Understanding Publishing Rights

The “right” clause depends on many factors – there is no “one size fits all” – so be vigilant and pay attention, and make the right business decision for you and your book.

Today’s big take-away lesson is this: pay attention to the grant of rights, and know what rights you’re agreeing to give your publisher. A proper grant of rights lays the foundation for a positive, long-term business relationship between the author and the publisher – and that, of course, is good for everyone.

Do You Know Your (Publishing) Rights? – Susan Spann of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Many of our Writers in the Grove members publish and share their work on our website here, often a first step toward publishing elsewhere such as on other websites, magazines, newspapers, and books.

According to many authors and publishing experts, one of the first things a professional writer needs to learn is what their publishing rights are, though it is often the last thing learned, usually after much confusion and frustration.

Writing is an art form, and professional writing is a business. There are business standards and practices. There are contracts, agreements, guidelines, and policies. You need to be professional in your writing and writing submissions.

Among all the things you need to learn before sending your work out into the world, you need to begin with understanding your publishing rights, the rights that determine who owns your work, how, where, and when it may be published, and how these rights influence your income from your written words.

Copyright and Trademark

To begin, let’s address the first two rights for writers, two that come with some confusion: the difference between copyright and trademark. When someone abuses your copyright or trademark, it is legally called a violation of your intellectual property. Both are intellectual property rights you will deal with constantly in your professional writing career.

Trademark protects brands and brand names. As a writer, you could choose to register your brand and author name, or the title of a book series, not the book title itself, as a trademark, protecting it from abuse and misuse, but that is a discussion for your legal professionals as you step through your career.

J.K. Rowling has long history of legal battles to protect Harry Potter and its entertainment empire. Some of those legal actions were over the trademark name of “Harry Potter,” “muggles,” and “Hogwarts,” including use of the name in fansite website addresses. Apple, Coca Cola, and many businesses protect their trademark name and brand by preventing trademark violations such as these. You are not allowed to use those names in your domain name or within your creative work unless it complies with their trademark rules and guidelines, or you receive legal permission, commonly called a license. (more…)

Prompt: Star Trek

This is the 50th Anniversary of the phenomenon “Star Trek.” The prompt is write about Star Trek and its impact on you and the world. Choose any aspect, from the television itself, the impact of the show on the world, the influence on science, politics, technology, etc.

As an additional note, Star Trek launched the careers of many writers that started with fan fiction in the Star Trek world.

Prompt: Light and Dark Across Seasons

The prompt this week is about light and shadow. An artist uses light and shadow to create pattern, shape, and texture. Light dictates changes in the seasons. A writer can do the same thing with descriptions that include light and shadow.

The prompt was inspired by this excerpt from Dean Koontz, “Innocence:”

This weather-sculpted stone was also a familiar warren, because I had explored its limited interior architecture as far as it would accommodate me. The tunnel was low and tight and curved to the right, and I crawled through the blinding dark, frightened not just of the hunter but of what might currently be in residence in the chamber at the end of that passageway. In the past, when I’d gone exploring there, I had done so with a flashlight, but I didn’t have one this time.

The warren offered a home for various species if they wanted it, including rattlesnakes. In the cool of early October, snakes would be lethargic, perhaps not too dangerous, but although Nature’s creatures had spared me all these years, a weasel or a badger or some other formidable animal would be frightened and would feel cornered when I came rushing in upon it.

Leading with my face, I was vulnerable, and I shut my eyes tight to protect them from a sudden swipe of claws.

The passageway brought me around a corner and into the cave, roughly six feet in diameter and between four and five feet high. Nothing attacked, and I opened my eyes. A silver dollar of sunlight lay in one corner of the room, having fallen through one of the flutes, and a larger and more irregular pattern of light, about the size of my hand, formed under another flute. The day lacked wind, and quiet pooled in that subterranean lair—and there proved to be no tenant other than me.

I intended to remain there until I felt certain that the hunter had hiked far away. The air smelled vaguely of lime and moldering leaves that had blown in through the larger hole in the ceiling. If I had suffered from claustrophobia, I could not have tolerated such confinement.

