Thursday, 19 December 2013

How To Gift a Kindle Ebook – A Christmas Guide

Do you give books for Christmas? If you’re giving them to someone who has an e-reader, consider giving ebooks instead!

Many e-reader owners no longer want paperbacks, or only want select titles in paperback, due to:

  • Storage – paperbacks take up room, and avid readers will already have stacks of books (possibly literally);
  • Convenience – paperbacks are heavy to carry around, and inconvenient when about to finish a book, as you must carry two;
  • Ease of reading – E-readers are generally easier to hold and manoeuvre, particularly for readers of large books or readers with problems like arthritis or carpal tunnel.

Don’t like giving gift cards? No fear! You can gift a personalised selection of Kindle books on Amazon and here’s how.

  • Account – If you don’t have an Amazon account, set one up. Follow the link to Amazon - note that you can't give Kindle books as gifts from some Amazon Kindle Stores;
  • Choose your books – In the search bar, use the drop down menu to select ‘Kindle Store’ and search for books you know the recipient will like;
  • Gift details – On the right of the book page, click ‘Give as a gift’, and select ‘Email the gift to me’.  Complete the recipient’s details, and your gift message. Change ‘Your Name’ to the names you want the gift to be from e.g. Mary, Bob, Matt and Lucy;
  • Place order – Select place order to have the gift voucher emailed to you;
  • Print voucher – Once you receive the emailed voucher, print it and cut it to size;
  • Gift Wrapping – Amazon gift vouchers (when cut to size) fit nicely in pre-made DVD gift boxes, so you even still have a gift to put under the tree! If you can’t find any of these boxes, put the vouchers in a beautiful Christmas card.
DVD gift boxes - perfect for Amazon gift vouchers

Got it wrong? If the recipient already owns the book, or doesn’t want it, they can easily exchange it on Amazon. 

So next time you’re considering buying a paperback for someone with an e-reader, think twice – I know people who no longer want paperbacks, and even have paperbacks that have been loaned to them lying around unread.

Christmas doesn’t mean you can’t give digital books!

In the New Year, I’ll be posting about what e-book preferences means for brick-and-mortar stores, and how bookshops need to adapt and evolve to survive.

Friday, 6 December 2013

A Quick Reference Guide to Cover Art and Copyright

When it comes to cover art, you have four basic options:

  • Buy a stock cover from a cover designer;
  • Buy a stock image and have a cover designer use it to design a cover;
  • Buy an existing artwork and have a cover designer use it to design a cover; and
  • Commission a cover or artwork specifically for the purpose.

The choices you make could limit what you can do with your cover art. Here are some tips and tricks.

Stock cover from a cover designer[1]

  • What you can do - Use it on your book
  • What you probably can't do - Use it on your website (unless your cover designer also designed the webpage).
  • What you can't do - give it to other people to use, including other bloggers to use on your guest posts on their sites, and on merchandise (whether for sale or to give away).

TIP Make sure you get an agreement. Ideally you should own the copyright in the cover design (but not the stock photo) or at the very least have an exclusive, royalty-free licence in perpetuity to use the design, otherwise you might see another book with the exact same cover.

TRAP The cover designer (and not you) holds the licence to use the stock photo. There are circumstances in which the stock website can revoke that licence, which means you would no longer have a right to use your own cover art!

Stock image you purchase[2]

  • What you can do - Use it on your book, your website, merchandise for giveaways, and pretty much anywhere else the royalty-free licence permits.
  • What you probably can't do – Give it to other bloggers to use on your guest posts on their site as this may involve granting a licence (which you can’t do).
  • What you can't do - Use it on merchandise for sale (but it’s OK on merchandise to give away).

TIP Make sure you get an agreement. In this case, you really should own the copyright in the design free and clear because you are commissioning a design using an image you have supplied.

TRAP If you don't own the copyright in the design, and you have to change cover artists mid-series, you may not be able to have another cover designer mimic the style and format of the cover art. 

Artwork you purchase[3]

  • What you can do - Use it on your book, your website, merchandise for giveaways, and pretty much anywhere else.
  • What you probably can't do - Licence others to use the artwork for their own purposes (i.e. to use in ways unconnected to your book).
  • What you can't do - represent that you (or anyone other than the artist) created the image. 

TIP Make sure you get an agreement with the artist and the cover designer. Ideally you should own the copyright in the cover design. You may not be able to purchase the copyright in the artwork, but you should at least have a royalty-free licence in perpetuity to use the design. This may be exclusive or non-exclusive depending on what you negotiate. Transferable would be useful so you can licence others to use it.

TRAP Make sure you negotiate a wide enough licence with the artist to allow you to use the image in the ways you anticipate using it.

Commissioned illustrated cover

  • What you can do - Use it basically anywhere you like.
  • What you probably can't do - nothing really. 
  • What you can't do - represent that you (or anyone other than the artist) created the image. 

TIP Make sure you get an agreement with the artist. Because you have commissioned this artwork specifically and exclusively for your book, you should own the copyright, free and clear. The artist will retain their moral rights (the right to have the work attributed to them and a few others).  

TRAP The artist may want to retain some rights in the artwork. Generally this should be limited only to the ability to use the artwork as part of the artist's showcase. You should not allow the artist the right to use the artwork commercially. 

Agreement, agreement, agreement

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an agreement when it comes to artwork (and other copyright issues). Unlike a physical object, where the fact you have it in your possession may go part way to proving you have some right to it, an image is intangible property. That is, what you own isn't a physical item, it is the right to use it. 

