Author Etiquette - The Future of Your Work

by Jennifer 28. November 2018 12:51

Every author when they start a story--whether it’s a flash piece or 180 page novel--should know the future of the characters within that story. The start, the now, is something different than the ending, whether it takes five minutes or five centuries to end. The author knows the future, but the characters do not.


Unfortunately, in the real world, no one knows exactly what will happen to you, family, or friends, except everyone dies sometimes. That’s why it’s important to not only think, but to plan for that eventuality. Even if you are a beginning author, with only a single publishing credit to your name, making a will, establishing a trust and who is responsible, and planning for your literary estate, should be just as important as writing those stories.


Planning for that is complicated and many times you will need to involve a lawyer or someone who is knowledgeable about literary estates or both. This post is is the very bare bones basics to make you aware of what you might need. This is not legal advice. For everything else please contact a professional.


Reprints and Collections

Planning for “THE END” isn’t all gloom and doom and loads of paperwork. The start of your literary estate begins after your contracts expire on your stories. Many newer authors are surprised to learn that you can sell a story several times, and in fact earn more than the original sale with reprints.


Reprints are story sales that happen after you’ve sold first rights and your contract on that story expires. Usually the first time a publisher purchases and publishes a story, they obtain first rights. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a contract that states how long this is (which can last from 3 months to a few years). Once it expires, you are free to resell that story to another publisher.


Many times authors sell these to anthologies or keep a select few for personal collections. Anthologies are stories from various authors, but a collection is stories from only one author. Anthologies and collections are published and then the cycle begins again. Over the course of years, a single story can net an amazing amount of money.


Wills

For those not in the know, a will is a legal document that outlines how some of your property is distributed. This includes your written works, published and unpublished, emails, hand written notes and other writing related items. If you do not have a will, when you die the state you live in has rules on what happens to your possessions. Sometimes, those you love have no say in what happens or any subsequent money that is earned later.


Wills can define who is in charge of your estate, where your possessions go, whom receives property or money, and what happens to your work after you die. It’s not a thing many people like to think of. But it’s better to have it planned out for now, rather than have your family members be responsible for it after your death.


There are a few different kinds of wills that you need to be aware of.

  • A self-proving will, one that is written out and signed by witnesses (not mentioned in the will itself) is the most familiar and is recognized by law.

  • A holographic will is one written out and signed by the entity. Courts rarely uphold this type of will.

  • Oral wills are those spoken aloud. Legally they are the least recognized form of will.

  • Living wills are a set of medical care instructions in case you are unable to express those yourself.


Everyone should have some sort of self-proving will and a living will.  In that will there should be lists of property of sentimental and monetary value, along with details on the distribution. This should all be overseen by an executor of your choice.


Literary Estate

The next piece of the to do list is planning your literary estate. If you are an author, your work can still help support your loved ones, IF you plan accordingly. While we might think literary estates are for famous authors, but if you are indie, have several books and stories in print, or are about to, you need to make plans.


Your literary estate consists of several parts that can depend on what kind of publications you are doing. You need an administrator, someone to handle the copyright, physical notes, income streams and other things. They need to understand copyright laws, how the publishing world works, and have the ability to make contracts on your behalf. Your agent or an author who is well versed in this field can assist you in finding someone to fill this role.


Copyrights and Public Domain

What you are protecting with your will and literary estate is the ability of your chosen individuals to collect income from your work. The copyrights only last a number of years before other people can legally borrow your characters and your world. Currently, a work slides into public domain 50 to 70 years (depending on the first copyright) after your death. While that might seem like a long time, it can greatly affect the income of those you care about especially if you die young.


Updates and Changes

Once you write out your will, you can make changes, in fact, you SHOULD make changes. Your situation with family members, relationships, friends, and children will impact your life and should be reflected in the documents that state where your resources go. Some changes are simple, amendments or notes that are added to the original document (witnessed and signed of course). Other changes might require a new document. Don’t be afraid to make major changes when you need to as SOON as you realize a situation has changed. Don’t wait until later, because there might not be a later.


Preparing for death is a pretty somber thought, however it will help your family and friends out later. To find out more visit with a lawyer, consult other writing professionals, and check out these sites and publications.

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Author Etiquette - Working for Exposure: Not Worth the Effort

by Jennifer 1. November 2018 09:54

Life is hard enough as it is especially if you are any type of creative. Most authors have regular jobs and have to squeeze in time for writing, editing, and promotion in between work, family, and other activities. The few hours they get to dedicate to words pass much too quickly, and the pay they receive from their work doesn’t pay the bills. Yet, they write, rewrite, submit, and start again hoping that someone out there will enjoy their work.

