writing business

Writers’ Rights

I am not an expert on writers’ rights. These are only my thoughts on the subject.

Lately, I have listened to podcasts and read articles about writers’ rights. Whenever a writer completes a story, an essay, poem, or other form of writing, at that moment the author holds all the rights to what they created. They decide how their work is published and in what form with what type of compensation.

Many years ago, authors granted rights to have their work printed in a book or a magazine. The fortunate ones sold movie or TV rights. There were also audio rights to sell. Today, technology has created many rights that an author can sell such as electronic or digital.

As a writer (like all writers), I have two things to sell when I finish a body of written work. The product which I wrote (novel, short story, etc.) and the rights to that work.

I would never consider selling “all rights” to my work and neither should any writer. In today’s digital world, I do not think a reputable publisher would want “all rights.” Also, there are other repercussions to selling “all rights.”

Besides owning all future money, the publisher also owns the author’s reputation. That work can appear in any publication anywhere. In the music industry, many musicians cringe at their work used to sell things they do not support.

I think rights are more valuable than money or publication. It is better not to be published rather than sell all the rights to what I wrote.

Of course, some rights could be sold on a limited basis. Afterall, the publisher needs to make money, too. However, I would always have some control over what I wrote.

Why Don’t Agents Respond to a Querying Author?

After critique groups and a professional editor, I finished editing my young adult, science fiction novel and decided to query agents before I attempted self-publishing.

Of the eighty agents I queried so far, forty percent did not respond. (Twelve percent of the rejections did not come from the agent, which is a topic for another blog post.)

I have trouble understanding why agents do not respond to a writer’s query. Yes, some agents get a lot of queries and may not have the staff to help them sort through the submissions. Yet, there are software programs that make it easy to at least email a simple, prepared rejection form.

This leads me to assume (maybe wrongly) that the lack of a response from agents is either laziness or a lack of respect (i.e. snobbery) toward writers.

When I read agents’ comments, they give the appearance of liking authors. They also encourage and advertise writers to submit a query. Then, why does an agent not send a response when rejecting a submission?

Maybe agents do not like sending rejections. But getting nothing is worse than getting a rejection. A nonresponse is a rejection with added rejection thrown in. It sends a message that not only is the submission not wanted, the writer should not have sent it.

I can go on with assumptions and guesses. In the end, I remain puzzled as to why agents would show disrespect to writers by not responding to their query. I could call some of the agents and ask them why, but they say not to call them.

I’m not letting it bother me. After eighty queries, I’m more worried about this self-publishing world I’m headed into.

Which is more important: Book Cover or Interior Design?

The outside of the book is what a reader sees first. The inside is what the reader sees the most.

Which is more important when designing a book? The cover or the interior?

Of course, both are important. But, with limited resources I hear many self-published authors focus more on the outside rather than the interior of their book. (Publishers know to do both or they don’t remain publishers for long.)

There is more to designing the interior of a book. This includes selecting a font type and size; adjusting page margins and paragraph spacing to create white space, and whether to indent paragraphs or not. Other considerations include allowing widowing (preventing a word or end of a paragraph to continue at the top of the next page) and having a new chapter start on the right.

A book’s cover includes images, shades of color, and the font type and size for the title and author’s name.

As I’ve blogged before, I disagree with people who believe the outside design of a book is critical to capturing a reader’s attention. This makes it seem the cover is more important. Over the years, I’ve talked to readers who bought a book because of the title, author, and/or genre. The cover was not that important.

To me, this means the interior of the book is more important than the outside cover. And, the interior should be more important. Readers are going to spend their time inside the book rather than on the outside. Along with the story, the interior should be one of the most important features of the book.

If I ever get my book published, I will pay attention to the cover. However, I intend to spend much more time on the interior design.

Being in a Writing Group

For almost a year, I’ve been president of a writer’s club. It’s been easy because the other board members have been an invaluable help. I’ve also been part of a critique group for several years. I encourage writers to get involved in a writer’s club and a critique group to connect with the writing community in their area and help improve their writing.

Of course, the wrong personalities can make joining a club or group a negative experience. I found these types of organizations few and easy to quit. The biggest challenge is finding a writers’ club or critique group to join.

Most communities do not have a club or group for writers. There are online ones, which I joined, too. However, the online life seems too impersonal and distant. I found meeting and interacting with people is better for my writing.

If there is no club or group, a writer could form a critique group which are small, informal, and focused on critiquing. Plus, there are lots of guidelines on how to do conduct this group. A club can be more complicated and formal with bylaws.

To start a critique group, a writer could go to the local library. Many writers come to the library seeking a group to join and libraries generally support writers. Another place to go is the English Department of a community college.

I recently went to a small writer’s conference where I met three students from the local community college. With no creative writing classes offered, they formed their own critique group with help from an English teacher. It quickly became several critique groups.

I have another year left as president. The club has been a great way to make connections with the writing community. Also, my critique group has been a great way to improve my writing. Writers should meet other writers.