From the Editor – Author Network – January 2005

Writing a Non Fiction Proposal | Aunt Fanny and the Copyright Dilemma | Marketing & Promotion | Internet Resources for Writers | Understanding the Publishing Game | Is it a Good Website? | Should you get your work professionally critiqued? | Writing Competitions | Ezines

 


Ezines


Ezines are electronic publications, and are variously known as electronic magazines, zines, webzines, fanzines or mags. They are almost always available online and are publicly accessible, usually on subscription. If an ezine asks you to subscribe, simply providing an email address will automatically sign you up and the ezine will be delivered via email for you to read at your leisure. An ezine can be an online version of a print periodical or it could be a regularly published electronic magazine, newsletter or journal or report that exists solely online.

Payment for material varies greatly on the Internet as with print based markets. Many ezines have good scales of payment; others pay flat rates, some per word. It is clear though that there is a good living to be made if you can apply yourself to the task of producing well-written material; this is the key to success.

It is not quite so easy to identify readership of ezines on the Internet. But, obviously, if you study the material on the site carefully you should be able to assess what type of readership the ezine attracts and what sort of material they require. Often specific likes and dislikes will be posted clearly in the writer’s guidelines on the site; it is important to read these carefully. You can also gain invaluable insight by reading any editorials posted on the site by individual editors. They quite often list likes and dislikes, and what they expect from prospective contributors. Also read the ‘Mission Statement’ if they have one, FAQ’s and any information about the people who run the site in the ‘About Us’ section.

Literary Ezines

Intertext: InterText is a free, on-line Bi-monthly fiction magazine.

millenniumSHIFT webzine: ’You read it because it has a special quality. You write for it because you have a special flair. (Even brief exposure to our content can be addictive).’ millenniumSHIFT (Editor: Ken J. Davies).

Richmond Review: The Richmond Review was established in October 1995 as the UK’s first literary magazine to be published exclusively on the World Wide Web.

Stark Raving Sanity: Stark Raving Sanity is an electronic literary journal showcasing anything literary, artistic, or interesting.

Genre ezines

Anotherealm: Anotherealm publishes speculative fiction including science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Cyber Age Adventures: (iHero). Cyber Age Adventures is constantly seeking groundbreaking, thought-provoking fiction that reinvents the superhero.

Poetry.St Corner: A weekly ezine showcasing poetry, prose, and verse via email. Every week you can receive the featured poem or verse that Poetry.St Corner showcases.

Quantum Muse: They are committed to providing aspiring writers and artists with a free and open forum for expression.

Dazed and Confused: A London based music and fashion Ezine with content that changes monthly. Provides reviews of all the new releases coming from the UK.

Peppermint Iguana Ezine: Interviews, reviews, articles, links and other weirdness. Truly cool.

Writing non-fiction for ezines

If you are writing non-fiction then you must bear a number of points in mind before you begin:

 

  • Find gaps in the market.
  • Develop saleable ideas.
  • Conduct market research.
  • Avoid cliché ideas.
  • Don’t repeat subjects that have already been done.
  • Query individual editors.
  • Read guidelines and submission procedures carefully.
  • Subscribe to ezines to get a feel for content, style and market, and study the site.

There are also a number of basic rules to follow when writing non-fiction:

 

  • Write informally unless your are writing for a highly technical market, using ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ if appropriate.
  • Sentences and paragraphs should be short.
  • Edit your work.
  • Be brief. Offer small pieces of information. Internet users tend to scan the pages rather than reading in detail.
  • Use sub-headings to divide the piece up into separate ideas.
  • Use lists and bullets to break up text and precise information.
  • Spell check your work.
  • Research your subject area effectively.
  • Study the market.

Fiction

Writing fiction for the Internet is much the same as writing fiction for print based magazines, you still need to identify a target market and make sure you are submitting your material to the right place. And again you must produce well-written, well-crafted, interesting and engaging fiction. Ezines want good fiction and sometimes their standards can be even more rigorous than print-based publications. There are sites that publish anything you send them, but most don’t. If they do publish material without regard to quality, they usually state this quite clearly. Many of the ezines in the category of ‘literary’ publish fiction and poetry, and it may be helpful to visit the particular website that produces the ezines to get a feel for what sort of fiction or poetry they produce. If you write purely science fiction, or horror or fantasy then you will find many sites that cater exclusively for these genres. But it is still important to study the market. They may have particular requirements within that genre. Most of the ezines that publish fiction have specific guidelines and submission procedures to follow.

