World Postage Rates

A few months ago I had to mail copies of my previously published books to a publisher in England. I had a crash course in how expensive international mail can be. I didn't even use the quickest, most expensive postage solution.

Then a friend wanted to submit to a German verlag, or publisher. We both started looking into how to obtain German postage for the editor to send a reply back from Germany to the United States.

In case you didn't think about it before, you can't put U. S. postage on a self-addressed envelope for a foreign editor to mail back to you. You must use the postage stamp of the country wherein the publisher is located or use an International Reply Coupon, IRC, which is a can of worms most editors choose not to open.

If you're writing for the international market, and many of us are, either freelance, book-length, or both, you need to know your postal options.

Common Scenarios

Harlequin, based in England as most of you know, is the target for a lot of submissions. If you want to send a manuscript to them, you must enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply from them. Everyone, including the publisher tells you to enclose an IRC, the infamous International Reply Coupon.

If you live in a small town, chances are you're greeted with a blank stare from the post office clerk when you ask for an IRC. Many of them don't know what you're talking about or if they do, the post office may not have IRC's available.

Don't bother trying to educate the post office employees. Even if you could get them to stock IRC's for you, many foreign publishers will toss them in the trash because their value, purchased in USD will be converted to local currency which makes them of much less value. Additionally, foreign editors usually hate the IRC if they even know what they are, and many don't. If you're set on getting IRC's and think it's smart to stock up, please be aware that each IRC has an expiration date.

It's easier to just go to the Internet and purchase the applicable postage which can be printed and enclosed with your manuscript package.

For the United Kingdom, Royal Mail is their postal service.

Germany is Deutsche Post.

For Canada, use Canada Post.

For any other country, use your favorite search engine. "Buy Country postage stamp" should do the trick.

U. S. Postage

Back to the United States Postal Service so I can tell you how to mail to an International destination without taking out a bank loan.

You can buy any kind of postage online, but deciphering the International requirements is a bit complicated. So here's the gist of it. For manuscripts, use the Priority Mail Flat Box that's marked "Domestic and International." You'll also need a Customs Form declaring the contents regardless of the value of the package. By the way, all international mail in Priority packaging is considered a parcel so you'll need Form 2976-A.

For letters or other information about mailing to or within the United States, the USPS site is chock full of information with examples to show you how to fill out the various forms. If you really want to know all the mailing options, print this USPS Price Guide.

Happy mailing!

Borders Selling Online Again

Shelf Awareness had the scoop this week on the revamped Borders website.

Though Borders has been AWOL for about seven years, during which their online sales were outsourced to competitor Amazon, they're again selling online. Their renewed web presence is part of their turnaround effort of course.

Using Borders Search

The Borders site is well-designed. I cruised it quickly this morning. It seems at a cursory glance to be easy to navigate. The Search engine worked okay. I usually enter my name and the titles of some of my books along with a few author friends' names just to check the accuracy of their Search response.

In several cases of lesser-known author names, the Borders Search pulled up the same American Library Association book that had nothing to do with the search parameters. Perhaps they're pushing that book?

Biz Is In The Details

In any event, online consumers now have another retailer to shop for their books, music, and vids. Baker & Taylor will do their fulfillment and Alibris will be their source for older titles. If you're heavy into shopping, you might want to sign up for their Rewards program which is good for the brick and mortar stores too.

If you're a writer as well as a reader consumer, you'll probably want to sign up to post some reviews. Just another place to showcase your name, hopefully with a tag line.

Paint Star: Free Is Good

I posted about PaintStar in my blog at Performancing. Then I thought, maybe other writers would like to know about this free software so I decided to let the Sling Words audience know also.

Have you ever wanted the mega-expensive Adobe suite but didn't want to shell out almost a grand for the whole badonkadonk?

Well, check out PaintStar which is totally free and does many of the same functions. I contacted the program's creator and learned it works not only on the older Windows versions but also on the infamous Vista.

Many writers create their own promotion items so a good digital illustration software is a nice tool to have. PaintStar is an inexpensive answer to your software needs, and it will keep your writer's overhead down.

Tell him Sling Words sent you.

Trouble With Vacations that they come to an end.

Home. Tired. Glad of three-day weekend before I again must apply nose to grindstone.

Happy Memorial Day.

Gila Queen Market Guide Celebrates

Friday, May 23, will be the 150th issue of Kathy Ptacek"s The Gila Queen's Guide to Markets, and it will also be Gila Queen's 20 year anniversary.

If you don't know what the Gila Queen Guide is, allow me to define. It's a great resource for writers and artists with market listings (including those that have bit the dust so you shouldn't waste your time), articles, industry info, contests,
anthologies, and a whole lot more.

When I first heard of Gila Queen, it was a print publication. Now, it's a subscription E-mail newsletter, and worth every penny of the very reasonable price.

The anniversary issue is extra big, and you can get one for a measly two bucks without subscribing to the whole year (though a year subscription isn't much more) so check it out.

If you want more info, contact Kathy at gilaqueen @

Congratulations, Kathy!

Country Pop Culture

I hope you can see the detail in this picture. The mother duck is swimming with her babies - all 12 of them!

I first saw Mommy Duck and her ducklings as they were walking to the water. She was leading the parade with all her little ones waddling behind. I snapped a pic with my cell phone, but it didn't come out very well so I ran for my camera.

By the time I returned, they were all in the water with two Mexican whistler ducks on the bank, a heron, and a family of turtles in the water.

The funniest thing is that 11 of the ducklings are dun-colored like their mother and blend easily into the environment. The 12th duckling is straight out of Hans Christian Anderson. It's larger than the others and a very pale yellow. It doesn't blend at all, but stands out from the flock like a changeling. You can easily identify it in the picture.

