Three Things to Know about Literary Copyrights

When it comes to literary copyright is there are several things that you want to know. Lots of people worry when they start sharing their work as a writer that it is going to get co-opted by someone else and published under their name. That’s why they are often unwilling to share their work in writing workshops or online for fear that someone that they’ve asked for a critique from will try to pass off their work as their own. But that is unlikely to happen and the reasons for that have to do with understanding literary copyright.

Do You Actually Have to Register a Copyright?

The truth is you do not actually have to register a copyright for your book or short story in order to for it to be yours. As soon as your short story or novel is published to some medium, whether that be through a traditional publisher or through any of the independent publishing platforms that are out there, your work is automatically copyrighted. You do not even have to put the word copyrighted on the page anywhere. In fact, when you send your work to an editor or agent, anywhere in the USA from an editor in New York to an illustrator in Los Angeles they will often see this as the work of an amateur since they know that your work is protected. You can even email your short story or novel to yourself or uploaded to Google drive or some other medium and that will allow you to prove that it is your work as well.

What Are the Benefits of Registering a Copyright Anyway?

If you choose to pursue going after an official copyright anyway there are a few benefits that can be derived from it. Essentially, you will be getting what is called a super copyright. When your work is published by traditional book publisher, you’re going to get a copyright anyway because that is how publishers do business and how lawyers recommend that they go about it. Formally registering a copyright definitely would give you leverage in court if someone were ever to try to claim that your work is there. If you have an official copyright and you see someone for plagiarism, then the damages and compensation that you received could be greater because of the fact that you have an official copyright. You shouldn’t have to worry about any legitimate editors or agents trying to plagiarize material. Sometimes other writers do this, but almost never has an editor or agent that is legitimate been accused of this.

What about a “Poor Man’s Copyright”?

You may have heard of the poor man’s copyright when you mail something to yourself in order to prove that it is yours. This used to be done through the snail mail process. However, today you can just as easily get the same sort of copyright by uploading your work to something like Google drive or by simply emailing it to yourself. This proves that it is your work at a particular date stamp.

Pros & Cons of Adding Pictures to a Children’s Book

One of the decisions that you are going to have to make is whether or not to add pictures to your children’s book. This will depend upon several factors such as whether you have access to the artwork in the first place and what age group you are targeting. Some age groups are almost required to have pictures if you want them to sell while others can do without them. Let’s take a look at some of those factors now.

Traditional versus Self-Publishing

One of the things that may make a difference is whether you are publishing through traditional means or self-publishing. If you are asking how to publish a children’s book through traditional means, then you’re going to have very little control over whether or not your books have pictures. If they are in those age groups where pictures are required, then your publisher will hire out for an artist to create the pictures. For chapter books and easy readers, your publisher may still contract out for some sketches to add your book. If you are self-publishing, then you have to make those decisions yourself. Of course, you also have to do all of the acquisition work to get those pictures.

Are You the Artist?

If you are an artist, then you definitely have an advantage over authors that have written a book but have no artistic talent. If you can paint or draw pictures yourself that will go with your book, then you won’t have to worry about hiring someone to create them, paying them money to commission the work or what rights you get for doing so. Many children’s book authors are also artists and they create their own artwork to go with their books. If you are publishing traditionally, then it will still be up to the publisher whether or not your own drawings will be included with the book or whether they want to contract out to someone else.

What Age Group is Your Book Targeted Towards?

You also need to consider which age group your book is targeted towards. For example, board books and picture books are required to have pictures. That is, after all, the definition of that type of book. Even easy readers and chapter books should have some pictures in them because children are transitioning from those picture books to books with a lot more words and having books with no pictures can be rather intimidating. For older children, pictures are not strictly necessary.

Print Book or eBook Format

You also need to consider whether you are publishing your book in print or e-book format. If you are publishing in print, you are going to have a lot easier time formatting your book, but it is also going to cost you more with a traditional service like print on demand. Color pictures can add several dollars your cost whenever someone orders one of your books. This is not the case with e-books, but it can be tricky to do the formatting to your pictures display properly.

Where to Find 2019 Writing Contests

There are a lot of places the public a few one point 2019 writing contest. Some of them are going to be listed online, but others are to be more difficult to find. The most prominent ones are the ones that are talked about the most, but there may be smaller ones were the competition is a lot thinner and where the prices are still worth it. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can find writing contest.

Professional Writer’s Association Forums

One of the best places that you can look is on the forum of your genre specific professional writers association. For example, the Horror Writers of America have their own form and you can check it out in see if there’s a thread where people list contest that they’ve heard about.

