Should You Sell Full Rights for Your Writing?

sell full rights

A publisher is interested in some devotionals a friend wrote. They pay an honorarium of $35 per item, and then they want full rights forever. My friend wonders if this is typical and fair to sell full rights for a piece?

First, I don’t think anyone can make decent money writing devotionals. They do it for other reasons.

I earned $15 each for some I wrote several years ago. They wanted full rights for one year after publication. Now the rights have reverted to me. I heard of another publication that pays $60 per piece, also with a one-year stipulation.

In another case, I did sell full rights in perpetuity for some teen devotionals for $30, but it wasn’t for the money. I had other motivations. Though they wrote fast, by the time I had finished several rounds of edits to make them just right, I suspect I made minimum wage for my efforts.

I don’t give anyone exclusive rights in perpetuity—unless I have a strategic reason to do so. To be able to say my work appeared in a prestigious publication is one good reason, but I wouldn’t give them something I wanted to use elsewhere or was part of a series.

The publisher’s offer isn’t untypical. (Fairness is another issue.) It boils down to are you willing to give up your words forever for $35?

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

A Career Writing Mistake

A Career writing mistake

For too many years my goal in writing was simply to write faster, but I did nothing to learn about writing or how to write better. That was a huge writing mistake.

Yes, the experience of writing so much was good, but I wasted a lot of time by not studying the craft. It’s only been in the past decade that I’ve focused on improving as a writer.

My writing has improved—a lot. I only wish I had started working on getting better much sooner in my career.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Scale Up to Writing a Novel

Scale up to writing a novel.

To write a novel, first, start with short stories. Many of the elements required for short stories carry over to longer works. In addition, it’s better to experiment on a 1,000-word short story than an 80,000-word novel. Once you’re comfortable with short stories then you can move on to longer works.

Short Story Tips

Writing short stories lets us experiment. We can have fast successes and failures. I’d rather try something on a short story than commit it to a whole novel only to find out it wasn’t working once I finished writing the entire thing.

As you hone your skills and find your voice with short stories, voraciously read novels. Read classics and contemporary works. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read for enjoyment but mostly to learn. This will give you a sense of what works and what doesn’t, as well as to identify what you like and don’t like. This will pay off huge when you go to write your novel.

Start Your Novel

Now you’re ready to plan your novel. Whether you are a planner (plotter) or a discovery writer (a pantser—you write by the seat of your pants), you should have some ideas before you begin to write a novel.

I like to start with a list of characters, their bio, a story arc, the key elements, and a chapter outline. After all, if I’m writing that many words, I don’t want to waste effort.

For others, this prep work would stifle creativity, but it motivates me. Pick the method that works for you and start writing.

By the way, many novelists admit to writing several novels before one is good enough to publish, so don’t expect your first effort to write a novel will be a success. If it is, that’s great, but be prepared to crank out a couple before you find much interest.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Beta Reader Questions That Writers Should Ask

beta reader questions

When working with beta readers, it’s important to set expectations with them or the feedback you get may not be helpful. To guide this effort, ask the same beta reader questions of each person.

Three Key Beta Reader Questions

1. What parts did you like? Your first question will let you know what parts not to change. This is key.

2. What parts confused you? Identifying confusing parts is also important. If even one beta-reader is confused, many more readers will be confused later.

3. What parts bored you? The third question is also insightful. Boring parts will cause readers to stop reading. You might never get them back. Be sure to fix all the boring sections. This may require rewriting, replacing, or deleting them.

If your beta readers answer these three questions, they’ll give you a lot of valuable information.

Beta Reader Strategies

There’s one other item about beta readers.

Some writers send their work to several beta readers at once, while others send it out sequentially, applying feedback from the first reader before sending it to the second one.

The first approach is faster. The second approach will help you craft a better book.

(Check out “7 Things to Look for in a Beta Reader.”)

Discern Beta Reader Feedback

In all this, the important thing is to get feedback. Then discern what feedback to follow and what to disregard. Don’t do everything your beta readers suggest but only what makes sense to you.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Tips on Finding an Agent to Represent You

Tips on finding and agent

Finding an agent is easy. Just do an online search for “literary agents.” However, getting an agent to agree to represent you is hard, very hard.

Unlike hiring an accountant or attorney to represent us where we can vet them and pick the best one to meet our needs, agents vet their clients so they can pick the best ones.

Remember that agents only earn money if they sell one of their clients’ books. So unless a client is a polished writer, there’s a good chance the agent will spend a lot of time working for the client and have nothing to show for it. Therefore, they have a strong incentive to only take on clients whose work they think they can sell.

