Thursday, January 31, 2013

Copyright Is Not a Verb

By Bradlee Frazer

Copyright symbol

“I copyrighted my book by putting © on the bottom of the first page.”
“This picture is on the Internet, so I can just ‘right-click’ and use it on my website.”
“I copyrighted this DVD by mailing it to myself.”
“We don’t have any copyrights because we never registered anything with the government.”

Have you ever said or heard any of these things? If so, you are in good company—most people have. But they are all incorrect.

The belief that “copyright” is a verb besets and befuddles almost every author. Should a writer “copyright” an unpublished work before submitting it to an agent or publisher? If a writer does not formally “copyright” their unpublished work and finds someone copying it or giving away free copies, how are they disadvantaged, if at all? How does a writer “copyright” her work?

To a copyright purist like me, “copyright” is not a verb. It is a noun. Technically, a copyright is an incorporeal property right that springs into existence when a sufficiently creative idea is reduced into or onto a tangible medium. It’s actually like magic, like the Big Bang when the universe sprang into existence from a sea of quantum probability. When someone writes words on a page or draws a picture or sculpts clay or trips the shutter on a camera, the human being doing the writing, drawing, sculpting or tripping has created and is the owner of a copyright (a noun!)  in the resulting work—assuming the resulting work possesses the requisite creativity. Done deal—no ©, no government filing, no mailing to oneself needed to create a copyright.

So, assume you have written a book. If it is creative and is not a blatant rip-off of someone else’s work, it is likely you own the copyright in and to said book (there are some major exceptions to that general rule regarding copyright ownership, all of which are beyond the scope of this initial blog post).  If you sell a hard copy of that book, you are only transferring ownership of the paper, the ink and the binding. The incorporeal copyright remains with you on those facts because a copyright exists apart from the medium on or in which the work is tangibly embodied. Said another way, when you sell a copy of a work you authored, you do not at the same time sell away your copyright in the underlying work. They are different concepts: the medium, and the copyright—a distinct intangible property right—the author possesses in the work contained within or on that medium.

If someone copies your book, or large portions of your book, without your permission, that is likely an act of copyright infringement, since the owner of the copyright in a work is the only one who may lawfully make or distribute copies of that work. But in the United States, for the owner of a copyright to have the ability to file and maintain a lawsuit in federal court for copyright infringement, the owner of the copyright must have registered the copyright at issue. This act of registering one’s copyright is accomplished by filing a registration application with, and paying a fee to, the Copyright Office at  the Library of Congress

So, should a writer “copyright” an unpublished work before submitting it? Or, said from the copyright purist’s perspective, should the author of a work file an application to register her copyright in that work with the Copyright Office before submitting it to an agent, a publisher or some other third party?  The answer depends on whether the author wishes to have a remedy to enforce her copyrights through a copyright infringement lawsuit in the event her work is copied or distributed unlawfully and her copyright is thus infringed. 

This is the key issue every author must address when deciding if registration of her copyright in a work is warranted: is the availability of a remedy for copyright infringement important? Will the author of the work be aggrieved is someone uses her work without her permission?  If so, then registration is important. In general, however, agents and publishers will not knowingly infringe a copyright in a submitted work. To do so would be anathema to their reputation and their business, and so most authors should not be overly anxious about making routine, industry-related submissions of their works without registering their copyrights beforehand. 

There is one very important “gotcha” that can arise from not timely registering one’s copyrights. In the United States, if you do not register your copyright in a work within three months of the date of first publication of that work, you will not be able to recover either your attorney’s fees or a special category of money called “statutory damages” in a subsequent copyright infringement lawsuit—even if you win. “Publication” for purposes of copyright law is defined differently than the common understanding associated with being a “published author.” Under copyright law, “publication” is very loosely defined as “giving or selling a copy of the work to a third person,” so remember that to have your full panoply of rights available if you do file a copyright infringement lawsuit, you must register your copyright. And if possible, register within three months of the date of first publication, as defined.

Please email me at if you have any questions.

About Bradlee Frazer

ITW Member Bradlee Frazer’s debut novel The Cure: A Thriller is available through links on his publisher’s website. And yes, he has registered his copyright in the book.

This article originally appeared here on Jane Friedman’s blog. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Advice From a Debut With Multiple Books

By Adrienne Giordano

Like most authors in their sophomore year, I can honestly say my debut year taught me more than I can possibly put to paper. A few of those things surprised me. The first being that I was shocked at how much I didn’t know.

And I’m not just talking about editing lessons. Nope. I’m talking about non-craft related things that ever so slowly caught up to me and clubbed me. What are some of those things? Here are my top three:

1.     Time is Sometimes the Enemy
During my debut year, time was my enemy. I was lucky enough to be a debut author who had five releases in thirteen months. My first book launched in July of 2011 and by August of 2012, my fifth book had been released. Of course, I didn’t have to write five books in a year. When I sold the first one, I had two others written and had an idea for a fourth. In between, I was asked by my publisher to write a novella for an anthology.

I remember one month where I was in three different rounds of edits on three different books while writing a fourth.  I literally carved my day into time chunks. I worked on one book for a set period of time, then the next, then the next. And I was brutal about my start and stop times. If I said I’d work on Man Law for two hours and two hours came, I stopped and moved on to A Just Deception. It was hard, and I didn’t like having a hard stop, but it was the only way to get all the edits done on time.

Let me just mention that in between all of this, I had to get my website revamped, get my Twitter and Facebook pages up and running, create author accounts on all the various social networking sites and create a newsletter. Prior to signing my first contract, it never occurred to me that the marketing end of being published is a full-time job.

