Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
* To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
* To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
* To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
* To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
* To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio visual work.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use," which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a "compulsory license" under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright law or write to the Copyright Office.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, first-time copyright infringement cases can carry a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. If you get caught more than once in a copyright-infringement case, you could face additional fines of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT. Ideas and facts are not protected by copyright. – it is the tangible expression of facts and ideas that copyright law protects. Subsequently, titles, slogans, names, and short word combinations are not generally eligible for copyright protection.
In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In practice, if you're only quoting a few lines from a full-length book, you are most likely within fair use guidelines, and do not need to seek permission. Most quotations, because of their short size, are not considered copyright infringement because they fall under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law. But to emphasize: every case is different. If you're at all concerned about infringement, check with an intellectual property attorney before you publish.
A work that is “in the Public Domain” is a work that is completely free for anyone to use in any way they like. It has entered the Public Domain either because the term of the copyright expired or the work was never covered by copyright in the first place. An example of this would be the works of William Shakespeare.
If a book, song, movie, or artwork is in the public domain, then it is not protected by intellectual property laws (copyright, trademark, or patent laws)—which means it's free for you to use without permission. The general rule is that any work published before 1923 is in the public domain. However, works published after 1977 will not fall into the public domain until 70 years after the death of author, or, for corporate works, anonymous works, or works for hire, 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.
In case you're wondering, the "Happy Birthday" song is indeed, in the public domain.
Generally, you can publish and sell public domain eBooks. ... For example, to sell on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you typically must add original content to the public domain book, such as illustrations or a study guide. Quotes are considered intellectual property, which is protected under the law. ... When a quote passes into the public domain, it's almost always because it's old enough that its copyright has expired.
It is a good practice to discuss your copyrights with your attorney and add them to your will or trust. Even though the copyright doesn't expire until 70 years after the death of the author, your life may be prematurely cut short, and then your heirs will need to have access to your copyright. Ask your attorney to draft a simple codicil to your will or trust which assigns all your copyrights of published and "works in process" to either a specific individual, organization, trust, or in general, to your future heirs. You can't predict if your work will become more valuable after your death... but you can protect your interests long after you've "shuffled off this mortal coil."
Learn more at the US Copyright office website: https://www.copyright.gov
Since computers became the "go to" tool for my profession, I've been searching for software programs that would help me to write more effectively. Over the years, I've tested dozens of options, investigating them all like a kid test-driving all the toys at the store before deciding which one to bring home. As a Passionate Plotter, my software requirements include a long list of "must haves"; things that simply using Microsoft Office alone can't provide. (Although for some, MS Word works just fine - no disrespect intended).
On my "short" list are the following:
For all of this, since 2004, I've been using a program called "Power Structure"; and it works beautifully, for me. I've tried nearly every other piece of writing software I could find... always looking for the better writing mousetrap, but could find none. A few days ago, however, I came upon something new. It's called Causality.
This is an interesting combination of outline writing and visual writing. It's been designed specifically for screenplay writers, but certainly, novelists could use it as well. It has all of my "must haves" listed above, as well as other features, and a customized color coding system. If you're a visual writer, this is a nice thing.
Imagine the process of index cards tacked to your wall. You write a little bit about a scene or a plot point on each card, and move it around the wall until it gets exactly where you want it. You add more cards underneath with extra details and dialogue, and group the rows of cards into ordered scenes. Once your wall is filled, you write. This is exactly what Causality does, only DIGITALLY... Oh, and you don't have to wait to write, you can draw up your cards and fill in the writing holes as you go - or double-back and get to them when the inspiration hits. It's kind of a nifty program.
As I said, I spent several hours working in this environment, and learning it's nuances. It's pretty cool. It's very adaptive, in that you can move things around on a whim to fit your storyline, all while keeping your story timeline intact. The color-coding is a great feature, keeping you more organized without too much effort. It also gives you a space to create a "mind map" version of character connections, so you can see visually how each of your main and subplot characters are interconnected. That's a cool thing, if your writing process depends on visuals.
