Do I need sample edits for my book? This is among the questions answered on our #AskALLi Members Q&A is hosted by Michael La Ronn, author of science fiction and fantasy novels as well as author self-help books; and ALLi Director, author, and poet Orna Ross.
Our questions this month include:
- Can I use someone else’s trademark in my book title?
- When I commission artwork, does the copyright belong to me or the artist?
- How can I design and format a book cover ready for printing? Or would a printer do that?
- How do I submit a book to IngramSpark without having to pay any fees?
Join us to hear the answers to these and more!
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Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcript: Sample Edits and More
Orna Ross: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Author's Member Q&A. Normally I say, with me Orna Ross and with Michael La Ronn, but Michael can't be with us today, so it's just me, I'm afraid. It won't make a big difference to the Q&A, though it's always great to have Michael's perspective, particularly his legal brain, but we don't have any heavy legal questions today.
So, for those of you who haven't tuned in before, this is our monthly Q&A, and our members have many ways in which they can get their self-publishing advice questions answered. We have, of course, a closed Facebook forum where you can put your question and get responses from our other members, and the hive mind is a source of great wisdom. We also, of course, have the member desk where you can email your particular query and have it answered, but this session is about public queries that are useful to lots of authors. Our members have sent them in, and we answer them here publicly. Anybody can listen in to this broadcast, but only our members can actually submit questions. So, we don't have a huge range of questions here today, and because Michael is not here, we'll probably get through them a little faster than normal.
For those of you who are watching this live session, I know lots of people will be watching in replay, but if you are here live, this session is also an opportunity to get your questions answered here, live. So, just enter them into the chat when you wish to, and if you have any questions that are prompted by the answers to the scheduled questions, then yes feel free to pop them into the chart area. And yeah, just tell us who's here and where you've come from and so on, and we'll get on the questions now.
So, first question, Michael usually knows who they're from and has the longer question, so I just get the short question here. So, I'm going to work from that.
Do I need sample edits for my book?
So this question is, do I need sample edits for my book?
I'm assuming this question is from a member who's in the editorial phase of their publishing and they are seeking an editor and wondering whether they should get sample edits from the editor in order to see whether it's a fit.
I think it's a really good idea to do this. Lots and lots of editors are very happy to provide a sample edit. Not all. So, you may find an editor that you're interested in won't want to do that, but it gives you a sense of where the editor is coming from, and it gives them a sense of the stage that your work is actually in, because sometimes as authors, we think we're further along than we actually are. We may be looking for proofreading, but actually be in need of copy editing, or indeed even something more than that, developmental editing. So, samples are a good idea before you actually make a contract to hire somebody. It's a good idea to use samples, I think. And if anybody is listening, who would like to share their experience of editing samples, again, please do feel free to pop that into the chat.
So, short answer to the question is, you don't need to get them, but it is advisable to get them. And while we're on it, in terms of hiring editors, it's always advisable to give plenty of time to the hire process. Don't just take the first person that comes along. It's good to have an editor who works in your genre. Not essential, but always good. It's also good to see other feedback and comments from other authors who have used them. So, don't just go by testimonials on the website, also go directly; if you do see a testimonial on an editor's website, feel free to go directly to that author.
If you see an author thanking an editor in the back of their book, feel free to ask them about their experiences. Most authors are very willing to share their experience with editors and, it's a fit thing, not every editor suits every author, it's about finding the right one. Sometimes it takes some time, there's trial and error process involved, before you find the right person, and when you do, it's a bit like with a date or something, when you do find the right person, you know it. So that's it, and sample edits have their place in that process, definitely.
Can I use someone else’s trademark in my book?
Okay, next question. Can I use someone else's trademark in my book title?
So, I think the short answer to this one is no. The reason that people trademark is so that people won't do things like that, but trademark and copyright are different things, and books, generally speaking, are governed more by copyright than by trademark, though there are exceptions, particularly with certain non-fiction books.
So with anything like this, I always think that the response is creativity. So, rather than putting yourself in a situation where you're worried about something, and where you have a possible legal issue on your hands, it's far better to change it up and think of another way, another name, another term. We're not constrained in what we do, but sometimes we constrain ourselves, and we can think we really need something for our book, but actually we don't need it as much as we need to keep ourselves on the right side of the law, and content, and not worried about things like this. So, if something is trademarked, it's definitely best to not put it into your title, I would say.