It is important to note the required length of stories they are prepared to publish and stick to their limit. If you don’t, they will delete your submission. As with non-fiction it is important to follow all guidelines, particularly submission procedures, and these will vary from ezine to ezine. If in doubt you can query the editor. If the ezine your are interested in contributing to has a print based edition then the guidelines may include submitting either on disk or by more traditional means on A4 paper, or both. Some only accept print submissions.

Finding Markets

Finding markets on the Internet is easy; knowing what to do with them when you have found them is another matter.

It is always practical to visit to the ezine you are intending to target by going to the website it originates from. Familiarise yourself with the content, style and presentation of the website, read the articles already posted to get a feel for the type of material they accept. This applies to fiction and non-fiction sites. You need to identify the market and this is the quickest way to do it. There is absolutely no point in submitting a romantic short story to a site that is looking for contemporary, cutting edge fiction or an article about fly-fishing to a business based ezine. It is always sensible to query a particular editor about ideas for articles before you send them. This way you will avoid your work being rejected simply because they have already published a similar article in the recent past.

Submitting your work – guidelines and submission procedures

Usually ezines that are seeking submissions from writers on the Internet, non-fiction or fiction provide their own list of guidelines and submission procedures. Some ezines have a very casual approach to submissions, simply asking you to submit material by email. A few have online submission forms for you to use, or ask that you submit material via an email link given on the website, most, however, provide quite detailed guidelines and it is important that you follow them. Many have specific formats, and will instruct you how to submit material, especially artwork and photographs. You will notice also that these sites state very clearly that they will reject any submissions that do not abide by their procedures and guidelines. So don’t jeopardise your chances before they have had a chance to look at your material. If you are in doubt then send a query email to the ezine asking for more specific guidelines.

Guidelines

The sites listed below are databases of guidelines, which make it easier to track down specific editorial demands. These sites often provide lists of publications and markets.

Writers Writer: Writer’s Guidelines Directory. Searchable database of guidelines by publication name, keywords, markets and manuscript type.

The Write Market: Published by Christopher Reynaga. Resource markets for writers.

The Writers Place: Writing for dollars. Issues twice a month – free.


Writing Competitions


Winning a competition can increase a writer’s confidence, lead to publication, and provide the occasional monetary compensation. Entering competitions on the Internet is as easy as submitting material to an ezine; they usually post guidelines and submission procedures clearly on the site, with details of themes, length and in what format to submit the material.

A plan of attack

 

  • Spread out your submissions evenly throughout the year.It helps to enter competitions that occur throughout the year because it will leave you time in between to write new stories or consider which stories you will enter for the next competition. If you have a list of possible targets you need to make sure you submit the material on time, and preferably long before the submission deadline. 
  • Try to write new stories and enter them for each competition.It makes sense to produce new material, although of course, you can re-enter stories that you have submitted in the past, but producing new material is vital for any writer. Practice makes perfect and authors are no exception to this rule. 
  • Enter more than one story per competition.Entering more than one story for a competition may seem costly but it will obviously increase your chance of success. One story may catch the eye of a judge where the others didn’t. 
  • Try to be innovative in your writing.Although you cannot predict what is going to impress a judge, it makes sense to produce original, innovative material, and it is important to take a look at the website or ezine that is running the competition. 
  • Don’t enter the competition at the last minute.This may seem irrelevant but it is a well-known fact that the bulk of competition entries arrive in the last four weeks before deadlines, which means the poor old judges are going to be left with reading the vast majority of manuscripts in very little time. Those that have been entered early will have been carefully read and possibly re-read; the late arrivals can expect a cursory reading and who can blame the judges for that? 
  • Follow guidelines and submission procedures.It is also important to read the guidelines and submission procedures of each competition; these will be posted on the website or listed in the ezine. They are there for a reason; follow them. If in doubt query the editor. 
  • Research the market.Get a feel for the sort of fiction or non-fiction that each website or ezine produces by going to the website or the website that produces the ezine and looking at their content. Read the winning entries listed for previous competitions to get an insider view of what caught the judge’s eye the last time out.Art DEADLINES List: A curious assortment of competitions, contests, calls for entries/papers, grants, scholarships, fellowships, jobs, internships, etc., in the arts or related areas (painting, drawing, animation, poetry, writing, music, multimedia, reporting/journalism, cartooning, dance, photography, video, film, sculpture, etc), some of which have prizes worth thousands of dollars. International in scope – contests and competitions for students are included.