A particularly nifty feature is a thing they call "dependencies". Think "If/Then" statements on steroids. Essentially, it gives you the ability to tag plot points to each other in order of occurrence in your storyline. Imagine tagging that your bank robbers have to rob the bank BEFORE they can jump in the getaway car for their escape. If the escape should happen before jumping in the car, the program alerts you to that dependency and reminds you to fix it. Be clear, YOU have to set the dependencies, the software doesn't intuitively "sense" those for you... but it does keep good track of them.
This program doesn't give you leading questions to build your book, or help with setting or character development. But it handles separating dialogue and scene transitions especially well. Another thing it does very well is give you the ability to work on Flashback and Present tense storylines simultaneously, with multiple timelines in parallel. This is super-helpful if you have a story that's heavy in flashback memories.
After spending a lot of time digging through all it does, I have come to the conclusion that, sadly, it's not the right tool for me. I'm not a visual writer. I don't think in pictures, or visual elements. I think in words and phrases, and tend to focus on the emotion and intellect that sentences derive, rather the bird's eye view of the way a story looks. Mapping programs, like this one, don't work as well for me. I found it to be clunky and more work than it was worth. I was spending too much time trying to make my story "look" good rather that writing a good story. This is no fault of the software... this modality simply isn't the way my brain functions.
I will continue to work in Power Structure, probably until I die or it does. But I'm glad I looked into Causality, because now I'm aware of another software approach that I can recommend to writer friends... because I know we all work differently, and it's nice to have options.
I recommend you check it out, test drive the free version (more features requires a monthly subscription or one-time fee), and see if it works better for you than what you're already using. Be aware, however, it only works on desktops and laptops. They do not have a tablet or smartphone version just yet.
After you check it out, I'd be interested to hear your opinions, you can leave them in the comments below.
***I am not being paid a fee to sample Causality, or endorse Power Structure. I just like to share new things as I learn about them.
Collaborative energy produces some of the most extraordinary art. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to watch this process unfold before us, giving the work greater meaning, allowing us to connect on a deeper level with the specific nuances of the artistic process, even if we're not actively creative ourselves.
We're accustomed to watching this innovation with musicians. The sessions are often recorded and published to YouTube and other Internet access sites, so we can be "a fly on the wall", taking it all in from an Omniscient Narrator POV. We watch attentively as the drummer starts with a beat. The bassist adds to the journey, inviting us to walk the rhythmic path. The keyboardist offers a melody. The guitarist brings in a riff to fill the gaps. As a team, they construct the lyrics that erupt in a beautiful conflagration of melody and harmony. Together, their collaboration brings a fuller, richer sound and a song that attaches to the brain and speaks to the soul. Musicians call it "jamming" and if the looks on the musician's faces and their laughter is any indication, they have a great time doing it.
Writers can, and some do, work in the same way... collaborating on wondrous pieces of imagination to entertain and lend empathetic insight to readers. They begin with an idea or a prompt - which could be just about anything - a photograph, a small piece of prose, a piece of music, or a piece of art. The idea makes its way around the table, and slowly, defiantly, and through boisterous conversation, a story begins to emerge. Each writer then constructs characters who begin to breathe, speak, and react interdependently. The team then begins to layer in subplots, and sprinkle in secrets that will either be suppressed or revealed. The writers carefully construct the "big bang" of the story, hurling literary meteorites left and right, leaving behind an impact crater readers can't ignore. The group then carefully collects loose pieces, and the remnants are deftly connected, when at last, The End is achieved. Writers call it "workshoping". Many writers enjoy conspiring in this way, like musicians. It's an exercise in creative exploration that enhances craft and improves time spent in solitary creation on individual projects.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a part of this process... or be a witness to it? This is your opportunity to Watch It Write! We're building a collaborative writing group, and we'll add it as programming to Indie Reads TV. We will gather a new group of five or six writers each month, and meet once a week to collaborate on a fiction project. At the end of the month, we'll have a finished novelette or novella, ready to be edited and go to press. Those of you at home or in our studio audience, will have a "Fly On The Wall" view of the process. And, if you're in the studio audience (we have room for about twenty Watch It Write spectators), you may have an opportunity to join in the collaboration, too!