While we're on it, in the UK, US, and lots of countries that are governed by bare copyright, copyright is not a universal, global thing, it's a local thing, and different countries are ruled by different copyright laws, but in the English speaking world, widely, there is no copyright in titles, so it's a tricky and a complex area, but we always give the advice to stay as safe as you can, stay on the right side of things, rather than putting yourself in a situation where you might find yourself in trouble.
When commissioning artwork, does the copyright belong to me or to the artist?
Next question, when I commission artwork, does the copyright belong to me or to the artist?
So, another copyright question and again, like all copyright questions, the answer is rarely a simple black and white answer. But again, you can take the white end of the spectrum here, the artist owns the copyright in their own work, just like you own the copyright in your own words. You can have agreements whereby they give up that right, and you need to, in your agreements with an illustrator, or your cover designer, or anybody who does visuals for you, you need to be very clear about what you are licensing and what you're not licensing. So, you need an actual agreement for that.
We have a sample agreement in the member zone, which you can find if you log in and navigate to contracts, and you'll see sample agreements in the dropdown menu, and there is one there for working with illustrators and designers. And that gives you an idea of what you're looking at, but essentially what you're trying to do when you hire another creative professional is to be fair to you and to be fair to them, and it certainly isn't fair for you to grab their copyright, particularly because most of us are not paying a huge fee to the artist.
So, there is a middle way, and the sample contract points up that way, but essentially, if you're thinking of the concept of fairness and being fair to them and fair to you, you license it for the uses that you need it for, and that generally is the cover of the book, or in the interior, or whatever you need, whatever it is you need from them, whatever uses you need in whatever formats you're actually publishing in. So print, hard print, large print, and so on. Stating all of this in the contract makes it clear in the agreement so that later on, everybody knows what has been licensed and what hasn't.
So once you set that out, you ask for what you need and you don't ask for more than you need, in the same way that if a trade publisher or rights buyer was coming along to ask to license your copyright for a trade publishing edition or a translation, or whatever, you would want them to only take the rights they need to do whatever project they're planning, that they would put energy behind.
Unfortunately, in the rights arena, there's a big tendency to grab as many rights as possible, because you never quite know in publishing what's going to take off and what's not. And so, people protect themselves by trying to get all the rights when they don't have a plan to exploit them. So, don't be that person, be fair to our fellow creative professionals.
So, if anybody has any other questions, do feel free to pop them into the chat, we'll get to them after we go through the scheduled questions, if you've got anything pressing on your mind.
Should I design and format my own book cover?
Next scheduled question is, how can I design and format a book cover ready for printing? Or would a printer do that?
I have no idea who is asking these questions today, because as I said, Michael isn't here and he usually does that, but I would say that the very fact that you're asking this question in this way indicates that no, you definitely should not do your front cover.
So, cover art is art, and it has business also. It has conventions, it has tropes, it's very genre-dependent, it's complex. It takes lots of experience to become a book cover designer. So, even your local skilled designer or your family member, who's a fabulous illustrator, they're not necessarily qualified to do book cover art, at all.
So, as I said, if you're asking that question, then the answer is no, you shouldn't go there. It's not the printer who does it, it's the publisher. So, the publisher is the person who is looking after the editorial, the design, the distribution, the marketing, the promotion, and the production of the book and that, for us indie authors, that's very often us. Sometimes, we hand that job over to a paid service who does the lot, but more typically we hire individual services for individual parts of the publishing process, so that's what you would do here. You would hire a cover designer who is an expert in that arena, and to find such a person, if you're an ALLi member, just log in to the member zone and navigate to the services area, and we have there all our approved partner members, and you'll be able to search out a cover designer who works in your genre and on the kinds of books that you want to write.
So yeah, short answer, it's a specialist thing and definitely one to be left to the experts.
Do I need to register my pen name, and does it affect copyright?
So, we have a question coming in here from Facebook. Do I have to register my pen name and does using a pen name effect copyright?
