In Your Corner: Understanding Copyright

I won’t lie:

Copyright is Hard

So: never let the world beat you down into thinking poorly of yourself for not fully understanding every detail of copyright law. We’ll summarize some of the “greatest hits” of copyright for self-publishing authors here, including when it is important to register your copyright, and what it might look life if you do not pursue acquiring a copyright on your next book … but there’s a lot more out there than we can cover in one blog post, so we’ll provide some of our favorite resources at the end of the post as well.

copyright

The Starter Pack: Basics You Should Know

Copyright was introduced in order to protect intellectual property, and draws directly from the US Constitution, which grants this protection for original works in any tangible medium of self-expression (including books, of course, and art, music, film, et cetera). Copyright covers both unpublished and published works.

Copyright is not something you apply for. It is not something the government issues like tickets at the DMV. Copyright law protects your work from being claimed by others as their own, or from being exploited by others who seek to profit from your work without your explicit permission. Instead, your work is protected under copyright laws from the moment of its creation.

Copyright does not protect everything. It doesn’t cover facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it will protect a textbook or operating manual explaining those things. Make sense? And copyright does not protect the title of your book. You might attempt to trademark a title if it qualifies for that fully separate protection, but that is a lengthy, uncertain, and pricey process. It’s better to know going into publication that your title does not belong to just you. (But then, that can be a freeing thought. You won’t be served papers for accidentally replicating someone else’s title. With so many millions of books in print, that is a good bet.)

Copyright is good in most international cases. As in, there are some countries with whom the United States has not yet worked out mutually beneficial copyright recognition agreements. But the majority of US-allied countries respect US copyright laws.

So What’s This About Registration?

While there’s no requirement to register your copyright—it’s not strictly mandatory, that is, to register—there is a registration service provided by the Library of Congress in order to record claims to copyright. This establishes precedence, and legal standing if someone should ever violate your copyright—it will help you prove that the book in question was first registered by you and you alone. This is one of those “not required but STRONGLY recommended OR ELSE you might lose in a court case” situations. The world is not always a fair place, so we have to protect ourselves whenever we can.

After registration, you will receive a certificate proving your copyright information and placing your copyright record into the public record. In the off chance you face litigation, you will become eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees, among other things. You don’t have to do this right away, although the sooner the better; if you register with the LoC within five years after your initial publication, you are considered covered under prima facie evidence in a court of law.

Don’t rely on the old trick of mailing yourself a copy of your manuscript in order to acquire proof of copyright; this is considered the “poor man’s registration” but it doesn’t always hold up in court.

If You Do Not Register for Copyright …

Your book might be stolen, knowingly or unknowingly.

How unknowingly??

These days, there are hundreds of automated scripts scanning the web and indexing (or storing old copies of) websites and digital content for archival purposes. Many of these scripts are designed with honorable purposes in mind (wanting to preserve uncorrupted copies of websites in case material is taken offline or corrupted somehow) … but some are not. And some operate in a very grey area. You might remember the trouble Google landed in several years ago for making digital copies of recently published books available through the Google Books platform—the intent was to make all published content searchable, but it ended up making all published content purchasable … and through a website which hadn’t purchased the rights to begin with. It was messy. And it remains messy: the US court system ruled in favor of Google and against the Authors Guild.

Many scripts replicate what Google Books has done, but with even fewer safeguards and protections. This means that you have zero standing if you do not register your book with the Library of Congress and find that a website is running a digital copy of your book pulled from the ether by an algorithm without your permission, and literally anyone can now read your book without consent.

And of course there are much nastier cases, where people intentionally steal copyrighted material or otherwise exploit published material for profit. The point is … give yourself a leg to stand on, even if there’s no judge on your doorstep compelling you to do so this afternoon. There might be one in the future, and you want to be well positioned for that.

Resources

Some of our favorite copyright resources include:

And as always ….

