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Quoting Lyrics and Dodging Copyright Issues [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post by Grant Piercy. Thanks for a great post, Grant!

So you’re in the process of writing your masterpiece. Say you’re in the car, contemplating your work-in-progress, and a song comes on the radio. You hear some great lyric that somehow clicks with your manuscript; it applies so well that you want to share it, either in text or as a preface to the work. Or maybe you just have a character listening to or singing the song.

Stephen King does it. Bret Easton Ellis does it. Alan Moore does it. Why can’t you? It doesn’t help that there are hundreds of Web sites out there built on posting lyrics. People quote lyrics, somewhat annoyingly, on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Later, when you’re thinking of actually publishing your literary masterpiece, thanks to Kindle’s easy-to-use self-publishing tools, or those of Barnes & Noble’s Pubit, or Apple’s iBooks, etc., you begin to wonder. “Are there any legal ramifications to publishing someone else’s lyrics in my work? It’s only one line, what damage could it do?”

Let me make this perfectly clear. Unless you want to pay royalties to someone else, or you want to limit your print run (self-publishing e-suicide), you probably don’t want to quote lyrics.

I understand. It’s going to be different for you. You’ve heard this before from some other author who couldn’t get the job done. You’re going to quote your favorite artist and that artist is going to think your work is awesome and point to it and say, “Look. This guy quoted me. This book is awesome.”

No. No. No.Continue Reading

3 Reasons Why You Need a Compelling Book Cover (and 2 Ways to Get One)

You need a compelling book cover design.

*collective groan*

I know, I hear you guys out there. You’ve gotten the message from design advocates all over the web. Most prospective indie authors understand that they should create an effective, awesome book cover, but think that it’s too much work for too little reward.

Maybe you’re one of those authors. Have you convinced yourself that you like your default Createspace cover? That it gets the job done? After all, the content is the most important part of your book…right?

I hate to break it to you (please don’t shoot the messenger), but that default cover doesn’t get the job done and, while quality content is very important, no one will have the opportunity to read it if they’re not compelled enough by your cover design to learn more. You need a book cover that inspires action. Not convinced yet? Stick with me!

3 Reasons Why You Need A Compelling Book Cover

1. You are not a special snowflake.

A coworker recently told me a story of working at a music store in the early 90’s. On Super Bowl Sunday, Whitney Houston belted out her amazing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. On Monday, customers were lining up to purchase it.

Her record company was so taken aback by the demand that they had little time to produce the single itself, let alone fancy artwork for it. The tape had a plain white cover with the title and artist printed in a default typeface — the end. The result? It sold like gangbusters anyway because no one gave a hoot what the tape looked like — the song was that good.

Taking the theme to books, you’ll frequently see covers for classics that look like this. You know — Tolstoy, Austen, etc. Their books don’t have to look amazing because people are going to purposely seek them out and buy them anyway.

Sadly, you’re not Tolstoy. And that’s okay! I know I’m sure as heck not Austen. But recognizing this allows us to pair our books with effective cover design that speaks to our book browsers, converting them into readers.Continue Reading

The Old Shell Game of Publishing [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from Allan Douglas and an entry in February’s Self-Publishing Writing Contest. Click here to vote for the winner of this month’s contest. Want to help out your fellow indie authors? Consider entering March’s contest!

There was a time when publishing a book was pretty straightforward; you had two courses. One: find an agent to represent you, seek a publisher who in turn will produce and promote your book and pay you for the privilege of doing so. Two: take your manuscript to a vanity press and pay them to produce your book so you could promote and sell it yourself.

Today you still have those choices, but you also have the option of going the route of some form of self-publishing. This choice has been around in the form of vanity presses (they prefer the term “subsidy press”) but that route has always been very expensive. Technology has come to our rescue by making eBooks and Print On Demand (P.O.D.) books available directly to authors. Now we can choose to sidestep the agent, thumb our noses at the publisher and go directly from manuscript to publication, if we want to.

As a result, some agents have decided to embrace the new model by becoming publishers themselves. Some publishing houses are cutting deals directly with successful indie authors. And many new “publishers” are springing up all over the place.Continue Reading

Self-Publishing: A Long, Proud Tradition [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from William Joel and an entry in February’s Self-Publishing Writing Contest. Click here to vote for the winner of this month’s contest. Want to help out your fellow indie authors? Consider entering March’s contest!

Recently, with the emergence of one Publish-on-Demand service (POD) after another, there seems to have been an explosion of self-published works. Some might even view this as the being a new way to be published, but they’d be misinformed. Self-publshing has been around for as long as there have been books. In fact, in the field of book creation, professional publshing houses are Johnny-come-latelies.

Instead of traveling all the way back to the birth of books, or even the days of rows and rows of monks, hand-copying texts, we only need to begin with the advent of moveable type. Think Gutenberg and the 15th century.

Once it was possible to mass produce books, which meant dozens or hundreds of copies, books could exist in the hands of the average person. Of course, the average person did not know how to read, or if he did read poorly. Details, details.

Still, it was a beginning. At that time, the printer was the publisher, and the marketer, etc. Or, more likely, the author was everything but the printer. Over time, small publishing houses did emerge, but there was still lots and lots of notable books that were “self-published.”Continue Reading

Self-Publishing: Perils, Pitfalls, and Promise [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post from Lisa Cohen and an entry in February’s Self-Publishing Writing Contest.

If you’d have asked me a year ago about self publishing, I would have given you all sort of persuasive reasons why it wasn’t right for me. A year ago, it wouldn’t have been right, not because of any intrinsic problem with going ‘indi’, but primarily because I hadn’t educated myself about the process.

Technology has driven the incredible rise of the ebook. Author tools, some free, others low cost, have made the barrier to self publishing very low, indeed. That is both a blessing and a curse. It means that the biggest obstacle to publishing isn’t price, knowledge, or equipment; it’s discoverability. When any ordinary Joe or Jane Writer can upload a file and in moments have an ebook for sale in multiple venues, what’s to stop that writer from doing so?

The promise of the author-as-publisher is very alluring, especially with the royalty rates as generous as they are on the self publishing platforms. It’s hard to justify holding out for the brass ring of a book contract when the typical hardcover will earn the author far less than each ebook independently released.Continue Reading