No, you don't need to register a pen name. A pen name just comes into use by being used. So, just publishing your book in your pen name, putting it out there, that's it, you now are that person for the purposes of writing and publishing, and lots of our members have a number of pen names. It's very common in the author community to use a pen name, Orna Ross, is in fact a pen name.
So, yeah, you can absolutely feel free to just use whatever names you want on your book covers. It's important that your pen names, if you have more than one, are consistent. The reason people break into different pen names is because they're writing in different genre, and they don't want people to get confused about what they write, it just makes it simpler to have a number of pen names.
The other part of your question is, does using a pen name affect copyright?
No, it doesn't. Again, it's widely recognized by copyright legislation that artists, particularly writers, use pseudonyms. So, it doesn't affect your legal rights in any way.
So, hopefully that was helpful. Sorry, I don't have your name.
How do I avail of the IngramSpark discount?
How do I submit a book to IngramSpark without having to pay any fees?
That is a question which relates to our discounts and deals for IngramSpark. So, IngramSpark is a partner member of ALLI and a sponsor of a number of our podcasts, and they also provide our members with a discount, a full discount, off the costs of publishing.
So, if you are using IngramSpark for your print editions, and we recommend that you do, because they have the widest reach in terms of getting your book to as many stores as possible around the world, and indeed Amazon itself uses Ingram for fulfillment a lot. We recommend though that you use amazon KDP for the Amazon system. So, the two work in conjunction very well together.
Yes, IngramSpark has fees, and you can get those fees for uploads and for changes and revisions waived by using a code, which you will find in the discounts and deals section of the ALLi website. So, if you just log-on, you'll need your password, log on with your normal email and password, and if you just search there, you'll find the IngramSpark code and you go through your normal uploading, or whatever process that you normally go through, and then you'll get the chance to put the code in at the end. So, the costs will come up, but then they will be waived once you put the code in.
So hopefully that works for you. It's a fantastic benefit and we're very grateful to IngramSpark for providing this service to our members.
Is there a sample contract to use with graphic designers?
Another question coming in here online, do you have a sample contract specifically for a graphic designer using stock art to produce a cover? Something that would make it clear they have the correct license themselves.
Our sample contracts are made to be changed. So, anything like this that you would want to put in and make part of the agreement that you're making with your designer, feel free. The sample contracts are just that, they're not set in stone at all, they're guidelines for you to use. They give you language and stuff that is not weighed down with a lot of legalese. So, no, we don't get that granular with the contracts, they're kept very general deliberately, so that you can then bring in the specifics of what you're trying to get at.
Sometimes, something like that, as to whether the illustrator has the correct licensing process in themselves, and I agree with you that this is a very important question, a reputable designer will always have the proper licenses covered off. And they will charge you probably, if they see something online or in a stock library, or whatever, you will be charged for that image as part of the overall charge for the cover. And it's really important that they have the correct licensing in place, but sometimes those questions are best covered off in the email rather than in the contract. So, it's a matter of deciding what goes into the agreement, and we've kept the agreements short and simple and as user-friendly as possible. So, it would be a decision, I would say, but that conversation is something that you could probably have in the email, and emails provide a written account of the agreement, which are as legally binding as the signed contract that goes along with them. So, it's all part of the same thing, and it's your decision as to whether you want to put that in as a clause in the contract or whether you want to just have it as part of the discussion when you're hiring the person.
So, that is it on this month's member questions. Those of you who submitted questions that were not answered here in the live show, you will have received an email from us with a direct answer, and the reason that not every question goes into the live stream is because we are not choosing questions that we dealt with them last month or in recent shows, we tend to answer that privately, or if it's a very specific question, particular to you, that doesn't really have a lot of relevance for everybody else.
So, if we don't have any other questions here in the actual live stream, then that is it for today. Do keep your questions coming. Again, you'll find the place to do that in the member zone, just go to Member Q&A, and fill out the form and we will take the questions here.
But again, remember that there are lots of ways to get your questions answered at ALLi and one of the things that we are here for is one of our AskALLi campaign promises, that we can answer any self-publishing question that you may have.
So, until next week when we will be back with the Foundational Podcast, Sacha Black and I will both be here together, looking at our theme for next time. So until then, I hope you have a good writing and publishing week. Thank you for coming along. Bye-bye now.