At least, that’s the short version of the answer.
The slightly longer version of the answer would be: how long has the original author or speaker been dead?
This has come up a few times when I wanted to quote more than just the title of a song or poem. The rough rule of thumb for fair use in a commercial setting (your book) that I was given has been five words. If you quote more than five recognizable words, then you are getting into copyright law’s turf. The rule comes from academia, specifically what constitutes plagiarism, and a real copyright law site suggests that you can go a touch farther. In one case, I knew I didn’t have a prayer of using the lyric, because it was (and as far as I know, still is) tied up in a nasty copyright fight between a performer and the writer of the song, and the distributor. That’s the sort of fight no author wants to wade into, so I made up some lyrics that fit the mood of the song and went from there.
Making up something is always safe. Doing your own translations is also safe. Read more
What should you do with an advance, if you get one? For purely indie writers, or those who work with small presses that don’t offer advances, we dream fond dreams akin to “if I won the lottery, I would . . .”
I have gotten one advance, that for a non-fiction work. It was to pay for necessary research, and I used it for just that, after deducting 30% for Uncle Sam (social security and Medicare taxes – 22.5%, plus extra just in case.) The hefty advance countered the very, very low royalties, which makes that a bit of a backward contract compared to fiction. However, the tax problem remains constant, as does the question of “Ooh, money, what now?”
“Oh dear,” the elf on Christmas letter rotation sighed. “What this year?” Writers always wanted the impossible.
“Dear Santa,” the letter, written in tidy cursive on creamy 40 bond paper began. “I have been very good this year. I did not scream at my editor, nor have I said unkind things about other writers, unless they deserved it.”
The Elf adjusted his reading glasses and shook his head. “Not an auspicious start.”
“I only want four things this year,” the letter continued. “First, a new computer, one that will do what I want and not what I inadvertently tell it to do.”
What is your job? What qualities do you need to do that job?
As fiction writers, our job is to tell stories that readers want to read. At a minimum, we need to be creative, have a better-than-average grasp of grammar and composition, some basic research skills, and very good imaginations. Understanding people and how to stir readers’ emotions is a big plus, whether it be to make them very happy, curious, angry, sad, or fearful.
We need to connect to readers, and the more tools we have in our toolboxes to do that, the better off we are. Not every story uses the same skill set, but all the basics had better be there. Read more
I recently launched a book on the ‘Zon and checked off the applicable genre tags. And discovered that it also appears under a horror sub-genre. “But wait, this isn’t horror! Just because it has…” Um, OK, never mind. But it is still not horror. Or is it?
What separates urban fantasy (UF), paranormal fantasy, paranormal romance (PNR), dark fantasy, and horror? Besides “Does the guy on the cover have a bare chest? If so, PNR.” Although that might change next week, given how publishers keep re-doing genre conventions on covers. Read more
It never fails. You go through your manuscript. You catch the big problems (the six-foot tall bad guy becomes five-foot-one three chapters later), fix the continuity problem (She got married two books ago. What’s a fiancé doing here?), have eagle-eyed copy-editors track down the lingering hints of older sentences and verbs that had switched tenses mid-paragraph.
Your formatted text is perfect. You upload the book. All is well. You download the book. You open to the first chapter. . .
Arrrrrgh! Read more
I’m on the road without internet, so I apologize for today’s post. If you find yourself in moderation, please be patient and I or a moderator will spring you as soon as we can.
I’ve also been battling edits. Yea verily, I am proof that one should write in haste and edit/revise/tweak at leisure. Because land-o-Goshen am I having to slow myself as I work through the edits on the next release.
And to prove that the Great Author has a slightly warped sense of humor, this hit my in-box this week:
How to Know What to Cut from Your Novel.