Author Archives: QQAdmin1

How Much Can an Editor Edit My Work?

Here's a question from a writer named Shannon who wanted to know how to handle a situation where the editor made changes to her work that she feels weren't in the piece's best interest. How should you handle this type of situation? Read on.

Which Word Count Do Agents Want?

Q: Traditionally, a novel’s word count was estimated by multiplying the number of pages by 250 words per page (assuming standardized margins, font, double space, etc.) Now, word processors can give exact word counts instantly. When agents ask for a novel’s word count, do they want the “traditional” word count or...

Defining Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult

Q: I’m writing a children’s book and I see that most publishers have different classifications within the genre—picture books, middle grade, young adult, etc. What are the differences? –Kara G. A: Like any genre, there are plenty of subcategories for children’s books. Ultimately, though, there are five main classifications that you...

What to Charge for Online Writing

Q: Do you have any suggestions on compensation for writing online? –Jillian L. A: Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for this question. While there is pay for online writing, there isn’t much. Worse yet, it’s often hard to come by unless you are an expert in a field that lacks experts...

Lead, Lead or Led?

Q: What’s the difference between “lead” and “led”?—Jake S. A: “Lead” has two specific meanings. As a noun, lead (pronounced like “bread”) is a metallic element. It’s labeled on the periodic table as “Pb” and sometimes found in really old paint. The U.S. government banned lead paint in 1978. Lead pencils...

What is an M.F.A.?

Q: What exactly is an M.F.A. and how is it beneficial to writers? –Matthew G. A: While the initials M.F.A. sound like an outer-space contraption that the government is trying to hide in the desert, it’s actually a very valuable credential earned by some writers. An M.F.A., or Master of Fine...

Can You Copyright a Title?

Q: I’ve been working on a book and the title is very important—I use it as the URL for my blog, for a weekly column I write, etc., and I want people to identify it with me. Can I copyright a title so others can’t use it? –Anonymous A: Copyrights cover...

Can You Start a Sentence with "Because"?

Q: My grammar school teachers always told me that it was wrong to start a sentence with the word “because,” but I commonly see it in books today. What’s the rule?—Roger Allen A: Grammar teachers across the U.S., please don’t hate me, as I’m about to expose the awful truth you’ve...

Do Agents Steal Your Stamps? (The SASE Conundrum)

Q: Do agents steam off the stamps on self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASEs) and resell them?! The agents demand pages, SASEs, that sort of‑thing, but—and I know this sounds cynical—many of my queries disappear.—Don B. A:Of course agents don’t steam off stamps from SASEs and resell them. They steam them off and...

Can I Query Before I Finish My Novel?

Q: I’m currently writing my first novel and am about halfway finished, but I have completed an outline and synopsis. Can I start querying agents now? A: Being a first-time novelist, it’s important to finish your book before sending out any query letters. Without a track record, you have no proof...

UPDATED: Can You Write the Sequel to Someone Else's Book?

NOTE TO READERS: AFTER WRITING THIS Q&Q I READ A COPYRIGHT LAW THAT DIDN’T JIVE WITH MY ANSWER, SO I CONTACTED AN ATTORNEY TO SET THINGS STRAIGHT. GLAD I DID, BECAUSE I WAS OFF. AFTER SOME DIGGING WE FOUND THAT THE GREAT GATSBY WILL ENTER THE PUBLIC DOMAIN IN 2020, NOT...

What is a Kill Fee?

Q: I got a contract for a magazine story that I’m writing, and it makes reference to a “kill fee.” What is a kill fee and why would a publisher and/or writer use one?—Frank A: A kill fee what you get if your editor decides not to buy your story after...

Are Men Writing Romance?

Q: I notice that there are very few male authors or stories written from the male point of view in Romance novels. Could this be because most editors or publishers in this genre are women? The best romance novel ever written, in my opinion, was “LOVE STORY,” and a male wrote...

How Do You Regain Copyrights to Pieces You've Sold?

Q: About 20 years ago, I sold a short story to a magazine. One line in my contract stated the payment was for “full rights” and another said, “On acceptance of this payment, the author transfers the copyright interest to … .” Does this mean I can’t sell the story ever...

The Difference Between Authorized and Unauthorized Biographies

Q: I’m considering writing a biography about someone relatively famous in my hometown. I’ve noticed that biographies fall into one of two categories: authorized and unauthorized. What’s the difference? A:  The difference between an authorized biography and an unauthorized biography is this: An authorized biography is written with the help/cooperation of...

U.S. vs. Canadian Formatting

Q: I’ve been bouncing some ideas for comedy TV scripts, so I bought a script-formatting book. The book is published in the U.S and I live in Canada. I was wondering if formatting rules are any different between the U.S and Canada. And what is the best formatting program to use?...

Subjunctive vs. Indicative Mood ("If I Was" or "If I Were"?)

Q: Could you explain the difference between the indicative mood and the subjunctive mood, and when to use the subjunctive mood? It’s so seldom used correctly that it leaves me scratching my head. When in doubt, should I err with “If I was” or “If I were”?—Lori McRae A: Statements of...

How Do I Track Book Sales?

Q: Is there a way to find out the current sales for a given book that may (or may not) be in print? —Tony P. A: The short answer to this is no. Due to the volume of distribution channels, there is no outlet where you can find an accurate and...

Bi-annual vs. Biennial

Q: What’s the difference between bi-annual and biennial?—Anonymous A: I see these words treated as if they were interchangeable—most often by marketing departments—but they aren’t. And marketing departments should be extra cautious, as misusing these two words could cost them quite a bit of money. “Bi-annual” means twice a year, or...

Where Can Authors Find Contract Forms?

Q: My co-author and I have been asked to provide a collaboration agreement to our agent.‑ Where can‑we find a template for creating this document?—Michele A: Templates for author contracts can be found in Tad Crawford’s Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers (Allworth Press). It’s a great resource for...

What Should You Include in Your Bio for Agents?

Q: I’ve recently finished my first novel and have begun searching for an agent to represent me. Some of the agents ask for a writer’s bio. Could you please tell me exactly what information I should include in this bio? What should be left out?—Terrie Smith A: Writers are often advised...

Dos and Don'ts

Q: When writing about a list of “dos and don’ts” do you punctuate it like I just did, or does “do’s” need an apostrophe. I know it’s plural, but it looks odd to spell it “dos.” –Heidi Thomas A: Funny you ask, as this recently came up during an editorial meeting...

Can You Use Your Spouse as a Source?

Q: I have a feature idea that includes interviewing an interesting, successful TV/film art director for an architecture or home design magazine. My problem is, he’s my husband. Ethically, does this prevent me from writing and submitting this story?—Corrie A. A: While this feels Dear Abby-esque, it’s legitimate to question your...

Don't Use "Exact Same"

Q: Is the term “exact same” correct? As in: “The sisters were raised in the exact same environment?”—Judy R. A: No, the term “exact same” isn’t correct. Why? For the same reason “end result,” “unexpected surprise” and “basic fundamentals” are wrong—they’re redundant. While all these expressions have sneaked into daily conversations...

My Girls

Hey All, No Q this week due to the wonderful birth of my second daughter over the weekend. Mom and baby are doing great, and my oldest daughter couldn’t be more excited to have a sister (mainly because we’re letting her watch more Dora than usual). I’m a little sleep deprived,...