How to prep before interviewing

I’ve been using much the same prepping routine for, heavens, 40 years. It works best for an article for a magazine or newspaper, but I can’t envision much change if I were calling to set up a follow-up appearance in a webinar, CD, podcast, or a spot on a video.

For example, I interviewed Adlai Stevenson several times. The first time, he had just left the office of Governor of Illinois and lived in Libertyville, not too far away. I don’t recall the subject but he had referred to it in print a week or so earlier. So, at that time, I cycled to the library and poured over every reference he had made, and what others had said in disagreement. While there I wrote down his bio information and home phone. (Think of how much easier, faster, and kinder to me and my cycle chain it is now with computers on my desk, Google+ at hand, and photos instantly downloadable.)

I had previously queried the editor of a magazine about the article in question, and had listed five likely interviewees (I spoke with four). Governor Stevenson headed the list. The editor gave me a go-ahead. So I knew what I needed, particularly since two of the others on the list of hoped-for interviewees had already voiced opinions in print that disagreed with the Governor.

All that was left was summarizing the purpose of the article (he would ask) and putting three or four questions in logical order, as a loose guide. The answer(s) I most needed were to the second question—too often the person was called away (or didn’t want to say more) early in the exchange. Therefore, the first question got them talking in the direction of the second question, so I could segue easily into it (something like “…does that mean that…?” or “yet Senator Taft sees it differently. Two weeks ago he said…”) The other questions were progressively less important. I hoped to converse for 15 minutes but five and a quality reply (or quote) or two was plenty.

Incidentally, if the person starts digressing early, if what they say is related and has value, don’t cut them off or stop that flow. Just work back to question #2, gently—or if their new path is far more interesting (and usable), help them expand by asking related questions. Usually, you can then finish up by asking, “Governor, may I ask one more question?” Then ask #2.

I was ready, so I called the Stevenson house, expecting to get a secretary or aide to screen my request. I usually began something like this: “Hi, ____, I’m Gordon Burgett and I’m writing an article about _______ (or I’m on assignment) for X Magazine and I’d like to speak with Governor Stevenson for at most five minutes about _____. Could we schedule a phone appointment?” (Adjust that, of course; now you might ask if the person would prefer to “speak” by phone or email.)

The last point is that you must be ready to interview the moment you call. That happens maybe 25% of the time, and it scares your shoes off the first time it does. It would be much worse if you weren’t ready!

Why must you be ready every time? Because this time, mid-day, the phone was answered, “Hello, this is Adlai.” He was very articulate, clever, even funny, and it was all over in 10 fast minutes.

That’s it: prep, prep, and call or email. Be no-nonsense charming and to-the-point, let the interviewee talk (you’re not interviewing yourself), laugh when possible, smile as you speak, take notes quickly, and thank the person as you promise to send a copy of the interview the moment it is in print. (Confirm the address.)

No, you don’t need their permission to use what they just said. Nor do they expect to be paid.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

101 Niche Marketing Topics

Niche marketing is always booming. If one niche shrinks (think chariot repair), another blooms (like neuroscience or sun panels). So if you’re thinking about empire building—creating an increasingly more profitable spread of information dissemination modules or units coming from a core theme that’s central to your niche—your first task is to find that core theme, develop a much-wanted and unique slant to sharing it, and locate a crowd eager to pay what you have to say.

I published a book about this many years back (Empire Building by Writing and Speaking, long O.P. but sometimes available, used, from Amazon). And I have a 99-cent wee ebook called Lifelong Wealth by Being Indispensable that I just updated and is available from us, Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. It gives a framework for empire building, with two examples of the concept in action.

That’s where 101 Niche Marketing Topics fits in—another 99-cent thriller from the same sellers. You can empire build from broad topics that affect almost anyone, but that’s a steep hill and can cost a fortune. It’s vastly easier to lead a clearly defined niche, where you can also pre-test the buying response before investing much time and money putting your quest in action.