    Authorlink: A huge list of national contests to enter.

    The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest: For this contest, entrants must compose the opening sentence for the WORST novel possible.

    Writer’s Digest: Writer’s Digest sponsors several writing contests annually.


    Should you get your work professionally critiqued?


    I am often asked this question, and always try to give an unbiased response even though I run an editorial and critiquing service.The most important thing to remember is that critiquing is not criticism. Critiquing is constructive whereas criticism is negative. A critique is designed to be objective, and unbiased, so above all don’t take it personally. A critique is a review of your manuscript it is not an attack on you or your writing talent. However, a critique should never be inconsiderate or cruel about your work. A good critique should identify the weaknesses in the manuscript and offer some constructive advice to the author that might lead to improvements in the work.

    It is difficult for writers to take an honest view of their own writing; quite often you are too close to the work, and you may have become ‘precious’ about it. Many writers give their work to friends to read, but quite honestly it is unfair to expect someone close to you to offer an honest opinion either! The person providing you with a professional critique will not be worried about offending you because they are more concerned with helping you to get it right. A critique may also have the added benefit of helping you to develop your own critical skills and enable you to learn how to act as your own editor in the future.

    I have listed some tips below that might help in the initial editing process:

     

    • Don’t try to write and edit in the same session
    • Put some distance between yourself and the manuscript by leaving it unread for a few days
    • Print up a hard copy and read it. Typos and story problems often seem more obvious when the words are printed on paper
    • Read the manuscript from beginning to end without distractions, rather than stopping to edit or re-write
    • You can record the manuscript on to tape and listen to it. Quite often this will help you tell if the story is well paced, if the characters are likeable and if the point of view is clear. Think about whether it would keep you awake on a long journey?
    • Use different coloured highlighters to mark different elements such as dialogue, narrative and point of view. This will also give you some idea of how well the story is paced. If there is an in balance between dialogue and narrative then you need to consider if you have a tendency to tell your story rather than showing it.
    • Keep a record of how much time you spend on a particular scene; it may be that the section you think needs improving doesn’t, it’s just that it has become so familiar to you that you think it is boring.

    The next step in the editing or critiquing process is to consider the nuts and bolts that make up the manuscript. A critique would consider all the elements listed below, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t ask yourself these questions of your manuscript:

     

    • Opening – does the book grab you from the outset? Is the direction of the story clear? Do you want to read more?
    • Conflict – virtually all the high points of most novels involve conflict. It’s the fuel of fiction. It is not simply a physical fight, although it can be, it is the motivation your characters need to struggle against the conflict you have created, how they react to the conflict, resolve the conflict and control their own destiny, it is not bad luck or fate. Does your character walk down the street and slip on a banana skin or does your character, for instance, struggle against people with opposing goals.
    • Plot – is there a “point” to the story or does it wander along aimlessly? Is there enough conflict? Does the story move along at a fast enough pace to keep your attention?
    • Setting – is there enough description for you to visualize the setting? Is this information scattered throughout the novel or have you dumped the information into the story in one big lump? If you are using a real place, is it factually correct? Are the place names appropriate?
    • Characterization – is your character a wimp or someone who is highly motivated toward a goal? Do the characters seem real? Are they stereotypical and flat? Have you provided enough information about them? Do all the characters seem similar? Can you identify with the main character?
    • Dialogue – does the dialogue seem authentic? Do the character all speak in a similar way? Is there too much dialogue or not enough?
    • Point of View – can you tell whose story it is? Do you change point of view too many times? Does the point of view remain consistent throughout the novel?
    • Show versus tell – are you telling the reader things rather than showing them what is happening?
    • Format of the text – are there enough paragraph breaks? Are your lines too long or too short? Is there too much description and not enough action to break it up? Is the text too wordy or flowery?
    • Grammar and spelling – no question here – if you don’t know how to spell it look it up!
    • Style – do you feel comfortable with the way you have written the novel? Does it flow or seem forced? Are you using too many big words, or two words where one will do?

