Business

Should You Give Editors Your Social Security Number?

Q: I was recently given an assignment with a local magazine and the editor asked me for my Social Security number. I’m uncomfortable handing out that type of information and wonder if it’s normal for editors to ask for it. Or am I just being paranoid? —Anonymous A: It’s not unreasonable to be wary...

Understanding ISBNs and What They Mean for Your Book

Q: What is an ISBN, and what’s its purpose? Can I apply for one without being a company/publisher? —Kathryn N. A: An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that identifies a book for purposes of commerce and supply chains (before 2007 it was a 10-digit number, in case you see it...

Does Selling All Rights Mean I Can't Use the Same Topic Again?

Q: If a magazine buys all rights to a non-fiction article I wrote about my granddaughters’ medical problems, can I have other articles or a book published which would include the same information? I use the same description of the disease for everything I write about it.  So far I have only published articles...

What is Co-Publishing?

Q: I’ve been to a few writing conferences and have heard several authors say they “co-published” their books. What does co-published mean? –Charles M. A: A co-publishing agreement is one where the author and the publisher share publication costs to get the book in print. This is more common in poetry and experimental fiction...

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 that you can...

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 all. For example,...

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 reliable sales figure...

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 finding all the...

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 to write bios...

Tax Time: Is Your Writing Career a Business?

Q: I made some money last year through my writing. As tax time rolls around, I’m wondering: How much money do I have to earn before I have to declare myself as a business? –Alice H. A: There is no set dollar amount that mandates you to declare your writing income as a business....

How Does an International Author Get Postage to Have SASEs Returned?

Q: I live outside the United States. Most queries require a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE), but if I put my own country’s stamp on the SASE, it won’t be valid when posted back from the United States. How does an international author get postage to have SASEs returned? —Bhaskar Majumdar A: Don’t fret, as...

How to Find Out Who Agented a Book

Q: When an agent isn’t listed in the author’s book acknowledgements, is there a way to search backwards to find that agent from the author, journalistic facilitator or publisher? Thanks for your expertise. —Alice Lazzarini A: Finding out who was the agent of a particular book can certainly be tricky, especially if the person...

What Are First Serial Rights (or FNASR)?

Q: When working out a contract with a magazine, what are first serial rights?—Anonymous A: When you sell first serial rights to a newspaper, magazine or periodical for a piece of work you’ve written, that media outlet has the right to be the first place to publish the article/story/ poem. After the piece runs,...

What Should I Charge to Ghostwrite a Book?

Q: A friend approached me about writing her memoir. I don’t know how to charge for it, especially since I have no idea how much material I’ll have to work with and, therefore, how long it might be. Also, I know I want to share credit, on the one in a million chance that...

What is a Literary Executor?

Q: I was recently approached by one of my relatives (my father’s cousin), who asked if I would be her literary executor. I don’t really know what this means and thought you might be able to shed some light on the subject. Do you know what this might entail?—Anonymous A: Often people choose executors...

Dealing with Late (or Missing) Payments

Q: If a writer has jumped through all the hoops (finished the assignment, submitted a proper invoice, etc.) and is not being paid, what steps should he take before resorting to having a lawyer write a letter or taking their case to small claims court, etc. —Anonymous A: Always contact the editor first (second...

What is a Blog?

Q: While I’ve read several sites referred to as “blogs,” I’m not really sure what a blog is. What is a blog? —Christopher B. A: From writers at award-winning newspapers, to magazine editors to your neighbor’s teenage son, almost everyone seems to have a blog these days. But ask three people what a blog...

Landing Interviews Before Receiving an Assignment

Q: When I cold-call someone to interview them, I feel like a fraud because I think they must be wondering what my real reason for calling is. I have a suspicion this is clear in my voice. Basically, I just seize up and try to rush them off the phone, which isn’t doing my...

Should I Get a Lawyer Before Signing with an Agent?

Q: Once an agent wants to take me on as a client and sends me a contract, do I need to have the contract looked at by a contract lawyer before I sign?—Allen Reiling A: Yes, it would probably be wise to have a lawyer who knows a thing or two about publishing look...

Staples or Paper Clips?

Q. When I’m submitting a manuscript to a publisher, should I paper clip or staple the pages? Are the rules the same when submitting to a contest?—D. Fuson A. In general, publishers want manuscripts paper-clipped, not stapled. It’s more difficult to read through 300 pages harnessed together by staples than it is to take...

Novel and Short Story Word Counts

Q. How long is the typical short story supposed to be? How about novellas and novels? Are there guidelines with regard to word count for a first-time novelist? —Molly Heyl A. There are general guidelines for each literary category: Short stories range anywhere from 1,500 to 30,000 words; Novellas run from 30,000 to 50,000;...

Do I Have to Live Close to an Agent to Get One?

Q: I live in a small town where there are no agents. Do I have to have an agent in my town or can I get an agent from another town or even another state? Do I really have to meet them in person or can it be strictly a phone and e-mail relationship?—Claira...