Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Singing the Book Trailer Blues

Kathryn Page Camp
Is someone singing the blues on your book trailer? Or do you have a classical pianist playing Bach's "Minuet in G Major"?
Here's the more important question: did you pay a license fee for using that music track? If not, you may be guilty of copyright infringement.
Many sound recordings have two copyrights. The first is for the composition as it is captured in sheet music, and the second is for the actual performance.
Bach never copyrighted his compositions, and they would have moved into the public domain by now, anyway. So if you use what he wrote, you don't have to worry about infringing his copyright. But if you use a more recent arrangement of Bach's work, the arranger may have copyrighted that.
Then there is the performance copyright. Whoever actually recorded the track has a separate copyright.
By now you're wondering if your book trailer must resemble a silent movie, where the theater (or the viewer) has to provide its own music.
Don't give up yet. Here are three ways you can get music for your book trailer without worrying about copyright infringement.
The most common is to find a reputable online store that sells stock music tracks and then purchase one that includes a royalty-free license. "Royalty free" doesn't mean free, but it does mean that you only pay once no matter how many people view your book trailer. As long as you use a reputable site, it also means that the seller has obtained the necessary permissions for you.
One caution, however. Read the license before you purchase. Make sure it allows commercial use and that your book trailer fits its commercial use description.
A second option is to find a recording for which both the underlying music and the performance are in the public domain. This requires a lot of time and effort to discover limited choices. And if you find the recording on a website, make sure you can trust the website operator. You don't want the copyright holder to sue you because you mistakenly thought something was in the public domain. Good faith isn't a defense.
In my opinion, this second option isn't worth the trouble, but you may feel differently.
The third option is to use sheet music you know is in the public domain and record the performance yourself. If your daughter is an accomplished pianist, persuade her to play the music for you. She may own the performance copyright in the recording, however, so make sure you have her permission to use it. 
Of course, you don't want to try this third option unless you know you will get a quality product. Or maybe a less-than-perfect performance fits the tone of your humor or children's book.
Actually, there is a fourth option: contact the copyright holder for permission. But unless you are wedded to a particular recording that isn't available as stock music, it makes more sense to go with the easier and quicker option one.
So before you start using that book trailer, make sure you have the necessary licenses and permissions for any music you include in it.
Otherwise, you may find yourself singing the book trailer blues.
* * * * *
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her new book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013) is available from and other retailers. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court's First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Changes: The Ever-Evolving Book Publishing Industry--What Does It Mean for Us?

Janine Harrison
We have witnessed major changes in the book publishing industry over the past decade. Creative nonfiction has flourished, taking over larger publishing houses and relegating much fiction to smaller publishers. The demand for serious, intellectual books is at an all-time low; as a result, university presses are publishing work that they would not have previously considered. Electronic publishing has come into existence with a roar, sometimes referred to as the "Amazon Effect," causing big-box bookstores to struggle--Barnes & Noble plans to close 20 stores per year over the next ten years--and even, as was the case with Borders, to close. Self-publishing is becoming less stigmatized and gaining momentum as a viable publishing option, especially for mid-to-late career writers. And perhaps most recently, big six publishing houses, like Random House and Penguin, have started consolidating to adapt to a digital marketplace. These changes have made for a more competitive print marketplace that often offers smaller advances to authors.
E-publishing affords instant gratification for readers and e-books tend to be cheaper than hard copies. In 2009, only three percent of readers were using electronic devices such as Kindle and Nook; that number is now up to 15 percent. In one year alone, the number of people who e-read grew from 15 to 40 million. Kindle is expanding interactions daily and Zola, newer to the scene, is also on the move. It is projected that in 2020, 50 percent of reading will involve e-books.
The new digital marketplace entails print on demand as well. In Australia, for instance, where shipping costs are exorbitant, book vending machines exist. Customers order a book from the machine, which pours them a complimentary cup of coffee, and by the time they are finished drinking, their book is printed. E-publishers are beginning to work with hardback publishers to complete print-on-demand requests, but authors assume some of the costs. The good news, however, is that e-publishers may accept a book that traditional publishers will not publish; while this may call the overall quality of the book market into question, it may also allow readers more selection diversity. In addition, e-book royalties for writers tend to be considerably better, at 70-to-80 percent, than the ten percent offered in traditional markets. And, if a print book contract does not specify e-book rights, then the writer still has property to sell.
Due to the fast evolution of the digital market, agents are also asking for royalty renegotiations every three years. As an anti-movement, "ReKiosk" is concentrating on the return of the human element in book sales, and independent bookstore openings are slightly on the rise.
What are some conclusions that we can safely draw from these market trends? Traditional publishing is becoming more competitive, and commercial writing is more economically viable than literary writing. E-publishing is the wave of the future and writers should, therefore, be aware of e-book rights when signing contracts for print work. E-publishing is an option for consideration when work is rejected in the traditional publishing industry, and both e-publishing and self-publishing are viable choices for mid-career writers whose name is already known, bringing higher profit margins. Finally, perhaps no matter the digital market prospects, the human element will remain.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Power of Poetry in the Schools

Indiana Writers' Consortium held its third annual Power of Poetry Project (PoPP) awards assembly on April 25, 2013. IWC recognized 51 fourth and fifth grade students for their achievements in poetry and art. The students came from schools in Crown Point, East Chicago, Gary, and Lowell.

The first four pictures in this post show some of the winners. The last one shows the hard-working volunteers who were the backbone of the project .

PoPP was funded by a grant from the Crown Point Community Foundation and a grant from the Lake County Community Fund of the Legacy Foundation as well as by individual and corporate donations. IWC thanks them and all the volunteers who made the project possible.


IWC is an IRS Section 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and build a community of creative writers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ever Wonder if Your Words are Lawful?