So I am offering 101 ways to look at most niches to find a banner topic that will help you attract your followers and begin your spread. Most of the topics come from answering a critical question that folks in your niche will gladly pay to have solved. A key question about a vital need or a nagging, continual frustration.

You want both of these new ebooks absolutely free and in seconds, plus a third 99-cent stunner called Finding Topics That Make Your Articles Indispensable? (An excellent, inexpensive way to get you, your idea, and your products in front of eager buyers is to write articles that appear in the magazine, journal, newsletter, blog, and print pages they read. Indispensable article topics are also hard for editors to reject!) Here you learn how to find those irresistible topics.

Sign up for my (also free) monthly newsletter (mostly about empire building, publishing, and niche product development) here and you get all three free, right now! (Or pay $3 minus three pennies. You can’t lose either way.)

In any sense, look into building your own empire. As I said, niche marketing is always booming–and some emperor or empress leads the parade.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Getting four books in print free in one (long) day

You might be interested in a fairly simple process that got one office ebook in print and in circulation four times in one fairly long day.

The whole ancillary or open publishing format is a sort of miracle to those of us who have been publishing since cars had running boards and crank windows. (Don’t people hide crank in the window wells now?) I’m getting the same manuscript out so the chosen publishers can be selling and distributing it while, they say, I sleep. (They can also sell it while I’m awake.)

Here are the details.

A few weeks back I wrote a fairly long report, actually 104 8.5 x 11 pages, called “Four Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First.” It’s about how professional speakers can move themselves near or to the front of the booking line through the use of books, reports, ebooks, half-books, booklets, and tip sheets. Yes, that’s six tools but the second, third, and fourth are so similar I count them as one. (Anyway, six tools might scare the talkers back into the woods.)

I never intended to release this as a bound book, rather I prepped it as an ebook which we now sell from our website as a digital download for $10.

So I took the core material and converted the Word document into ebook format, all to sell at $9.95 so it stays in the Kindle-Nook 70% royalty range. I restructured the front pages; reduced the text to 11-point Times Roman (12 or 13 for the chapter titles); got rid of the headers/footers, numbers, and symbols; reconfigured the page set-up; tightened up the four images, and made the other changes that make running text in ebooks so ugly. I had about 65 pages of core book left. That I saved in Word.dig, which I sent to LSI (Lightning Source) for their cost-free (to me) ebook store. One book done!

I had created a plain Jane front cover in Word, saved it in .pdf, and then converted that into .jpg. It had a design, the title, a short sub-title, and a by-line. See my free November newsletter about that process. I sent that to all four markets.

I then modified the core text for Smashwords, Nook, and Kindle.

Smashwords took the most time because there I had to make the layout fit into ePub so it can be sold to iPad and others through their Premium catalog. They ran my Word file through their Meatgrinder and spit it out in a half-dozen tongues. I didn’t check the others because once I get it to work in ePub it will work in the rest—and they don’t submit to Kindle though they do translate it into Kindle-tongue.

I re-read Mark Coker’s style guide again and refined my earlier conversion, but somewhere I had a bug that took me several hours to find and exterminate. Turns out that in Word the rejected markup text was returning from the dead to confuse me and bewilder anybody else. So I sent the file through the Meatgrinder seven times before it looked fine.

I’ve found that the ePub works well in PubIt’s Nook system, so I opened it up next. Nook is easy to use but painfully slow to proof, and damn if that markup stuff resurrected itself a third time, but only in the hardest places to detect! So I had to play with that for an hour or two, and about five submissions. Until it looked good.

Kindle was last and while I used to cuss Amazon roundly because it was almost incomprehensible to techno non-nerds like me, either I’ve gotten better at it or they have, because this time I plopped the Word version (ebook converted) and it was 98% ready to go. A half hour later off it went.

Mind you, before wading into this free ebook land I had prepared a bio about 1,000 words long, plus a book description about twice that length that I could simply insert when the last three asked. I do the description first when my mind is freshest. It is the sales copy (with the title) that will separate buyers from their recession-afflicted funds. At Smashwords I also wrote down the categories this ebook fit into, and the keywords that might get it called up in Google, to use at Nook and Kindle too.