    Authors invariably ask me whether I think their book will be marketable and I have to confess this is the most difficult part of the process. ‘Chasing’ the market, trying to second guess what editors are looking for or where the market might go next can involve you in a lot of wasted time and energy. However, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t keep abreast of trends in sales of fiction by studying a publisher’s latest fiction list, or asking a local bookshop to show you a publisher’s catalogue, but realistically your energies may best be concentrated on writing the best novel you possibly can…

    I would certainly suggest that a critique may be a good idea if you feel you have lost your way or you can identify that something is wrong with your manuscript but can’t seem to remedy it however hard you try. It may be the only thing standing between you and a publishing contract.


    Is it a Good Website?


    You must be able to assess the content on the site you are visiting and there are a number of ways you can do this:

    • When you visit a site check when it was last updated, if it was updated three years ago then you know the content has not changed since then.
    • If you bookmark a site and go back a few months later and notice that the content is exactly the same as when you last visited, then you know the information on that site has remained unchanged.
    • Check that the site has good email links. If you can’t find the information you want you need to be able to query someone who can provide you with the details you are looking for, i.e. whether you can submit material or get guidelines.
    • Check the links provided on the site. If they are either dead links, or links take you to sites that no longer exist or sites that have also not been updated recently, then you will know the original site is not being checked properly.
    • If you notice that there are spelling mistakes and grammatical errors on the pages of the site, or incomplete material has been published then you may have cause for concern about the validity of the site’s material.
    • Is the content easy to read and can you access other pages on the site quickly and easily? Are there plenty of text and graphic links that take you where you want to go and more importantly bring you back again?
    • Is it hard to find the information you want?
    • Good writing sites are happy to share their basic knowledge for free.There are so many writing sites on the Internet that a writer would be hard pushed not to find multiple resources. Most good writing related websites are happy to share this information.There are some writing sites that provide essential resources for writers that will not change because of the very nature of that information. Advice they may give on how to submit a manuscript to a publisher will not have changed very much, but a list of publishers may have changed a great deal as new ones pop up and others disappear or are taken over by bigger companies.

      What does a good website provide?

      Good websites should reflect the interactive, dynamic and ever changing nature of the new medium of the Internet. When assessing the value of a particular site look out for sites that are well constructed, organised and edited, and that reflect original and updated content.

       

    • Sites that are interactive are always helpful, because they allow the user to interact with the site. Look out for forums, message boards, ezine subscriptions that offer updated information regularly from the site, chat rooms, which enable you to contact other writers, etc.
    • Is there too much information on the pages, meaning you have to scroll endlessly down a page, rather than being broken up into bite size pieces that are quickly read and absorbed.
    • Is the site consistent – it may seem unusual but sites that use the same format for pages are much easier on the eye and give a certain confidence to the reader rather than having to look at a mishmash of page design.
    • Is the site just a list of links to other sites with not much detail as to what you will find when you get there? Most good websites point users to lists that someone else has created; a list of publishers or agents can be very helpful but not if that is all the site contains.
    • If the site is selling material, books or whatever, do they have a secure payment facility?
    • Is there a good site search facility?

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    Understanding the Publishing Game


    Publishers nowadays are under increasing financial pressure. They have to make a profit and to do that they must sell books. Amazingly the writer can often appear subordinate to this process and any writer who submits work that is not of a literary standard (whatever that happens to be) will be cast aside. There is no room for guidance, encouragement or tuition in this scenario. Time is always of the essence. Publishers with one eye on a profit margin will not have the inclination to bring a writer up to scratch. Editorial departments are increasingly snowed under with unsuitable manuscripts. However, a good book, a well-written book, will always find a publisher. Unfortunately, these are few and far between.Publishers have turned increasingly to agents to help them with the task of sorting the good from the bad, the marketable from the un-marketable and possibly in finding that elusive best seller. However, the situation that applies to publishers can also be said to apply to agents. They too, are inundated with unsolicited manuscripts receiving anything from twenty to one hundred each week. Slush piles in both camps are steadily growing and the cost of dealing with them are mounting in direct proportion.

    It would appear that the blame for this could be laid at the writer’s door. However, as the writer/publisher/agent relationship is by its very nature symbiotic, this process must always be allowed to exist. Without one the other cannot operate. The publisher has responsibilities to the writer and vice versa. Therefore, it is important that the publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts, that they do not charge a reading fee and that agents follow suit. The relationship must never become too restrictive for either party.