 

Unfortunately, there are other people out there who try to take advantage of this dogged determination. Some are predatory publishers and agents. Others are people who copy a manuscript and try to publish is as their own. And then there are those who offer to pay the creative in exposure.

 

Exposure isn’t always a bad thing. Vaccines expose the body to an inert virus or bacteria in order to produce an immune response. Exposure to different cultures and ideas helps develop empathy and broader sense of community. People expose themselves to a variety of things such as environments, ideas, and foods to increase tolerance, expand their knowledge, and learn about different cultures. All of these are good things.

 

But when it comes to creative work, exposure probably isn’t in the best interest of the author.

 

Offers of Work

Most people simply do not understand the time and effort authors put into their work. Writing stories is difficult and takes a tremendous amount of skill. It can take years of practice before an author actually sells a story. Many authors take workshops,college classes, and join critique groups in order to improve their stories. Then they take on reading inside and outside their genre to learn to break down story structures, character arcs, and plots along with reading just for fun.

 

For some outside the writing sphere, this seems like more like a hobby than a second job. This could be why authors are approached for exposure work. (Among other reasons.)

 

Now some of these “opportunities” could be honest people looking for volunteers to assist on a community project, getting a newsletter for (insert public service) off the ground, or simply someone who does not understand the difference between doing things for free and doing something for some sort of payment. (Insert cringing shrug here.)

 

But those types are very few. Mostly when an author is approached for “exposure opportunities” the person is very well aware that they are asking someone to do something for free. And many times the person doing the ask will be the only one who benefits.

 

Negative Exposure

Case #1

An author sells a few short stories. They are then approached by a friend who is trying to launch a website and was wondering if the author would write some stuff for them. The author wants to help out the friend and starts writing. After several time-consuming revisions, the author’s work is published on the site, where the byline is listed as the friend. The website makes some cash but nothing flows to the author. The friend wants more writing, but in a different style and subject. The author spends quite a bit of time writing for this website, without pay, and sets their own work aside…

 

Case #2

Author is approached by an editor or publisher who has seen their work. They want the author’s stories, however, they can’t pay except for royalties (after artwork, editing, etc. has been paid out.) Author agrees to write a story which is then accepted. Author never sees a penny.

 

Case #3

Creative (of any type) is approached to work on a project. It could be anything from writing flyers, producing artwork, or any number of jobs. The project sounds exciting. The creative asks about pay. The answer is “nothing but you’ll get lots of exposure.”

 

In all of these cases the author loses out on time and potential money. The promise of exposure is a hollow promise. While people might see the author’s work, more often than not, none of these opportunities are going to pan out more than a few curious offers at the same sort of work usually without pay.

 

Positive Exposure

Can exposure be a good thing? Of course it can. If the author is approached for a charity anthology, work for a portfolio, internship, or is willing to donate their time for a project they feel worthwhile. Even For-The-Love publications (publications that offer no pay for publication) can be a great opportunity to an author, especially one just starting out. Internships allow authors to see a different view of whatever industry they are working for, a chance to get to work with key people, and a line on a resume.

 

Exposure can lead to bigger things, BUT you must be aware of the pitfalls and may need to set boundaries on a project first.

 

Some simple guidelines for exposure work:

1- Be aware that there is no pay.

2- Be aware of the time needed for the project. Set a firm limit. When it hits that limit, it’s time to either renegotiate, demand some sort of payment, or walk away.

3- Be sure you have a byline or other acknowledgement of your work.

4- Have some sort of finished project for your portfolio.

5- Have a contract stating the terms and conditions of the work, the time you are willing to donate, and other important details.

 

Offering Work for Exposure

If you happen to be in a position that you are approaching authors or other creatives about unpaid work, please tread carefully. First, many authors are going to flat out refuse as they know that unpaid work undercuts their budget. Second, they may not agree with your project. Third, they don’t have the time.

 

Offering up at least a token payment (flat fee, printed version of the publication, other sort of compensation) is often the best choice for attracting quality authors. A second option would be to ask about a reprint especially if you are working on a charity anthology. Authors often have an older story out of print that could use new readers.

 

Generally, working for exposure isn’t good for an author. Too much time and effort often goes into projects that do not benefit them. Those who approach them often aren’t the type to appreciate the hard work and the time needed to create a quality project. Although there are exceptions (as to most rules) exposure work should usually be avoided.

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