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Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog) RSS feed

Authors' options in the changing book publishing game

In January 2015, SPJ and ASJA hosted an event focused on New Options for Authors in the Changing Book Publishing Game. Nell Minow and Tom Allen spoke at the beautiful Fund for American Studies in Dupont Circle. Here, by request, is the handout, helpful links from my Writers and Editors website.  Read More 
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Media perils and liability insurance 101

by Pat McNees, updated 6-12-19

First of all, freelance editors and writers are often sent boilerplate contracts that include clauses requiring liability insurance--which might make sense if you are rebuilding a wing of a building, but rarely make sense for a writer and certainly not for an editor. My advice (gained from others' experiences): Cross out that clause and tell the client that it isn't relevant because (if true) you don’t have employees, work onsite, travel on behalf of the client, see clients in your home office, operate heavy equipment, endanger the general welfare, and so forth. (H/T to Ruth E. Thaler-Carter for the wording.) If you raise an objection based on common sense, the client is likely to tell you just to strike the clause. If they don't and the fee is low, it probably won't make financial sense to sign the contract, or at least I would not do so. See also what Will MacPheat reports, in the Comments section.

Meanwhile, here's the best round up of information I have come up with for if you DO find yourself in a situation where you need to buy the insurance. Media perils liability insurance (or publishers liability insurance) may provide you with protection for such traditional claims as  Read More 

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Seniors Today interview about personal histories

Want to know what a personal history is and what personal historians do? So did Austin Heyman, who interviewed Debbie Brodsky and me for a Montgomery County, MD, cable show, Seniors Today.  Read More 
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Memoir, biography, and personal histories (how-to resources)

Here's a gateway to life story telling resources, whether you're doing it yourself, hiring a pro, or helping others tell their stories.

Telling your story

Articles, stories, websites, and other resources about how people have told their own, their family, or their company stories)
The art and craft of interviewing
Great interview questions and guides
Audio recording and editing equipment, software, and tutorials
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How reliable are our memories (how close to the truth)?

Updated 9-20-17, 4-3-15.
Whether you are working on a life story or having an argument with friends about an experience you shared years ago, consider what Oliver Sachs, Frank Bruni, Daniel Kahneman, Scott Fraser, Elizabeth Loftus, Maria Popova, Israel Rosenfield, Virginia Woolf, Suzanne Corkin, Joan Didion, Sally Mann, Sarah Manguso and Jane Austen (in the voice of Fanny Bryce) have to say about the nature, malleability, and unreliability of memory, as well as its role in constructing our identity, in  Read More 
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Photos and memoir writing

Art Begins with a Story: Pat McNees, brief video of me talking about how looking at photos can help remember what went on in your life, which is handy when you are involved in memoir writing (plus, it helps you figure out where  Read More 
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Authors' wills, trusts, and estates

Updated Nov. 11, 2019

Have you spelled out who inherits your intellectual property? Here are some helpful explanations:
Estate Planning for Authors (Edward M. McBoyd, YouTube video of Authors Guild webinar, 11-6-19, 1.4 hrs) Pretty thorough legal overview for providing for your author's estate.
Estate Planning For Writers (Matt Knight, Sidebar Saturdays, 12-2-17) The advantages and disadvantages of wills and trusts, whether you need both an executor and a literary trustee, how to structure a literary estate,
The Death of a Writer (Allison K Williams, Brevity's nonfiction blog, 6-4-19) Who is going to deal with your literary legacy, and what do you want done with your journals, family photos, genealogical research, story notes, complete and unfinished manuscripts, published works (who inherits the copyright?), treasured mementos, social media (wipes? or legacy status?), passwords and account numbers for whoever wraps up your estate? And do you want any old letters or evidence of love affairs preserved or destroyed?
Important. And pass it on... (Neil Gaiman, A Simple Will,10-30-06) Download "A Simple Will" and fill it in for yourself.
Neil Gaiman on why writers tend to put off writing wills, particularly wills that spell out how their intellectual property should be handled. You can download a template (PDF) of a generic will for U.S. authors but maybe run it by a lawyer, as laws vary by state.
Writers' wills: a rich legacy for readers (Claire Armitstead, The Guardian, 1-8-14) As a stock of famous authors' final testaments are posted online, we can be glad of the insights they leave to us.

Wills of the Rich and Famous (aka "celebrity wills," posted on Living Trust Network, an estate planning portal). Featured: Warren Burger, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Princess Diana. Walt Disney, Doris Duke, Elizabeth Edwards, Henry Fonda, Benjamin Franklin, Clark Gable, James Gandolfini, Katherine Hepburn, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, President John F. Kennedy, John Kennedy, Jr. and more.

