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Agents and the independent author

Hand signing contract

Sangeeta Mehta talks to two literary agents, Bob Mecoy and Kristin Nelson, who maintain that even independent authors can benefit from using an agent: "When indie authors start navigating the waters themselves — the film inquiry, the foreign contract — they learn pretty quickly why an agent might be valuable. It’s definitely a beneficial partnership. But to be clear, I rarely take on an indie author simply to exploit film or subsidiary rights. The profit margin is too low."

The perils of writing for one news site

Pennies

The online news site Vice is gaining a reputation for shabby treatment of freelancers, Yardena Schwartz writes: "Journalists who have worked for Vice tell CJR that the company published their work without paying them for it, promised them assignments which were later rescinded, and asked reporters for their help with documentaries that covered issues they had written about without any plans to pay them for their work. There’s also the usual freelance complaint: late payments."

Picking a domain name for your website

Domain names graphic

Joel Friedlander explains some of the finer points of choosing a domain name for a site publicizing one or all of your books: "When you’re creating a new site, think about creating your own 'brand' by creating a name that relates to your subject. For instance, Brian Clark created the title 'Copyblogger' for his site that aimed to teach online writers how to use copywriting techniques. Since he invented the word, he 'owned' all the searches on it, with no competition."

When to start promoting your book

Woman shopping for books

Book public relations expert Sharon Bially writes that it's never to early to start your book's publicity campaign. In fact, she says, the best time to start may be even before you've finished writing your book: "Over the years, though, I’ve noticed one surprising pattern that might offer an answer for many: When successfully implemented BEFORE a manuscript is even shopped around, book PR can have quite a profound impact, one that will ripple out well into the future."

A writer's guide to collecting sales tax

Laptop and calculator

Helen Sedwick valiantly tries to explain the complex system of sales taxes and how they apply to writers who sell their own books or other goods to the public: "When you resell your books to your customers at book fairs and through your website, you may be obligated to pay sales tax to the state in which the transaction takes place, although you may charge the tax to your buyers. And you are required to fill out state sales tax forms and pay sales tax to your state."

Which website tools are best for writers?

Monitor showing website

Web designer Ron Bueker does a contrast-and-compare for two popular website tools — WordPress and Squarespace: "On the one hand, WordPress can deliver a seemingly endless variety of custom features, but they require time and energy to implement. On the other hand, Squarespace can 'bring the easy,' but requires you to stay within its built-in feature set." Also, Jane Friedman's step-by-step guide to building an author website with WordPress.

Crowdfunding advice for authors

Crowd of toy figures

It may be the big new trend in other businesses, but for writers, crowdfunding is a tough job, Bethany Joy Carlson writes: "Over 70 percent of author crowdfunding campaigns fail, and many authors who have tried crowdfunding have nothing to show for it." Carlson then offers a series of tips for successful crowdfunding, and more advice in an accompanying Q&A. Also, how two people from the Poynter Institute planned and managed a successful campaign.

The people behind Facebook's news

Hands on keyboard

Ever wonder where the "trending" news in Facebook's right sidebar comes from? Michael Nunez pulls back the curtain on the social media giant's news curation operation: "According to five former members of Facebook’s trending news team — 'news curators' as they’re known internally — Zuckerberg & Co. take a downright dim view of the industry and its talent." Also, are those news curators biased? And Facebook responds.

Understanding "out-of-print" clauses

Book printing press, image via Shutterstock

The advent of e-books and self-publishing has made it more difficult for writers to terminate their book contracts, attorney and author Susan Spann writes in a guide to negotiating "out-of-print status" language in publishing contracts: "Many older publishing contracts don’t tie out-of-print status to royalty-bearing sales. Instead, they tie out-of-print status to 'availability' (or, worse, give the publisher the unilateral right to declare the work out of print)."

Look who else doesn't pay writers

Combination lock on safe image via Shutterstock

A Huffington Post editor may brag about not paying writers, but Yasmin Nair writes that HuffPo is not the only culprit in the demonetization of journalism. Nair names leftist sites that are pro-labor but anti-writer: "Somewhere along the way, the commitment to ending inequality and ensuring equitable wages for work became dissociated from the world of publishing and writing, where writers are seen more as hobbyists or as people who write because they can afford to."