Wednesday, November 30, 2016


In addition to all the practical reasons anyone has for making a will, as a writer you need to be concerned about what is going to happen to the copyrights in your works. They could be your most valuable assets. Because any copyrights you hold will last for your lifetime, plus 50 years (if copyrighted since January 1, 1978), a copyright is something you can leave to your heirs in your will, and they can collect royalties or reprint fees long after you are gone.

Since there are any number of ways to divide these rights, you will want to think about it and make your wished known in your will. Since a copyright embodies a number of different rights, you can transfer them in their entirety or divide them between a number of different heirs as multiple shares. For example, a novelist might leave the dramatic rights to one heir and the translation rights to another. You could give the rights for the whole 50 years (after your death) to one person, or it could be divided, giving the first 25 years to one and the second 25 years to another. You actually can do it any way you want as long as there are clear guidelines to be followed. When you are having a lawyer prepare your will, be sure to let them know you want to make provisions for your copyrights and supply all the information needed to do so. Any such choices you fail to make now, the state will make for you later.

Monday, November 28, 2016


        All publishing rights are negotiable, so don’t be afraid to negotiate with publishers who ask for all rights when you only want to sell first or one-time rights. If a publisher wants a piece badly enough, they will usually be willing to negotiate.

        Even if you sell all rights to an article, you can retain book rights if you think you might want to include it in a book later. In the cover letter to the editor, or in the upper, right-hand corner of the manuscript put, “Book rights Reserved” under whatever other rights you are offering.

        Don’t forget that just because a publisher offers to buy a piece, you do not have to accept the offer if the rights arrangement or payment are not acceptable to you.

        When you and the publisher have come to an agreement about what rights they are buying, preferably first or one-time rights, be sure to watch out for any statements printed on the back of your check that indicate that signing the check conveys the transfer of all rights (or any rights not agreed on). If that happens, return the check and ask that that statement be removed. Some have suggested that if you write “for deposit only” on the back of the check and do not sign it, that you are not agreeing to it. That will not work. Simply cashing the check implies your agreement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


The terms for when and how you are to be paid for a book are all covered in your book contract. It should indicate that you will be paid royalties once or twice a year (contract says which), and by what specific dates. Be sure to provide yourself with reminders so you can follow-up if the payments are not forthcoming when due. Since most publishers make these payments 90 days after the end of the accounting period, there is no reason for royalty payments to be late. If you have an agent, it will his/her job to deal with this kind of problem.

Following are some typical problems and how to deal with them yourself:

  1. If your royalty payment does not arrive on time, call the editor you worked with on the book and ask them to check into it for you. Follow up with a letter to the editor (reiterating your phone conversation) and another letter to the accounting department asking if the royalty payments have been sent out, and if so, letting them know you have not received yours. If you have been paid on time in earlier accounting periods, assume this is an oversight or lost check. If this is your first royalty payment, be more aggressive—although it could be that the royalty account has not been set up or set up correctly. In any case, you will want to correct any problems immediately.
  2. If this is a reputable publisher, the editor will likely follow through to correct any problems and be sure you receive your check. If the editor is evasive or uncooperative, you may have more to worry about. Don’t let the situation slide—follow through immediately and persistently until you are paid.
  3. Most book publishers pay on time, so if you have trouble getting paid it is usually a good sign that the publishing house is in financial trouble. If that is the case, it is usually best to follow the “squeaky wheel” principle. Let the publisher know that if you do not receive payment within two weeks, you will take legal action to collect.
  4. In some cases you may be paid on time, but you have serious questions about whether your sales were reported accurately or you were paid according to the terms of your contract. Always study your royalty statement carefully, and ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Royalty statements are typically impossible to interpret, so don’t be intimidated. Ask those questions until you get satisfactory answers.
  5. If the answers aren’t satisfactory—and you suspect something is amiss—your contract should give you the option of paying an accountant to audit the publisher’s books in relationship to your royalty account. If the auditor finds a discrepancy of 15% or more (or the percentage indicated in your contract), they must pay that, plus the cost of the audit. Always check your contract to see what your options are (and try to get this clause added to any of your contracts before you sign them).
  6. Occasionally the problem in payment may be a difference of opinion about how the contract is interpreted, or you may discover that they are not abiding by the terms of the contract in calculating your royalties. For example, the contract may stipulate that if they sell books at a greater than 50% discount to bookstores or distributors, that you will get only half the usual royalty on those sales. That is a typical clause, but your publisher may be offering that higher discount on all sales to avoid paying you full royalties. You can challenge them in such a case, especially if the contract indicates that this is to be an untypical discount. It is best to have it written right into the contract that such discounts will be limited to a certain percentage of sales, but you can still likely win in court if the publisher is not living up to an industry standard or an author’s logical expectations.
  7. Since most publishing contracts today do not allow you to sue your publisher, if you get no satisfaction in collecting your royalties or resolving differences of opinion, you may have no recourse except arbitration (which most contracts indicate).
  8. Any time you have problems of any sort with your contract, always check the terms of your contract to see how to proceed. If legal action is called for, contact an attorney who is well versed in literary matters, and understands how the publishing industry operates.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Any writing not having copyright protection is said to be in the public domain. That would generally
be written material that either never had copyright protection, or for which the copyright has run out. Before the new law went into effect, a piece of writing could be copyrighted for 28 years, and be renewed for another 28 years—or a total of 56 years. In 1978 the total length of a copyright was changed to the author’s lifetime, plus 50 years. Note that all copyrights are extended to the end of the final year. For example, if a copyright went into effect on June 15, the copyright would be good through December 31st of the 50th year after the author’s death.

