Sunday, May 29, 2016


After two book deals, I'm blogging about my experience in the traditional publishing world to help prepare you for your 'big break.' Because working with publishers is nothing like you might expect. This week, I want to talk about a surprising expense you might incur on your book deal.

And that is clearing copyright on anything you use in your work. 

If you read your contract carefully, you'll already know clearing copyright is your sole responsibility.

However, if you were (stupidly) celebrating your book deal and didn't read the fine print and/or were too drunk to listen to your agent going over the details, you may not know that any copyright clearance is up to you.

Including all the costs involved.

So a few months before your book hits the shelves, you're going to be up to your ears in doodles from your copy editor, probably high on something (Xanax, tequila, whatever!) trying to get a handle on that, while still dealing with a number of other things.

Like writing the summary for the book jacket (that's your responsibility), getting your author photo done, trying to get 'blurbs' for your book, reviewing other authors, writing catalog copy, and generally drumming up interest in yourself as a writer.

You'll also be trying to put together a proposal for your second book - or "Next Work" as it's called. 

Because both your agent and your editor are going to start bugging you about that long before your first book is off your plate.
Then just when you least expect it, you're going to get an email ...

from your editor's assistant reminding you that they need the paperwork for the clearance on those Beatles lyrics you used.

Or whatever other song lyrics, poems, movie quotes, other books or TV commercials you happened to directly reference in your book. You might think your publisher has a department to handle this kind of legality for you. But no.

It's your responsibility and it can be a really time-consuming process.

You have to hunt down publishers and copyright holders. Request permission to use said quote/lyrics/excerpts. There will be contracts and/or releases forms and, more than likely, some money is going to change hands (yours into theirs).

Depending on the complexity of it, you might even need a copyright lawyer. 

Different countries also have different regulations regarding copyright, so you have to keep that in mind too.

In my first book, I ended up dropping any direct quotes from songs or books to avoid the hassle.

Instead, I used only public domain quotations. Shakespeare, for instance, all clear! However, if you're hooked on using the lyrics from your favorite indie punk tune when you were in high school ...

... start the process of clearing the copyright now.

Even before you get a book deal because those aging punk rockers are going to want their due and it might take a while before you find them and get them to sign a release form. Your publisher won't be able to publish your book if there's anything that hasn't been properly cleared. I say 'get started' ...

... because you probably won't be able to complete the process until after you get a book deal. 

That's because most copyright holders want specifics in terms of audience and usage and you won't know that until you see whose publishing you and when.

But at least you'll have made the initial inquiries and will know who to deal with when the time comes. 

As I mentioned, there were no copyright clearances in my first book. All the quotes I used were in the public domain. In my second book, I did something interesting to avoid copyright infringement.

That book, BY INVITATION ONLY, is set in the Hamptons.

But the Hamptons are about much more than cool shopping, busy parking lots and nice beaches.

There's a long, fascinating history to the place and I wanted to be able to include some of that information in the book. But most of my research was from books that were published relatively recently.

How to work in that info without infringing on anyone's copyright?

So I 'invented' a book called The Guru's Guide to the Hamptons and, using my own words, I wrote about history, politics, art, writers, socialites, events, whatever, and pretended they were 'quotations' from that book. I used these 'quotes' at the top of the some of the chapters, working my research in that way.

Obviously, I did a pretty convincing job of it.

Because one day, a few months before the book came out, my editor's assistant called to say, "Oh, by the way, we're going to need the clearances for all those excerpts from The Guru's Guide to the Hamptons." I was happy to report that no clearances were necessary!

The book didn't exist - and I wrote all the quotes anyway!

It was good for a little laugh, something I desperately needed at that point in the process. ;) So if you've got lots of lyrics and/or quotations in your book, make sure they're either in the public domain or easy to clear.

And if you're at a total loss, remember you can't go wrong quoting Shakespeare. ;)
Clearing copyright a small thing, but it's an important part of the process and you don't want it holding up the publication of your book.

By the way, if you love using classic references, I'd recommend picking up a copy of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. 

The index is organized by subject so you can find quotes relating to just about anything you can imagine. It's been updated recently, so there are quotations that aren't in the public domain, but most are - and therefore, free for any author to use in their work.

Over the years, I've found it inspiring, invaluable - and a lot of fun.

Subscribe to the blog so you're prepared to turn your first book deal into a successful, longterm writing career!

btw still have some editing to do on my first indie novel HUNTER'S MOON! More on that later! Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I mentioned my 'Should you fire your agent?' post last time - and I still want to do that, because I did fire my first agent and - whoa - what a story! Such drama! But it's a long one, probably a two-parter, so it'll take me a while. This week I thought I'd talk about something else that caught me by surprise - at least on my first book deal.

