Category Archives: Publishing

Announcing *You CAN Format Your Print-on-Demand Book!* Live at Amazon!

The Beginner’s Cheat Sheet for Formatting with Adobe InDesign™

I announce with great pride that my ebook,

*You CAN Format Your Print-on-Demand Book: The Beginner’s Cheat Sheet to Formatting with Adobe InDesign(tm)*

is live at Amazon!

I trace my own journey formatting with InDesign, stripping that scary interface down to the essentials you actually need to format a paperback interior. It’s a lot easier than it looks! And with Adobe’s free trial, you can find out whether InDesign will work for you without spending a cent on software.

indd cover 1v2

Check it out! Only $2.99

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Filed under Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, book design, business of writing, ebooks, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, Self-publishing, Tech tips, V. S. Anderson, Virginia S. Anderson, Writing

The Kind of Writers’ Conference I’ll Pay For!

What’s not to like about writers’ conferences? They offer terrific opportunities to learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing from people who know what they’re talking about (as opposed to the neighbor who figures your book can’t be any good since Barnes and Noble didn’t display it on that table right inside the front door).

Of course, there’s the expense. A conference means registration, travel expenses, motels, and sometimes meals (and in my case, board for a rather large dog).

For some, the workshops and lectures and a chance to get autographs on mint copies of presenters’ books may justify those costs.

But if you’re interested in becoming traditionally published, it’s worth stretching your budget for a good conference. A well-chosen conference can give most of us developing writers what no cold query can:

  • A chance to sell ourselves and our work face-to-face, where we can slip a memorable impression into a busy agent’s or editor’s mind.
  • A block of time all our own, instead of the few seconds a hurried intern can spare for that laboriously written letter.
  • A hard-nosed reaction from a publishing professional unfettered by the need to make the writer feel good.

If, like me, those perks are the ones you want from a conference, here are the top five things I look for before I send in my registration form.

1) Location

I don’t want this to come first, but for many of us, it has to. The good news is, you probably don’t have to travel a thousand miles to find a good conference. In the past two years, I’ve attended two within a two-hour drive of my home. Search online, read writing blogs, and network with writers’ groups in your area to get on email lists. Conferences within your range and budget will turn up.

Of course, if you DO travel a thousand miles, make sure it’s someplace fun, since you can deduct the expenses from your taxes if you can show you’re really writing to sell.

2) Pitch sessions*

The right kind of conference for this stage in your writing must offer a chance to meet face-to-face with agents and editors. Most conferences charge a moderate fee for these sessions, but that ten minutes will garner a lot more attention to your work than the dozens of hours you spent honing a query letter that may never get read.

Many conferences offer “pitch practice,” usually also for a fee. Some will allow you to send in a written version of your pitch to be critiqued. Take advantage of these opportunities if possible. With luck, you’ll get voluminous and often painfully honest comments that will propel you into feverish revision the night or morning before your pitch. But that’s the point, isn’t it—to move you to a new level? You’ll get there faster with a push.

3) A chance to submit actual pages for critique

You really have one immediate goal as a writer seeking publication: to be read. Maybe once in a while your query letter elicits a request for pages, but the ultimate response, more often than not, will be “We’re not the right agency for this book.” No reasons. No chance to ask for reasons. (Okay, maybe it will be different for you.)

But at a good conference, you can submit part of your work and then meet with your critiquer to follow up on what worked and what didn’t. Good conferences will assign real agents and editors, empowered to ask for more, to this task.

Yes, you’ll pay extra. And no, your readers might not agree in their assessments, leaving you confused and frustrated, just like your critique group at home. But you’ll hear truths that no warm-hearted “supportive” writers’ group friend will ever tell you! Put on your thickest skin and sign up for as many of these critiques as you can.

4) A range of agents and editors

Conferences will publish the credentials of their faculties beforehand. Follow up on agents’ and editors’ web pages. Go to Amazon and read the first pages of books they have handled. Be sure that at least two or more of the people you can pitch or submit to like the kind of thing you write.

5) Opportunities to socialize with the conference faculty

Some of us are really good at button-holing people we hope to impress. I’m terrible at it. Still, I’d like the chance! A good conference will require its faculty to show up for receptions and banquets. Show up yourself, this time in your bravest skin. You may find that the agent who sorta-kinda-seemed-to-like your pages is also a fan of that obscure Korean horror director you adore. When you send your follow-up query letter, he’ll remember that long chat you shared over wine.

You can’t always tell ahead of time whether this criterion will be met. If it isn’t, make a note for the future, and by all means, include your disappointment on your evaluation form.

It Worked for Me!

