"Busybird Publishing"

We have helped countless authors publish their books. Let us help you get your story out into the world!


Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in Busybird | 0 comments

copyrightSomething that always astonishes me is the disregard authors can have for copyright.

Here’s the simple reality: you can’t just take things from elsewhere and use them.

Why would you be able to do? Why should you be able to? How would you feel if somebody took a chunk of your book and started using it for their own benefit? Worse, how would you feel if they used it and they didn’t accredit you?

Let’s begin with song lyrics. No, no, no, no, no. You can’t just grab a couple of lines from a Rolling Stones’ song and use it. No. You can’t even take a couple of lines from some pub band’s song and use it. You have to get permission. Usually, this is from the artist or the record company. Just be warned: obtaining rights is usually time-consuming and expensive. (As an aside, all those websites on the net that post lyrics are actually in violation of copyright.)

How about images? You see something great on Facebook and grab it. It’s on the net, so you can use it, right? No. Somebody owns the rights to that image. Again, just because it’s on the net doesn’t mean it’s free to use. Similarly with diagrams, graphs, etc. Somebody’s put work into creating these. In all likelihood, they’ve created them to benefit from them, and not so you can reap the rewards.

Usually you’re okay quoting a small passage from an external source, as long as you accredit it (unless the author doesn’t want to be accredited). Usually. It can depend on how meritorious that passage is. You might be a Life Coach and want to use an exercise Tony Robbins has in his book – it’s just a tiny passage, no bigger than a paragraph. No problem. Right? Wrong. This is his intellectual property. Why should you profit from it? If people can get Tony Robbins’s exercise from you, you’re undercutting Tony Robbins. The problem here is you might take a passage and think you’re okay, but if the copyright holder objects, then you’re in trouble. I’ve had the Tony Robbins’ empire object to an author using one of his exercises; I’ve had another author object to one paragraph from his book being quoted.

Don’t think rejigging the sentence gives you ownership either. Consider this single sentence on the ‘Novel’ from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novel):

    A novel is a long narrative, normally in prose, which describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story.

If I change it to this …

    Describing fictional characters and events, a novel is a long narrative, usually in prose and normally in the shape of a sequential story.

… I’m still plagiarising!

Also, if your book is an ebook (or going to become an ebook), Amazon performs an automatic check of the text, will report if it finds it duplicated elsewhere on the net, and will ask if you own the rights to the material. There’s examples where you might, e.g. your book might contain your blogs, or articles you’ve had published elsewhere. In this example, I don’t. My alternative is then to not publish, or to lie.

About the only time you don’t need copyright is when that copyright has expired – in Australia, usually 50–70 years after the authors’ death. Otherwise, if you’re using anything that’s not yours, SEEK PERMISSION. Most publishers will have somebody you can contact specifically for permissions. When all else fails, email whoever handles their general queries. Alternatively, most authors/artists can be found on social media. If it’s a case of some random image floating around and you can’t find out who owns it, bad luck. Don’t use it.

And don’t expect your editor or your publisher to identify what you can and can’t use either. This is your responsibility. A third party isn’t always going to be able to identify that you lifted several paragraphs from somebody else’s article or book, or that nifty bit of dialogue is actually a character quoting lyrics from some obscure grunge band’s song, or that the image you’re using on the title page of chapter 7 was lifted from some friend of a friend’s Facebook post.

This is up to YOU.

Trying to track these copyright-holders might be tedious and time-consuming, and in some cases it might even be costly, but consider the alternatives:

  • Your book could be pulled from the market.
  • There could be financial liability.
  • Your reputation will be damaged, if not ruined.

So is it worth it?

There mightn’t be a lot of original ideas left in the world. A love story is still just a love story. A disaster story is still a disaster story. A business book on growing your business is still just a business book on growing your business. A life-coach book on improving your life is still just a book on improving your life. Etc. These books – and more – saturate the market.

What’s original is YOU – how you write it, what you have to say, and where you take whatever you’re writing.

Remember that when you start writing.