 

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Decluttering … Clearing the Mental Clutter

Continuing the series Inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo, let’s spend some time this week talking about the ways in which we can declutter our minds as writers.

mindful mindfulness

You know how it goes; you sit down to write and you start thinking about that item you need to add to the grocery list, you recall that really annoying thing a coworker said to you and you start analyzing why he or she said it in the first place, you remember that your child has a soccer practice tomorrow and you start mentally trying to figure out if you have time to pick her up afterward or if you should arrange a ride for her with another player’s parents…the list goes on. Now if you’re capable of simply “emptying your mind” of all of this useless information by a simple exercise of willpower…kudos. If you’re like me, and need some reminders for how to declutter your headspace, here are some things to consider:

  • Write down all of these bizarre and/or unproductive thoughts you’re having. Putting these things down on paper empties your mind of them, allows you to look at them, analyze them and then put them aside for a time when they become more relevant. Also, any writing gets the writing juices flowing. Who knows, maybe stream of conscious ranting about an interaction at work could create a meaningful dialogue in an upcoming chapter of yours!
  • Focus or meditate on nothing. ‘Now empty your mind of all of your worries and attachments,’ she says, calm as a cow in the downward dog position, her yoga pants screaming enlightenment as she hums a long ‘Ommmmmmmmmm,’ followed by Namaste–or something ridiculously cliché to that same effect. As silly as it sounds, trying to think of ‘nothing,’ or meditating is serious business, and something I would never call myself talented at. Trying to actually let go of the idea that you and all of your little problems and anxieties are at the center of the universe is like trying not to blink. Practicing this focus on nothing will help temporarily remove our focus on that giant ego we all have (and would never, if only begrudgingly admit to having), and help you become present in the task at hand: namely, writing.
  • Put on some music, and go out for a walk or run or a spin on the bike. Exercise (with or without music) is a fantastic way to help you process all of those nagging thoughts cluttering up your mind space. Exercising with music supposedly activates your frontal lobe (the area in your brain associating with higher mental function), and not only that, it gives you something else to meditate on–lyrics perhaps. Focus on the words in the song, seek inspiration in the creativity of music. Meditate on putting one foot in front of the other if the whole Namaste thing is too much for you. Moving meditation is my favorite form, and it always helps boost my creativity.
  • Take a nap. If you have way too much going on in your head to write, take a snooze. Let those things drift away into Never Never Land and wake up feeling refreshed. A nap is like a reset button later in the day. We only get more and more stressed out starting the minute we shut off the alarms anyway, so go back into that bliss-like state of nothingness that is slumber. Maybe you’ll even dream up an interesting scenario for your main character to overcome in the midst.
  • Listen to a podcast or call a friend. A one-sided conversation with a podcast is my favorite means for readjusting my focus. If I want to write about anxiety or loneliness and I’m unable to focus, I’ll search YouTube to see what some of my literary or philosophical love interests have said on the matter. Listening to someone I truly respect and whose opinion I long to have on any matter in my life always get my brain gears turning. Especially since I can’t talk back to them, but can only entertain the conversation in my mind. This makes me want to write to no avail; it makes me want to express my thoughts triggered by someone else’s ideas. This same effect can be achieved by calling a friend who you love discoursing with as well–just make sure to not get too carried away and forget to get back to work at all. 

 

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

From the Archives: “Back to Writing on the Road to Self-Publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: May 18th, 2010 ]

Ezines – they are a fast and free opportunity to self publish. Moreover, publishing in ezines can help you get motivated to write your book, and even promote your book after publication.

We’ve discussed the idea of publishing excerpts of your book as individual articles or stories. You can simply locate a website and query that site’s webmaster about publishing your article. Make sure you include your biographical byline, which mentions your book as well.

This is more of the same, but concentrating on ezine publication.

There really are countless ezines in existence now, each with a specific niche or category. And all of them are voraciously hungry for content.

Rather than seeking them out individually, you can place your articles into databases that ezine editors frequent for content. They use your article free of charge, and in exchange, include your biographical byline, which, again, includes information about you and your book.

Here are some to check out:

http://www.ezinearticles.com

http://www.ebooksnbytes.com

http://www.connectionteam.com

http://www.netterweb.com

http://www.ideamarketers.com

http://www.goarticles.com

http://www.knowledge-finder.com

http://www.articlecity.com

Don’t send an article you’ve already published last week. Instead, write another chapter of your book first (since finishing your book the main goal, after all.)