Our target date to begin is May 2020. If you're interested, fill out the sign up form below, and we'll embark on this new adventure together. Everyone who signs up will be contacted by April 1, 2020 to confirm your collaboration, and receive final details regarding dates and times.
National Novel Writing Month is over, and those who participated and "won" now have a first draft of their book sitting prominently on their writing desk. Enthusiasm is at an all-time high, as writers imagine the prospect of becoming an Author in the New Year. You, too, may have been struck by this euphoria, standing at the author starting line. You'll be ready to leap forward at the starting gun, with the support of your loved one and that encouraging midnight kiss. Although writing a book is a huge accomplishment; it’s also a LOT of work. The demands of your Muse, your characters, and your readers are not to be taken lightly.
Publishing a book is akin to getting married and having children. The process requires your full commitment… emotionally, intellectually, and financially. You’ll have to coordinate your editorial sessions around family and work obligations, and you’ll need to budget money for publishing and marketing.
Taking a self-inventory to assess your mental, emotional, and financial preparedness is essential. Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Whether Self-Publishing, Indie Publishing, or going the Traditional route, it’s an arduous process, and a time-consuming one, at that. Be certain that this is the path you truly want to travel.
There are ten basic questions you should ask yourself before you begin the madness that is publishing. Consider each one carefully. When it’s all over, and you still think you want to publish a book… by all means, jump into that pond with both flippers!
1.Can I publish on my own... Or do I need professional guidance?
2.What is my budget for this project? Am I willing to pay additional fees for additional services?
3.Does the publisher offer a contract? Am I happy with the royalty return rate?
4.How important is “Right of First Refusal” to me? How much control do I want over the publication process?
5.How much editorial assistance does my book require? Does the publisher offer a free manuscript review to assess the work to be done?
6.How supportive is my editor going to be throughout the process? Mail, phone, in-person meetings, email?
7.How much time is reasonable to go to press?
8.Have I reviewed copies of books this publisher has produced, and do they meet my expectations?
9.Are there reviews from others who have worked with this publisher; both positive and negative?
10.How important is marketing to me? Am I committed to being fully engaged in the process?
Occasionally, I’m asked if books have a rating system, like films. We all know that reader audiences are defied mostly by age group, but there’s not really a well-known content rating system for books, like there is for film, television, and video games. So I decided to do some research on the question.
The film rating system works like this, and this is a good general guide for writing books, as well.
G = general audiences, all ages.
PG = parental guidance suggested, some material may not be suitable for children
PG-13 = parents are strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under age 13
R = restricted, children under age 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian
NC-17 = no children under age 17 admitted
However, it doesn’t really speak to specific content. So, I did some digging and was surprised at how little I found. There isn't a “required industry standard” system; but I did find a group that is working to help clarify the answer, if you’re curious.
Check out the nifty book rating community I discovered at My Book Cave. Their website states, “My Book Ratings is free for everyone to use or to rate books. This database is for the community by the community. Please join the effort! To maintain the quality of our community ratings, you do need to log in to rate books.”
The information I found on this site was extremely helpful. They do an excellent job of providing guidelines for rating books for readers based on content. Their rating system allows regular readers to rate books based on content, so you always know what you're about to read. Their ratings include All Ages, Mild, Mild Plus, Moderate, Moderate Plus, Adult and Adult Plus.
There may be other resources out there that provide similar information, but this was the most concise one I could find. I’ve love their definitions and explanations listed on their ratings website; and moving forward, I’m going to include this rating system and their icons in all my books and marketing materials, as well as recommend that the authors I help publish do so, as well. When accessibility is key to building a readership, it is in an author’s best interest to help readers identify content – especially if you want readers to recommend your books or give them as gifts.
Please visit the site at https://mybookcave.com/mybookratings/meet-the-ratings/?ref=4ltrkd7hu3 for a greater understanding of their rating parameters and methodologies.
There’s a lively discussion that surrounds the choice to use a pen name or not. Some authors swear by them, others don’t need them. Here’s the discussion, in a nutshell.
