Tag s | Copyright

Ten Commandments for Working with Your Agent

By request, here are my ten commandments for working with your agent. Break them at your own peril. Thou shalt vent only to thine agent and never directly to thy publisher or editor.

  1. Thou shalt not get whipped into a frenzy by the industry rumor mill fomented by the Internet. Asketh thy agent if what you’ve heard is true.
  2. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s success. Be content with thine own contract.
  3. If thou hast a dispute with thine agent, thou shalt talk to thy agent and seekest resolution. Jumping ship without reason is unprofessional … and agents talketh to each other.
  4. Thou shalt consider thy deadlines as sacrosanct. Thy hand signeth the contract, therefore thou art obligated. Thou shalt not expect thy agent to miraculously create extra time at the last minute.
  5. Respecteth the boundaries of the communication relationship with thy agent. Do not risketh being classified as a spammer or high maintenance by thy agent.
  6. Thou shalt be reasonable and balanced with regard to all social media. Remember, every word written on social media is a word not written on thy manuscript. At least don’t telleth the world that thou art eating ice cream to avoideth writing thy manuscript. Thy editor shall readeth your confession and weepeth.
  7. Keepeth it all in perspective. Selling only 8,000 books still meaneth 8,000 people have “bought a ticket” to read thy work. That crowd would filleth a megachurch auditorium.
  8. Remember thy calling to be a writer and keep it holy. You are in the business of changing the world word by word. Everything else is secondary.
  9. Thou shall rise and call thy agent blessed (and send chocolates at Christmas and cash on birthdays).
  10. If thou dost not have an agent, do not passeth “Go.” Instead, grabbeth one and bringeth said agent into thy camp ASAP. This industry is a labyrinth; and thou shalt someday discover thou needest one, and then it shall be too late. Real life examples available upon request.

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Permission is granted to use this in your own blog or website, as long as you include the following copyright notice:
© 2020 Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency (
www.stevelaube.com)

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Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

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When Does a Book Become Public Domain?

Writers frequently ask about whether they need permission to quote from another book. The answer is usually yes. But if the book is in the public domain that permission is unnecessary. I don’t want to tackle the issue of “Fair Use” today, but instead provide a few links that you can use to find out if a book is in the public domain, or not.

First, use this form (http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~lesk/copyrenew.htmll).
This form searches the U. S. copyright renewal records database. Any book published during the years 1923-1963 which is found in this file is still under copyright, as are all books published after 1964 (although until 1989 they still had to have proper notice and registration). Books published before 1923, or before Jan. 1, 1964 and not renewed (in the 28th year after publication), are out of copyright and therefore in the public domain. The form only searches books, not music, etc.

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Name Brands in Fiction

So, you’re driving down the road, and you see a Ford F-350 with Monster wheels and an NRA bumper sticker. And you see a Toyota Prius with a Go Green bumper sticker. You know these are two different personalities driving the vehicles, right? You probably have formed an image already. …

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Happy 85th Birthday Mickey Mouse!

by Steve Laube

 On this day in 1928 the film “Steamboat Willie” made its debut. The main cartoon character (almost named Mortimer!) was featured and Mickey Mouse was born.

You might ask, “So what? Other than fun trivia, what does this mean to me as a writer?” Actually the success of Mickey Mouse and the Disney empire cuts to the heart of today’s copyright laws which affect you and your work. A quick recital of history and you’ll see how Mickey is either your friend or your adversary depending on your opinion of copyright protection.

In 1787 the Founding Fathers established a copyright term of 14 years, and if the author was still alive a renewal for an additional 14 years. Many years later it was extended to 28 years with a 28 year renewal option (a total of 56 years).

Then in 1976 Congress passed a new law that set three new and important rules:
a) copyright protection was defined as the life of the author plus 50 years
b) Material produced before 1922 was considered public domain
c) Material already under copyright in 1976 were given an extension. Their works were protected for 75 years instead of 56 years.

If you do the math, that meant that in 1997 some of these older works were going to start going into the public domain (and Mickey Mouse would become public in 2003). So the corporations began lobbying for a revision to the copyright law.

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The Cost of Permissions vs. Fair Use

by Steve Laube

Every book contract has a clause that reads something along these lines:

If permission from others is required for publication of any material contained in the Work or for exercise of any of the rights conferred by this Agreement, Author shall obtain such permissions at Author’s expense, in a form acceptable to Publisher, and shall deliver such permissions to the Publisher as part of the complete manuscript of the Work. Permissions shall cover all territories, rights and editions covered by this Agreement.

In other words, if you use someone else’s book you must get permission or a license and cover the cost of that license. Be sure to consult with your agent or your publisher when securing the license to make sure it fully covers your project. Some places will charge for the first x number of copies and then require that you pay again if you sell more.

There are some projects where the permissions and licensing are a bit more complicated, especially with certain non-fiction books. For example, our clients Khaldoun Sweis and Chad Meister created Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Zondervan, 2012). This 560 page book compiles selections from over fifty primary sources that address various challenges in the history of Christian apologetics. The compilation includes a wide range from Saint Augustine to Saint Teresa of Avila and Blaise Pascal, to more recent and present day apologists such as C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig (our client), and Richard Swinburne. (Click here for a sample chapter PDF and the Table of Contents.) To include every chapter’s material where the source was still under copyright the authors had to pay for the permission. They used the advance monies received from the publisher to secure those licenses.

Another example is our client’s project The Kingdom of the Occult (Thomas Nelson, 2008). (Click here for a sample of this work.) This 752 page reference book by the late Walter Martin and co-edited by Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden has over 3,000 citations in it. When some of the citations are collected they comprise a good portion of the original source material. So they had to secure the permissions and pay for the licenses to use that source material in their book.

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The Landmine of Fair Use

by Steve Laube

Remember you can use the big green button to the right of this blog to ask us questions. Recently we received two that were on the issue of fair use of other people’s writing.

Steve,
What are the standard fair use rules for quotes of other published works? I used quotes in my book and my understanding was that if it was less than 250 words then you don’t need permission. But a friend is self-publishing and is concerned about quotations fearing she might get sued.

Always err on the side of getting permission.

One major publisher we work with has the author get permission for any quotations from a single source that is more than 25 words, collected (aggregate) across all uses of that source in the book. So if one quote is 10 words and 100 pages later is a quote for 20 words, the author must get permission.

Another requires the author get a written release from every person they interviewed and quoted in their non-fiction project. Including family members like your spouse, parents, or friends.

For more information read this excellent article by publishing attorney Kelly Way called “All’s Fair in Love and War – But Not in Copyright Law.”

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News You Can Use – July 3, 2012

What Retailers Know that Publishers Need to Know – Mike Shatzkin analyzes the importance of data in what is truly the “Science of Bookselling.”

Your Hotel Bible is now a Kindle – This is a new one. Kindles in the nightstand in your hotel room with the Bible pre-loaded. Fascinating.

Using Evernote for Screenwriting – Brilliant adaptation of the Evernote software by Héctor Cabello Reyes.

The Incredible Resilience of Books – Peter Onos wrote a great article that the naysayers quickly skewered. Which side of the debate do you land on?

Thou Shalt Not Steal Shaun Groves Music – The artist makes a statement “If everyone stops paying for music, then music will stop being made.” Do you agree? Does it apply to books as well?

Solve Mysterious Bible Passages like Sherlock Holmes – Eric McKiddie writes a very clever article. Well done!

Be Your Agent’s Dream Client – Agent Greg Johnson tells it straight. (from the ACFW blog)

Bacon for Calvinists! (Thank you Kevin DeYoung)- see below:

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