Have fun. Keep writing.

zines e-zines ezines

Well, it’s not 2010 anymore … and what is the state of the zine, much less the state of the e-zine? I haven’t heard as much about these lovely creatures of late as I used to, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a thriving communiting of ziners floating around the interwebs where I can’t see them.

A quick foray around the news feeds I follow turns up, well, actually, quite a lot! This week alone, zines have been featured in local newspapers from coast to coast, as well as a handful of higher-profile national news magazines and online compendiums. The Hudson Valley One hosted an article just last week titled “Revolution in your hands: New Paltz hosts weekend of zine making & reading,” in which I learned a fabulous nugget of information: there is an actual job description called “Zine Librarian” at the Sojourner Truth Library. How cool is that?? (Very cool.) And two weeks ago, eCollege Times hosted an article titled “Print Isn’t Dead: Take a page from local zine queen Charissa Lucille,” and includes an interview with an ASU alum and zine shop owner from Phoenix, Arizona, who dishes on everything from putting together a team of writers to what the future of zines will look like. And late last month, the OC Weekly hosted an article titled “LibroMobile’s Zine Mission,” about a mobile truck (think of a food truck, just stocked with zines and zine-making materials!) powered by the dreams of one enterprising young woman determined to put the materials for creative self-expression into the hands of area teens. And an article from LA Weekly titled “A New Exhibit Traces the Influence of Zines and Books on L.A.’s Art Scene” hints at the long and ongoing legacy of zines on the West Coast as part of the culture-shaping punk aesthetic.

So zines haven’t gone anywhere. What about e-zines?

Well, there are fewer articles than there used to be. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, really. But if you spend much time on the E-Zine Directory (www.ezine-dir.com) you might just find yourself overwhelmed by how many e-zines there are these days. There are e-zines on wine-making and e-zines which are the official newsletters for towns and counties in Alabama. There are e-zines about alternative music and e-zines about spirituality and enlightenment. There are e-zines about feng shui and the paranormal, e-zines about parents of “difficult” children, e-zines about small businesses, and e-zines about voice talent and voice coaching.

In short, there seems to be an e-zine about everything. The content of most e-zines has shifted, however, away from what you might think of as typical “punk” content and the arts/music/literature scene which still dominates the physical zines. E-zines have broadened to become the territory of everyone with something to say ….

And that, as a self-publishing blog dedicated to the freedom of expression, we can get behind.

 

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing News: 2.20.2017

And now for the news!

This week in the world of self-publishing:

In a fast-paced world, articles with bullet points (especially numbered ones) seem to rule as far as attention grabbers go. Consumers look and see a title like “8 tips for how to self-publish your novel” and think, ‘I’ll read the all of the emboldened points and skim the ones that interest me most, and then I can get back to my really interesting Facebook news feed.’

Ricardo Fayet, provides one such streamlined list for those thinking about taking the plunge into the self-publishing world. Fayet’s list is one worth going over because, while it is concise, it has some insightful tips that one might not consider off-hand.

  1. Know your audience
  2. Create a writing routine and be consistent with it
  3. Give your manuscript to readers and gather reactions before publishing
  4. “Know your budget and do your research”
  5. “Always hire a developmental editor”
  6. DO NOT design your own book cover
  7. “Don’t think of distribution as digital vs. print” — there’s a market for both!
  8. “Build your mailing list before you publish your book”

Within each of these tips, Fayet has pretty sound advice that is fleshed out succinctly, but with enough information to persuade you that he’s done his research. Click the link above and pluck what piece of writer wisdom you can from it!

For a more heart-warming piece, we’ll turn to the story of Dawn Reed, a woman who had the (quite achievable) dream of publishing a children’s book. Reed’s story had been rejected several times over, which would turn some dreamers into cynics or quitters. However, Reed had a more realistic (and optimistic) understanding of these rejections.

