Self-publishing a book can seem overwhelming. Just when writers think they have finished the hard work of crafting a manuscript along comes ISBN, DRM and EPUB.
They hear horror stories about dishonest self-publishing companies and wonder how to avoid them. Must they read those online contracts that look like 5000 words run through a blender?
What about author platforms? How do they use eye-catching images without spending a fortune? Or write blog posts that are provocative but not defamatory?
And they find themselves running a small business, often for the first time. They wonder about incorporation, licenses, and taxes.
I know; I’ve been there. When I decided to self-publish my historical novel COYOTE WINDS, I thought I was starting a new creative adventure. Instead I was reading contracts, hiring freelancers, and filing out tax forms.
After practicing business law for 30 years, I knew what to do, but I wondered about other independent authors. My writing friends asked me questions, often about complicated issues such as fair use and collaboration. What about the other hundred thousand or so indie authors? Copyright, trademark, privacy, piracy, licensing, taxes—it’s enough to intimidate any writer.
Most writers are incredible self-teachers, so I looked for an easy-to-use resource to help them. I found dozens of books giving advice on designing covers, editing content, and tweeting effectively, but none that focused on the legal issues of self-publishing. So I wrote that book, Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook.
I have always had a soft spot for creative dreamers. My parents were stereotypical artists; my mother an actress and my father a stage and television director. By temperament or choice, they did not understand business or money. When I was young, I saw them being taken advantage of over and over again.
In my first job out of college as an advertising copyrighter, I realized I knew as little about business as my parents. I was as vulnerable as they were. After a few years of struggling as a writer, I went to law school to learn to navigate the business world myself and to help creative people like my parents. Here was my chance.
Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook covers a range of topics, including:
- Moving from Manuscript to Book. The Handbook compare the options of engaging a self-publishing company to doing it yourself using a print-on-demand provider. It illustrates what contract provisions are acceptable and what are not. It explains the mechanics of hiring designers, editors, and other freelancers.
- Intellectual Property Issues. Copyrights, trademark, fair use, and public domain are explained in practical, useful terms, including how to find copyright holders and ask permission. The Handbook provide tips on licensing images and music for little or no money.
- Spotting Scams. Writers are e-blasted by businesses promoting overpriced services, if not outright frauds. The Handbook helps writers spot aggressive sales techniques and scams.
- The Scary Stuff. The Handbook provides needed guidance on avoiding the dangers of defamation, invasion of privacy, and infringement.
As a California attorney, I focus on U.S. law, but the chapters on self-publishing contracts are helpful for any writer. For a peek at my suggestions, see 7 Questions to Ask Before Choosing A Self-Publishing Company.
I have also co-written two short ebooks: How to Use Eye-Catching Images Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer and soon-to-be-released How to Use Memorable Lyrics Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer. Also in the works, The Blogger’s Legal Handbook.
Writing and publishing a book is an investment of time, money and emotion. Writers should not lose their rights by signing the wrong contract, or waste money by buying into a scam, or lose sleep by getting sued for defamation. I want to help writers stay out of court and at their desks.
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About the Author
Helen Sedwick is a business lawyer with 30 years of experience assisting clients in setting up and running their businesses, legally and successfully. Her clients include entrepreneurs such as wineries, green toy makers, software engineers, and writers. |Helen says, "I do not go to court, and no one is ever going to produce a movie about the exciting life of a business attorney. But I get a great deal of satisfaction from keeping my clients out of trouble and out of court, so they can focus on their businesses, their creative projects, and their lives." For more information about the legal issues of self-publishing, check out Helen's book and her blog at http://helensedwick.com/blog/. Helen also has a website http://helensedwick.com/ and can be found on Google+ and Twitter @HelenSedwick.
Disclaimer: Helen Sedwick is an attorney licensed to practice in California only. This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of an attorney authorized to practice in your jurisdiction.