    The writer’s responsibility to publishers and agents is to make sure that the work they send to them is well presented, professionally typed and that proper guidelines are followed, and above all that they send their manuscripts to the right sort of publisher. Many writers are falling short of this standard and the slush-piles continue to grow, which may force the publisher into a position where they refuse to accept unsolicited manuscripts. This way everyone loses.

    For everyone to win the writer must take his share of the responsibility even if this means expending a little more money on decent paper, a typing course, a good word-processor, or even proper writing tuition. Very few good writers are born with a natural talent. Writing is a craft that needs to be nurtured, honed and in some cases taught. It is easy for a writer to become subjective and precious about their work. A sense of failure can go hand in hand with the inability to take advice when this is all that may be needed to restructure a manuscript; for the writer to take steps to move in a new direction. The writer must always be looking for ways to improve, but above all they must foster a healthy sense of their own worth.

    It is also important that the writer considers every avenue available to them, whether it is approaches to writing and research, or a medium such as the Internet. The writer must utilise both traditional markets, and the newer more technological based media to be found on the Internet, if they are going to move forward and expand their market base and their horizons.

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    Internet Resources for Writers


    The internet provides many markets and resources for writers. I have tried to put together a number of sites that may help in your search for information or provide you with a place to sell your work, or promote yourself.Professional Organisations

    The Society of Authors: An invaluable site for writers in the UK This Website give details of the Society, but also includes many topics related to writing, publishing, copyright, electronic rights, and multimedia.

    ALCS: Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. The rights management society for all UK writers. Includes press releases, news items and links to useful UK and overseas organisations and authors’ societies.

    Association of Authors’ Agents; The majority of established agencies in the UK belong to the Association which exists to provide a forum for member agents to discuss industry matters, to represent the interests of agents and their clients and to uphold a code of good practice.

    The Arts Council of England: The Arts Council of England is the national funding body for the arts in England. It is responsible for developing, sustaining and promoting the arts through the distribution of public money from central government and revenue generated by the National Lottery. The Arts Council exists to help people enjoy the arts by supporting drama, music, dance and touring companies, contemporary art galleries and exhibitions, film and literature projects.

    ASCAP: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Events, membership info, links to resources in the music business, and a searchable database of performed music in the ASCAP repertory.

    Genre sites

    In the same way that a writer can narrow a search down when looking for a particular piece of information, a writer can search for information within their own particular genre. Listed below are a general mishmash of sites that may be of interest to you; but don’t be guided entirely by this choice there are many more to be found. These sites offer valuable information that possibly could not be found so easily anywhere else.

    Internet Crimewriting Network: The ultimate crimewriting resource. Bulletin boards, question-and-answer pages, new crime jargon, interviews with experts and much more.

    Crime Writers Association: The Website includes news of awards, competitions, events and – most importantly – our latest books. There are links to many of our members’ personal Websites where you can find out more about your favourite authors.

    Write Page: The WritePage is an on-line newsletter with over 300 pages of author and book information for readers and how-to information for writers of genre fiction.

    The Literary Times: Romance, romance, and more romance.

    Travel Writers: This is a resource dedicated to the needs of travel writers, photographers and members of the travel industry. Provides information about markets, tips on improving writing. It really is a guide to the best resources for travel writers on the net.

    Children’s Writing Resource Centre: A good all round source of information for children’s writers. Has a chat facility and many links.

    Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators: For people who write, illustrate, or are interested in children’s literature. This is a no-nonsense site, with very clear objectives.

    The British Science Fiction Association: All you need to know about the science fiction scene in the UK.

    British Society of Comedy Writers: Promoting excellence in writing for comedy and light entertainment. Annual events, links, and resources.

    Independent Radio and Drama Productions: Britain’s leading independent producer of radio drama. It is a non-profit making company. This site is worth taking a look at even if you don’t write drama or for the radio; you may find it opens up markets that you never knew existed.

    Screenwriting Help: Information and resources for screenwriters. This site is dedicated to arming the screenwriter with the information and skills to compete with established successful screenwriters.

    Reference Sites

    Journalism & Writers: Internet resources, dictionaries, grammar, and research facilities. Provides a point-and-click client interface for accessing various dictionary services on the Internet. Linked to more than 400 dictionaries.

    The Art of Writing: Good all round site, offering tips, feature articles, markets and a free newsletter.

    The Semantic Rhyming Dictionary: A slick little online program that will find the rhyme for nearly any word.