And that's who to thank in your acknowledgements!

I'm actually working on my acknowledgements for HUNTER'S MOON right now. I've said this before, but it takes a village to self-publish a book - at least it's taken a village to get mine off the ground - and it's important to thank those people who helped you.

Not just for them, but for you, because thanking people feels good!

Maybe you've already fantasized about what you're going to say in your acknowledgements, but in the traditional publishing world, it's a serious part of the whole process.

Because your acknowledgements need copyediting too!

So don't be like me - already going crazy with editing - and suddenly realize you need to write your acknowledgements from scratch. It can be a challenging task to get just right. Not too flowery, not too serious, not too corny, not too cold.

Plus you'll have to wrack your brain trying to remember everybody who helped bring your baby into the world. So start writing your acknowledgements now! Keep a separate file for them and add to it as you remember folks who meant something to you.

You don't want to forget anyone, because people really appreciate it!

In fact, some of the folks I've thanked in my books told me being recognized that way was one of the nicest things that's ever happened to them.

So think about who's been important to your writing career. 

Yes, your mom, your English teacher, your partner, agent, editor, etc. But don't forget people who've helped you in your research. A cop you talked to on the phone. A lawyer you met at a party who gave you some free advice about copyright. Your best friend from childhood!

I've thanked everyone from my first boss - to my former shrink!

By the way, most publishers will let you put your acknowledgements at the beginning or the end of your book.

However, if you have a long list at the beginning ...

... get it done early so that the typesetter can insert it as soon as possible. If the book's already been typeset and you add two pages of thank-you's, it might affect the formatting and you could get charged to 're-flow the book.'

For my second novel, the acknowledgements were at the beginning.

But on my first book, I put them at the end. Not only because the list was longer, but because there was a spoiler in the acknowledgements and I didn't want anyone to read it before they finished the book.

But it really is an enjoyable thing to do, so have fun with it!

And start now! Because your editor or editorial assistant will probably email you and tell you they need your list by the end of the day - "tomorrow morning at the latest." (That's the way publishers work!)

Meaning, you might only get one day to finish the acknowledgements and you could forget somebody.

So start thinking about who you want to thank now.
Even if you're an independent author, including acknowledgements is a good idea. I know it might be a little more money or time to have that extra page formatted, but as indie authors, we should try to look professional, giving our readers the 'feeling' of a well-published, polished book!

So think about it ... who do you love?

Big thanks to YOU for checking in! 

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

#14: TRANSLATION RIGHTS! Everybody Wants To Rule the World!

Today in the BOOK DEAL BOOT CAMP, we're going to be talking about foreign sales and translation rights. But first I want to thank you for checking in! I've been out of touch editing HUNTER'S MOON.

After a full 6-week break from the manuscript (recommended by many successful authors, though I gleaned the tip from Stephen King's ON WRITING), I wanted to get back into the story and stay focused on it.

But I really should improve my multi-tasking skills! Because whether you're an indie author or a traditional one, it's important to stay connected!

Okay! Next on the agenda: TRANSLATION RIGHTS!

Chances are, if you're a North American author who's offered a deal at a big publisher, it will be for the U.S. and Canadian English-language rights. Your contract may also stipulate UK rights, though your agent may negotiate to sell those independently to get you more money from a British publisher.

One way or another, a good agent will be trying to sell the foreign rights to your book right from the start. 

He or she will probably have one or more 'co-agents' in other countries who are familiar with those markets and those people will do most of the legwork.

I know getting your book published around the world sounds enticing, and that it seems most books you read have been 'translated into 85 languages!' or whatever. But that's because we're usually just exposed to books that are successful (i.e. the ones that sell!).

The truth is, it's very difficult for an agent to sell the translation rights for a debut novel in other countries.  

Non-fiction books are always easier to move so it depends on what kind of market your topic would have globally. But as a first-time novelist, unless you've got serious promotional money behind you, you've hit the bestseller lists, signed a movie deal, have an engaging personal story or platform, or have attracted great attention in some other way, chances are foreign publishers will turn their noses up at you.

At least until they see what kind of traction your book is going to get after it's released in English.

To give you an idea: there were no foreign translation rights on my second novel - and only one international sale on my first book, to a German publisher - Knaur. (They called the book a cross between Sex and the City and Faust. I loved that!)

At the time I was paid 5000 Euros for the deal. 

Pretty good! As opposed to my advances with Simon & Schuster or St. Martin's Press - which was divided into three payments - I received one lump sum after all the paperwork was cleared up. This included having to fill out tax exemption forms so that I wouldn't have to pay taxes on the income in Germany and at home.

As for dealing with the German publisher, there were a couple of phone calls with a polite, English-speaking representative from the marketing department, as well as a few nice emails. But I mostly dealt with the UK co-agent on this deal.