How you can use it depends on what rights you have, and ranges from owning the copyright (an unfettered ability to use, sell, licence or redistribute the image) to various licences with more limited rights. If you have no agreement, you have no evidence of what rights you have, and the default presumption is that the creator owns the copyright. This means you may well have paid and have nothing to show for it at the end.

If you get this wrong, the worst case scenario is that you could be sued for using someone else's image. The best case scenario is you may be required to change all your book covers. 

The information in this article is factual information only and is not legal advice, nor is it intended to replace legal advice. You should use this information as a guide only, and should seek individual legal advice from a qualified legal practitioner on your particular circumstances where necessary.

[1] Based on the Shutterstock terms and conditions for the standard royalty free licence

[2] Based on the Shutterstock terms and conditions for the standard royalty free licence

[3] This will depend on the terms you negotiate with the artist. For the purposes of this analysis, we have assumed an exclusive, royalty-free, unlimited licence in perpetuity for purposes connected to the book.

Monday, 25 November 2013

You Don’t (Often) Need Profanity

A few times a year I see a post about the right to use profanity, and every time I do, I wonder where are the people writing the rebuttal. Then I realised no one is...

To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have the right to swear. What I’m debating is whether there is usually any need to swear, and what it achieves if you do. A right, after all, need not always be exercised. Even the right to vote in some countries is not often exercised (and I would love to see posts passionately exhorting people to vote the same way they exhort them to swear, because, you know, voting is so much less important than foul language…).

Before we get started, let’s be clear, profane words are not intrinsically bad. There is no such thing as a bad word, although this has come to be the common understanding. But like all words, profane words have meanings, and as is the case with the English language, words often have shades of meaning. The meaning of profane words goes past their strict literal definition and includes an element of offensiveness.

I’ve seen people argue that only the literal definition should matter, but the fact remains that these words have historically been, and continue to be, used to insult and offend or at least shock. We have created this definition, and it seems as ridiculous to me to rail against this fact as to complain that ‘sheep’ means a woolly herbivorous animal. Particularly if you yourself actually use these words in this sense. Sure, definitions change, but this is a slow, organic process. Exhorting people to stop treating profanity as offensive simply won’t work.

So, why don’t you need to swear?

It’s Not Articulate

Really, you can’t think of a better word to express how you feel? Maybe your vocabulary is limited through no fault of your own, or perhaps you are communicating with such people, in which case profanity may be the most effective means of communication. 

But if you do have a better vocabulary, what’s your excuse for not using it? The only time I forget my vocabulary is when I’m so sleep-deprived my brain stops functioning, or perhaps in extreme instances of pain.

#writetip – vary your language. Use specific descriptors, and don’t fall into patterns of repetition. Convey precisely the meaning you intend to convey.

It’s Not Effective Communication

I’m not saying that using profanity negates what you are saying, or makes your points any less valid, but it often means people stop paying attention.

When you start swearing at people, they stop listening. It doesn’t matter how valid your point is, they stop wanting to help you. Swearing at a customer service representative never gets you what you want. Swearing in a complaint won’t be taken as seriously as the person who can articulate their problem. It certainly won’t persuade a judge to your point of view.

In the instance that someone continues to pay attention after you start swearing, then to some extent profanity does denote emotion and anger, which thus also often denotes irrationality, and so your words are given less weight.

If, however, you can precisely articulate your problem, your position, your argument, in a calm and logical manner, you are more likely to persuade someone to your point of view.

As I said above, words have shades of meaning. In fact, we can look at words like tools. Profanity is like a hammer – it’s big, heavy, and packs a punch. But hey, that’s not always appropriate!

I don’t swear when I get angry, and my husband says that’s worse. You can’t always get your point across using the same blunt tool.

He strains to hear a whisper who refuses to hear a shout – Robert Jordan, the Wheel of Time

Often It’s Meaningless

One of the #writetips I tweet is ‘If a word can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning, then you probably should’.

Often profane words are redundant. They don’t really add anything to the sentence. Consider the way profanity is used in everyday language:

‘So he fucking told me the fucking goods needed to be picked up and then he got in his fucking truck and fucking drove away.’

Considering that such a sentence may well be delivered by someone who is not angry, the word adds no value to the sentence. There is even a teenage version, with which you may be more familiar and it reads like this:

‘So he, like, told me that the goods, like, needed to be picked up, and then he, like, got in his truck and, like, drove away.’

OK, so you probably wouldn't hear a teenager say that exact sentence, but I wanted to make the comparison of usage.

The second example would drive so many people absolutely crazy. The first would be defended by some of the same people. To me they are the same. Take the whole question of profanity out of it, if the word doesn’t need to be there, it’s repetitive, and adds nothing to the sentence, don’t use it! The first version annoys me just as much as the second. Don't tell me verbal language is different to writing unless you are happy to listen to someone say 'like' every fourth word.

When Is Profanity Effective?

I’ve seen it suggested that profanity is effective in communication to create a visceral, emotional response, but I think this is limited to select communications, usually written articles designed to provoke a response (and not one where the response you want is someone to do something for you). It seems to be useful for provoking discussion. I don’t think it’s useful in everyday communication which is, let’s face it, the bulk of communication for most of us.

It’s certainly going to be effective in fiction where you are showing something about a character by its use. Obviously it's necessary in an article like this one discussing the subject.

You Can Swear If You Want

Sure, if you don’t care about any of the above reasons, then you can use profanity for no better reason than because you want to. I won’t like you any less for it.

But please - don’t tell me you’re striking a blow for the freedom of communication, or furthering some great literary purpose! I call a spade a spade, and a spade this is not.

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