Ask The Expert

Who Provides Your Medical Insurance?

I searched many different ways in your newsletter to find your information about the family medical insurance. My friend needs insurance to span the gap between now and Medicare. …

MJ Rose Helps Author With “Reel To Market” TV Program Question

I've loved your newsletter and website for years -- you're a great authority on the writing life. I have a book coming out in the spring, and my publicist has asked my co-author and I to create a reel to market to TV programs. Have you any suggestions for resources for writers wanting to create such a thing? I have no sense of the necessary production values, how long it should be, format, etc. I have searched and searched and can't find any information on the web. Any wisdom would be much appreciated -- an E-book, an article, a regular book - I'm just seeking some pointers on this. Thanks so much! …

Should I Pay To Enter A Writing Contest?

My question has to do with entry fees to contests. Are they now standard when you see a contest that you might consider entering? I'm slightly confused by that, because essentially isn't that just another roundabout way of paying to get your writing read or published? …

A Letter to the Editor Criticized My Article!

I recently landed two articles in a mid-sized magazine, and when reviewing the second noticed a letter to the editor tearing apart my first article. The letter was quite vitriolic, there were no counter-opinions expressed, and I was never contacted for any rebuttal. I have to admit to bruised feelings since even though everyone is entitled to an opinion, I had hoped I might have been backed up with a balanced opinion or even a chance to respond to letter writer. …

That All-Too-Common “Life Threatening Illness” Excuse…

I sent a magazine a story a couple years ago now, and after repeated follow-ups (I'm a pretty patient person still working toward my first print fiction clip), I got word this summer that they had accepted my story for publication in their next issue. The e-mail said that their publisher had been in a life-threatening accident and was recovering, but they thought the next issue would be out soon. That was in July. I sent them an e-mail again in November to request an update as to when that issue would be coming out, but I haven't received a response yet. In the past, I always got a response within a couple days. I can't find any info about them when I do a web search, but they are listed in the 2006 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market. …

Should I Contribute To This Celebrity’s Book?

I'm curious. What happens to the unpaid (except in signed copies of the book) contributors when a well-known celebrity publishes a book with the stories and "wisdom" from ordinary writer folk? Do the ordinary folk get any publicity or press in the ensuing publicity tour? Does it hurt/help a writer to have their selections published in someone else's best seller? I've been selected to have a story I wrote published in a celebrity's book and folks are asking ME what happens and I have to say, I honestly don't know! Can you clue me in? …

Is My Old Publisher Illegally Selling My Book?!

My book was first published by another Print on Demand company. I've since had it printed elsewhere. Just this morning whilst searching the Heathrow Airport website for book retailers to contact in the course of my marketing strategy, I came across my book title, the old version, on Amazon.com, selling for …

Should I Submit Articles To An Article Mill?

I was wondering if you have anything positive or negative to say about those sites that ask writers to submit articles for resale. The sites then post them and let other companies buy the articles for publication. …

Should I Let Sources “Check” My Article? NO!

I write non-fiction articles and every once in a while I have an interview subject who wants to review the material before it is published. I feel uncomfortable doing this because when I have allowed it, they want to change quotes that I know they have said. How do you suggest I handle this? …

What Exactly Is A Vanity Press?

I have a question... I recently finished a fantasy novel and I am in the midst of looking for an agent and a publisher. I received an offer from a publisher, but the details are that I need to pay $1500 first, and according to the contract, the onus of marketing is on me (they do cover art, editing, printing, and I think I get 100 books). They'll do SOME marketing but it reads that most of it is my responsibility. One friend says this is a vanity press. I've contacted a couple of authors who have been printed with this publisher and both of them raved, very positive. It's the $1500 part that bothers me and how many books it takes to make that back. …

Should I Write On Spec?

In my 20 years as a writer, I think only once have I written something on speculation (and that was before I accumulated hundreds of clips). I recently approached a new publication with an article idea but the editor would like to see the complete manuscript (1,000 words) first. I'm assuming she means on speculation. I've emailed her back asking her if this is what she means. In the meantime, what are your thoughts about writing on spec? Someone advised me to draw up a little "on spec" contract so that the editor has a time limit for making a decision to accept the piece or not and that if they decline, I'm free to pitch it elsewhere. …

Who Owns Copyright To Old Letters?

A student in my "Write For Dollars" class asked this question, and I was unsure of the answer. I told her I would "check with the expert." At a recent garage sale she purchased several letters that had been written between husband and wife during World War II. She wants to use portions of these letters in a creative nonfiction story, but does not want to alter the principal characters' "real" names. Her question: Is this legal? Is it ethical? Does she have an obligation to consult or discuss her plans with family members of the deceased couple prior to publishing? Would family members of the couple have a right to reclaim these letters once their existence was made public? (They were sold by a son who is estranged from the rest of the family.) …

Still Confused About What Is And Isn’t Spam…

I read your article, Angela and I'm still confused. It was my understanding that I could email friends, family or someone with whom I have an existing business relationship, without it being considered spam. I was planning to add an opt in box on my website, but also from time to time to mail to a group of people known to me, probably using Constant Contact. Please clarify. …

Can A College Make Copies Of My Book Without Permission?