I met the agents who sold my first books through the conference process, and since my return to writing after a hiatus, I’ve received far more requests for partials from conference pitches than from written queries. And I’m not even very good at the conference process! But conferences provide me with the best chance to see how people who actually make buying decisions react to what I’m doing.

So once you and your writers’ groups have tweaked your manuscript as much as humanly possible and once you think you’ve done what all those books you’ve read say you should, pick a good conference to see what you’ve achieved.

*A “pitch session” doesn’t call for a synopsis or an elevator pitch. It’s a five-to-ten minute talk (usually breathless on my part) whose sole purpose is to tell the agent or editor what your book is about. The conference will specify how long you have. Maybe you’ll have time to throw in the extras from your full query; maybe not. The hook is what counts. Before you plan yours, search online—advice and examples abound. And if pre-conference pitch critiques or on-site practice is offered, sign up.

What about your experience with conferences! Share!

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Filed under business of writing, Finding agents, looking for editors, novels, Publishing, Writers' conferences, Writers' groups, Writing

Follow-Up: Copyright Issues at Internet Archive—The Marrakesh Treaty

Stack of many booksIf you have read my posts about my experience eliciting a response from the Internet Archive, which scans and posts books on their free website without notifying authors or asking permission, you may have also read the comments on the latest post.

There, you’ll learn what I learned from Kevin, a reader from newauthoronline.com.

He  introduced me to the Marrakesh Treaty, implemented in 2016. This treaty, which the U.S. has joined, allows authorized non-profit sites to post—without permission—works for “blind and print-disabled” persons.

Here is an overview article Kevin linked to, which contains a link to the Marrakesh Treaty itself as well as a useful discussion of access issues for the print-disabled. From the article:

Marrakesh Treaty: A roadmap for equality

On July 18, 2016, American musician Stevie Wonder welcomed the entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty with powerful words. “A treaty that promises to end the global book famine… A pact,” he said, “that means that the millions of people in the world who are blind or visually impaired will be able to read books in accessible formats in various regions where they did not previously have access, regardless of their financial means.”

To address this challenge, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, was adopted in 2013 under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and entered into force in 2016. The treaty was conceived to foster and ease the production and transfer of accessible books, including across national boundaries. To achieve these goals, it established a set of limitations and exceptions to copyright, mandatory for ratifying countries, for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled. So far, 91 countries have signed the treaty and 33 of them have ratified it.

Here is relevant text from the treaty;

[Article 4.]2. A Contracting Party may fulfill Article 4(1) for all rights identified therein by providing a limitation or exception in its national copyright law such that:

(a) Authorized entities shall be permitted, without the authorization of the copyright rightholder, to make an accessible format copy of a work, obtain from another authorized entity an accessible format copy, and supply those copies to beneficiary persons by any means, including by non-commercial lending or by electronic communication by wire or wireless means, and undertake any intermediate steps to achieve those objectives, when all of the following conditions are met:

(i)  the authorized entity wishing to undertake said activity has lawful access to that work or a copy of that work;

(ii) the work is converted to an accessible format copy, which may include any means needed to navigate information in the accessible format, but does not introduce changes other than those needed to make the work accessible to the beneficiary person;

(iii) such accessible format copies are supplied exclusively to be used by beneficiary persons;  and

(iv) the activity is undertaken on a non-profit basis;

An operative term here is “lawful access.” I have written WIPO to ask for a definition.

Remaining questions:

  • Is the Internet Archive an Authorized Entity?
  • How does it ensure that people using free services under this treaty are eligible beneficiaries?

Kevin’s comments also include some enlightening information about accessibility software and process for blind and print-disabled people.

I have not found this information about the Marrakesh Treaty widely shared in the writing-blog community, probably because the treaty was just implemented in 2016. I hope this will prove a useful post for my writing colleagues. The information certainly was news to me.

 

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Filed under business of writing, Copyright, novels, Publishing, Writing

A Response about Copyright Violation from Internet Archive!

Hello, readers,

I need your help.

On January 11, 2018, I shared a post from Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware about possible copyright infringement by the Internet Archive, which scans books and posts them for free in a “lending library” without notifying authors or receiving permission.

On the Internet Archive site, I found a pdf of the 1989 mass-market paperback of my novel, King of the Roses (originally published by St. Martin’s in 1983). I sent two email notices requesting that the book be taken down, using the free form included in Victoria’s original post.

I have received a response. The response raises several questions for me and I would appreciate feedback from readers. In particular,

1) Have I understood the response correctly?

2) What is the correct and ethical response to the fact that the Internet Archive plans to retain a copy of my book for “blind and print-disabled” readers?