I think of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) who was rejected by over 20 publishers and Norman Bridwell, writer of the Clifford the Big Red Dog books, who was turned away by 15 publishing companies…and I keep going,” says Reed.

Rather than let the rejections stop her in her tracks, Reed simply chose another route–that of self-publishing. While working with a self-publishing company, a bizarre thing happened. Dawn received an email saying, “Hi. Your dream is over. Your book will never be published…” Reed was obviously crushed, but turned to things such as prayer as a way of coping with what seemed to be both terrible and impossible news.

Luckily, after probing and inquiring about the strange email, she received word “from the Vice President and Director of Production,” she said, “His email account had been hacked, and that’s why I received the harsh notice. I was so relieved!”

If you consider yourself a fellow dreamer, lover of writing and self-publishing, read this article to see how Dawn dealt with the possibility of her dreams being shattered time and time again, and how she turned out to still become a self–published author nonetheless. It’s an inspiring article that I’m sure many of us can empathize with.

 


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Saturday Book Review: “The Conversations We Never Had”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review, courtesy of Midwest Book Review:

the conversations we never had jeffrey konis

The Conversations We Never Had

by Jeffrey H. Konis

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781478767299

Synopsis*:

This is the dream of a grandson, who had taken his grandmother for granted, to have a second chance, the opportunity to learn about his family from the only person in the world who knew them, who remembered them. My father remembers nothing about his real parents for they were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, survived the Holocaust, found my father hiding on a farm in Poland and later brought him to America to raise as her own. He never asked her any questions about his parents. Though I later moved in with Olga for a period of time, I repeated history and never asked her the questions my father never asked. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me, leaving me with a sense of guilt and profound regret. The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of my time spent with Grandma “Ola” and tells the stories she might have shared had I asked the questions.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Critique:

The Conversations We Never Had is about the regrets of a son who wishes he’d probed more of his family history while its elders were still able to tell him about the past; but it doesn’t end with the burial of his Grandmother Olga, the last person to have known his father’s Holocaust experiences in Europe.

Instead, it blossoms into an investigation of what was, a realization of what could have been, and a family history that incorporates not only conversations made; but those which should have taken place.

How did the family matriarch make the kinds of decisions that would allow her family to survive, adopting and bringing her nephew (the author’s father) to a new country? How did his father survive under impossible conditions, and how did she find him after the war to bring him to a new life? The author’s regrets of not asking the right questions, only to piece together truths from a patchwork of possibilities decades later, is wonderfully portrayed: “Grandma Ola was the only person in the world who could give me some insight into my father, what he was like as a child, a son – to an extent – as a student, though I knew he must have been exceptional in this regard, given that he overcame a language barrier, simultaneously learning English and the sciences, among his other courses; he did this successfully enough to go to medical school. And yet I never had an in-depth conversation with Grandma about my dad and, for the life of me, I have no idea why I didn’t. At least I could, and did, ask my father these questions as I navigated my way through the biased nature of his responses, to get as much truth as possible.”

Many Holocaust family stories come from the horse’s mouth in the form of reminiscences of parents and grandparents translated through the memories and notes of their descendants. Jeffrey H. Konis adds a new twist to this approach in covering not only the conversations that took place; but those which were unsaid.

As he surveys issues of Jewish livelihood and independence (among many other subjects), Konis comes to realize the forces that shaped and led to his career and life choices, and brings readers into a world enlightened by these discussions of Jewish heritage past and how they were passed down and, in turn, translated into life decisions made by future generations.

The precise links between these translations and applications past to present are enhanced by the author’s introspective assessments of what is presented to him, and what it means for his own life: “If I couldn’t find a Jewish girl to marry, the selection would be greatly enhanced were I to allow myself to marry someone who converted. But what about everything Grandma was just telling me, that even one who has converted is still not the same as one who was brought up Jewish? It made me think of something my dad once said about Grandma Ola. He told me that, yes, she had raised him like a son, but she wasn’t his mother. He said it wasn’t the same.”

The result is more than another Holocaust survival story: it’s a perceptive and examining survey of how ideals, thoughts, traditions and culture are handed down in families, surveying the types of questions asked and those left unsaid, and their impact.