I have a question about copyright law and have been unable to find out the answer. Twice now professors have photocopied an entire book I wrote, to use as a class textbook. Each made 30 to 40 copies, which they gave to their students. Because copyright law mentions "educational institutions", I'm not sure if this is considered "fair use" or not... …

How Can I Get Amazon To Change My Listing?

What would be helpful, I think, would be to provide some guidance about HOW to get Amazon's attention, should we find such problems. Tackling that behemoth is daunting, especially, when one can spend a lot of time just figuring out how to e-mail them in a useful way. …

Changing Your Name After Being Published

I have been published for about three years in a niche market. I will be getting married and want to change my last name. How can I be sure that people will know I'm still me? …

Need Co-authoring Contract

I was recently contacted by an agent concerning my first book that I have written. I wrote the book but did receive ideas, comments and critiques from one of my friends during weekly brain storming sessions. We have a friendship agreement to split any profits 50/50, minus expenses, I have but I feel like I need some type of contract signed before I send out my proposal to the agent later this week. I was wondering if there was a website with example contracts I can pull from and get this taken care of. …

Richard Answers Question About Amazon’s Used Book Sales

I'm writing in regards to the amazon.com zshop listings for sellers that sell books. The information for the sellers has a line that states purchase information with a quantity. Does this indicate that they have purchased this quantity of books? …

Is Blogging “Writing for Free”?

I've just started a blog in order to generate more link backs and traffic to my site. Some might argue that this is a form of writing for free. However, I'm doing it for myself with a specific purpose in mind and it only takes me half an hour a day. What do you think of blogs in general and of doing it like I am, to generate traffic? …

Should I Pay This Agent?

Just found your website. I have been offered a 6 month or 1 year contract for a novel I wrote. The literary agency asks for front money. Can you please tell me if this is legitimate, or if I am being duped? …

Editor Holding Your Article For A Rainy Day?!

A monthly magazine's Articles Editor expressed a liking for my submission, and--saying there was no immediate need for it--saved it in her "Someday" file. Since then, nearly four months have elapsed. 1. Would it be wise to write her to ask if she intends to buy my article in the foreseeable future? 2. Would it be wise to write her to ask if she minds if I submit it elsewhere? 3. Should I feel free to submit it elsewhere without notifying her? Thank you very much. …

Mainstream? Literary? Genre Short Stories? Huh??

What is the difference between Mainstream / Literary and Genre Short Stories? Sherry Editor's Note: Both MJ Rose and Angela give their opinion on this week's question. …

Quoting Bible Verses?

Is it considered plagiarism if you use bible verses from the bible while writing a children's christian storybook? …

Editors Didn’t Send Entire Clip

The first page of my article had been photocopied and sent along. I wrote and asked for the "jump" page. The editor said she copied the story from a bound volume and couldn't send the continuation. I checked the publication website and found a complete list of last year's articles. If one wanted a copy of a particular article, I read, one could send along $3.00. …

Amazon Is Selling My Article?

I found out something upsetting today. Amazon is selling an article of mine, How Busy Parents Squeeze in Fitness, that I never gave them permission to sell. I was never contacted at all. …

Agent Wants Me To Pay For Editing And Illustrations?!

A literary agent wants to represent a children's picture book that I have written. However, I am required to get it professionally edited at my expense plus have an illustrator draw up some sample pictures, also at my expense. They will provide me with an acceptable list of editors and illustrators. From there, the agency will try and place my work with a publisher. Something doesn't sound right here. It's my understanding that a reputable agent shouldn't charge a reading fee but what about a professional edit and sample illustrations? …

Did I Handle This Situation Correctly?

I recently ran into a distressful writing situation and, while I feel I handled it the best way possible, I would welcome your thoughts. Perhaps this experience may help someone else. I have "ghostwritten" several articles for a number of business clients. While there is always a level of "challenge" in writing these--mostly because of "executive egos"---I've been able to help several clients successfully place their stories in a variety of publications. The last project I worked on, however, was a nightmare. One "co-author" (executive) would say use example X; the other "co-author" (executive) would say not to use example X. One said the story was "dry"; when I re-wrote it to be more "lively" the other "hated" the new version. I was getting caught in some kind of political crossfire; nonetheless I tried to maintain a respectful and responsive tone at all times. After several frantic rewrites I called my "assignment editor" and told him what was happening. I emphasized that, while I appreciated how seriously the executives were taking the project, I needed to know exactly how the story was to be written. …

How Long Should I Wait?

Hi, I sent a few tips to a national magazine, which pays $50 for each tip they accept. In their tip request section, it also states that they cannot acknowledge receipt of the entries. I'm guessing that means they also don't contact you if they're NOT going to use your tip. Is that correct? …

Secure Interview Before Query or Vice-Versa?

I have several ideas for interviews and the magazines they would be great for. However, I don't know the potential interviewees personally, so should I ask for an interview before I have an actual assignment, and take the chance that I won't get the job? Or should I query the magazines first, and take a chance that I won't get the interview? …