get going so I'll see y'all tomorrow.

Sling Words out.

Learn something new

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My grandfather used to say: "Learn something new every day." This is good advice not only for a writer but also for a human being.

I've been learning something new every day for the last few months, and my focus has been languages. I've got the Spanish Word of the Day on my browser homepage. Today it is mercato meaning market.

I receive the Italian Word of the Day by email. It's pretty neat because you can click a button and hear how it's pronounced.

About two months ago I bought some Berlitz software to learn Italian. You see, I'm going to Italy this summer for a bit and wanted to know the important phrases every American needs to know.

1. Where is the bathroom?

2. How much does that cost?

3. Where can I get a Coca Cola?

4. Take me to the American Embassy fast.

I've traveled a bit in my lifetime and have always found it necessary to know numbers 1 - 3 above.

Number 4 I've never actually had to use, but you never know. It's always good to be prepared. You never know what may happen.

Once I was caught in the middle of an anti-American riot, blissfully eating Kobe beef in a restaurant while Molotov cocktails were being tossed outside. Inside was quiet music and conversation while outside, angry cab drivers and militant students were filling Coke bottles at the nearest gas station and setting American owned cars ablaze.

Of course, my "take me to the American Embabassy" phrase wouldn't have been much use since the cab drivers were too busy throwing their gasoline bombs to pick up a fare.

Still...

Mi chiamo Joan Reeves. Prendalo all'ambasciata americana velocemente.

Or something like that.

Writers Digest

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I was reading my online email newsletter from Writers Digest this morning and wondered something. Do you think any writer has ever started out without reading Writers Digest Magazine or a book published by them or read something online published under their auspices?

I know when I first got the insane idea of writing and discovered their magazine that I was overjoyed. I devoured every word of the periodicals and became a subscriber for years.

From the magazine I leapfrogged to their book club. I have about four shelves of a bookcase filled with books published by them. Some I've read again and again. I'm still a member of their book club and occasionally order something.

So I started thinking about why I stopped subscribing to their magazine. I guess it's because you reach a point in your career when you've published and you realize that you really have learned the basics. I don't think it's a mindset that you know everything. Instead, it's a thought process that you SHOULD know enough to keep writing if you've managed to sell a book.

I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that you gain a certain confidence in your ability to tell a story so you want to move from the basics to more complicated skills which need mastering.

So why do I keep buying books about the craft of writing? Because I realize that no writer ever knows everything. And, why, do I read some of the same books over and over again? Because it's akin to a comfort read.

Starting a new book is like an amnesiac exploring her own home. Yes, it's familiar territory, but it's strange at the same time. So reaching for a familiar book which helped point the way in the past, points out that you do know how to tell a story.

Even though you may know how to write, each book is a new story. (Or should be.) Sometimes, just reading an article or a book on writing helps you recognize that you really do know what the book's author is talking about. You've done it.

If you did it once, you can do it again.

So true

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Monday Quote:

Experience is what you get when you do not get what you want.

Attributed to Unknown which means it's from EVERYONE because we all, at some time, we've all been deprived of what we want.

Like the Stones sang: You can't always get what you want....but if you try real hard, you get what you need.

Family time

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Darling Husband and Daughter are off today so that makes it family time in the old hacienda. I'm actually cooking breakfast, rather, brunch this morning instead of having coffee in front of the computer.

Today
Wishing you all a good weekend. Sling Words out.

Tales from the time dilation field

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Yesterday I was simply too tired to blog. Ask me why. Go on. I dare you. No? Well, I'll tell you anyway.

Had to enter the time dilation field again. You know - the post office. Time to mail some Easter gifts. Easter celebrates the risen Christ, but standing in line at the P.O. is enough to make you lose your religion. No wonder the phrase "going postal" was created.

Monday in the time dilation field was bad. Tuesday was worse. I think I lost a year of my life in there. Now, I usually take a book to read if I have to mail something that can be posted via the automated machine. Yes, that's how long it can take. So I had a book. BUT, how can you concentrate on the written word when you're in a line of bozos who think nothing of conversing in loud annoying voices about the most intimate matters on their fracking cell phones.