Writer’s Magazines

Writer’s Magazines are one of the top resource when it comes to finding out whether or not there are any contest worth entering happening this year. These periodicals make it their business to know which writing contests are coming up and especially which ones are best for the aspiring writers that they target.

Social Media Feeds

Social Media is another great places you can find writing contest. If you search social media feeds for writing contests, there’s a good chance that you will see ones coming up as the organization behind them announces them. Not every organization will promote the contest on Facebook and Twitter, but the majority of them do, so you can check their regularly for updates.

Online Search

Looking online is also an option when you’re trying to find writing contest. The problem is that many of the websites that this writing contest did always differentiate between ones that were held for the last few years, ones that were held once last year and the current better contests. You’ll have to look at each deadline manually and see if they are holding any this year and if you are still eligible to enter the contest.

Schools & Libraries

Ask your local librarian or someone at your high school or college if they know of any upcoming contests. A lot of times, librarians will get advance notice on these contests in the form of posters or flyers that they can post up around the library. The same goes for schools when it comes to contests that high school and college students are eligible for. There are usually quite a few contests available for high school students and they can include things like poetry, playwright, fiction, nonfiction and even song lyrics in some cases.

Within Your Local Community

Check within the local Chamber of Commerce or other source of information within your city or town. There may be writing contests that specifically apply to people that live in your city, county or state. There may be contest that are open to those that are willing to write about the state that you live in as well.

How to Use the Hero’s Journey as a Writing Exercise

How to Use the Hero’s Journey as a Writing ExerciseImage result for Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell introduced us to “The Hero’s Journey” a writing outline that describes many of the popular works of fiction currently on the shelves or in the movie bin. Some of the best known pieces of writing or motion picture magic have most, if not all, elements of the Hero’s Journey including Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But you can actually use the Hero’s Journey as an exercise if you want. Make some delicious dessert using a modern ice cream maker, and let’s talk about some ways to do just that.

Ordinary World: Write a page about the ordinary world that a character might live in. If you don’t have a character, just make up a name and then describe their world.

Call to Adventure: Take your character to the moment when they are faced with a choice, and write the internal dialogue that they experience when trying to make that choice.

Refusal of the Call: Heroes often refuse the call-to-action at least once. Remember when Obi-Wan told Luke he must become a Jedi and Luke refused? Write your character’s refusal.

Meeting with the Mentor: Sometimes, these steps appear out of order. For example, Luke Skywalker met with his mentor before he refused the call. You can write it however you like.

Crossing the First Threshold: This is where you can write the hero embarking on his or her adventure.

Tests, Allies, Enemies: Choose a confrontation with an enemy, a first meeting with an ally or a test that your hero must face and write about it as an exercise.

Approach: Write about how your character approaches the main quest. Think about what they might have learned and how prepared they are for it.

Ordeal: Now, write a scene where your character is in the thick of the action. They are accomplishing the goal of the quest. They are overcoming the obstacles that stand in their way.

Reward: When your character finally defeats the enemy and gets the reward, how will they react? What will they do next? Most importantly, how has the experience changed them? Write a scene where your character has won the day and think about what sort of things they might be saying to themselves and how they might be feeling.

The Road Back: This is the very beginning of the last stage of your climax. Your hero is on a journey and has accomplished the goal of that journey. But there is still some loose ends that need to be tied up. They have to be written a clear and accessible exit from the world of the quest to the real world.

Resurrection Hero: The final scene in your climax should show the character changing drastically so that they are finally able to accomplish the tasks that are required to complete the final encounter – even if it is with themselves.

Return with Elixir: Finally, write about your character’s reception, all of the people who didn’t believe they could do it, and the celebration that ensues from them saving the world.


For more writing exercises, check out Reedsy

EBook Formatting Choices: MOBI

EBook Formatting Choices: MOBI

If you are familiar at all with Amazon’s proprietary eBook device: the Kindle, then you are likely familiar with the MOBI format as well. The .mobi format is the most common format out there for Kindle books. There are a few third-party applications that can read the .mobi format, but for the most part, if you have a .mobi file, you have to have a Kindle to read it. The ironic part is however, that if you get a .mobi file that wasn’t downloaded from Amazon, it can be rather difficult to get it to load up into your Kindle. Still, if you want to have the format that is recognized by Amazon Kindle, such as being placed in the Kindle Select Program where people can borrow your books and where you can do free book promotions, then you want to have the .mobi format. If you need more help with the .mobi format, check out Onsite in 60.

