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How to make sure your book doesn't flop

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Judith Briles offers tips for making your book stand out in an age when almost anybody can become a publisher. For example, make sure your book is well-edited and has a nice cover: "I don’t care what all the DIYers say, if your cover sucks, buyers don’t want to pick it up. Get a professional designer into play. No matter how good your book is, a lousy cover will kill your sales." Also, how to get your book into the right Amazon category, and how to create a new one if you need to.

How to get your book's rights back

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Publishing attorney and author Susan Spann discusses how to make sure you recover your rights to your book if, for example, its sales have dropped to a low level or your publisher takes it out of print altogether: "If the contract doesn’t grant you termination rights, and publisher isn’t in breach, your options may well boil down to persuading the publisher to agree to termination — or waiting until the contract allows you to terminate without the publisher’s consent."

Some pitfalls in self-publishing

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Editor Dave King has some words of advice for would-be authors who are considering self-publishing. For example, don't publish a book that's not ready: "I’m not saying that no one should ever self-publish. I know that it has worked well for a lot of writers, and it has sometimes been the right choice for my clients. But I am saying that there are dangers to self-publishing that you need to hear. If you decide to do it, you should at least know what the pitfalls are."

The risks of an indemnity clause

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From the Authors Guild, a summary of what author's warranties and indemnity clauses mean for writers, and how the changing news business makes them a bigger hazard: "What makes this so disturbing for writers, many of whom turn to freelancing after having been laid off by traditional media organizations, is that while they are expected to produce original, groundbreaking stories, their publishers deny them protection, financial or otherwise, in the event of a lawsuit."

NYC moves to expand freelancers' rights

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Under a bill introduced this month in the New York City Council, freelancers would get legal protections similar to those enjoyed by employees, Lydia DePillis writes. The bill "would require all employers to put contracts in writing, impose civil and criminal penalties for taking longer than 30 days to deliver payments, and award double damages plus attorneys fees to contractors who’ve been stiffed — similar to the protections now enjoyed by regular employees."

Reviewing a freelance writer's first year

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Jane Friedman gave up a full-time job for full-time freelancing and managed to boost her income by 50%: "For my first half-year of freelance, I said yes, yes, yes to everything or everyone external. It wasn’t necessarily the wrong thing to do, but it was driven by income anxiety rather than by strategy or what would be an efficient use of my time and energy. It was also driven by lack of confidence that I could succeed and be profitable at things I wanted to pursue."

On conflicts of interest for freelancers

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Juggling clients is a fact of life for freelance journalists. Tara Haelle and other writers discuss one of the most challenging aspects — steering clear of conflicts: "Should someone writing for an advocacy organization, for example, avoid writing about that topic for a journalism publication? I encountered this question when a vaccine advocacy group asked me to participate on a committee for them. I declined because I write about vaccines for journalism publications."

Defining the market for podcasts

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With every new media product comes a new set of business standards and practices, Joseph Lichterman writes, focusing on the Association of Independents in Radio and its new benchmarks for payments to freelancers producing podcasts: "AIR, an advocacy group for independent radio producers, has previously worked with NPR and other public media outlets to establish freelance pay rates, but this is the first time AIR has explicitly addressed payment for work on podcasts."

Why incorporating doesn't help writers

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It seldom makes sense for a writer to form a corporation or LLC, Helen Sedwick writes. Besides the cost — in California, $800 per year — using a corporation or LCC probably doesn't provide writers much protection from liability: "A writer’s greatest legal risks are defamation, privacy, and infringement claims, all of which result from the writer’s own actions. Even if a writer had a corporation, someone would sue both the corporation and the writer for these claims."

One writer's success with crowdfunding

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From the recent AHCJ conference, Joseph Burns reports on a crowdfunding success story from freelance writer Heather Boerner, who netted $3,600 in a campaign to raise money for her book on anti-HIV medications: "The original $100 assignment for a well-known website and an unspecified number of words had been such a joy for Boerner to report and write that the finished project totaled 9,000 words. When her editor wanted 2,000 words cut, Boerner sought other funding."