Book Business

What Entered the Public Domain This Year?

In the United States, under U.S. copyright law, works published in 1925 and earlier are now in public domain. One can publish them or use them without securing copyright permission. In case you are wondering about the specifics, the Copyright Term Extension Act (passed in 1998) gave works published from 1923 through 1977 a 95-year term limit. They enter public domain on January 1 after the conclusion of the 95th year.

It gets a little complicated because anything copyrighted before 1977 had only a 28-year protection. The copyright had to be renewed in the 28th year, or the book went into public domain. It is estimated that as much as 85% of such properties were not renewed and are now in public domain. But determining that for certain can be quite a task!

By the way, this happens not only with books but anything under copyright like films and music.

A few notable titles are on this year’s list:
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time (his first novel)
Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys
Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil
Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction

Note that while these books are in public domain, you can’t slap your name on them and claim you wrote them. There’s a word for that: plagiarism. However, if you wanted to create a derivative story like The Great Gatsby Goes to Mars or Mrs. Dalloway Gets a Job at Burger King, you can certainly do so without getting permission first.

On a trivia note, there was an awful book first published in 1925 as well. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Since there doesn’t appear to be a record of a copyright renewal in 1953, that work is in the public domain. But if there had been a question, it has been 95 years and is no longer under copyright protection.

And if you want to plan ahead? In 2022 the following are on the list to slide into the public domain:
Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Land of Mist
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Franz Kafka, The Castle
T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness
Ruth Plumly Thompson, The Hungry Tiger of Oz

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The Wonder of Amazon Logistics

About thirty years ago I visited two large book-distributor warehouses (Spring Arbor and Riverside Book & Bible) and saw firsthand the inner workings of a pick-and-pack operation. I observed what seemed like miles of shelves and a lot of people scurrying from one place to the next. That is why …

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Simon & Schuster Bought by Penguin Random House

In case you missed the news last Wednesday, the Big Five will soon become the Big Four. The largest book publisher in the world (Bertlesmann, parent company of Penguin Random House) has successfully bid to buy Simon & Schuster (S&S) publishing house from ViacomCBS. This will make Penguin Random House …

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When the Gloves Come Off

Fist Slams Table in Anger

The publishing experience is rarely done in isolation. This means working with other people. And if their performances or efforts do not meet your expectations, conflict can occur. Over the years I’ve seen more conflict than you can imagine–of all types and variety. But the majority of issues boil down …

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Responding to Criticism

When someone tells me she’s not sure she wants me to read her manuscript, I know she’s not ready for publication. Such sentiment shows a lack of confidence and a fear of both rejection and criticism. Even though readers usually treat writers with respect, a critical word can puncture the heart.

Imagine the wounds delivered on Internet sites such as Amazon from readers who lack that respect. A major complaint I hear from distraught authors is that people download free Christian novels and then post hostile reviews. A cursory bit of research reveals some say they felt duped because they didn’t realize they were downloading a Christian novel. It is likely they just grabbed it because it was free and did not look at other reviews or the book’s description. These readers aren’t victims of duplicity, they were, at the very least, lazy and then blamed others when the book wasn’t to their taste. Unfortunately the temptation is for the author to strike back with a serrated reply.

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The Industry Changes but Seems Unchanged

I recently came across an article I had saved from 2004 predicting “Book Trends 2005” by Sally E. Stuart in an issue of Advanced Christian Writer newsletter. Reading through the article makes one realize how different things are but also how much they are still the same! Isn’t that a …

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Do You Have a Backup Plan?

by Steve Laube

The question is not if your hard drive will fail, it is a question of when. At least twice a year I have a client who has lost their hard drive to equipment failure. There was a recent story of an editor at Wired magazine who got hacked via a security hole in his Amazon and Apple accounts. He not only lost data, he lost all the digital pictures of his baby girl. He wrote the article as a cautionary tale. As the editor admits, he knew better, but did not follow his own advice. So my question to you is, “Do you have a backup plan?”

Hit the Save Button Regularly

Many think that just hitting the “save” button is enough. Sorry. That only saves the file to your local computer. And if that computer fails, you are toast. While hitting the save button helps with immediate things it isn’t a long term solution. What if someone steals your laptop while you turned your back to refresh your drink at the coffee shop?

Save to an External or Portable Backup Device or E-mail Service

Keeping your files on an external drive or a USB thumb drive is okay. But what if you lose the thumb drive (they are so small!)? Or what if you forget to take the external drive with you…and your computer is stolen from your office, along with the external drive?

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