Each month, award-winning author Joan R. Neubauer will answer questions from you, her readers. She will answer questions about writing, promotion, publishing, and any other aspect of the publishing industry you can think of. Send your questions to her emailbox at email@example.com SUBJECT Neubauer Nuggets and maybe yours will be the question she answers next month.
To Pay Or Not To Pay
Q: Dear Joan,
Here's a simple question but one that bedevils me. Should a writer sign a contract with an agent and should the writer agree to pay for things like copying and postage? It has come up with two different agents in my quest for representation. All my writer friends -- 100% of them -- say no. But the agents insist I'm loco to expect them to pay for office supplies, etc.
This is an excellent question. In the past, agents never asked clients to pay for postage, copies, and other expenses associated with promoting an author's book for sale. However, in the past 10 years or so, things have changed. Because of the increasing cost of doing business and the difficulty in placing a book with a publisher, agents have looked for ways to cover their expenses. As I see it, you have two options.
First, research and approach agents who do not charge for copies, postage, and other related expenses. They do exist. You just have to search them out. However, realize that if promoting your book gets too expensive, the agent may stop shopping it around. Always conscious of their bottom line, they do want a return on their investment of time and money. And if they see no way of recouping their investment, they will call a halt. As much as they might love the written word, or your book, they are, after all, in business to make money.
Second, deal with an agent who does charge, but in your contract with that agent, place an upper limit on how much their agency can charge you, for example, no more than $100 or $200. That places a limit on your liabilities. You might also agree to supply the agent with as many copies of your manuscript as needed. That then removes one of the agent's expenses. With expenses covered in that way, the agent will more likely promote your book for a longer period of time. At the end of the contract time, usually one year, you can always renegotiate.
Remember, everything is negotiable, as long as you understand the rules of the game, and maintain your professionalism. I hope this helps.
Q: Dear Joan,
I've written an inspirational book and use lots of quotations from Scripture. One writer friend told me I had to get permission to use them. Another said I didn't. I didn't think I had to get permission to use anything from the Bible. I mean, who owns the Bible? What do I do?
Donna in Pennsylvania
In answer to your question: No one owns the Bible. However, that said, individual publishing houses own the rights to their particular version of the Bible. Since every house copyrights their version, you must respect copyright and seek permission to use quotations from any particular Bible. However, you can keep it simple.
First, choose a publisher that allows you to use a large number of their quotations without actively seeking permission. Most houses have their policies posted on their website. Some will say you can use up to twenty quotations without specific permission (implied). Yet others will say you can use up to two hundred. Unless you're really stuck on one particular version, I would choose the one that allows the larger number.
Second, if you run over the allotted number, be sure to get the necessary permission in writing (stated) to use the quotations. They may want to see a copy of the manuscript just to be sure you're not lifting large blocks of material from their work, or that you're writing something they might deem inappropriate.
Third, in any case, at the beginning of the book somewhere, acknowledge the version or versions of the Bible you have used, and thank the appropriate publishing houses for their "kind permission" (whether stated or implied). If you have stated permission, this fulfills your legal obligation. If you have implied permission, this is just a nice thing to do. In either case, you make points.
Good luck in the future. Keep writing and keep selling!
Joan R. Neubauer is an author and works as a publisher at WordWright.biz. Joan invites you to visit her website at WordWright.biz or to drop her an email at JNwriter@aol.com You can sign up for WordWright's monthly email newsletter at the site as well.