Pen names can be helpful if you write children’s books as well as mature genres. It can be helpful to have different personas to promote to different audiences, lest you offend a reader, and they put all of your books back on the shelf. People can be quick to jump to conclusions and generalize; pen names can stave off some of those repercussions. Pseudonyms are also helpful to those authors who want to maintain a distance from the limelight; those who may want to create an air of mystique or build in anonymity so that their families and friends aren’t over-taxed by an author’s celebrity or notoriety. All are good arguments for utilizing an author alter ego.
Pseudonyms can also cause potential problems. Imagine attending a book signing event… someone calls your name, you don’t answer. Or imagine the embarrassment of signing the wrong name on the inside cover of a fan’s book. Consider the complications of having social media and a website with two (or more) different names; just the time factor alone would make me cringe. The worse case? A royalty check written out to the wrong name!
What’s my personal take? I’m proud of everything I write, and I’ll never hide my accomplishments under a false identity. Readers may or may not buy my books because I write in a genre they don't approve of... and I endorse their freedom to choose without remorse or second-guessing.
Also, there's something "old world" to me about my name. You see, I got married, for the first time, later in life, my son was eighteen, and walked me down the aisle at our wedding. I'm progressive about some things, but more traditional about others, and taking my husband's name was one of those things that I kept a traditional viewpoint on. Even after forty-plus years of carrying my family's surname, I thought it was an important statement about my evolving identity to replace my old last name with my husband's.
I think that it's important to reflect this evolution on my book covers, too. Since marrying, I'm not entirely the person I was with my maiden name... and my writing isn't the same, either. I felt responsible to carry that tradition, and for me, it felt right. However, I must tell you, it took me nearly a full year of marriage to remember to respond when someone called me "Diana Kathryn Plopa"; and that was EVERYWHERE I went. At this stage of my life, I'm not sure I could unlearn that; and I can tell you I certainly don't want to un-learn it. Imagine the confusion I'd be creating for myself, trying to remember when I have to be who. That's more of a kerfuffle that I'd like to deal with, thank you.
Drake, on the other hand, has a much easier time of things. He has a clan name, rather than a surname - and Mallard is pretty easy to remember!
This is by far my favorite writing conference. Each year that I attend I am never disappointed with the high caliber of organization, key note speakers, and break-out sessions. This year was no different... except that this year, I was granted the honor of being a presenter and panelist! I was so very pleased to be selected to present a workshop on "Building An Indie Publishing Company". I appreciate everyone who attended, and I am grateful for your kindness.
This conference focused on the nuances of Self or Independent Publishing. There's a lot of information out there, and Conference Leader, Michael Dwyer, was able to pull some of the best minds in the Indie Publishing world together to empty their brains for those who wanted to learn more. I was by far, not the strongest speaker, but I was pleased to share the day with Mel Corrigan, Sylvia Hubbard, Lev Raphael, Coleen Gleason, Weam Namou, and a fantastic collection of Michigan's Indie Authors.
Presentations included "Why I'm A Self-Published Author", Publishing from Indie Author to International Distribution"; "Is Self-Publishing Right For You", "Self-Publishing: The Numbers", and much more. The day was full of fun, encouragement, information, and creative inspiration.
More than reasonably priced at $160, with lunch included, this is one of the best-value conferences I've ever attended. Usually, after an event like this, I'm pleased if I go home with 10% of useful information. With Rochester Writers', I always go home with 90% or more useful information. If you're an author, or an aspiring author, I highly recommend that you attend. Held twice per year, once in Spring and again in Autumn (October 19, 2019, this year) at Oakland University, you'll walk away knowing more than you did before, and surged with energy to finish your book or perhaps write another one!
A Huge Thank You goes out to Michael Dwyer and Sonya Julie for continuing to present such a valuable resource to Michigan Writers!