All that remained was the pesky ISBN. Since Smashwords requires one for the iPad section, I used one of their free ISBNs on the premise that this ebook will never become a bound book (in which case I would have used two of my own ISBNs, one for bound, the other for digital books). Nook and Kindle didn’t require one, nor does the ebook section of LSI, so that was that.

I’m done, except for calling attention to others that this gem is now available for their desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, or whatever else is about to pop up to befuddle running boarders like me.

The lesson here? The order of submission. My book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days should help. It even explains Blurb, Lulu, and Scribd for the truly greedy or adventuresome!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Getting enthusiastic testimonials for your book

How often has a comment like “this is a great book!” or “a thoroughly enjoyable read!” propelled you to the pour through the pages of an otherwise unknown tome? That vigorous response hasn’t gone unobserved by book publishers or the poor soul assigned to find readers (better, buyers) for those pages.

Being both a publisher and the promoter of what we publish (even, sometimes the author), I was delighted to read Ed Weinsberg’s excellent article in the November, 2011, edition of the Independent Book Publishers Association magazine, the Independent, called “What I Did to Get Great Endorsements.”

In short, Weinsberg, a rabbi with a doctorate in gerontology, made a list of 15 key opinion-molders in the fields of cancer, faith, intimacy, and relationship building, to send a short (3-5 sentence) testimonial about his new book Conquer Prostate Cancer: How Medicine, Faith, Love, and Sex Can Renew Your Life (co-authored with Dr. Robert Carey).

He first got their attention (he already had some acquaintance with six on the list) to request a testimonial. Weinsberg then offered to send each a few chapters of the book (plus a title page and a table of contents) or the entire manuscript, as well as an assortment of sample testimonials one might make about the book’s contents. The list of ten respondents in the article (and book) is impressive. Less surprising is that most of them used some of the phrases sent in their tribute.

Why would they respond? Ed suggests these reasons: (1) they felt the topic was worthwhile, (2) they enjoyed the upbeat writing style, or (3) they felt that associating their names with the book would be good publicity for them. (The last is why the contents sent to them was final copy, tightly edited and ready to print.)

Why have I shared so much of that article? Because our firm, niched in two fields (dentistry and K-12 education administrators), has followed almost the same path 10 times, with the same response success. I also chose authors who were prominent in their niche and knew (or were known by) the leaders in their fields, so we could reasonably expect a testimonial once we had a solid, polished book to share with them. Then we too added some model testimonial formats so they knew the tenure and length we sought. And we promised them an autographed copy the moment the book saw print!

The timing is critical. You need the book in ready-to-go form (though you can still make modest modifications). You also need the testimonials quickly because they will be used on the cover (maybe one on the front and several on back), with the rest on the front inside pages–and the best on the selling fliers or copy.

Some years back I asked a close friend, Dan Poynter (Self-Publishing Manual), why folks would give testimonials, particularly those at the top of their field. His response was unforgettable: “Those testimonials are in-print proof that others consider them key leaders in their field!” (That’s the precise reason I have asked Dan for a testimonial six times for my writing and publishing books.)

What’s the slogan, “You ask, you get?” Testimonials are a big get, but nobody ever begs to give them without you or somebody making an appreciative request…

I hope this helps…

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Magazine articles: copyright, thievery, and paranoia

Like you, I oppose thievery and I’m always on the lookout for paranoia!

Editors are the same way, so that’s the point of this blog (and it’s mate, “copyight and other rights” posted on 11/4/11). It all starts with the nagging question: What are the chances of an editor using your copy without paying you? Or of his stealing your idea and assigning it to a friend? And what can you do about it?

