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Scott Lax Blog

You're a Writer - Protect Your Rights and Your Career

Every time I give a workshop or class, some student invariably asks me about how to submit to journals (including e-journals); how to copyright his or her material; about contracts, payments, marketing and all the things associated with writing...other than writing.

I understand the confusion, because we live in a society where writing, especially freelance writing, is thought of as something other than a real business. Some think its glamorous (it's not, except in rare cases, and then only for a minute); some think it's easy (it's not); some think it's impossible (it's not, it just takes a huge amount of effort and sacrifice and learning).

Once in a while, some think that it is what it is -- an art, a craft, and, for some, a business. Fortunately, some smart people have published books about it.

Rather than rephrasing what is already available, I'm going to answer some basic questions with what may seem like an easy answer, but the truth is that this is the best way for you to learn to do this right.

Don't pay to learn these things at a workshop. You can make a few modest investments and learn them on your own time.

The first thing you need to do is purchase, new or used, or borrow, from a friend or the library, WRITER'S MARKET. Read it. It will teach you how to query, how to find an agent, how to submit you materials, etc. Do what it says to do. Don't get cute or clever or use gimmicks to get noticed by an agent or editor, such as sending flowers or an e-card. Just do what WM says to do, and you can't go too far wrong.

As for the legal issues, unless you have a good agent, consider buying the THE WRITER'S LEGAL GUIDE, published by the Authors Guild. Be wary of advice from the Internet, which may or may not be accurate.

So there you are: two books, two investments. I can tell you first-hand that if you don't have an adequate contract in place, regarding rights, or publication, or whatever, the chances of you getting shafted are decent.

Protect yourself, and your writing. It's a product, and you are the producer. If it's also excellent art, or art at all, so much the better.  Read More