Saturday, April 27, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

US Copyright

The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. -- United States Constitution
The US is one of a few countries in the world where a copyright (such as those of books) is a property right, not a moral right. Moral rights often last indefinitely. But in the US, copyright lasts for a limited term. Or it was supposed to. ... Or at least Thomas Jefferson wanted it to.

Originally, copyright was for 14 years and could be renewed for another 14. A total of 28 years. But since then there have been several laws passed extending the duration of copyright.

In 1831, the original term was extended to 28 years with a 14 year renewal (42 years total).
In 1909, the renewal term was extended to 28 years from 14 (56 years total).
In 1954, the copyright term was based on the life of the author and wasn't fixed.
In 1976, the term became the life of the author plus 50 years.
In 1998, the term was extended to the life of the author plus 70 years.

So you can see that we've come a long way from copyright lasting 28 years max. Now if you publish something and died the next day, the copyright would still last longer than that. (I should note, the above is greatly simplified. There are some types of copyright, such as work-for-hire projects, that are 95 years fixed. But this is confusing enough already!)

What does this matter? It probably doesn't effect you much, unless you're trying to figure out if a book is public domain--maybe you want to make it available as an ebook or something.

Simple Facts: Any work published before 1923, is now considered public domain.

But after that, things get trickier thanks to the law changing.

If a book was published between 1923 and 1963, and the copyright was renewed in the 28th year, then the book is still protected by copyright. (For example: the Fitzgerald Estate will still be making money off the Great Gatsby film coming soon to theaters. Gatsby was published in 1925.)

If a book was published between 1923 and 1963 but not renewed in the 28th year, then it is now public domain.

You need to check on this. The US Copyright ( website does allow you to search, but their records between this time are a bit spotty. It is best to hire someone in Washington to look at the copyright records in person, if you are curious about a book from this time period.

Anything published after 1963 doesn't have to be renewed at all. Renewals were made redundant. On the one hand, this was good for saving time on paperwork. But it was bad for so-called "orphan" works. Now we often don't know who owns the rights to things--just that someone does and it can't be licensed or re-purposed. I imagine poor abandoned works begging on the street for attention, but the law won't let us give it to them...

I got off track. In answer to the question, "Is this work public domain?":
  • If it was published before 1923, yes.
  • If it was published before 1963, maybe. 
  • If it was published after 1963, no. 
For more in-depth answers to these questions see: Copyright Term and the Public Domain (Cornell University). 

More ebook charts

In a previous post, I looked at the different genres that are succeeding in the ebook market and which are not. Now I read this interesting study by the PEW Research Center about ebooks. And look! They have graphs. I love graphs.

You can see that the category that still favors print books the most is the "reading with a child" category, which explains why picture books and possibly middle grade disappear from the ebook bestseller list.

This got me thinking about "enhanced" ebooks and apps and such. Maybe that 9% (where did the other 10% go?) really like using their tablets to read to kids.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I'd never seen someone really read an ebook to their kid. Sometimes on the bus I see parents hand a kid an iPhone, so he or she can read. But in that case, the enhanced ebook isn't really taking the place of the picture book, it is taking the place of the parent.

Anyone else experienced this? Have you read an ebook to a child?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I'll be a Judge for the May Pitch+250 Contest

Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing announced the judges for it's May contest today (See: Announcing the Judges for the May Pitch+250 Contest)

Spoiler Alert: One of them is me!

I'll also be part of a contest at Savvy Authors in May. More on that to come! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Digital vs Print

Publishers Weekly had an interesting article today, comparing the top 20 bestselling print books of 2013 (so far) to the top 20 bestselling ebooks of 2013 (so far).

You'd think the lists would be very similar, but they were not. Only four books (Gone Girl, Safe Haven, Fifty Shades Freed, and Alex Cross, Run) appeared on both. PW pointed out that women's fiction and romance dominated the ebook list, while other types of books like picture books fell away.

Because I renewed my love of making pie charts over the weekend, I went ahead a made charts of the two lists.

This is the print list, broken down by genre*:

*Some people might select the genres differently. I simply searched on B&N for the books and found what genre was mentioned. It is not at all scientific.

And this is the ebook list, again by genre:


The blue slice is the women's fiction/romance group. It gets much bigger in the ebook list. Young Adult and New Adult (red and pink) appear on this list, when they don't at all on the print. 

But the ebook list loses religious, non-fiction, middle grade and picture books. I rather expected the loss of picture books, but am surprised by the loss of the non-fiction category--especially considering my previous post showed several self published NF books being bought up traditional houses.

PW notes that seven of the ebook bestsellers were self-published. (This number excludes the 50 Shades books, for some reason--I suspect because this is the Vintage edition they are measuring.) But that means that nearly half of the ebook bestsellers were self published. 

The other trend I see in ebook bestsellers is movies. Seven of the titles (Safe Haven, Beautiful Creatures, Alex Cross, Run, Beautiful Darkness, The Silver Linings Playbook, The Host, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower) were recently made into films, or had books in that series made into films. Only two of those--mentioned above--made it onto the print list.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Self Publishing Success

I'm always happy to hear when someone has success self-publishing their book. Too often there are tales of woe that involve class action lawsuits. I want writers to make money writing.

I'm doing some research on the topic currently. One thing I did today (for fun question mark) was look up all the deals on Publishers Marketplace that used the keywords "self published".

Between today and May 2012, there were 56 sales of self published authors' work to a larger house* listed on Publishers Marketplace.

The genres broke down as follows^:

You can see that, by far, the largest genre was "Women's Fiction/Romance." That is the category PM uses, I wish I knew which was more romance-y and which were more women's fiction-y. Would even like to know how often they could be described as "erotica."

And the "new adult" were sometimes listed in this category as well, but I plucked them out since my own interest is in young adult/new adult/middle grade. I was sad to see there weren't any middle grade sales on there.

Next I have a chart showing which houses were buying these books:


... and the winner is Amazon! I found this strange since, well, you can sell your books on Amazon yourself. The reason you sign a traditional deal--in my mind at least--is to get your books in bookstores, but Amazon doesn't have a great track record there.

Hachette and S&S are next (and, to be fair, S&S has had some problems getting books in bookstores lately too).

I am surprised Random House's slice of the pie is relatively small, since they are the biggest publisher in the US and they already know how self published titles can take off--they have 50 Shades of Grey. 

*I left out sales of foreign, audio or film rights because they didn't fit neatly into my pie chart. 

^Sometimes it was hard to tell if something was "women's fiction/romance" or "young adult" or "new adult" since the lines are blurry. If the phrase "new adult" or the fact that the main character was in college was listed in the deal announcement, I put it as new adult. 

& That publisher you can't read at all underneath "Harper Collins" at the bottom is "Macmillan" with 1. 

That's what I have. What am I missing? Please tell me there's more YA/MG sales success stories I don't know about!  

Friday, April 5, 2013


I will be at Writers' Digest Conference East tomorrow for the Pitch Slam. I meant to post earlier in the week, to encourage you all to register, if you were in the New York area. Whoops. Now you've already missed a day of the conference. Sorry. But it seems there is on-site pricing available. So maybe check it out.

The next time I will be taking pitch is May 11 at the Connecticut Author and Publishers Association Conference in beautiful downtown Hartford, CT*.  Click here to download the brochure and application