I am very excited to be teaching a class at Seattle’s wonderful community writing center, Hugo House, on Saturday, February 20th. The class is called Legal Concepts Writers Need to Know.
I think one of the most important ways for a writer to position themselves for success is to acquire information about the publishing industry and the way it works. I know that anything dealing with law and contracts can be intimidating to a non-lawyer, but just getting a little bit of knowledge about legal concepts and issues that are relevant to writers during and after the writing process goes a long way–and can help protect you from an unpleasant or unexpected situation.
Prior to being an agent, I was a litigator in NYC (seems like ages ago!). With a law degree under my belt, four years of law practice, and a current career as a literary agent, I’ve got lots of insight on what legal concepts are important to writers. Here are some questions I am going to be answering in this course, which will be broken down in four sections (one for each hour of fun!)
- What is copyright law? How is it different from trademark and patent? What does a copyright protect?
- How do I get copyright protection for my work? Do I have to file for a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office?
- What is fair use of another’s work? Can I excerpt someone else’s work? Can I use a quote in my epigraph?
PERMISSIONS & PRIVACY
- What are best practices for seeking permission for photos and other visual materials? Song lyrics and quotes? Recipes?
- What does a good release form contain?
- Can I use a real life person as a character in my book?
- What makes a fair agency agreement? What clauses and terms should I expect to see? And what the heck do they mean?
- What makes a fair publishing agreement? What are red flags?
- What’s the deal with subsidiary rights and licensing?
- Is this a fair self-publishing contract?
And many more!
Seattle writers, does this sound interesting to you? Or does this sound relevant to you? If so, register! Let’s spend four hours on a Saturday together! I promise I will make all of this information fun, informative and accessible! Link to register is here.
I have tons of advice for writers, but if I only had one piece of advice to give, one that I think could make the most impact, it would be this: Whatever genre you write in, make sure you are an expert in that genre. What do I mean by this? I mean that you’ve read tons of books in the genre that you write in. Not just ten or twenty books, but one hundred or two hundred plus books. This advice applies no matter if you are a true crime writer, a picture book writer, a memoirist or a middle grade novel writer–whatever kind of writer you are! I think knowing your genre is important because it helps you become a better writer of that particular genre because you’ve seen how it’s been done really well (or conversely, really badly or just okay). You not only know what bar you have to reach with your own writing, you also become familiar with trends and archetypes of the genre. In children’s literature, it helps clue you in on things like tone and vocabulary and themes that are appropriate for the age group you are writing for.
Some writers worry that reading other books while they are writing will overly influence their own writing. Personally, I think it’s okay to be inspired or influenced by other writers and stories–there’s plenty of evidence of that happening in all art forms.
I think it’s particularly important that you read as many books in your genre as possible that have been published in the last two years. This is important because I think it helps give you a sense of what publishers and readers for looking for right now and the state of the current market. So often, I receive queries (particularly for picture books) that seem to be from another time. The kind of book that might have worked in the fifties or the nineties, but isn’t representative of what the current marketplace is for a picture book or a middle grade or young adult novel. The picture book of our youth is different from the picture book of today. The middle grade novel of our youth is different from the middle grade novel of today. The young adult novel of our youth is different from the young adult novel of today. Of course, write what’s in your heart, but if you keep in mind considerations of the current marketplace you are better positioned for success.
So get reading!
Hi, everyone! Happy new year! My name is Clelia Gore and I am a kid lit agent at the Seattle-based agency, Martin Literary Management. One of my professional goals of 2016 is to create a place for talented writers to get to know me better and also a place where I can provide my best advice to writers hoping to make their big break. The publishing industry is a fiercely competitive one, with many gatekeepers, and I truly believe that writers who equip themselves with knowledge about how the publishing industry works are better positioned for success than those who focus solely on writing. I will be posting advice or musings related to writing and publishing and also updating my manuscript wish list, letting you know what kind of manuscripts and clients I am looking for at the moment. The first of these posts are coming soon!