    A Novice Writer’s Guide to Rights: By Claire White, part of the ‘Writers Write’ Website. This site will give you some idea of where you and your work stand as a writer and explains some of those technical terms that writers tend to ignore.

    Literary Calendar: An almanac of literary events and people.

    The Copyright Website: This portal provides real world, practical and relevant copyright information for anyone navigating the net.

    Markets and Guidelines

    Writer’s Guidelines Directory: Searchable database of guidelines by publication name, keywords, markets and manuscript type.

    The Write Market: The Write Market is an online writer’s market list – which has been online since 1996. They feature regular writing news and more then 1000 links and 45 categories of markets, literary services, agents, editors, articles and publishers and more in one place.

    Write Markets Report: Magazine of new and updated markets and articles on selling the written word and making money through writing.

    The American Directory of Writer’s Guidelines: As most sites on the Internet are American this would probably be a good book to buy! If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

    Writer’s Digest: If you’ve been writing for any length of time you know WD. They also have a nice guidelines database on board the Web now.

    Epublishing

    eBooks N’Bytes:

    They specialise in resources for eBook publishers, and publish a regular email newsletter, which includes eBook-related tips, news and reviews.

    EPIC: Electronically Published Internet Connection. Good site for all those interested in epublishing, includes message boards, promotional opportunities and the EPPIES, an ebook award.

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    Writing a Non Fiction Proposal


    The first thing to do is find a gap in the market. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction it is not hard to establish that editors and publishers are looking for something original. They do not want repeats or re-hashes but they will immediately jump at anything that hasn’t been done before.Make sure your subject is big enough for a book. Biggest potential sales are in books on self-improvement, including health, lifestyle, diet, hobbies and anything with a slant towards the how-to genre. DIY, cooking, and gardening are subjects for books that are endlessly popular.

    How-to books are generally fairly short, about 10-15 chapters, each of about 3,000 words. Make sure the chapters are not just one mass of text; use numbered lists, checklists, or bullet points to make the information readily available to the reader. In short, it needs to be a book that they can refer to easily rather than having to read the whole thing. So they can flick through the book and go straight to an area where they can find exactly the information they want quickly.

    Once you have identified your target market or found a gap in the market you need to write a proposal, which should include an outline, a synopsis and a covering letter. This is standard procedure for submitting non fiction. The outline includes a working title, and a list of chapter headings with each of the points you intend to deal with in that chapter listed underneath. The synopsis must grab a prospective editor at the outset; it is your sales pitch. Set out the book’s proposed purpose, why you believe there is a need for it, the target market, identify any competition and state clearly why your book will be superior. Keep the synopsis to one single-spaced side of paper.

    Once you have written a proposal then submit it to a selected number of publishers or agents.

    It is not necessary to have written the book before you submit it to a publisher/agent; in fact, it may work against you if you do. When I submitted the idea for ‘ A Writer’s Guide to the Internet’ it was intended to cover mainstream publishing and link it to the internet, however Allison & Busby decided that there were too many books currently available about mainstream publishing and wanted to concentrate solely on the internet. If we had written the book prior to submission we would have had to re-write it. As it was we were able to produce exactly what they wanted. While you are waiting for a reply you can of course write the first chapter, a publisher will probably want you to submit a sample of your writing just to make sure that you can write.

    Always try to identify a name to send your proposal to; if you are not sure then ring up the publishing company and ask. It is far better to address your submission to a specific person rather than use a broad title such as the editorial department. If you are based in the US you will need to go through an agent and it would help to buy a copy of Writer’s Market from amazon.com. This book list agents and also provides good publishing advice for first time authors. If you are based in the UK you can submit your proposal ‘on spec’ to a publisher without having to go through an agent first; this is called submitting an ‘unsolicited manuscript’. To find suitable publishers and agents buy a copy of The Writer’s Handbook published by Macmillan, which is available from good bookshops or amazon.co.uk. This book also lists agents and publishers and offers good publishing advice.

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    Aunt Fanny and the Copyright Dilemma


    Before I begin explaining what copyright is and what types of work copyright protects, and the point of aunt Fanny, it is important to understand that you cannot officially register your copyright within the UK. This does not mean that you cannot copyright your work, it means that you do NOT have to take any action to protect your copyright. It also means that there is no agency, government department or private company that can register your copyright either. The simple fact is that copyright in the UK and Northern Ireland exists the moment a creative work is fixed in a tangible form, i.e., on paper, on film, on CD, etc., end of story.