Where the MOBI Format can be used

So, where exactly can the MOBI format be used? Unfortunately, it can only be used with Amazon devices like Kindles. The Kindle device is one of the most advanced electronic readers out there, and publishing your book in this format is going to give you a ready-made audience and system is already set up for you to promote your book; that does not always mean that it is the best option out there. There are a lot of things to consider before you decide to place your book in the Kindle Select program, including whether or not you want to give your book exclusivity and conform to Amazon’s pricing models.

The Kindle Select Program

There are definitely some advantages that come with the Kindle Select Program. You are able to price your book at least $2.99 and be able to earn a 70 percent royalty on those books. But that also means the need to keep your book exclusive to Amazon. When the company set up those rules, they knew what they were doing. If you make your book exclusive on Amazon, and it becomes extremely popular, they are going to be the only ones that carry it for a certain period of time. That means all of the sales will come to them. If you go to other retailers, then you’re not going to get the benefits that joining the Kindle Select program offers.

One of those advantages is the ability to price your book to zero for five days out of every 90 days. What that means is that for those days that the book is on promotion it will be promoted for free on Amazon. If you have a series, people will buy the first book in your series for nothing; and there is a decent chance that they will buy the second book as well – as well as any other additional books – because they read the first one and became intrigued. You also are able to take advantage of certain programs like the Kindle Singles program. You can also enlist your book in the borrowing service that Kindle offers – Kindle Unlimited. This service pays you for each page that someone reads.

How To Write Your Story On Your Next Big Idea

So now you know the fandom in which you are going to write your story. You have narrowed down your story ideas to one or two plots and subplots. You have steeped yourself in your chosen fandom. All that remains is to finally start writing your fic.

Organize your notes

The first thing you will want to do is organize your notes, depending on the complexity of your story ideas. If you are anything like me, you will have snippets of dialogue written down on the backs of receipts.

You scribbled the name of an article or website address that had some information you want to include in the story at the bottom of a grocery list. It’s a lot more useful to have these sorts of things either written down on a three-by-five card or set up in a word processor document. Organizing your notes does not have to involve sorting bits and pieces of paper into stacks.

Whether you want to write a short piece of fanfiction and have everything just so or a four hundred page novel that is going to take you weeks or even months to write, making that process easier is a good idea. There are several free or inexpensive software programs that can help you organize everything. Reedsy also has great self-publishing tools that you can use if you need more resources.

Evernote is one such free online tool. It allows you to input your notes into one place that you can access later on any device whenever you need it. FreeMind is another free online resource that can help you organize your thoughts through a technique called mind mapping. Neither of these will help you much if you’re planning on writing a drabble or other very short story. But if you are thinking about a novella or longer, they might be worth your time and drive space.

Decide on the length and type of story you want to write

Your fic can be a short story, novella, or novel. It can be flash fiction or an epic. It can be serialized and shared as a WIP or “work in progress.” It can be an entire series of novels all posted at once for your readers to binge on over a weekend. It can be a one-hundred-word drabble or a one hundred-thousand-word novel. It all depends on how much of a story you want to tell and how much detail you want to put into it.

Drabbles are a favorite type of story. They are so short they don’t have a more traditional story structure with a beginning, middle, and end. Even so, they are still stories. The drabble packs a lot of punch into very few words. When I started writing fanfiction years ago, a fic was only called a drabble if it consisted of exactly one hundred words, no more, no less. Now, the drabble is still quite short, but it can be as long as four or five hundred words. Drabbles are actually quite popular now. Take, for example, the RWBY fanfiction on Commaful. You’ll find the stories are often very short and sweet with some elements of plot and just endless hours of entertainment. You can also look at smaller fandoms like Danger Man fanfics and the 6th Day on and AO3 to see more examples.

Drabbles, twit-fics — stories of 140 characters that can be shared on Twitter in just one post — and three-sentence fics are challenging to write, but doing it successfully can be as rewarding as writing that novel. And they take a lot less time to write. With just one hundred words, you can get a sense of character, setting, history. Perhaps more importantly, you also can have all the elements of a good story: conflicts, goals, and your character’s motivation. Below is an example of a traditional drabble I wrote several years ago. I received a prompt from a friend. They wanted a brief Star Trek fic based on the recent movie reboot and starring James Kirk. Pike’s challenge echoed in Jim’s head. Yes, Lieutenant George Kirk saved hundreds of lives, was a genuine hero. His youngest son decidedly was not. But didn’t heroes usually die being heroes? Just like his dad? The dive bar and others like it were everyday things for Jim. Was that what he wanted? To live and die in a backwater, lurching from one bar fight to the next? He swiped at the blood on his chin, looked at the dull red smear on his thumb, then pushed up from the table.

He wasn’t ready to roll over and die just yet.