When I added the time I spent on marketing to my writing related tasks, I realized I needed to clone myself. With cloning out of the question, I forced myself to decide how much writing time I was willing to sacrifice to complete my non-writing related tasks. My initial thought was that I would never be done with marketing. Ever. Based on my limited experience, it seemed there would always be something marketing related to do. Once I gave in to that idea, I was able to allocate a timeframe that would protect my writing time.

After all, the best marketing will only go so far when there’s not a next book to sell.

2.     Stop and Smell the Roses
With all the insanity leading up to my first release, I realized I’d forgotten to take a moment each day to absorb the fact that I was about to become a published author. I was so busy getting my work done, I hadn’t slowed down enough to take it all in. Sure, I’d have more releases, but there would only be one debut.  I’d waited years to be a debut author and I was letting it slide by in a blur.

From that day forward I took time every day, even if it was only a minute or two, to close my eyes and savor what I’d accomplished.

Which leads me to the third and what I think just might be the most important lesson I learned during my debut year.

3.     Recharge
After my hectic year, I plowed right into two new single titles. I kept telling myself I could pound out another two books while doing the marketing for my latest release. No problem. If I survived the previous thirteen months, I could do anything. Right?


I wouldn’t necessarily call what happened to me writer’s block. I’d categorize it more as self-doubt. In short, I became convinced every word I put on the page was utter crap. My critique partners all assured me the work was good, but that self-doubt, it’s a nasty sucker. It kept whispering in my ear and tearing me down.

Finally, while on the phone with my agent one day, I told her what I was feeling.  She spent the next hour convincing me to take some time off. To put the manuscripts aside and let myself rest. She told me to go to a movie or do something that relaxes me.

I may have been skeptical, but I was also desperate to enjoy writing again, so I did what she advised. I read a few books, went to the gym, met friends for lunch and enjoyed time with my family minus my laptop and phone.  I lost precious writing time on a contracted book, but I considered it something I needed to do to reclaim my writing confidence.

Within a week, the writing itch returned and I took to my desk again. What I learned from this experience was to make sure I’m giving my mind time to rest.  Sometimes simply going for a walk or standing in the sun for a few minutes is all it takes to recharge and keep my creative juices flowing.

And when you’re a writer, keeping those juices flowing is a fairly important thing.

What about you? What do you do to keep your creativity soaring?

Adrienne Giordano
writes romantic suspense and mystery.  She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane's Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. For more information on Adrienne's books please visit Adrienne can also be found on Facebook at and Twitter at For information on Adrienne’s street team, Dangerous Darlings, go to

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Never Forget Your First ThrillerFest

By Amy Rogers

You never forget your first.

In 2007, with half a secretly-written manuscript and a dream, I confessed to my family that I wanted to be a novelist.  My first public act of affirmation was to join the local branch of California Writers Club, where I learned there are these things called “writers’ conferences.”  Eager to turn my half-book into an overnight success, I signed up for the closest one, the San Francisco Writers Conference.  SFWC, a well-run event designed for all types of writers, was an eye-opener.  I absorbed newbie lesson #1: I have a lot to learn—and a lot of work to do.  After that lesson, the next most important thing I brought home from my first writers’ conference was a flyer advertising a conference focused exclusively on the thriller genre.  This tempting event was held in glamorous, far-away New York.  ThrillerFest.

A year and a half later, I was there.

At my first ThrillerFest I did the whole shebang: CraftFest, AgentFest, ThrillerFest, Awards Banquet.  The first word to describe my experience: exhausting.  The second word: exhilarating.  With each passing year the ratio has improved: ThrillerFests became less exhausting and more exhilarating.

That first year was like drinking from a fire hose.  I drowned in information, networking, and pitching.  When it was over I dried myself off and assimilated what I’d learned.

In that spirit, here’s a summary of what I learned at my first ThrillerFest:

1.      Craft:  I came to ThrillerFest knowing my understanding of craft was deficient.  CraftFest classes were the tool I needed to fix the problem.  (Not that one can ever learn enough—I still attend CraftFest.)
2.      Community:  There are other people like me out there?  No way!  ThrillerFest allowed me to meet not only other writers, but writers who share my special interest in science, medicine, and technology.  We geeks seemed to find each other, to share conversations, ideas, and business cards.  Granted, at my first ThrillerFest I found myself eating dinner alone but over time I’ve built friendships that are now an important reason to make the annual trip to New York.

3.      Homework:  We all want to be better writers and to be more successful.  But how?  I’d heard that one of the smartest things a writer can do is read.  At ThrillerFest, I discovered which authors are the best of the best in our genre.  I assigned myself the task of reading their work in order to improve my own.  Writing a great book is a necessary step, after which the author has to pitch it.  At my first ThrillerFest I attended a how-to class on pitching and immediately practiced what I’d learned at AgentFest.  Keeping my pitching skills sharp is an ongoing task.

4.      Dreams and Goals: ThrillerFest is the place for newbies to dream.  What could be more inspiring to a budding author than to hear the stories of how others got started—and succeeded?  To meet one’s writing heroes in person, to learn from them, and to grasp that the path is long and hard but not impossible.  After my first ThrillerFest I glimpsed a future and made the first steps to get there.  It’s not only newbies who need inspiration.  No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, ThrillerFest can recharge your batteries and rekindle the flame that made you a writer in the first place.

I was writing for years before my first ThrillerFest but in a way that event marked my birth as a writing professional.  I’m still growing up.  I don’t know what I will become.  But I know that whenever I can, I’ll celebrate my writing birthday at ThrillerFest every July.

Image of Amy Rogers
Amy Rogers, MD/PhD, is a writer, scientist, educator, and critic.  Her debut novel Petroplague is a science thriller in the style of Michael Crichton.  She is a member of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Class 2011-2012.  To connect with Amy visit, follow @ScienceThriller on twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.