    The reason I have mentioned this first is because it has been drawn to my attention that a number of businesses have popped up in the UK who claim they CAN ‘register’ your copyright. They can’t. What they ARE doing is holding copies of your work in a ‘secure environment’ (you could send a copy to your aunt Fanny and it would amount to the same thing), charging you a hefty fee, and sending you a ‘copyright registration’ certificate that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. And talking of money, one is charging £40.00 to ‘register’ a single print copy of a manuscript, and to add insult to injury they want £10.00 to send it back to you! I won’t go as far as to say it’s a con, I don’t want to be sued, instead I will leave you to make your own minds up, but as far as I can see aunt Fanny may not be such a bad option after all…

    In actual fact, and on a more serious note, there are a number of safeguards you would be wise to undertake, which are very simple and effective, will provide you with all the protection you need, and won’t set you back any more than the price it takes to post your manuscript to, you guessed it, aunt Fanny! Get my drift?

    Go on then, so how do I protect myself?

     

    I thought you were never going to ask!

    Even though copyright is an automatic right, it is always wise to put a copyright statement on your work, which should include the copyright symbol ©, the date that the work was produced and your name, so that others can see your work is copyrighted or if you ever need to demonstrate to a court (God forbid) that your copyright has been infringed.

    Here’s the interesting bit, and the reason for all those references to aunt Fanny, as a further safeguard, you can put your manuscript into an envelope, seal it and send it to yourself or, in fact, aunt Fanny or anyone who will keep a copy for you, as proof that it existed at a certain time. (Don’t open it when you get it, leave it sealed, that’s the whole point!) You can also deposit a copy at the bank or with your solictor, but remember to get a dated receipt. Voila, now can spend your hard earned cash on submitting that manuscript to more agents or publishers, or alternatively on a well earned drink in celebration of the fact that you haven’t just lined the pockets of people who ought to know better!

    Good job you were cleverer than them… That’s it! So simple, really, and yet so cheap.

     

    So, what is copyright?

    I know I have digressed and it may seem confusing to get to this bit last, but it is important to know that copyright is an unregistered right, that no one can register your copyright and that you can protect yourself quite adequately without having to pay a fortune to do it…

    Copyright exists in all literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. But there is no copyright in titles or ideas. Furthermore, under the Berne Convention every creative work is copyrighted the moment it is fixed in a tangible form. The Berne Convention is an international copyright treaty signed by 96 countries. The United States and the United Kindgom are signatories.

    The type of works that copyright protects are:

    original literary works, e.g. novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, lyrics for songs, articles in newspapers, some types of databases, but not names or titles (see Trade Marks pages);

    original dramatic works, including works of dance or mime;

    original musical works;

    original artistic works, e.g. paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, works of architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps, logos;

    published editions of works, i.e. the typographical arrangement of a publication;

    sound recordings, which may be recordings on any medium, e.g. tape or compact disc, and may be recordings of other copyright works, e.g. musical or literary;

    films, including videos; and

    broadcasts and cable programmes.

    If you have any concerns that your copyright is being infringed and you want to look into the matter in more detail, visit these sites:

    Authors Licensing & Copyright Society

    The Society of Authors

    The Copyright Site

    Publishers Association

    10 Big Myths about Copyright Explained – Brad Templeton

    U.S. Copyright Office

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    Marketing and Promotion


    I have recently included a number of articles on the subject of promotion and marketing on the site. This is simply because the marketing and promotional side of the publishing industry are probably the two most important factors involved in the success of any work. The bottom line is that if you don’t promote your book it won’t sell! And we are not just talking print books here. Many authors feel they cannot promote their ebooks because they don’t have a tangible object to wave around at people. Not true. Read on.

    Sometimes, as with promoting oneself, the writer needs to use techniques that they may not necessarily equate with the art of writing. Marketing is not usually a word that most writers feel comfortable with.

    Most writers will blanche at the idea of selling themselves, as if this means that they will have to sell their soul to the devil in the process and that their work will be compromised if they have to get their hands dirty in this way. However, to compete, this is what must be done.