If a copyright was in its first 28 years of copyright registration when the new law went into effect in 1978, in the 28th year that copyright could be extended for 47 more years, for a total of 75. For that reason, anything that is 75 years old or older is always in public domain. When determining if the copyright has run out on something you wish to use, simply deduct 75 from the current year. If it was published prior to that date it is always in public domain.

Once a piece of writing is in public domain, it can never be copyrighted again. That is the reason you now see so many classic books or stories published by a number of different publishers. Since the material is in public domain, anyone can publish it without permission.

What Kinds of Materials are in Public Domain?

Following is a list of most of the materials that will be in public domain:

  1. Anything published more than 75 years ago.
  2. Anything published more than 28 years ago, if the registration wasn’t renewed.
  3. Anything published prior to 1978 without a proper copyright notice.
  4. Anything created by federal government employees as a part of their job.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


If you write about other people, you need to be aware of the privacy laws and what affect they have on such stories. Although we often hear of celebrities who have sued for invasion of privacy, the most ordinary citizen is protected by the same privacy laws that protect the celebrity—protected from unauthorized use of their name, likeness or personal history. The problem is the ongoing erosion of and changes in those privacy laws.

I would like to be able to give you a simple list of guidelines—a map of sorts-- to carry you through this minefield, but unfortunately the map is as full of holes as the minefield. In each case that comes before the courts, it comes down to how the judge decides to interpret privacy laws against the rights inherent in the first Amendment.

The rights of the individual will almost always win out when what is published is very personal or intimate—and the purpose in publishing it is wholly unworthy—or if what is written is obviously inaccurate.

Generally, the law says that “one who is part of a public scene may be lawfully photographed as part of that scene,” but if the person is being shown in a negative light within the scene, it could be an invasion of their privacy.

Another problem for the writer or photographer is if what they say or photograph gives the reader a false impression of the subject. For example, using the photo of a woman to illustrate someone else’s story of indiscretions—giving the impression that she was the guilty party.

Suits for invasion of privacy are not all that common, and if a suit is brought, the plaintiff must prove there was actual malice intended on the part of the writer or photographer. So generally, if you use your common sense, do your homework, always check your sources, and write only what you know to be true, revealing identities only when necessary, you won’t need to worry about being sued.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


General Guidelines/Addresses for Scripture Quotations

Contemporary English Version and Today’s English Version, American Bible Society, CEV or TEV Permissions Department, 1865 Broadway, New York NY 10023.

The Living Bible (TLB) or Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT), Tyndale House Publishers, PO Box 80, Wheaton IL 60189-0080: You may quote up to 250 verses without permission as long as they do not comprise more than 20% of the total text of the work in which they are being quoted or a complete book of the Bible.

New American Bible (NAB), Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 3211 4th St. N.E., Washington DC 20017-1194 (Catholic).

New American Standard (NAS) and New American Standard Update, The Lockman Foundation, 900 S. Euclid St., La Habra CA 90631, 1-800-257-NASB. Website: You may quote up to 500 verses without permission as long as they do not amount to a complete book of the Bible, or comprise more than 25% of the total text of the work in which they are being quoted.

New Century Version Bible, Word, Inc., Permissions Dept., 545 Marriott Dr., Ste. 750, Nashville TN 37214.

New Geneva Bible, Attn: Permissions, Foundation for Reformation, 715 Vassar St., Orlando FL 32804, 407-839-0021.

