Ask The Expert

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?!

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? …

Why Can’t I Join Your Forum?

I've tried to register for the WritersWeekly forum many times but I never receive a response. What's going on? …

Joe Gregg Helps Future Technical Writer

I have some questions about "breaking in" to technical writing, and I am just not sure where to start. I have a Masters degree in nutrition, and a significant amount of writing experience in a lab setting, for a student manual, etc., but nothing published. I currently stay at home with my two young boys, working from home part-time doing medical transcription to make ends meet, but I am really wanting to launch a writing career. I am stymied as to how to do this. I don't know if you can offer advice to me, or direct me to a resource, but any help would be appreciated. …

Copyrighting Letters

What are the legalities of publishing letters received from others? …

Are They Taking Advantage of Me?

I have a question for Ask the Expert. For the past six months or so I have done a few book reviews for a particular website. I understood when I signed on that there was no monetary compensation. I now realize that this is more time consuming and harder than I expected. I assume the company running the website must get some compensation for their work. How do these types of businesses work? Do you think I am being taken advantage of doing reviews for free? …

Publisher Won’t Pay For Website Design Work

In addition to freelance writing, I also develop websites for writers and publishers. Recently, I developed a website for a magazine publisher who now refuses to pay me. What should I do? …

Can I Decline My First Offer For A Better One?

I sent out a simultaneous submission and got an offer from one publication almost instantly. I agreed to their terms and agreed to write the article. The very next day, a higher paying publication said they wanted to buy it. Can I now decline the first one so I can get more money from the second publication?…

Is It Okay To Query By Email?

Is it okay to send query letters and requests for guidelines to editors via email? It makes perfect sense to me, but I also know how easy it is to hit delete when that email box is full! What do you recommend? …

How Can I Land Interviews?

How do I go about booking interviews with radio and tv stations and newspapers? How do I ask them in essence, "Hi, I just published a book. Would you like to interview me?" …

Where Can I Find A New Agent?

I am in need of a new agent. I understand Janet Kay's agency is out of business. Can you recommend one or send a small list of agents seeking new writers? …

How Do You Hook?

You know that "thing" you do in your newsletter where you hook the reader with just enough of an article to make us absolutely, positively HAVE to click on the link to read more? You do that extremely well. What is that called and how did you learn how to do it? …

ISBN or ISSN?

Angela, I was referred to you by Mark McCann, an author who published through your program. I am putting together a one-time literary magazine and I wasn't sure how to get an ISBN # for the magazine. What is the procedure for doing so? All the best, Elizabeth ISBNs are actually assigned to books. ISSNs are for periodicals. You can apply for an ISSN at: http://www.lcweb.loc.gov/issn/ You'll be happy to know that, while ISBNs are quite expensive, there is currently no charge for an ISSN assignment. …