    Most writers also do not seem to understand that although their publisher (epublisher) will do a certain amount of marketing and promotion on their behalf the bulk of the work rests with them. This is not because the publisher is lazy or can’t be bothered it is because the publisher can only spend a certain amount of time on one book before moving on to the next new release. The publisher is also concerned with the bigger picture: promoting the company. If the company has a high profile, is well known for producing quality books then sales will most assuredly follow.

    The first step to successful marketing on the Internet is to recognise what is possible and what should be possible and ignore what has gone before. The Internet is a medium that can be used in pretty much any way you want and that means you don’t always have to follow in someone else’s footsteps or tread the conventional route. Please take a look at some of the articles below:

    The Writer’s Conference: In her November column, Pamela Thibodeaux explains why all writers should attend writer’s conferences.

    ‘Marketing Yourself and Your Writing Online’: Free panel discussion event from Online Content UK. Wednesday, 14th November, 2001. 6.30 – 9.00pm. Lack of self-promotion can be the downfall of an otherwise successful career in the online content industry. At ‘Marketing Yourself and Your Writing Online’, our speakers share their experiences with self-promotion. Speakers: Dave Green, Editor of NTK, Dr Iain Stevenson Course Director, MA Publishing Studies, City University London and Victoria Lubbock, Managing Director Recruit Media Ltd. This event is sponsored by The City University London, Department of Journalism.

    Writing a synopsis and query letter: Paul Saevig, our writer in residence, teaches you how to write an effective synopsis and query letter.

    Publicity is the Author’s Job Too: Nicholas Corder discusses the role authors should play in publicising their work but quite often don’t. Nicholas has published articles in The New Writer.

    Marketing your book: Carolyn Howard-Johnson has found the perfect place to get all the dope on the special skills needed for promoting a book.

    Rusty Fischer’s articles also make for essential reading.

    eBook Promotion Made eEasy!
    Marketing Myth Exposed
    Success with Signature Lines

    Join an organisation and get in the loop. Most have active discussion lists that will not only provide valuable promotional opportunities but allow you to keep up to date with what is happening in epublishing.

    Professional Organisations:

    Association of Electronic Publishers - (AEP) Trade association representing electronic publishers and their rights.
    E-books in Print - Attempt to organise an ISBN-like system for ebooks.
    The Electronic Literature Organization - organization working to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing and reading of literature in the electronic media.
    EPIC - (Electronically Published Internet Connection). Professional organisation of published authors, established to provide a strong voice for electronic publishing.

    If you don’t know what is going on in the industry, don’t just sit back and let it wash over you, find out!

    eBook Resources:

    About.com’s - E-book Guide
    All E-Books - eBook portal.
    E-books-N-Bytes - general epublishing information and a directory of e-book web sites.
    E-Books Org
    Journal of Electronic Publishing - Academic journal on e-publishing from the University of Michigan.
    Open eBook Forum - ebook standards.
    Project Gutenberg
    Pubspace - Newsletter about e-books

    List yourself wherever you can:

    Places to be Listed:

    Only Ink! - if you are interested in having your information posted, send author name and URL.
    Authorsden - you can list all details here, including bio, links, cover.
    Ebookad.com - you can list your ebook here and sell them on site too!

    Send your book out for review:

     

    Reviewers:

    Running River Reader - reviews of e-books
    The Book Reviewer Site
    readers.freeservers.com/bookcritique.html - a comprehensive list of reviewers put together by Michael LaRocca.
    MyShelf.com

    These are the best awards to enter for ebooks, although there is some doubt as to the validity of the Frankfurt eBook awards, since they seem to want ebooks that sing and dance! The Eppies and the Indies are, however, truly representative of independent epublishing.

    eBook Awards:

    Independent e-Book Awards.
    EPIC/EPPIES: Every English-language e-book published, regardless of publisher. You can also join EPIC, Electronically Published Internet Connection here. Membership is$ 30.00 and once you are a member you can join several very active lists.

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    Karen Scott
    Editor

    Karen Scott is author of ‘The Internet Writer’s Handbook 2001/2′ published by Allison & Busby in March 2001. The updated edition for 2003 is available from Puff Adder Books. She is also author of ‘A Writer’s Guide to the Internet’ published in April 2000. The updated edition for 2003 is available from Puff Adder Books. She is a member of The Society of Authors, The Queen’s English Society and EPIC. She runs New Writers Consultancy a critique and editorial service for writers and Puff Adder Books an epublishing company.

    Email: beth@author-network.com

    If you would like to send us an editorial, email: beth@author-network.com

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