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Never, Ever Release Any Of Your Rights To Anyone

One of the grandest scams on the Web, which goes largely unnoticed, is for a web-based bookseller or publisher to require some rights to your work in exchange for the service to be provided. Many demand the electronic rights, for example.

Don't do it!

Never, ever release any of your rights. Here's why.

The Writer's Goal

Winning the writing game means becoming an established author, one who sells a new book every year or two. One who earns enough to live comfortably from his or her writing alone.

The first step toward achieving this goal is to be published by a major house in the real world. That is, offline. Most will not even consider your book if you've muddied the water by releasing or selling any rights to it.

Sure, there are exceptions. Some have self-published, then later made a deal with a major house. And the stories make grand reading. But there are not a lot of them.

The Better Plan

If you are serious about writing, grab a copy of "Writer's Market," then read and follow the rules. While many publishers buy an occasional manuscript directly from an author, your best bet is to find an agent and leave the manner of presentation to publishers in capable hands. (An agent is worth his or her weight in gold in helping you decipher a contract!)

It will probably take some time to find an agent. Begin another tale while doing so. And once you find one, while waiting further and hoping for great news, continue writing. If the agent you found can't make it happen, look for another. But keep writing.

Again, there are success stories of those who bypassed agents and went directly to a publisher. But unless you're one heck of a salesperson and really in tune with what each publisher is looking for, leave it all to an agent, and do what you do best. Namely, write.

How Rights Released Can Bite

Bingo. You've made a sale. A good house, too. You and your agent are jumping with joy. Hey, you're on your way!

But wait one. A few years back, electronic rights were negotiable, and often retained by the author. So you released these rights, or part of them, to gain some exposure on the Web. But now your publisher-to-be wants them. What for?

Books by major authors are selling in electronic formats. The entire publishing industry is closely tuned in to this rapidly changing part of the book arena.

Okay, back to the what your publisher-to-be wants. Will they go through the legal hassles and pay the costs to recover those rights you handed out? Or will they just grab another title from the in-stack? If you were in their position, what would you do?

The bottom line? You have just lost a shot at the big time. You get to start over with a new book. And you'll probably have to hunt up another agent as well.

Why Risk it?

Don't sell or release any of your rights to any of your work until absolutely convinced it is not salable to a major print publisher. Then, and only then, should you consider taking it to the Web and seeing what you can make happen.

A Case In Point

I finished "They Who Betray" (available on this site) in late 1991. I gave up trying to sell it in 1994. Even earlier, it was obvious major houses were no longer interested in this kind of tale. The manuscript has been dozing on various computer disks ever since.

While I'd love to have sold it to Pocket Book, I wasn't able to. So off to the Web I have gone. I'm excited about the possibilities. While fame and glory is unlikely to be obtained, lots of people will find they like the tale. And that will be a win for me, any way you look at it.

But I would never have made this move had I believed there was even a chance of selling it to a major house. If you're serious about your writing career, you'll follow the same path. Head for the Web as the last resort, never as the starting point.

One Exception

All who climb a mountain do not hunger to become a noted mountaineer. And all who write a book, do not yearn to be an established author. So if you wrote a book for the fun of it, and now want to share it with family and friends, jump right into the Web bit.

Check out services available or self-publish on your own. Either way, go for it.

Play By The Rules

But if you're serious about writing and dream of becoming an established author, take the conservative, conventional route. This gives you the greatest opportunity for success.

Yes, I know. The competition is fierce. But there's a bit of this on the Web as well. The last numbers I saw suggest there are over 100,000 titles available on the Internet.

To sell effectively through any website, you'll need a heck of a book. Then you'll have to somehow find your way beyond all those "Buy-Me!" pleas associated with each and every one of those 100,000+ titles.

Can it be done? Sure. But it's not easy. Certainly it's not easier than gaining the confidence of an agent who can sell your work to a major publishing house.

Bob McElwain

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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