Now, I've been using a cell phone since the darn things were reasonably affordable to the general population. My first one was one of those clunky Motorola's that looked as if Delta Force should be calling in an air strike with it. I also am not an old biddy irritated with the techno world.

I am however getting to the point that I want to volunteer to be a citizen patrol and ticket every bozo driving thirty-five on the freeway because he's having a phone conversation. Or the woman yakking away on her cell and weaving over the white line in the asphalt while her kids are bouncing off the walls of her minivan. Or the guy in front of you who slams on his brakes in the middle of the intersection because his phone rang and he can't get it out of his pants pocket.

I'll vote for the first presidential candidate who bans cell phone conversations in government buildings and businesses. Our pharmacy has a sign that says they won't wait on you until you finish your cell conversation. I've stood behind people at the pharmacvy counter who won't hang up the phone so they can be waited on.

So Obama or McCain, whichever comes up with that idea, you have my vote.

Back to the time dilation field.

The woman in front was discussing the check she was standing in line to mail. I really didn't want to know about her problems in sending the check, including she hadn't addressed the envelope and didn't know the address and didn't have the address with her because her cell phone couldn't also serve as a PDA. Finally, after she had cell conversations with three different people, she found the address.

Two boys, about eight=years-old and six, raced around the counter in the center of the lobby. We were all lined up against this counter so they did laps worthy of Le Mans. While making suitable sound effects and shouting.

The man behind me was chewing out a subordinate at work, telling the poor schnook that he was "a team leader now so he'd better start acting like it or he wouldn't be one for long." This went on for about ten minutes. Talk about bosses who are jerks! This guy qualified in every respect.

The line grew and grew behind me.

Then the woman in front started trying to get a friend to meet her for drinks when she finished at the post office. Lord knows, by then, I needed a drink. I started to volunteer my company, but after two calls, she found a sucker.

Another woman farther back in line was chewing out someone in Spanish on her phone. I didn't know what she was talking about, but she was furious.

Like most writers, I am cursed with that voyeuristic tendency to characterization. You know, you listen to snippets of conversation, marveling at the way people act and react and the things they say to other people. Most times, I find enough to be interested in the human animal that I don't get irritated at their crassness.

You want to create a good villain or victim, go stand in line at the P.O.

Yesterday though, I was tired. I was in a hurry. A pulse began pounding in my left temple. After the future Nascar boys made their 137th lap, I was close to the breaking point. I closed my book and stood there, trying to suppress the urge to tell these people to shut the frack up and tell that mother to control her kids.

Fortunately, I succeeded. If I'd lost control, they might have booted me out the door, and I'd have lost my place in line.

Bad post office, bad!

Had to go to my local time dilation field today.

I mean my post office.

It just seems that a minute in line for the next available clerk equals a year has passed in the outside world.

Anyway, I was chatting with the clerk about the new forever stamp. You probably saw on your various writer lists about postage going up. Sure is bad news for starving writers. It's official though. The dear old Postal Service is raising rates, effective May 14. You can read all about it on the USPS website.

First class stamp goes from $.39 to $.41, but the additional ounces for first class drop from $.24 to $.17.

The much ballyhooed Forever Stamp will be available in mid-April. You can buy as many as you can afford, and they will always be good regardless of future increases in postage.

Postcard increases from $.24 to $.26 cents.

Mailing boxes and large envelopes will cost more than letter-size envelopes of the same weight. Flat Rate Priority Mail box $9.15 with Delivery Confirmation $.65.

Media Mail Delivery Confirmation is $.75.

Read it and weep or just hope all manuscript submissions will eventually go to email or a lightweight CD.

Not quite lazy Sunday

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I worked all day, well, all day after church and cooking and serving lunch. And cleaning up. As Candaian author Margaret Laurence said, "When I say 'work,' I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs."

I updated my website and my mom's and worked on my manuscript.

I am completely tired.

Grilled cheese on the menu for dinner.

Sling Words out.