I'm pretty sure it's not from the same DNA pool as the other 11. Was Mother Duck fooling around or did someone play a trick on her and insert an extra egg into her nest?

Regardless, she and the others accepted it. Guess that's unconditional love in the feathered kingdom.

Living Large Country-Style

Guess you've figured out already that I am not in mi casa since there was no blog posted Monday.

I'm visiting my mom who is having a birthday tomorrow and my brother and his family.

It's May, and there are miles and miles of corn everywhere. The photo is just that across the road. Travel any road and both sides are planted in corn. Cotton once was king in this parish but that was before ethanol. It won't be long before it's "higher than an elephant's eye."

This month before summer's heat takes over is hay hauling time. Today, more than thirty bales were added to what was left from last year in order to feed the cattle when grazing isn't enough. The new hay is the lighter, blond at the back.

Farming in this country helped create our prosperity and our ready supply of food. For most, it's a thankless, back-breaking job with no 401K plans, no corporate perks, and no big profits. Remember that the next time you gripe about the cost of a steak or a head of romaine.

Sling Words out to go sling some fresh blueberries from my cousin Carolyn into a bowl with some ice cream.

Orphan Works Bill: Important Issue For Writers

If you follow the legal issues that may have a great impact on your writing career, then you probably know about the history of the Orphan Works Bill which failed to pass last time but has again been introduced. This issue is important. I blogged about it at Performancing and decided to post it here too.

The first alert was sounded by Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today

What is an Orphan Work?

An orphan work is one that is believed to be protected by copyright law but whose owner can't be located. Anyone who wants to reuse such a work can't find the owner to ask permission from or contract with in order to use the piece. Therefore, the piece lands in a legal limbo - no one can use it or reproduce it because they may be sued for copyright infringement.

Supporters of Orphan Works legislation say this isn't what the ideals of copyright law intended. So the Copyright Office wants to draft new rules to make these orphan works available for use so anyone who wants to use them won't incur any legal liability.

The problem is what if you are a copyright owner, alive and well, but for whatever reason can't be contacted as the legal holder of the rights to a work. Can it be declared an orphan and you forfeit your rights? This is just one of the issues that may have to be confronted along with other dangers the Copyright Office may unwittingly create for creative copyright holders.

Draft Letter To Congress

Read more at Jonathan's blog to gain an in-depth understanding of the issue. If you agree with his points, copy the Plagiarism Today Draft Letter, make it your own if you are so inclined, and send it to your Representatives and Senators.

PASIC: Another Notable Writing Contest

Why am I listing contests this week? Because these are opportunities to bring you and your writing to the attention of agents and/or editors.

Today's listing is about the contest sponsored by PASIC, the Published Authors Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Several years ago PASIC started a Book of Your Heart Contest, a place for those manuscripts that writers felt just had to be written even though they didn't meet marketability theories of major publishers.

The 2008 PASIC Book of Your Heart Contest is now open. It's for published or unpublished, and it may be the contest you've been waiting for.

Sponsor: Published Authors Special Interest Chapter

Fee: $20 for PASIC members, $30 others

Postmark deadline: May 15th (must arrive by May 21st)

Eligibility: published and unpublished writers

Enter: First chapter (25 pages max) and synopsis (10 pages max) of unpublished manuscript.

First round judges: booksellers and librarians; published authors
used for emergencies.

Final judges: Editors

Categories & Judges

Series: Diana Ventimiglia - Silhouette Desire

Single Title: Latoya Smith - Grand Central Forever

Historical: Leis Pederson - Berkley

Paranormal: Heather Osborn - Tor

Mainstream: Becky Vinter - NAL

Young Adult: Megan McKeever - MTV Books

Erotic Romance: Hilary Sares - Kensington

For more information, visit PASIC

Good luck!

LONESTAR: Notable Contest For Writers

Contest season is open. Does it ever really close? But this week, the Lone Star Writing Competition, sponsored by the Northwest Houston Chapter of Romance Writers of America, gets under way.

What makes this contest different is that most winners and even finalists have gone on to publish their books.

Here's the info hot off the press.



ENTRY FEE: $20 NWH members; New lower fee! $25 non-NWH members

ELIGIBILITY: Competition is open to published and unpublished authors.

ENTER: First 25 pages, including prologue, if any.


All entries will be sent to three first round judges: two published authors
and one unpublished author. The lowest score will be tossed and final round
contestants will be chosen by the combined total of the final two scores.

Finalists will be sent to both an agent and an editor for placement.

Final judges:

Inspirational Category:
* Editor: Charlene Patterson, Bethany House Publishers
* Agent: Mary Sue Seymour, The Seymour Agency

Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Category:
* Editor: Ami Russell, The Wild Rose Press
* Agent: Taryn Fagerness, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

New this year! Young Adult Category:
* Editor: Karen Chaplin, Puffin Books
* Agent: Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency

Single Title Category:
* Editor: Lindsay Nouis, Penguin Group
* Agent: Carolyn Grayson, Grayson Literary Agency

Romantic Suspense Category:
* Editor: Patience Smith, Harlequin Silhouette
* Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

Contemporary Series Category:
* Editor: Faith Black, Avalon Publishing
* Agent: Pam Strickler

Historical Category:
* Editor: Hilary Sares, Kensington Publishing
* Agent: Michelle Grajkowski, 3 Seas Literary Agency

Important Dates:

Sent via postal service, must be Post marked by June 6, 2008
Sent via e-mail: by midnight CST June 6, 2008.

Finalists: Announced August 8, 2008.

Winners: Announced October 25, 2008 at the Lone Star Conference, Houston, Texas.

For More Info, visit Northwest Houston RWA

Next time, more contest info.