In this month’s How-to for Authors, Orna chatted with Helen Sedwick to discuss self-publishing legal essentials. Helen uses simple terms and easy to follow language to empower authors and set them up for success.
Mention “legal” and many authors run for the hills. But, if you're an Indie Authors who self-publishes you need to know your rights and understand copyright.
How to Protect your Author Rights and your Wallet
Writers should not be losing money and sleep by signing on with the publishing company or getting sued for copyright infringement. With the right information, writers can protect their rights and their wallets.
Helen is a non-fiction author and historical novelist, and also a California attorney representing small businesses and entrepreneurs. Who better to add some clarity around copyright and author's rights?
The YouTube video and SoundCloud podcast recordings are at the end of the article, but here's a sneak peak at some of the topics covered:
Copyright: Did you know?
- As soon as you create your book in a tangible form it becomes your piece of property and it's automatically copyright protected
- Although you can register your copyright, it's not mandatory.
- Copyright lasts a Lifetime+70 years
- Generally, titles can't be copyrighted (because they're too short), and you can't copyright a story concept or stereotypical character or setting
Content Rights & Licensing: Did you know?
- Self-Publishers should avoid granting “Exclusive Worldwide Rights”
- When you assign rights it's advisable to break them down into small segments and negotiate the rights to those smaller segment only:
- Format (Audio, ebooks and Print) and Territory
- Avoid assigning rights “in perpetuity”. Protect your rights with a Reversion clause and a right “terminate at will”.
- If a self-publishing service contract doesn't stipulate that you can terminate the agreement .. this should be a red flag.
Reading your Author Contract: Did you know?
- If you start at the beginning of your author contract, you'll run out of steam and enthusiasm before you get to the important parts of the contract.
- It's best to scan through your author contract to a few key sections:
- Ones containing these terms: Grant of Rights, Licence, Ownership, Termination
- These sections will define what you are granting rights too and how you can get out of the contract.
- If the author contract is part of a self-publishing service, check what it costs to buy your own books from them. A general rule of thumb is that if your purchase cost is 3x the print cost this should be a red flag.
Law is a tool. Don't get intimidated. Just break it down word by word and approach the contract one step at a time.
Monitoring Copyright Infringement: Did you know?
- You can set up a Google Alert to monitor the appearance of your book online. Track a sentence or two in the middle to end of your book to see who's posting a copy online.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for what was covered in Helen's ALLi Insights, she expands on the topics above and covers your rights to use real people in your books and rights to privacy.
Don't be one of those authors running for the hills. Stand your ground and know your rights.
Legal Essentials for Authors Video
Legal Essentials for Authors Podcast
ALLi Insights Guest Speaker
Writer and lawyer Helen Sedwick has thirty years of experience representing businesses and entrepreneurs. When she self-published the novel COYOTE WINDS, she could find no handbook to help writers deal with the legal issues of self-publishing. So she wrote that book: Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. Her goal is to keep writers out of court and at their desks.
ForeWord Review gave her Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook Five Stars, calling it “one of the most valuable resources a self-publisher can own…well-written and authoritative yet unhampered by legalese.” Her blog coaches writers on everything from protecting copyrights to hiring freelancers to spotting scams.
Check Out: Helen Sedwick's Legal Resource Page
Where can I watch or listen to more ALLi Insights?
- You can catch up on all of our videos on ALLi’s YouTube Channel
- You can listen to all of our podcast recordings at ALLi’s SoundCloud Channel
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