At that moment, I couldn’t have predicted that before much longer I would have no choice but to find my way out of the mountains or that by night and by arduous travel, surviving multiple attempts on my life, I would journey to a great city, or that I would live secretly for many years deep beneath its teeming streets, in storm drains and subway tunnels and in all the strange byways that exist below a metropolis, or that one winter, while visiting the vast central library after midnight, when it should have been deserted, I would meet a girl in lamplight near Charles Dickens and my world would change, and her world, and yours.

After a few minutes, as I crouched there in the dark between the narrow shafts of light, I heard noises. I thought the badger of my imagination might have become flesh and might be approaching now through the passageway that I had followed. The long claws of a badger’s forefeet make it a dangerous adversary. But then I realized that the sounds came from above, carried to me with the sunshine. Boots on stone, a clank of something, a rattle. A man coughed and cleared his throat and sounded very near.

If he hadn’t merely glimpsed me, if he had seen me in some detail, either he would have been searching for me aggressively or he would have decided to depart from a forest so queer that it could harbor something like me. Instead he seemed to have settled down for a brief rest, suggesting that he had not gotten a clear look at me. What I might be, how I could be brought into the world through the agency of a man and woman, I didn’t know and thought that I would never know. Much of the world is beautiful, and much more is at least fair to the eye, and what might be ugly is nevertheless of the same texture as everything else and clearly belongs in the tapestry. In fact, on the closest consideration, an ugly spider is in its way an intricate work of art worthy of respect or even admiration, and the vulture has its glossy black feathers, and the poisonous snake its sequined scales.

The prompt was to write a scene that focuses on the use of light and dark, and to also consider seasonal lights impact on a scene.

Prompt: Generalizations

The prompt this week was on stereotypes and sweeping generalizations. The comment “all red heads have fiery personalities” labels all red heads, but when applied to the individual may not be true.

We discussed stereotype and sweeping generalization examples and how and where they are applied. In general, stereotypes and sweeping generalizations.

In writing, the inclusion and use of stereotypes and sweeping generalizations are also called characterization frames. When used well, the adjectives that define these stereotypes help the reader to make quick judgement calls about the characters. When used expertly, generalizations set the character up for conflict, with others and themselves. An Asian student struggling with the Asian F demand by parents and culture to get only A or A+ (and anything less than that like an A- is considered an F), may uncover a learning disability which puts the character in conflict with expectations of scholastic achievement within themselves, with their family, with the school system expectations and assumptions, and within their society. A fiery redhead who becomes a quiet librarian, encouraging an antagonist to “light the fire within” that just must be there because that is what defines someone with red hair, right? A redhead deals with societal preconceptions and expectations on a daily basis, and such pressures are felt internally as well, trying to live up to those assumptions.

Stereotypes are typically defined by the following:

  • culture
  • expectation
  • adaptation
  • conflict
  • dos/taboos

Culture sets attitudes and expectations about behavior, manners, etiquette, and relationships such as no sex before marriage, the wearing of the hijab, length of skirt, bowing as greeting or handshakes, language usages, etc. We expect certain behaviors within groups and societies, as a large encompassing group or within a small social circle. As we enter a new group, we use cultural norms to start, the expand what are acceptable behaviors within that group, such as a group of high school girls hanging out in the bathroom smoking, trusting the others not to tell on them. People moving into those circles must adapt, or conflict, avoidance or the accepted response in a conflict situation. Teens outside of the smoking girls group learn quickly how to behave around them, even though they are not part of the group. They support the group behavior. Thus, it becomes a social norm and expectation, and conflict arises when they are challenged.

The dos and taboos of a group or society dictate attitude, behavior, and define those social norms. These come in many forms from the innocuous, the choice to wear white shoe in winter, to the dangerous and threatening like road rage.

A character’s actions often define stereotypes, as does their language and thought process. How you choose to use these helps to craft and frame your character.

The prompt is to find a character that is part of a “group” and write about them. What group are they a part of? What are the expectations, behaviors, dos/taboos, and cultural impositions about that group? How does the character behave within that framework? Let us see them in a situation where these sweeping generalizations are challenged, helping us see deeper into the character’s story and development.

