OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
There are questions that come up over and over again in the self-publishing world: What does copyright even mean? How do I write about real people and not get sued? How can I protect against piracy? Today, I interview lawyer Helen Sedwick about these and many other legal issues.
In the intro, I talk about the new Kindle Voyage, heading to Frankfurt Book Fair and what I'm learning from Dean Wesley Smith's productivity course that has resulted in 20,000 words done for Gates of Hell, my next novel in the last 9 days.
This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
Helen Sedwick is a California attorney with 30 years experience representing a diverse range of businesses and entrepreneurs. She writes historical fiction and has also written the Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook to help writers self-publish while minimizing legal risk.
- How Helen studied creative writing, but eventually went to law school when she wanted to earn more money, but she continued to write on the side. 30 years later, she self-published her historical novel, Coyote Winds, and learned so much about the process. She wrote a guide to help other authors based on her legal perspective.
- What is copyright? When does it come into existence and how do you register it? Using the metaphor of a house you own, Helen explains how each room represents a certain right, and how you can best exploit those and protect yourself.
- Some key publishing contract clauses to watch out for. Limit the rights by length of time, or the format asked for. Make sure that a publisher will actually exploit any rights you sell. How the end of the contract is managed and when you get your rights back. Defining ‘out of print' in a digital age.
- Using images, quotes, poetry and song lyrics. Permissions, fair use, parody, using images, creative commons, royalty-free and the issues you might face with other people's copyright. Helen also has a new book: How to use eye-catching images without paying a fortune or a lawyer, which is really useful. I also mention my Flickr account, which is Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial.
- On writing memoir and real life people and events – without getting sued! Considering privacy issues and country differences.
- On piracy and enforcing copyright. How to use take-down notices. But basically, obscurity is more of a risk than piracy, and some authors use piracy as a form of marketing these days.
- Avoiding scams in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing. Check out Writer Beware. We also discuss competitions and which are worth entering.
- Collaborating with other authors, translators and other professionals. What you need to consider if you want to work successfully with other people.
- On working with attorneys and lawyers – if you need one.
- How setting up a business can be great for optimizing your finances.
You can find Helen at HelenSedwick.com and on twitter @HelenSedwick. I highly recommend you read her amazing blog, buy her books and email her if you have legal questions. You can also leave comments or questions below.