Learn more about Rochester Writers at their website: www.RochesterWriters.com
Take into consideration these factors when thinking about the revenue your writing career may generate:
Writers, below are some fabulous websites that we think might benefit you and your writing projects. Some are tools, others are for research, and some are great resources for other information. We’re not being compensated in any way for sharing these links with you… we simply thought they might be of interest. When you have time, we hope you’ll check them out! WritersDigest.com - Probably one of the best all-around websites for writers, Writer’s Digest offers information on writing better and getting published. The site also includes community forums, blogs and huge lists of resources for writers. Their sister site, WritersDigestShop.com is a fantastic place to buy all the resources you could ever need on craft – from books, to CD, to webinars. They have a resource for ever type of writer in the world. (And, if you click the button on our website, you’ll get a deal on shipping!)
Merriam-Webster.com - Merriam Webster is the perfect place to look up words and find information. The site offers a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, podcasts, word games and a lot of other things that may be of interest to writers and word-lovers.
Publaw.com – The Publishing Law Center – This site also provides important legal information for writers. Topics include licenses, trademarks, copyright, intellectual property and contracts.
NaNoWriMo.org - National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo, challenges writers to pen 50,000 word novels between November 1 and November 31 every year. The site provides articles, forums and all kinds of motivators to help them get the work done.
WritersFM.com - Writers FM is an online radio station created by writers, for writers — streaming LIVE 24/7. It broadcasts author interviews, writing prompts, upbeat music and mini mysteries throughout the day.
Behindthename.com – Behind the Surname is a website for learning about all aspects of the etymology and history of surnames. Its scope is broad: all surnames from all cultures and periods are eligible to be included in the main name database.
Babynames.com - Need to name one of your characters? BabyNames.com lets you search for names by gender, origin and letter.
Etymonline.com - This is a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions; they’re explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago. The dates beside a word indicate the earliest year for which there is a surviving written record of that word (in English, unless otherwise indicated). This should be taken as approximate, especially before about 1700, since a word may have been used in conversation for hundreds of years before it turns up in a manuscript that has had the good fortune to survive the centuries.
Catholic-saints.info - List of Patron Saints and Patronage – The term ‘Saints’ is used in Christian religions to describe a person who is perceived of being an example of great holiness and virtue and considered capable of interceding with God on behalf of a person who prayed to them. A person who has died and has been declared a saint by canonization. The Roman Catholic Church has an official process for creating saints.
Exploreforensics.co.uk - For many people, forensics is a fascinating but confusing field that is full of mystery and intrigue. Whether it’s learning more about how criminal evidence is collected and stored or finding out how the legal system uses this information, everyone should explore the world of forensics.
Seventhsanctum.com – A wonderfully user-friendly tool that helps you to create names (and more) for just about every genre you can think of… Anime/Manga; Beings; Characters; Combat; Darkness/Evil; Equipment; Humor; Magic; Media/Fandom; Names; Organizations; Setting; Skills/Abilities/Traits; Superheroes/Sentai; Technology; Writing.
Onlineconversion.com - Convert just about anything to anything else. Over 5,000 units, and 50,000 conversions.
Howstuffworks.com – This is a fabulous research site for any writer who needs to verify that the process or effect or affect they are writing about is actually plausible. They cover nearly every topic, Adventure; Auto; Culture; Entertainment; Home & Garden; Money; Science and Technology.
Duotrope.com – Duotrope is a $5/month subscription-based service for writers that offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, and non-fiction markets, a calendar of upcoming deadlines, submissions trackers, and useful statistics compiled from the millions of data points they’ve gathered on the publishers we list. They cover anthologies, journals, contests and a host of other “call for author” opportunities.
SFWA.org - Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America – The SFFWA, or SFWA for short-short, is one of the most effective and widely-recognized of all non-profit writers’ organizations. Members have access to all manner of resources and publications and can benefit from the protection offered by the SFWA.
PW.org – Poets and Writers is the largest non-profit organization that serves creative writers. Their website is full of resources, providing information on everything from job listings to writing contests.
Throughout all of literature, there are only twenty major plots. Don't believe me? Read this list and then, the next time you read a book or watch a film, you'll immediately be able to make the connection... no matter the time it was written, or the author! Of course, there are minor differences in all writing - but these are the foundations where everyone begins.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!