Readers of Holocaust literature and biography will find themselves drawn to the family and personalities surrounding Jeffrey H. Konis and will be particularly delighted to understand how Jewish traditions and family messages helped him shape his own decision-making process.

reviewed by Diane C. Donovan of Midwest Book Review ]

Here’s what some other reviewers are saying:

Jeffrey Konis’ book “The Conversations We Never Had” was a beautiful reflection of a man’s relationship with his ailing grandmother’s sister, who acted as his grandmother throughout his life. Over many conversations, Konis was able to tease out memories of her life and upbringing in pre-WW2 Germany, as the spectre of Nazism started to overtake Germany, with all of the horrors that entailed. These stories helped Jeffrey better understand his grandmother and her sister, as well as his father’s temperament, which was enlightening. “The Conversations We Never Had” highlights the importance of talking with our elders before it is too late, to gain some of their wisdom and to hear the stories which shaped their lives and personalities. It was a lovely tribute to Konis’ forebears, and I would love to read it again.

– Amazon Reviewer Janelle Collins

They were of a generation that longed to forget, that shied away from discussing the horrors inflicted upon their people, and hardly, if ever, voluntarily offered up stories around the Sunday dinner table.Talking about such a painful time brought back the pain. So it is no wonder that Konis’ grandmother, Ola, pushed on with her life, loved her family and chose to live for the day and remain silent on her past and how the Holocaust tore her family apart. Inevitably, though, the author comes to realize and deeply regret the missed opportunity to have those telling conversations about the Holocaust with Ola when she passes away. Konis, however, bases many of the conversations in the book on fact, having a vital resource in his father, who was 9 years old when the Nazis invaded his town. It is a fascinating read and I was quickly drawn in by his depiction of Ola’s youth, her sister and her father. The book certainly makes one stop and think and regret those lost opportunities and conversations with our elders.

– Amazon Reviewer Pamela J.


saturday self-published book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space every Saturday!

Self Publishing Advisor

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Conversations: 2/17/2017

FOUR DOZEN ROSES—FOR WRITERS—III

There is a book on the self of my local library that enjoys what I call “staying power.” The title: Cheaper by the Dozen fits right into my theme this month of beautiful things, excellent writing and good lessons learned when we write with passion and purpose. This novel was first printed in 1948, made into its first movie in 1950, then a second movie in 1952, followed by the stage play in 1992, and two more recent movies in 2003 and 2005. Although several of the tips listed below apply to the Cheaper by the Dozen novel, stage play and films, the authors recognized the passion and purpose in the lives of these characters and the love and laughter we Readers appreciate.

Here is my third dozen roses for you to consider…

roses

  1. IF you’re considering using a Narrator to tell your story, you must develop this person with as much detail as you’ve done for all the other characters.
  2. Be prepared to re-write and re-re-write until you’re heart and head tell you it’s time to let this book fly.
  3. Words are the writer’s friend—and enemy. If you don’t know the definition and usage of a word DO NOT USE IT.
  4. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by ideas for other The simple fact that you ARE a creative writer/thinker opens the door to many other book ideas while you’re developing the current book. KEEP FOCUSED ON THIS ONE BOOK.
  5. IF you have an idea about another book, write a one-line concept sentence into a notebook that is SET ASIDE specifically for these ideas.
  6. Many authors have discovered that their dreams will guide them, especially when they feel stuck. It might be necessary to have a notebook or tape recorder beside your bed.
  7. Find a reading/writing friend who trust, and who will sit and talk with you about “the story” you’re writing. You do not have to take their comments literally. However, they will help you move the story forward.
  8. Don’t even try to creatively write a chapter and simultaneously edit it. These are two separate processes and where you can find personal enjoyment in both.
  9. Value yourself as a writer and value what you’re writing. These words your building into a book will define your writing career and, in many ways, define you.
  10. Take laughter breaks! Play with your children. Go to a movie. Take a nice walk with the dog. Have a picnic with your sweetheart! Not only will you feel better physically and emotionally, but your inspiration quota will increase!
  11. Remember: Every novel is about people. We all have quirks and one or two of your characters may be very “quirky.” However, too much quirky-ness is not an easy thing for Readers to enjoy.
  12. As you’re writing visualize the people/characters IN THE MOVIE. Go back to your very detailed, very descriptive backgrounds you’ve written about each character. Is there an actor (past or present) who fits? Listen to their on-screen dialog and watch their actions and reactions.

