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How to request reprint permissions

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Jane Friedman discusses the procedure — and likely costs — of getting permission to reuse copyrighted materials: "When I worked at a mid-size publisher, we advised authors to be prepared to pay $1,000-$3,000 for all necessary permissions fees if they were quoting regularly and at length. (Publishers don’t cover permissions fees, except in special cases.) You can avoid paying permissions fees by staying within fair use guidelines." She includes a sample request letter.

The art of a good book-cover blurb

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They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but that's what book buyers do when they read those short promotional snippets that can close a sale. Rami Ungar breaks down a blurb into its elements and explains how to put them together: "Generally blurbs are at most a paragraph or two, and give a brief idea to the reader what they can expect before they open up the book to read it. This brief idea is given in three parts: the explanation, the mystery, and the promise."

Bringing a "passion project" to life

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Brooke Borel writes about the backstory to the "Making Passion Projects Happen" session at ScienceWriters2014. Each of her session's panelists had to find a way to pay the bills while working toward the big prize: "Many of us also fumbled a bit as we figured out how to make our projects work — just because the end result is a success doesn’t mean it was easy or straightforward, and it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works."

Why freelancers should learn to say no

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Michelle V. Rafter sounds off on a long list of common freelancing pitfalls — from markets that pay on publication to contracts that grab all rights in perpetuity — to which, she writes, the only reasonable answer is no: "When a startup you admire asks if you’ll write for them for free because it’s a great cause and eventually they’ll have money to pay for your time but not now because well, they’re still getting their feet wet though it’s great exposure – just say no."

Avoiding trouble in a collaboration

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"When a writing collaboration works," attorney Helen Sedwick writes, "partners inspire and complement one other. The creative process is less lonely. But when collaborations fail, the drama may be as ugly as a Hollywood divorce." Sedwick offers a series of tips for keeping collaborations on track, including written agreements on goals, ownership, income, expenses, and credit, as well as more generic guidance such as "nip resentment in the bud" and "keep communicating."

Tips for building your author's brand

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Authors who think writing is their only duty and don't work on building a brand are headed for failure, Joel Friedlander writes: "Branding should be part and parcel of the business plan you write when you first get the idea for a book. In fact, that idea for your first book quickly should be followed by a brainstorming session for spin-off books, or sequels or series, and a big-picture view of who you want to be and how you want to be known when you become an author."

Science writers and the "gig economy"

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It's no secret that full-time writing jobs are increasingly scarce, and that per-word pay for freelance work has stagnated even as stories have grown shorter. Now, on the Last Word on Nothing blog, several writers sound off on what this means for journalism: "If you want lots of good stories, you need to give someone time, and when you’re freelancing, all the incentives are pushing you to spend as little time as possible on each thing and move on to the next thing."

How to stand out in Amazon's rankings

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Do you despair of your book ever reaching the top of one of the broadest Amazon sales categories? Lindsay Buroker writes that the secret is to aim for a niche category. It might take a sales ranking of 1,000 to reach the top 20 of a popular category, but only 3,000 for a narrower, more specialized one, and Buroker explains how to get there: "Getting a sub-10,000 sales ranking is still pretty challenging, especially for a debut author, but it's a little more doable."

Avoiding traps with self-publishing firms

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Helen Sedwick lists seven questions that potential self-publishing authors should ask when evaluating offers from a self-publishing service company (SPSC). For example, she writes, how much will you be paying for copies you buy yourself to give away or for resale? "The author price should be the actual printing costs plus a reasonable markup (15-20%) and not a discount from the retail price. Why pay more because the SPSC sets the retail price at $20 instead of $10?"

Why blogging may not help your book

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Your social media profile may not impress your publisher as much as you'd like to believe, Sharon Bially writes. Why not? Because raising your profile as an author and promoting your book two different things: "Your Huffington Post articles are not about your novel, so their audience and your book's audience aren't necessarily the same. Ditto your blog posts and webinars on craft, which appeal to a broad group of writers who don't necessarily read your book's genre."