Here’s what I did in order to get a response:

After sending the two notices and receiving no response, I followed a link in Victoria Strauss’s post to the Internet Archive site. There, on the blog page for the site, I discovered a comment box.

Into that box I posted; “I have sent two takedown notices about my book, which is still under my copyright and is available as a self-published Kindle edition, but you have not responded. Please post a link to the “Notice and Takedown” process you reference above on your home page. My next step will be to seek legal advice and, if necessary, take you to court.”

Within 36 hours, I received the following email, which I paste here in full:

Dear Ms. Anderson,

Thank you for your emails.

To help clarify things regarding the item you have identified (https://archive.org/details/kingofroses00virg) – blind and print-disabled patrons (verified by formal institutions including the Library of Congress) may access special electronic versions of the book that can be used with accessible software. They agree not to make copies or distribute materials. Our program to enable blind and print-disabled access has been in operation since 2010 (our original press release w/links to stories in the media can be seen here).

There is no other access available to this item (lending access for general users has been disabled). Please feel free to check the links under “Download Options”. They are all inoperable or include only to metadata (i.e., catalog information about the text, not the text itself).

And of course, the Internet Archive offers these texts on a wholly non-commercial basis. Our project, organization, and mission are entirely charitable and oriented towards broad social benefit.

Again, thank you for getting in touch with us. Hoping this information is helpful.

The Internet Archive Team

 

Here’s what I think it says:

1) My book is no longer available for free in their lending library.

2) They do post the metadata for my book.

3) A free version of my book is still available to disabled readers who have some kind of “accessible software” and who are somehow bound not to share the book with others.

Remaining concerns/questions:

1) How readers qualify for free access to this book is not well explained.

2) The copy of the book on their site is a pdf of the original 1989 paperback, and is of very poor quality. Is there “accessible software” that can actually read this text?

3) Doesn’t the decision of the Internet Archive to retain this version of my book still constitute copyright infringement, since access is being supplied to these readers without my permission?

Obviously, the appeal is to my sense of pathos. How could I possibly deny disabled readers access to my incredibly wonderful book?

On the one hand, of course I’m vulnerable to such an appeal. On the other, while I do not have an audio version of my book, is there no software that readers with disabilities can use to access a paperback or Kindle version purchased through regular channels? How can authors be sure that the readers who still have access to their books for free through the Internet Archive really need the charitable services of the Internet Archive?

I suspect that my book will not be high on the list of frequently downloaded books, whether by readers with disabilities or others. Some authors, though, may find that their books are likely to be frequently accessed.

The bottom line, in my view, is that the decision to post a book for free, whether for abled readers or readers with disabilities, should be made in conjunction with, and with the permission of, the author/copyright holder. Anything else is still a copyright violation.

What do you think?

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Filed under business of writing, Copyright, King of the Roses, novels, Publishing, Writing

What To Do If an Agent or Editor Wants Your Stuff!

When lightning strikes an author!Here’s a comprehensive, helpful post from Publishing Crawl about that fateful moment when lightning strikes! You open your inbox to find a message from an agent or editor who wants your work. Lots of good advice here!

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Filed under Finding agents, looking for editors, novels, Publishing, Working with editors, Writing

Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have?

A must-read! Chris the Story Reading Ape posts guest interviews with agents that shed strong light on what an agent’s life is like and how authors can be better partners.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

by Sangeeta Mehta  on Jane Friedman Site:

Today’s guest post is a literary agent Q&A by Sangeeta Mehta, a former acquiring editor of children’s books at Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster, who runs her own editorial services company.


By definition, literary agents are writers’ representatives. They work for writers, negotiating offers from publishers until their client deems them acceptable. But in today’s complex agent-author relationship, many writers feel that they aren’t in the position to negotiate with their agent, partly because they don’t understand the publishing landscape as well as their agent does, but also because they are wary of coming across as difficult or demanding.

Although it’s becoming more common for writers to change agents several times during the course of their careers, most would prefer to stay with one agent. But are writers really in the position to speak up if they feel that an agent isn’t honoring their obligations…

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Filed under business of writing, Finding agents, Interviews, Money!, Myths and Truths, novels, Publishing, Writing

Important Advice on Agent Contracts from Victoria Strauss

Beware of literary agents who deal in "handshakes'Lucky enough to attract interest from an agent? Victoria Strauss, on her blog Writer Beware, keeps an eye on our business for us. Check out this short, important read on how NOT to set up your relationship with that friendly agent!

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Filed under business of writing, Finding agents, Money!, novels, Publishing, Scams, Writing