Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three issues for publishers in accepting manuscripts

Now that you've submitted your manuscript to your publisher, it's nail-biting time. Will there be changes? How many? How deep will the cuts go? Of course there's nothing you can do about this part of the process: it's entirely out of your hands. Or is it?

If you've been keeping in touch with your editor this should be a less painful process than if you haven't. Both because you'll have a better idea of what your publisher actually wants and because there's less that your publisher will be allowed to insist that you change. Remember when I said that if you're making changes to your content you should reach out to your editor and make sure they're okay with your plans? This is why: a publisher who has been kept informed of your progress has far less leeway to reject your final work than one who sees it for the first time at the end.

Let's look at some of the criteria; we'll explore them in detail over the coming days.

Knowing whether you've delivered what you were "supposed to" (and two tips in case you didn't)

Now that you know it's up to you to decide when you're finished, there's another element to consider: did you write what you were "supposed to" write?

This is an easier question with non-fiction than fiction. For non-fiction, if you're assigned to do a travel piece on the wineries of Italy and you come back with a story about traveling on a fishing trawler in the Barents Sea, you haven't delivered what you promised. In that case your publisher has an easy time saying they won't pay. (Believe it or not, even this isn't always a slam dunk, but that's another topic for another day.)

It gets a bit harder when your writing has some leeway. If you're writing a memoir, profile, or biography, your own impressions and streams of consciousness might be a relevant way to investigate the topic. But the further you get from your designated subject, the easier you're making it for your publisher to decide not to pay you and push you to make your own choice about what happens next.

For fiction it's a much more difficult situation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The one (or more) step(s) to knowing when you're done writing

You're finished when you say you're finished.

That's it. Pretty easy, no? Ever since slavery was abolished, no one can force you to work. The technical term is a "contract of personal service" and that's what a writing contract is: you're not allowed to subcontract the job, it's you who has to do it yourself.

But it's not that simple. The issue isn't in deciding when you're done, the issue is in determining what are the consequences.

Let's start with an easy scenario: your contract says you'll deliver a 35,000-word manuscript and you deliver 25,000. You haven't performed under the contract. Clearly, you haven't performed. We'll discuss in more detail in a future post what that means, but for now you should assume you'll be asked to give back your advances and the publisher won't accept the manuscript. But if you really don't want to write anything more, you don't have to.

The writing is over: now what?

For the next few posts, I'll talk about what happens when you've finished writing your manuscript. To make things easy I'll break it into a few parts.

1. How do you know when you're really finished under your contract?
2. Is it really you who gets to decide what goes into the manuscript?
3. On what basis can the publisher reject your manuscript?
4. What do you do if the publisher rejects your manuscript?
5. Once they've accepted your manuscript, do they have to publish the book?

Note: even though I'm talking about books and manuscripts, the rule applies for pretty much any creative content: films, video games, works of art, etc.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The hidden cost of exotic locations

Paris... Rome... Athens... some names just conjure up images of romance and adventure. For many people creating stories and setting their locations, one of the fastest ways to do it is with an establishing shot: show the Eiffel Tower and your audience doesn't need to see another word to know they're looking at Paris. But put that in your screenplay and you're raising a hidden cost.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three things that didn't change last week about nudity on TV

In 2002 at the Billboard Music Awards, in response to comments that she was on her way out, Cher's response to her critics was clear: "f*** em". In 2003 at the same awards show Nicole Richie described getting "cow s*** out of a Prada purse" as "not so f***ing simple." And also in 2003 ABC showed an episode of NYPD Blue with 5 seconds of naked butt and 7 of sideboob. And in 2012 the US Supreme Court finally handed down a ruling saying that because Fox and ABC didn't have advance warning that fleeting instances of cursing or nudity would put them at risk of fines, the FCC couldn't fine them.

There are people out there saying this judgment means short bursts of cursing and nudity are fair game for US TV networks and that creators should be making more edgy content. There are other people saying nothing has changed. They can't both be right. If you're preparing content containing this type of content, keep 3 things in mind.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Four things not to forget when posting photographs on the Web

1. Don't forget to watermark. Yes, your photograph is copyrighted, and if you find someone using it without permission you might (*might*) have grounds to insist that they compensate you. But you make it a lot harder for them to pretend they didn't know whom to contact if you take a simple step: watermarking your images. You don't have to make them ugly: a chyron in the bottom corner is enough for you to make the argument later that if someone wanted to use your photo, they needed to get your permission first.

Three good reasons to read Legal Minimum

You've got a lot of things to do and not a lot of time to do them. Why should you follow one more blog, and especially one about law? Here's three good reasons for creatives and creators like you to make Legal Minimum a part of your day.