I was actually very lucky to sell any foreign translation rights at all. 

Book markets are not necessarily homogenous and what sells in America might not be what's selling elsewhere.

To give you an idea of how different international markets can be, all you have to do is check one of your favorite authors - you know, the ones who actually do get translated 'into 712 languages!' - and you'll see that the cover design in non-English speaking countries is probably different from the North American edition.

I actually loved the German cover art for DEVIL MAY CARE. 

I thought the redhead looked funky and intriguing and that the design in general was modern and fun. I was really flattered the German publisher would choose such a cool look for the book.

As I mentioned in my post Cover Story, the publisher really does have complete control over the design of your cover - and this was the case for the German edition too. I wasn't consulted about this cover at all.

When the book was published in Germany about a year after the English release, I just loved getting a handful of those groovy German paperbacks in the mail. I was even able to give a copy to a German-speaking friend of mine! It made me feel big time, as if I really was one of those authors who regularly got translated into 789 languages. Or whatever.

btw about that German cover I liked so much ... quite a few years later, I realized it wasn't unique! I stumbled across the same design for a Dutch translation of a different chick lit novel. I forget the name. The only difference was the girl's hair was blonde - not red.

Otherwise, it was the exact same shot - just with a few tweaks. 

Meaning that traditional publishers, like indie writers, often use stock shots to cobble together a cover design.

But here's a newsflash for me: it appears that Knaur changed the title too! 

I just looked up the English/German translation of 'devil may care' - and it's Teufel Kann Pflege. Obviously, the translated title on the book has more than three words! So I did a reverse-translation and the title actually means: "You Do Not Sleep With The Devil."

How interesting ... As I said, I'm actually just learning this now, so - obviously - I wasn't consulted about the title change either!

Honestly, I'm not really disappointed or surprised. 

Because foreign publishers know their markets much better than anyone else. Plus the further I get into the world of independent publishing, the more respect I have for all the work that goes into a traditionally published book too. It's not an easy process!

While we're on the topic of translation rights, I want to introduce you to the wonderful Jennifer C. Lopez! 

Jen was one of my very first Twitter friends and she's been one of my favorite tweeps ever since! She's a great teacher, author, designer, translator, mom - and more!

The Lovely Jennifer C. Lopez @thejennieration
Because Jen is a professional translator, I wanted to consult her about one of the characters in HUNTER'S MOON: a powerful Latina witch named Delia.

My great cover! Design by
Delia had a few Spanish phrases in the book and I wanted to make sure I got them right, so I sent the English versions to Jen - and she did an incredible job translating them into Spanish - in about ten minutes flat!

Jen has also been doing something called Mini-Bitty Spanish Lessons on her blog. 

In her last post, she used Delia as inspiration for her third lesson. It's absolutely brilliant how she's able to explain grammar - in Spanish - so succinctly and clearly! Because even English grammar lessons can throw me for a loop! ;)

I'm also so flattered by all the wonderful things she had to say about me in the post. She's an absolute doll as a person, a brilliant woman, an avid reader - and an author herself.

Jen is teaming up with M Lemont to co-write a new book.  M LeMont is the bestselling author of How to Gain 100,000 Twitter Followers - a book I'm reading and that I'd recommend to anyone learning the Twitter ropes - even if you don't want 100,000 followers (which LeMont won't believe anyway!).

M LeMont's bestseller @mistersalesman
As I said, Jen and M LeMont have co-written a new book due out soon - it's called:


Isn't that a great title? Something we should all be telling ourselves to get past the inevitable doubts. Can't wait to read it!

Incidentally, getting back to foreign translation rights, you bet that I'll be having HUNTER'S MOON translated into Spanish by Jen.

I might not be able to do it for the launch, but it's a definite plan for the future.

The Spanish-speaking market is a huge, global one. 

Not to mention the fact that almost 40 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish at home. This market has a voracious appetite for books and entertainment, so don't overlook potential readers there!

This could be my sexy Latina witch Delia!
Here's a link to the post about Jen's Mini-Bitty Spanish Lesson. It's fun and informative! Enjoy!

And make sure you check out the rest of Jen's services too, from tutoring to graphic design. She's a great person with a really inspiring attitude toward life and learning. She's also a very supportive Twitter friend! I can't say enough great things about her!

Thank you, Jen! You're such an inspiration! Wishing you so much luck with all your worthwhile projects! And good luck to you and M LeMont for WRITE LIKE YOU'RE ALREADY FAMOUS! Looking forward to it!

Next time on the Book Deal Boot Camp ... Should you fire your agent? 

I did. And you won't believe what happened. Oh. My. God. Do I really have the nerve to share this story? We'll have to see!

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