How to Impress Agents

This means we need to sell ourselves to agents. Here’s what’s required:

  • Hone your skill as a writer.
  • Set up a professional online presence. They will check for one and will expect to find it.
  • If you’re on social media, make sure it’s professional and conveys you in a positive manner. Do everything you can to remove negative comments and unflattering photos. But remember that once something’s online, it never really goes away.
  • Learn how to pitch your book, write a one-page summary, submit a query, and produce a proposal.
  • Learn about agents you’d like to have represent you. Follow their blogs and make respectful, thoughtful comments.
  • Ask other writers, who you trust, to give you an honest answer if your work is ready for agents.

Know that writing ability is only part of the equation.

What Agents Look For

Agents will also want you to have a platform so that you can help sell books. When I was looking for an agent, one agent declined to represent me, not because of my writing, but because they thought my platform was too small.

Be Patient When Finding an Agent

A final item is to be patient. Finding an agent to represent you takes time, usually several months and often years. As you wait, keep working to improve as a writer and building your platform.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

How to Protect Blog Content

Legally protect your blog content

A lot of writers wonder if it’s necessary or wise to protect blog content that they post online. What if it is material for other writing projects? Should it be freely accessible online?

First, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. A great resource is Helen Sedwick’s book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. This is an excellent tool that every writer should buy, study, and implement.

Given that, here is what I suggest to protect blog content.

To start, place a copyright notice on your blog. This will help keep honest people honest, and it lets readers know you’re serious about your work. But beyond that, it accomplishes little else.

If you’re concerned with people copying your work, that is stealing it, there is always a chance it could happen. Though the risk is small, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it—short of not blogging—so the best thing is to not worry about it, and post what you want to post.

If the posts will be part of a future book—something many people have done—you might want to hold back some content, but I have heard of bloggers who blogged their entire nonfiction book and didn’t feel it hurt sales. You can also post excerpts from your indie published book.

However, if the posts are from your traditionally published book, check with your publisher. They may not want you to post anything from your book, and depending on your contract with them, it may not even be legal.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Benefits of Using ISBNs: Don’t Publish Your Book Without One

A publishing best-practice includes using ISBNs in your books

Many successful indie authors do not use ISBNs (for their e-books), and they see no reason why they should. The number Amazon provides works just fine from a practical standpoint.

Having said that, an ISBN gives your book added credibility and has more universal recognition than an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) when searching for a book by number. So I opt for an ISBN.

Buying ISBNs

However, buying an ISBN costs money. In the United States, buy ISBNs from Bowker. Currently, the standard price for one ISBN is $125, ten costs $295, and one hundred costs $575.

Note that you will need one ISBN for each format your book is in: Hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio, so that’s four ISBNs. Given the costs, I see why many indie-published authors skip them.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

How to Setup Your Website and Blog

How to setup your website and blog

The Technical Aspect of Setting Up Your Website and Blog

I’m a big fan of WordPress and so are a lot of other people. Thirty percent of the top million websites worldwide rely on WordPress for their website and blog. I recommend you join them and use WordPress to setup your website.

There Are Two Options of WordPress

WordPress.com is simpler and cheaper (approaching free) to setup and use, but it doesn’t have as many features or flexibility.

WordPress.org is a far more powerful website platform, but it’s also more involved to use and setup your website. In addition, there are costs for this option: buying a domain name and paying for hosting.

Regardless, I recommend that you use one of these two WordPress options to setup your website and blog.

WordPress Resources

I have a blog series about getting started with WordPress. I think these posts will get you started quite nicely.

And when it comes time to write for your blog, here’s another series of posts to consider in producing content for your blog.

Happy blogging.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

How to Discover What to Blog About

Discover what to blog about

To start your own blog, there are two aspects: the technical aspect and the content aspect, what is, what to blog about. Let’s look at the content part of blogging first:

Find Your Blog Focus

If you write whatever you feel like writing (as I did when I started), you will never find an audience. Pick one topic as your blog’s focus. Then go to the next step.

Brainstorm Ideas

With your blog topic or focus determined, brainstorm for ideas. Don’t stop until you hit at least twenty ideas you can blog about. You may not use them all, but at least you know you have plenty of ideas to write about. If you can’t come up with twenty, then you won’t likely be able to sustain your blog, so search for another topic.

Pre-Write Five Blog Posts

Before you even set up your blog, write your first five posts. Some people launch their blog with several posts already there.

Set a Blogging Schedule

You should plan to blog at least once a week. How long did it take to write each of your posts? Do you have that much time every week to devote to it?

If you still want to blog, you can move forward with the technical aspects of setting up a blog. More on that in future posts.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Submit Your Post and Article to Blogs

To submit your post to blogs, the first thing to do is see if your target blog runs guest posts. Many do not. They may state this on their site, or you may need to search their archives to find out.

Next, as with print, familiarize yourself with the blog. Look at the content they post, the length of the posts, and the writing tone. Try to match those characteristics.

They may post their submission guidelines, or you may need to email them and ask how to go about submitting a post. Follow their expectations exactly.

Then before you submit your post proofread it carefully. Then email it to them.

I wish you the best when you submit your posts and articles to blogs and websites.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Discussing the art of writing and the business of publishing