 

NEXT WEEK: the fourth dozen. ⚓︎


Royalene

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

In Your Corner: Doing the Subtitle … Right

subtitle

Subtitles are tricky things, aren’t they?

No, we’re not talking about the ones at the bottom of that Netflix show you’ve been binge-watching lately (though we totally get it). We’re talking about book subtitles, those handy descriptive phrases which come after the colon in a book’s title on the front page. They often hint at a book’s content in terms of subject or theme or atmosphere, but each author approaches the subtitle differently. For example, you have the original fancy-pants subtitle, invented pretty much around the same time as the novel and the bound book. A classic example is pretty much anything scientific from the 19th Century, such as Revue D’Histoire Des Sciences: Et De Leurs Applications ….

subtitles

More current examples might include:

  1. Tangled In Life: A Lainey Kelso Mystery, by Mary Meckler (in which the subtitle clarifies the book’s genre as well as indicating that it is part of a series);
  2. Wednesdays With Jerry: A teacher, a student, and lessons to bring about the greatest of life’s stories, by Eane Huff (in which the subtitle sketches out some basic content points as well as placing the book as an inspiration memoir);
  3. Turnings: Love In A Time of War, by Chloe Canterbury (in which the subtitle sets the tone and names the stakes of the book);
  4. When KIWIs Flew: The Diary of a Mad Airline Entrepreneur, by Bob Iverson (ditto, only in this case the subtitle also hints at the book’s style and atmosphere too–light, wild, and intensely funny); and
  5. BULLYING: Applying Handwriting Analysis to Detect Potential Danger Signs and Effects, by David J. DeWitt, CGA (in which the subtitle takes a very serious approach to describing the book’s field of study, as is appropriate for a book which will keep company with peer-reviewed journals, textbooks, and medical handbooks).

As you can see, subtitles perform a variety of different functions–some of them more specifically coded for a particular genre than others, as in the case of strictly descriptive subtitles in the research-driven nonfiction area and more emotive subtitles in the case of fiction. (This would hold true for poetry, too.) Subtitles may not be the first thing potential readers see when they first pick up a copy of your book, but they’re an important follow-up punch to a well-crafted cover, and serve as a bridge between your title and the blurbs and descriptions which readers will find on your back cover. They often make a difference in whether a shopper will commit to buying your book on a deeply instinctual level!

There are, of course, some instances in which a subtitle is not necessary: when the author is a celebrity (and has widespread name recognition, like Kim Kardashian) or famous within a specific field and the book is addressed to people in that field (such as a book written by a famous doctor for doctors), and when a book is a straight-up literary fiction novel. Of course, these authors may still choose to take advantage of the benefits of a subtitle! (We won’t hold it against them.)

A good subtitle is succinct, to-the-point and crystal clear. Subtitles are not the zone for hazy atmospheric inferences and poetic rambles! A strong one will duplicate nothing in the regular title, but will instead expound upon what may be found between covers. The best subtitles provide a digital boost, too, in that they’re a playground for keywords which will better enable readers to find your book (and buy it, of course). Keyword-enriched subtitles make your book marketable, and this is not a benefit to be ignored!

And a side note:

Your book’s title is not protected by copyright, so neither is your subtitle. Its role must be to capture the interest of your audience and to make your book stand out among its peers on a crowded bookshelf, so it’s well worth taking a gander through some of your local libraries and bookstores to see what titles are already trending. You want yours to resonate with current trends–but also to strike a note of contrast, to set your book apart.

My recommendation? Don’t come up with your subtitle until after your book is complete. And if you feel insecure about the direction your title and subtitle are headed, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here for you! And we love being your sounding board.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.