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About Writing Right: The Blog


The question of whether or not someone can fire an agent after getting a book published came up online the other day, and the usual detachment of dullards responded--some more responsibly than others. Here's what I had to say.

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Wow, the Queen of Wrong missed the mark yet again. Can you imagine that!


Contrary to the shoot-from-the-lip advice she gave you, of course you can terminate your contract with your literary agent at any time. Just be certain to follow the terms in your agency contract for doing so. And, by the way, Queenie is also wrong about not being "allowed" to get other representation or represent your work yourself. Dead wrong. Unless your contract is one of those contractual rarities so one-sided and unfairly skewed toward the agent with nothing for the writer, you're as free as a bird after you sever agency ties. And, if your contract is that badly skewed against you, you need to talk to a good attorney to get you out of it. Pronto!


Queenie and some other respondents were also outright inexcusable in criticizing your intent to fire your agent after the agent got you published. They can't possibly know why you want to go your own way without your telling them, which (if I can still read correctly) you didn't. Read More 

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Someone I never met asked someone he never met if he could legally change the book cover and rewrite the copy for a book originally published in 1937. It has no copyright notice anywhere inside. Interestingly enough, several people responded. Here was my buck-and-a-half reply.

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I see you have received several answers to your question. Congratulations. Unfortunately, none of them adequately advises you on the legalities of what you're asking. One respondent's advice to wait another decade before proceeding is woefully inadequate. Another one's suggestion to check the title with the Library of Congress likewise may tell you when the book was published but not whether or not it's still under copyright or ever has been. And a third respondent's suggestion that you Google it is absurd. All that will tell you is whether or not the book has been mapped by Google's spiders.


To know for sure what the law is, why not go directly to the horse's mouth? Here's what the U.S. Copyright Office has to say about it: Read More 

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A strange yet interesting question came up on a forum the other day. Someone wanted to know if people would still be reading books in the future and, if not, should he consider finding a new "passion." A number of people jumped in, some prematurely and others with off-track responses. Of course, my literary kiddies and kiddiettes, I know the answer to that question. And, I didn't hesitate jumping in with it. Here's what I told the petitioner.

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Well, unfortunately, the Queen of Wrong careened off-track with her answer, again. You didn't ask if you could earn a living as an author. You asked if people will still be reading books in the future. Similarly, you never even implied that you want to become a professional, full-time author. Nor did you mention an author of what. Books? Magazine and newspaper articles? Short stories? Technical reports? Novels? You indicated none of the above. To assume that you want to do so isn't at all a given, so Queenie has taken another major step off the tracks. Let's see if we can't answer the question you actually asked and not worry about someone else's shoot-from-the-lip interpretation of what you asked.


The answer to your question is, quite simply, yes. If you have a dream of becoming an author, by all means pursue it. People will still be reading books throughout your lifetime. They will, that is, unless our educational system becomes so corrupted by the political machinations entrenching the Teachers Union that the politburo decides in its infinite wisdom that reading is just too damned laborious and tiresome to teach anymore. In that case, reading teachers will probably be converted into experts on the automated conversion of text to speech. Then, students will only have to push a button and sit back to "read" whatever they want. Read More 

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A self-confessed newbie author with his first book under his belt asked online the other day if he should spend hundreds of dollars hiring an editor or simply take his lumps when the book is published and chock it up to experience. I couldn't resist responding.

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There are two unknown factors here that no one else answering your question has picked up on. Which type of publishing venture are you pursuing—conventional or self? If you're talking about a conventional publisher, you need a perfectly crafted manuscript simply to get the book in the front door for a read. Or, more likely, you need a perfectly presented package to present to a literary agent who, if you're one of a very fortunate few, will sign you on as a new client and submit the book to conventional publishers for you.


If you're talking about publishing the book yourself, on the other hand, you can crank out any garbage you want, and Kindle, Ingram, or any other POD printer you choose to go with will publish it. However, don't expect to make any sales unless you're a fantastic marketer and self-promoter, and do expect to receive some harsh, negative reviews. Readers, like most other people in life, don't like wasting their time reviewing sub-standard material, including books. Read More 

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