It happens. Copy is used and ideas stolen, but not nearly as often as the beginner’s paranoia suggests. It also happens in reverse: so-called writers plucking in toto literary gems (or even rocks) and passing them off as their own. Or they sell their own copy, used, as a first-rights article without changing a word (or only a few) from the copy they had sold years ago! It’s hard to tell who’s ahead, editors or writers, where petty purloining is involved. If you find yourself the victim of lifted lines, though, you want to know how to get justice now–or at least payment. What follows is my system, should that occur. (If you want legal help, though, see a lawyer!)

Say you send a manuscript to an editor in response to his go-ahead, receive no response to repeated letters, and discover months or years later that it was printed, without acknowledgment or payment. You could have sent a registered letter, when the editor repeatedly ignored your letters, withdrawing the manuscript for his use. But in our case you didn’t.) You have a simple recourse: Make a copy of the printed article, your original query, and the editor’s go-ahead and mail them to that editor with a thank-you note, plus a reminder that the payment has yet to be received. That should bring you a quick check and a note of apology. But if it brings silence, find out the name of the highest authority in the publishing firm, preferably the chairman of the board, and send a copy of everything you sent to the editor with an additional note that you have still not received payment and hope that the recipient of this second letter will be able to resolve this obvious breach of contract.

All three elements of a contract are there yet payment has not been received. If the letter to the top honcho brings no reply, contact the Better Business Bureau. They will send you a form to complete to which you should attach a copy of all the above items. The BBB isn’t a collection agency, but it does an excellent job of mediating. It will send your complaint to the company and will lend its good offices to prod them into responding.

You can also contact the postmaster at the publication’s zip code and explain the situation, asking whether the firm is still in business. If that still doesn’t work, you might write to Writers Digest, the monthly counterpart to Writer’s Market, explaining what happened. If you belong to a writing organization, do the same. Both will bring your complaint to the attention of their readership. Don’t forget the consumer advocate groups or representatives with the local newspaper and radio/TV stations who, by the same kind of negative publicity, get businesses to listen.

Still nothing? Small Claims Court, where you act as your own lawyer. Finally, the full lawsuit. How frequently will you have to resort to these techniques to wrest payment from thieves? My own experience may be atypical, but of 1,700 articles in print, I have had only four editors who didn’t pay. That’s less than one-half of 1%, which is an excellent debt ratio for any business. In two cases a nudge by the BBB got me a check pronto. The other two folded with my work in their last issues. A few letters got me 17 cents of a bankruptcy settlement on a $50 claim. The other still owes me $150, a twelve-year debt I may never collect.

Idea stealing is harder to prove or prevent. The problem is the gaseous consistency of ideas themselves. They can’t be boxed or fenced in or even kept intact, so they can’t be defined and labeled. Ideas in themselves have no legal substance. They become property when expressed in a tangible form: an article, lyrics, musical notes, etc.

And how do you prove that the editor and you didn’t have the same idea at the same time? Bell and Gray not only invented telephones, completely unknown to each other, but they patented their inventions the very same day half a country apart!

So you can’t overly fret at idea heisting. Think up another idea. In a week of concentrated idea-thinking you could fill a lifetime’s larder. That one idea of a hundred might be swiped from a query can be exasperating, but the only sane response is one of flash anger, resignation, and moving on to another editor, with an even better idea.

One thing is certain: If you don’t risk ideas, if you don’t query or write articles or books, your writing future and income will be bleak. So take the gamble. Probably 99% will be responded to, rejected, or left for you to turn into copy. Chalk up the rest to man’s perversity. Writer’s paranoia can stand in the way of sensible business practices. It’s a luxury few writers can afford. Concentrate on marketing good ideas, lots of them. Follow up with manuscripts so extraordinary that any editor, however larcenous at heart, will want to pay you for more.

About the Current Copyright Law

“For works created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) after January 1, 1978, the term of (copyright) protection starts at the moment of creation and lasts for the author’s life, plus an additional 50 years after the author’s death.” (This differs for joint or group authorship and for works made for hire.)