New International Version (NIV) and Amplified Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, NIV Permission Director, 5300 Patterson S.E., Grand Rapids MI 49530: This is the most popular version among Christian periodical publishers. You may quote up to 500 verses without permission as long as they do not amount to a complete book of the Bible, or comprise more than 25% of the total text of the work in which they are being quoted. Note: Zondervan holds the publication and electronic rights to the NIV and can grant permission for these usage only. To receive permission to use the NIV for any other usage (recording, filming, video, etc.) direct your request to: International Bible Society, Attn: NIV Permission Director, 1820 Jet Stream Dr., Colorado Springs CO 80921.

New King James Version (NKJV), Thomas Nelson Publishers, Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, PO Box 141000, 501 Nelson Pl., Nashville TN 37214-1000: You may quote up to 1,000 verses without permission as long as they do not amount to 50% of a complete book of the Bible, or comprise 50% or more of the total text of the work in which they are being quoted.

Revised Standard Version (RSV) and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), The National Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Dr., New York NY 10015.

Scofield Bible, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York NY 10016-4314.

Monday, November 14, 2016


It is important to know that all paraphrases of the Bible are books with copyright protection just like other books. The exception is the King James Version and American Standard (except for notes, maps, photos, etc.), which are in the public domain. All other versions provide guidelines for use. Although most publishers have a standing permission to quote from the different versions as long as they give credit, it is helpful for the author to know what limitations are imposed by each publisher. Each publisher provides a list of written guidelines for such quotes. Generally, they all require that the quote be completely accurate (including punctuation) and that proper credit be given. If you need to quote more than the limitations noted below, and your quote is used in a work intended for commercial use (in other words it is a book or something you will sell to the public), you will need to ask permission. Many copyright owners will want a copy of the work in which the quote is used within 30 days following publication. Below you will find a summary of the guidelines on the most popular versions and information on where to send for those written guidelines which you may want for your files—and future reference. The guidelines will also tell you how the credit line needs to be written.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


When telling someone else’s story If you do an article in which you tell someone else’s story, the publisher may ask for a signed permission slip from the subject giving permission for the story to be published. Such a slip should say something similar to the following: “I, ______, do permit the following story to be published (include title of article if available). To my knowledge the story is true and accurate in all details.” It should be dated and include spaces for name address, phone, and signature. You should then verify the story discreetly and attach the permission slip to the manuscript when you submit it. When including anecdotes/case studies of individuals in a larger work Send a release form that says something like this (adapt to particular situation): “I have read that portion of your (book/article), entitled __________, in which you mention my name and relate my experiences. I hereby give you permission to use my name and this information in this context.” It should be dated and include spaces for name address, phone, and signature.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Format for a General Permissions Letter - For book Although you can buy pre-printed permissions forms in triplicate at an office supply store, you may simply use a business-letter format that includes the following information: 1. Date 2. Name and address of author or publisher the form is submitted to. 3. Tentative title for your book; publisher’s name; publication date. 4. Whether book will be hardcover or paperback. 5. The exact material you wish to quote (either copied into letter if short, or attached). Identify where material came from, i.e., Page 16, paragraph two through page 18, paragraph 5. 6. Indicate what rights you are requesting. Be sure to make the request broad enough so you do not have to come back and ask for additional rights later. Usually it is for non-exclusive world rights in all languages, for this and all subsequent printings of your book. Also assure them that the granting of these rights will in no way restrict their use of the material or prevent them from granting similar rights to others. 7. Ask that if they do not control the rights to this material, that they will let you know who does, including name and address of that person/publisher. 8. Let them know what credit line you plan to use in the book for this quote (giving them the opportunity to amend it if desired). 9. Generally it is not necessary to mention the possibility of your paying them to use this quote. It is better to work under the assumption they will grant permission for free. If you do include anything, say something like: “Please let me know if a fee is required, so we can decide whether to include it in the above-named book.” 10. Include appropriate lines at the bottom where they may date and sign permission, plus include the name, title, and address of the permission grantor. 11. Send two copies of the letter, telling them to keep one for their records and return the other to you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Note to Book Author: It is best to wait for acceptance of your manuscript, before writing for permissions. Your publisher then will be able to give you the information to include in your request letter: title of your book, prospective date of publication, price, size of book, and number of copies in the first printing.

Note to Periodical Writers: When writing for periodicals, it us usually best to get these permissions before submitting your article.

Note to All Authors: Anytime your material is heavily dependent on a particular quotation, poem, or line from a song, you may want to ascertain whether you can get the required permission and if there is a reasonable charge, before you get too far into your project.