Janine Harrison
"A big part of writing is learning how to cause trouble without getting into trouble," states Michael Poore, fiction writer, "and Writers in Wonderland is an easy course in accomplishing that." On May 1st, Attorney at Law Kathryn Page Camp's book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal, was released. Camp shared some information about the new title with the IWC.
Q: What is your new book, Writers in Wonderland, about, and what made you decide to write it?
A: Writers in Wonderland uses everyday language and shares cases with interesting facts to explain the basic legal principles of interest to writers. The issues include copyrights, defamation, book contracts, taxes, and business matters.
As a lawyer who is also a writer, I have long been interested in these issues. Through the years other writers have asked me legal questions that I was happy to answer or, in many cases, to research and then answer. Encouragement from my fellow writers became the primary motivation for writing the book.
Q: What expertise do you have in this area of specialization?
A: I practiced as a regulatory attorney in the futures industry, where I learned a lot about the business world. I'm a member of the Chicago Bar Association's Intellectual Property Committee and keep up with developments in copyright law. I'm also trained in legal research and believe in doing a thorough job. That means I've read a lot of cases involving writers.
Q: What makes WiW different from other books like it that are already on the market?
A: I'd be the first to admit that there are a number of other legal-themed books for writers, and I used many of them as a starting point for my own research. But they aren't always easy for non-lawyers to understand, and those that manage to limit the legalese tend to be boring. I'd like to think that this book is unique among the competition because it entertains while teaching.
Q: Why should writers be concerned about keeping our words legal? What can happen if we don't?
A: Defamation lawsuits, copyright litigation, IRS proceedings, and more. Many of the high-profile copyright cases were filed by individuals claiming that famous writers stole their ideas. But ideas can't be copyrighted, and all that the plaintiffs got were public scorn and bills for legal fees.
Litigation is expensive, and the parties rarely recover their attorneys' fees even when they win. So it is usually better to avoid a lawsuit in the first place. Victory isn't sweet if your lawyer is the only one who benefits.
Obviously, some writers choose to take a calculated risk. Authors risk defamation lawsuits when they write unauthorized biographies of living people, yet those biographies are easy to find on bookstore shelves. But you can't take a calculated risk unless you know the factors that go into the calculation.
Q: What was the most interesting part of the research and writing process of WiW for you, and why?
A: I love doing research, and I particularly enjoy human interest stories. My favorite cases are the ones that personalize the people involved. The IRS proceeding against Ralph Vitale is a good example. Vitale wrote novels about legal prostitution in Nevada, and he tried to write off his payments to prostitutes as research expenses. The tax court judge found that writing was Vitale's business and allowed him to deduct some of his costs. But the judge also said that certain expenditures are so inherently personal that they can never be business expenses for tax purposes, and he put Vitale's "interview" payments in that category.
The best part of the actual writing is looking for ways to be creative. That's why I chose a Lewis Carroll theme for Writers in Wonderland. I had the most fun rewriting the March Hare's conversation with Alice at the beginning of Chapter 2.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share about your experience writing Writers in Wonderland or about the book, itself?
A: There is nothing like having a good critique group, and it's even better when the group is composed of people from your intended audience. I'd like to thank the members of the Highland Writers' Group for their valuable input.
According to Poore, Camp is "...a lawyer who can be helpful without making us want to scream." As a writer, I know what else would make me want to scream--a lawsuit! Writers in Wonderland is available on and is coming soon to other retailers.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Research & Memoir Writing

Sandra J Nantais

A common misconception about writing a memoir or life essay is that the writer must write expressly from memory. If that were so, that would make for a fairly flat and boring snippet of life tale.

Example 1: Summer! Yea! It's summer! It's the late 60s and summer means shorter pants, bare feet, Kool-Aid and the dunes! The weekend arrives, sandwiches are made, Kool-Aid is in the metal jug and, with towels over our shoulders, we run out the door to the silver car.

Upon opening the car's back door, we all turn and run to the porch yelling Eeeeeuuuuu!

Example 2: Summer! Yea! It's summer in the late 1960s and this means plaid knee-knockers, bare feet, sandwiches and the dunes! It means waking to the sun shining and Mom packing sandwiches into a brown paper grocery bag (peanut butter or bologna on Wonder Bread, of course). The cherry Kool-Aid was already in the red and white metal picnic jug waiting for two trays of ice to be dumped in before having the lid screwed on.

Us kids would bound out of the house with a towel over our shoulder towards the shiny silver 1966 Dodge Coronet 440. Whoever was quickest would open the back door, only to release the strong smell of spoiled milk. Eeeeeuuuuu! We'd yell and run back to the house and gather on the steps pinching our noses closed.

By adding a few vivid and specific details from that era, the reader is there along with the writer, in that moment.

Other than the memory of the car being silver with four doors and a black interior, I have no idea of the make or model. My eldest brother is twelve years older and a lifelong car buff, so I asked him about the silver car, which is how we all still refer to it.

Why not just write it that way? Just describing the car as 'the silver car'? Because by adding the make, year and model of the car, I can create more emotion or familiarity within a reader.

The same is true with the drink cooler. I vividly remember the drink cooler and that it was metal. Yet I still researched vintage 1960 water coolers to keep with the time frame introduced. If by the 1960s the metal were replace with plastic I would have left that detail out.

Is this wrong? Does it make the memoir fiction? Does it change a memoir from being my memory? Not at all. It is just facts about objects that were present.

With memoir writing the author is endeavoring to restore a memory as truthfully as possible. Memories are deficient, and checking minor facts for accuracy shows that the author cares. Verifying with someone what color something actually was or which beach you were at doesn't change what you felt.

So go ahead and ask a sibling or research details. It will only help immerse the reader into the moment right alongside you as if they had experienced the same sadness or joy or laughter with you.