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One writer's unusual sources of work

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Kimberly Moynahan writes that she might dream of writing for major news media, but she has no trouble finding work elsewhere — writing white papers, museum exhibits, and copy for marketing or advertising: "It’s not all glamorous work; most of the time your name won’t even be associated with what your write. At times it may not even be 'science writing' per say. But it does one thing that freelance journalism sometimes fails to do – it pays a professional hourly rate."

Two dangerous words in contracts

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Helen Sedwick writes about rights, proposing that the words "assignment" and "exclusive" should be red flags for writers who want to maintain control over their work and avoid "rights grabs" by greed-driven publishers: "How can writers spot these rights grabs before they are exposed in the blogosphere? What are the clues? After all, no writer wants to lose rights or be David suing Goliath like this. The answer, of course, is read the contract before you hit Submit."

Do you need a literary agent?

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Agents typically collect 15% of any income from your book, Jane Friedman writes. So how do you know if you need an agent? "If you want to be published by one of the major New York houses (e.g., Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster), then you more or less need to have one — and want one on your side. If you’re writing for a niche market (e.g., vintage automobiles) or wrote an academic or literary work, then you might not need an agent." Plus tips on selecting agents.

A writer's indemnity clause nightmare

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Dolia Estevez wrote for Forbes that a former aide to a Mexican president was among the "10 most corrupt Mexicans of 2013," and that's when her troubles began, Dawn Fallik and Jonathan Peters write: "Instead of defending its contributor, as it would have if she were a staff writer, Forbes told Estevez she was on her own, invoking a provision of its standard freelance contract stating that web writers are 'responsible for any legal claims arising' from their work."

Why freelancing is really not so bad

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Even if her story was killed by the magazine that solicited it, Jen A. Miller says that freelancing is better than people say: "It’s the original entrepreneurial journalism, and if you can treat it like the business that it is, and have the right personality for what can be a screwball of a way to make a living, it’s far more rewarding – intellectually and financially – than a spot in a newsroom cubicle could ever provide." Q&A with the author.

Time for writers to leave the silo

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Scott Carney rolls a new grenade into the freelancing business by writing that it's OK to pitch the same story to multiple editors: "Writers cherish their relationships with editors and often worry that playing one magazine off of another for a better deal will put them on some sort of black list," he says. "But any editor that doesn’t understand the pressures that freelancers face is probably not worth working with anyway." Some editors respond.

A brief history of self-publishing

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Ben Franklin self-published. So did Jane Austen, Walt Whitman and Marcel Proust, according to James McGrath Morris, whose essay covers the history of self-publishing and the rise and fall of the vanity press: "In each of these eras, authors have continued to bring out their own books, even if they recognize that the cards seemed stacked against them. In great part, it is because of a widely held suspicion among writers that editors don’t always recognize a great work."

The value of email for book marketing

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Book publicist Dan Blank offers tips for writers who want to promote their work via email newsletters: "Email, in its most basic form, is a letter from one person to another. Whether you write to a list of 10 people or 100,000, each person reads it alone, and reads your letter as if you wrote it just for them," he writes. "I encourage people to share what they are enthusiastic about. It can be whittled down to a simple prompt: 'What were you excited about this week?'"

Navigating the hobby/business rules

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Attorney Helen Sedwick tries to clear up some misconceptions about the tax laws that distinguish between writing as a business and writing as a hobby: "You may have heard the old rule that a business is considered a hobby unless it shows a profit for three out of five years. In practice, the IRS is not as strict as the three-out-of-five-year rule. If you demonstrate you have a serious intent to operate a business at a profit, the IRS will generally give you some slack."

Beware of self-publishing exploitation

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Sharon Bially warns authors of a trap awaiting them in self-publishing — paying for unnecessary services: "Service providers don’t just offer add-ons, but either require them or make it very difficult for authors to turn them down. For example, a publishing provider who requires authors to sign up and pay for a developmental editor before submitting or re-submitting work. Or who recommends adamantly that authors hire an independent publicist to promote their books."