From the Prompt: Vacations

A Break Away

by Susan Schmidlin

I had a marvelous vacation away from the farm recently (it has been quite a while since I ventured away for more than just day-trips). The vacation was a real chance for me to get away, re-group, and have fun. Most people who hear about my fun tend to roll their eyes and give me strange feedback on what I call enjoyment, but this break was a true treasure.

The distance from the farm was less than 3 hours away, in the wilds of Western Washington. My niece and nephew-in-law had just purchased a house with property and had invited family out to have a retreat/work party to get the house ready for remodel before they actually move in.

It is an absolutely beautiful piece of property with several shops and out-buildings, a small creek that runs through the middle of the place, and a house that will be amazing after the contractor does some magic. The family, in preparation for the contractor, got to tear up flooring, remove moldings, smash and scoop tile and make run after run with wheelbarrows to the large, truck sized refuse bin that was located half a football field away. There was a lot of noise, a lot of dust, and a lot of laughter as we all tackled the projects with wild abandon.

Into the afternoon, the family broke up into 2 groups. By this time the temp had climbed into the upper 90’s and the creek began to call our names during lulls in the frantic pace. The creek gave us the opportunity to break away and cool off with a little splash now and again before returning to work. The fans were set up in the house to keep an airflow going as the power equipment and hammering dusted inside the structure.

The fellas stayed mostly indoors, sledgehammering and scooping up tile, while the ladies started outside to tackle the overgrown vegetation that had, over the years, enveloped most of the yard and the house.  The amount of plants around the house and yard was staggering. I think that the sheer variety and volume of growing species would surpass most garden centers.

It was obvious that the previous owner not only had a green thumb but was a true collector of diverse species. Plants had all but swallowed the house, darkening all light access inside and many were planted so close to the house that the branches were rubbing on the siding and hampering gutter structures. The ladies of this outting attacked the bushes with the same vigor as the boys and their sledge hammers inside the house.

Once we got into a rhythm of hacking our way into a densely packed area, we started trimming up the plants that were just overgrown and totally removing those that were too monstrous to leave so close to the house. There was a steady barrage of questions to my niece and to the group debating if a plant should be trimmed or removed. A chant was started to deal with the questions, “If in doubt, grub it out.” 100’s of the plants still had roots remaining and will continue to grow back, we just slowed them down a bit. It will be much easier to make the final decision after we have this first clean-out complete.

Finding many branches too big for long-handled clippers, I asked about a using a saw. I was expecting to have a bow saw or hand saw available for the task. I was delighted to be told that there was a power saw. Oh my gosh, I thought, that would make the job so much easier. I was absolutely floored when my nephew-in-law pulled out a brand new Stihl chainsaw!

Now I have used a lot of saws, and I have seen new saws at the local hardware store, and I have even used saws that have had new chains on them, but I have never ever had the opportunity to use a brand spanking, not a single ding, first-time fired-up chainsaw. I was giddy with the prospect of tearing into the massive overgrowth of vegetation. I yanked the rope and the saw sprang to life.

I took out rhododendrons that were twice my height, stumps from trees that had been cut off many years ago, laurel bushes that hugged the roof-line of the house, and downed a couple of fir trees that were too close to other trees. I was in heaven. It was so much fun!

The decision about what to do with all the yard debris gave the new owners pause. While they thought about it, all the branches and whole plants were piled along the yard. My brother took one look at the amount of plant material and stated that it looked like a bomb went off in the front yard.

The decision was made to get the mess of debris off the yard and a large pile was made on the other side of the driveway. By the time we were done with the pile it was nearing the size of a semi-truck. Did I mention that the property was overgrown?

It was a totally exhausting time.

This was just the best vacation I have ever had!

Where Do Clouds Go?

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Patti Bond.

Clouds are beautiful.
They have their own distinct calling.
They produce rain, snow, overcast,
Or hide so clear, blue sky shines forth.

Where do clouds go?
Do they go off the face of the earth?
Isn’t the sky where heaven resides
Letting people think about their loved ones?

The earth is so unending.
One client can be hot, rainy, and snowy
For the seasons are endless.
Maybe that’s where the clouds go
To other parts of the earth.