“Under the 1976 Act, a work of original authorship is protected by copyright from the time the work is created in a fixed form; registration with the Copyright Office is not a condition of copyright protection itself except to preserve a copyright if a work has been published with a defective or missing copyright notice), but copyright registration is a prerequisite to an infringement suit.”

To register a claim to copyright, send (1) a properly completed application form; (2) a fee of $35 or $65 (not cash) for each application; and (3) two complete copies or one photorecord of the best edition of published works, or one copy of unpublished work. The mailing address for copyright registrations is: Register of Copyrights, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20559.

For more information about which application form to use and deposit requirements, which vary in particular situations, write to: Copyright Office, Publications Section, LM-401, Washington, D.C. 20559-6304. Or email

The old law required, as a mandatory condition of copyright protection, that the published copies of a work bear a copyright notice. The new enactment calls for a notice on published works, but omission or errors will not immediately result in loss of the copyright, and can be corrected within certain time limits. Innocent infringers misled by the omission or error will be shielded from liability.

Another thievery question: How often will the editor actually change your copy?

Answer: Very rarely, unless the copy is poorly written. Newspaper travel editors seem to make the most changes, probably because of space restraints. Magazine editors make far fewer changes, and the ones they do make are to streamline the piece or trim it to fit into a size format.

Don’t worry about this stuff. Worry about finding something that readers want or need to know, then being able to present it so captivatingly the editor will open the door to future assignments or purchases. Hard to imagine that many will pick the literary pocket of their new best buddy.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Final Act in “One Way to Write a Script for Your Club or Singing Group”

Many of the readers of my blog “One Way to Write a Script for Your Club or Singing Group” (posted about a week back) have asked how the show went, so here’s a quick post-show report.

The show was performed at 2 p.m. sharp this past Sunday in the Showcase Theater at the Marin County fairgrounds (in San Rafael, CA). Seemed like a very happy audience. Our aim was 200+ in the excellent theater, so the roughly 290 there was a real surprise–and a true delight to our Barbershop treasurer, Mike.

The script was about 95% as I described it in that blog, and it unfolded seamlessly, ending in two hours, with a 15-minute intermission about 50 minutes in.

The chorus sounded better than ever. No snafus. Phil DeBar is stickler on precision and had rehearsed us cruelly. If you can imagine, Phil wants both the notes and the words sort of synchronized and in the proper order. He also frowns on us waving to our grandchildren or looking around to see what’s happening in the wings.

There were a few unplanned funny moments. One of our larger leads for some reason stepped into space off the rafters in the middle of a song, so his buddies grabbed him and pulled him back before he disappeared from view. He stood right behind me so all I knew was that he had grabbed my shoulder, then released it. But the show went on…

Joe (David Skibbin) was even funnier than expected, a sad-faced clown who hit every joke, was properly disdainful of the chorus, swaggered and blustered about his 27 girl friends, and in general was a perfect buffer for the songs we sang.

At one point he pulls out a gawdy bouquet of yellow flowers and says that that was how he won his girlfriends’ hearts. That all he had to do was give a truelove a big bouquet and she’d scream with delight! But, unknown to the chorus, we had an actress friend of his in the first row, a foil so when Joe made a swooping gift of his flowers to her in the audience, she jumped up and down, screamed with joy, and properly alarmed all of the paid patrons near her, to a huge laugh from the cast and the audience.

We also decided that when Joe says that he got the very best chicks when he went to Coney Island, and we would sing Coney Island Baby, the chorus would pull something out of their pockets (or pick it up from the rafters at their feet, out of sight), to simulate going to Coney Island. Most plopped on ball caps, towels, a lifesaver, or another gaudy item. I envisioned these falling off or flying away or creating mass bedlam, but it came off without a hitch, and brought another big laugh.