• In 2014, the National Archives (UK) brought online a collection of documents that will delight biographers and historians: Famous wills 1552-1854. Among them, the wills of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Admiral Lord Nelson, Dr. Samuel Johnson, John Donne, Sir Francis Drake, William Congreve, Samuel Pepys, William Penn, George Frederic Handel, and William Wordsworth.

Guest-blogging on Writers in the storm, Susan Spann (author of the popular Shinobi Mystery series, published a series of pieces advising on authors' estate planning and authors' trusts, under the Publaw theme (where you can find more of these). I'll link to some of them here:
WHO WILL YOU TRUST? Wills in Author Estate PlanningSusan Spann, guest blog on Writers in the Storm, 5-10-13).
Who Inherits Your Copyrights? (4-22-13)
Do You Own Your Copyrights? (Susan Spann, 1-10-14)
Do You Know Your (Copy) Rights? (Susan Spann, 12-13-13)
Who Can an Author Trust? Trusts in the Author Estate Plan (6-14-13).
Do You Need a Literary Executor? (Susan Spann, 7-15-13)
How to Choose a Literary Executor (Susan Spann, 8-9-13)
But What Does a Literary Trustee DO? (Part 1) (Susan Spann)
Trust The Process: Literary Executors, Part 2 (Susan Spann)

Rights and Royalties Management, Licensing,
issues about and problems with authors' and artists' estates
. What happens to works after authors die. (Writers and Editors, Copyright, work for hire, and other rights issues)

SFWA runs two helpful lists (which cover more than genre fiction writers):
Estates Contact Information
Estates we’re looking for

Literary estates administered by The Society of Authors (UK)

Wills, Probate and Trusts For Writers (H.S. Stavropoulos, author of crime fiction with a Greek-American flavor)

Now some stunning photographs:
15 Famous Authors’ Beautiful Estates (Emily Temple, Flavorwire, 1-24-12) Photos of the beautiful homes of Anaïs Nin, Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, Evelyn Waugh, Gore Vidal, J. K. Rowling, Kurt Vonnegut,Vladimir Nabokov, Mark Twain, Stephen King, Robert Graves, Victor Hugo, Eudora Welty, William Shakespeare, Frederick Douglass.'

What other resources are helpful? Tell me about experiences you've had or know about that it might be helpful for others to know about -- particularly problems to avoid or minimize.

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Author websites that pull you in (in different ways)

Authors looking for role models: Some of these author websites are well-designed, some have great content, some have both. What do you think of them? Do they make you want to a) buy the book? b) read the book? c) hire the writer? d) watch for his next book?

Marcel Theroux (elegantly understated, with black and white drawings)

Sarah Barbour. Aeroplane Media (an editor/proofreader of genre fiction posts her prices, which is one reason she gets hired, according to her handy ebook, The Copy Editor's Guide to Working with Indie Authors: How to Find Clients, Market Yourself & Build Your Business

Camden Writers (click on the photos--a process of discovery)

Scott Saul, for his book Becoming Richard Pryor , created an extensive website about the first part of the five-part book, as a lure to the book itself: Richard Pryor's Peoria  Read More 
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Settlement on Google book search lawsuit

Updated 9-5-16, 11-12-14
Appeals court rules that Google book scanning is fair use (Joe Mullin, Ars Technica, 10-16-15) After nearly a decade of litigation, a landmark win. "The Authors' Guild sued Google, saying that serving up search results from scanned books infringes on publishers' copyrights, even though the search giant shows only restricted snippets of the work. The Authors' Guild sued Google, saying that serving up search results from scanned books infringes on publishers' copyrights, even though the search giant shows only restricted snippets of the work.
"In its opinion (PDF), a three-judge panel rejected all of the Authors' Guild claims in a decision that will broaden the scope of fair use in the digital age. The immediate effect means that Google Books won't have to close up shop or ask book publishers for permission to scan. In the long run, the ruling could inspire other large-scale digitization projects."

The long-fought class action freelancer suit alleging copyright infringement in Google's widespread book scanning (Literary Works in Electronic Databases) was settled ($18 million). Read here about the settlement itself, followed by pieces posted earlier on the issues, arguments, contenders.  Read More 
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Reporting on controversial scientific and medical topics

"Medicine, and science generally, has always had controversy, and problems with a public that doesn't understand science," wrote Norman Bauman in an online discussion this week of how to write about something as controversial as persistent Lyme disease without getting crazy reactions from both sides of the controversy. With his permission (and Creative Commons license)  Read More 
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