Besides the length of your story, you will need to decide what type of fic you are going to write. It is not at all uncommon for a fic to be what is known as “slice of life” or a “PWP.” These are two types of story that will not necessarily have a real plot. In that regard, they can be somewhat easier to write. But both types of fic are fun to write and read.

They may not have much plot, but they can enrich your experience of a character or setting in your favorite fandom. In a slice-of-life fic, you might write about a character’s or group of characters’ typical day. A PWP, which stands for “plot, what plot?” is usually little more than an extended scene. A PWP will, for example, show a character’s reaction to something we did not get to see in canon or titillate the reader with a more sensual scene. “Fix-it” fics do just that.

They fix something. They take a perceived flaw in the original source material, such as the death of a beloved character, and — as the name implies — fix it. An alternative universe or AU fic will involve the same characters as in canon, but they alter the setting in some way, either minor or major. Something as subtle as a character not answering a phone call or as major as shifting the characters from your chosen fandom to our modern world can cause that change. Alternate universe fics can be either character-based or plot-based.

AU settings seem to happen more often with a character-based fic because of the challenge of keeping that character true to the original in spite of the sometimes drastic difference in setting. A “high school” or a “college” AU is a popular type of alternate universe that puts the canon characters into a modern high school or college setting. In many cases, large numbers of AU fics come about because the canon is closed.

AUs allow for a wider playing field. The Hunger Games is a good example of a fandom with a great deal of both character-based and alternate universe fanfic. The world of Panem and Katniss Everdeen is currently a closed canon. (There are rumors, though, that movie producers want to create a series of prequels to the canon events. If that happens, it could become an open canon again.) Of the more than 8,600 works on one popular fanfiction archive, almost 2,000 of them are one flavor or another of alternate universe. The largest number of AU Hunger Games fics are between “alternate universe — modern setting” and “alternate universe — canon divergence.”

Put your story down on “paper” and walk away

Once you have organized your notes, you know what you want to write, and you have worked out some kind of a plan, it’s time to write.

Get that story down on paper, even if it is only virtual paper made up of bits and bytes. If you want to write a longer fic, it can help to put together an outline beforehand, although it is not necessary. Many of us write by the seat of our pants, letting the characters and their reactions dictate the story. Others need that story roadmap to function. But no matter how you go about writing your fic, the important part is to write it.

As with organizing your notes, there are also several free programs and apps available online that can help you write your fic.

They won’t actually write it for you, but they can help to focus and avoid distractions while you write that first draft. FocusWriter is one of my favorites. I first downloaded it when I needed a word processing program I could install on my new laptop. I didn’t have the money for Microsoft Word. I later discovered that Focus Writer is a great way to keep me from surfing the internet when I want to write. Of course, when you first write that fic, you can always use good old-fashioned pencil and paper. Just like with FocusWriter, pencil and paper will keep you away from that time suck we call the internet. And, too, if you write your first draft on paper, you will automatically start editing when you type it into whatever word processor you might use. Some websites will even allow you to type your fic directly into the posting interface. This allows you to skip the word processing software altogether. Whether it takes you just a few minutes to write your fic or it takes you a week — or even more — after you write it, take a break.

The longer the fic, the longer that break might need to be. Just walk away. That way you can give your brain a chance to process what you have written and your eyes a chance to rest. When you come back to it, that break will help you to see what you have written in a new light. You will pick up those missing or extra words. You’ll fix the misspellings your word processor can’t because the words are not misspelled; they are actually the wrong word. Words like “loose” and “lose” or “breath” and “breathe” fall into this category.

Read what you wrote and edit, edit, edit

When you return to your computer, read your fic as though you are the online fan who just stumbled across this beautiful new story. If you have not done so already, be sure you run spell check and make those more obvious corrections. Read your fic again. Chances are good you will see places where you could have phrased things better. You’ll find paragraphs where you rambled, and now you can pare them down to something easier to read. For this stage, too, there are free apps that can help you improve your writing.

Hemingway and Grammarly are two of my favorites, both available for download or as websites where you can upload your fic. You can either cut and paste or upload your story directly to these sites to analyze for grammar and word usage. Hemingway will highlight possible problem areas in different colors for different problems. Blue is for excessive use of adverbs, green for passive voice.

Purple will give you suggestions for ways to simplify a phrase. Grammarly tells you straight up what to fix in your grammar. It explains why something you have written is wrong as well as, in the paid version, giving you suggestions for better word choices.

If you make a lot of edits during this stage, you might want to take another break and start the process over again. Keep repeating the process until you have a fic that does not make you cringe. Eventually, you will be satisfied with the story, and that’s where step 5 comes in.