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The Publishing Process

Posted by on Nov 24, 2016 in Busybird | 0 comments

publishingprocessHave you ever wondered about the work that goes into transforming a manuscript into a book once a publisher accepts it?

It’s not as simple as the publisher saying, Hey, that’s great! and then sending it off to be printed. The publisher will put the manuscript through a rigorous process, usually retaining (either on staff, or subcontracting) different professionals to oversee each step. (A small publisher might have people doubling up on roles, e.g. an editor might perform the structural and copy edit.) The publisher will also set a timetable with you, giving you deadlines to hit for each step.

Here now is a breakdown of those steps …

Structural Editing
This looks at the story as a whole and how it functions. Are the plot and subplots believable? Do they need to be rounded out or pared back in some way? Are the characters fully realised? Is the writing sound throughout? Is it overwritten in passages? Underwritten? Unclear? Are their phrases that you rely on that become repetitive? Etc. The structural edit will examine how the manuscript functions (as a whole) on multiple levels (e.g. story, character, prose).

This is when you’re given the mandate to revise. You’ll either get feedback in a separate document, or you’ll get feedback in a separate document and your story marked up in Word. They’ll usually ask that you make your revisions in Track Changes, so they can see what you’ve done.

As an aside, it’s your responsibility to get permission for any external material you might’ve used, e.g. passages from another book, song lyrics, images. The publisher won’t do this. Nor will they indemnify you if you have used something without permission and get in trouble.

A structural edit is pivotal. Much (if not all) of this stuff you won’t see for yourself because you’ll have no objectivity in evaluating your own work – especially if you’ve gone over it so often that the words and content have lost all meaning.

Copyediting looks specifically at the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and – if examples remain after the structural editing – if the writing itself is clear. You’d be amazed at the quantity of issues a good copyeditor will pick up.

Publishers (and journals) will also apply their own House Style. House Style is how they like things formatted, e.g. do they use an en dash (–) or an em dash (—)? For dialogue, do they use ‘single quotes’ or “double quotes”? With spelling, do they prefer ‘realise, socialise, terrorise’, etc., or ‘realize, socialize, terrorize’, etc.?

The list behind any publisher’s or journal’s House Style can be comprehensive, and exists to bring uniformity to their publications.

At this point, we’re still working in a Word document.

Note: Both the structural edit and copyedit may be repeated until a desired outcome is achieved.

Layout / Design
A designer will be retained to lay the manuscript out in InDesign – the industry-standard software for book formatting. This is what gets books looking the way they do (just in case you thought people were simply slapping things together in Word or Microsoft Publisher).

A cover will also be designed, (using, as a foundation, a brief the editor has supplied about the book’s content). The author might have some input (and will be able to offer feedback on drafts), but the publisher has a much better understanding of what works and what doesn’t in the market.

You’ll be sent a laid-out version of your book (usually as a pdf) to look over. This is not the stage to start rewriting or adding things. All that should’ve been taken care of during the editing. Here, you’re looking only for things that might’ve slipped through (e.g. typos) or issues the layout might’ve introduced (e.g. perhaps you used internal headings throughout chapters, and several have been swallowed up into standard text).

The publisher will also retain a proofreader – somebody who hasn’t seen the document previously (fresh eyes!) – to perform a proofread. The proofreader is the final safeguard in corrections.

Off to Print!
This is when your manuscript becomes a book.

You can see how much work goes into taking a manuscript – no matter how polished you believe it is – and transforming it into a finished product on every level: structurally, the copy, and the design (the cover, and the internal look of the book).

It’s also worth thinking about if you’re considering self-publishing, as too many self-published authors do believe it’s just a case of sending their work to a printer, and away they go. Don’t worry about the content, copy, or look – it’ll wow readers regardless. No. God no. If it was that easy, that’s what everybody (including traditional publishers) would be doing.

Self-publishing is a great alternative. New technology ensures that it’s inexpensive, that you’ll end up with a product indistinguishable from books coming out of the big multinational publishers, and it’s easy to replicate everything they would do for an author.

But if self-publishing is something you’re going to do, make sure you put the same level of work in to do it right.

Be just as thorough as a traditional publisher is.

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