I almost had a heart attack when, in the middle of Joe’s monologue, a quartet emerged from the rafters and lined up by the mic, ready to sing. Too early. Just as they lined up, one of the chorus singers, on cue, shouted out a planned line to Joe, asking to hear those jokes that he had used to woo his many heartthrobs. So Joe told three funny jokes to the audience, and looked over at the quarter several times like they had been picked to come down and hear the bad jokes. Then Joe looked at them, shook his head, and walked away. The group sang, and we were right on schedule…

The only other thing was that we hadn’t worked out the stage managing (I guess others thought it was my job, and I presumed someone else had been chosen since I was up there singing). So I directed the order of the groups coming and going on stage in the second act, and asked Joe (then off stage) to pull the curtain open when the barbershoppers sang a couple of songs to end the performance, so I could get back in the group.

All went fine until all of the quartets and guest acts were acknowledged and joined the chorus to collectively sing the show closer, “Keep the Whole World Singing.” Just as that was to began, out walked Joe to tell the M.C. that he had forgotten to introduce the star! It dawned on me that my curtain-puller was now bowing and would join the singers! I took a quick look off stage and there was the curtain rope but no puller! I envisioned the group bowing about 400 times until somebody caught on. Instead, not trusting fate, I walked off stage (I was hoping that shortness equaled unobtrusiveness) and pulled the curtain when the song ended, then opened it for a final fast last group bow, and pulled it again. Better to feel a bit stupid by walking out during a song than the alternative!

That’s it. The script came off just as hoped. The chorus members and Phil had about a dozen lines, one per person, and nobody passed out, pulled out a script to read the line, or even mumbled. And Joe was perfect. The smartest thing we did was find a stage veteran for the star role.

The show was a big success, and the script was only a small part of it. Folks came to hear good Barbershop music, have fun, and cheer the old guys on. And very good music and a fun day they got.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Copyright and other rights for magazine articles (and books)

Other than marketing, nothing is more confusing to the new writer than the issue of rights. Actually, there is little reason for bewilderment, anxiety, or even undue concern.

Two kinds of rights are involved in freelance sales. “Copyright” is one; “all rights,” “first rights,” second rights” are the other. While they sound perplexingly similar, they are distinct in purpose and means of procurement. So let’s discuss each separately.

But first a disclaimer. I’m not a lawyer, and if you have specific questions about any of the rights discussed, you should seek legal counsel. Copyright seems to be the biggest bogeyman, though it’s hard to see why. Nothing could be more straightforward or easier to register. Nor is any term more often misused when applied to writing. The standard question is “Did you copyright your article, script, book?” When in fact the only question is whether you registered the copyright, which you rarely do for articles.

What isn’t understood is that in a common-law country such as ours, the rights to the copy come with its creation. As you write an article or take notes in a class, when you “fix” a mode of expression in “copy” (in our case so it can be read), that copy is “copyrighted” as it is written. The rights are automatically yours. You are creating property just as if you were sculpting a statue or painting a canvas. The rights are yours as the property is created, without need of further legal action.

Should somebody else take that property, sell it, and cause you financial damage, you could take that person to court. If you could prove that you created that item, you should win. Stripped of 100 complications that nimble minds can imagine, it’s as simple as that. But if you had registered it (sent the proper forms, fee, and copies of the item to Washington, D.C.) and placed the copyright symbol on it, your victory would be even easier. Because in the first example you must prove that the object was your creation. But once it’s registered and properly identified, the other person must prove that he created the object. That’s a big difference in court.


Then why not just register and put the symbol on everything? Because the first costs money and takes time, and the second can be counterproductive. In a business sense a copyright is worth registering only when an infringement suit might be needed to protect potential earnings. Yet such a suit is expensive. Many items would never earn enough to justify going to court. So only the potentially lucrative forms of creation usually get registered: books, scripts, music, lyrics, newsletters, software for computers, etc. As for the symbol being counterproductive, magazine editors don’t expect you to “copyright” articles. Some are offended by the symbol and will refuse to use the material at all. They see it as one more proof of writer’s paranoia, a warning from you to ensure that the editor won’t use the manuscript without paying, or, horrors, shuttle it to a crony or a cousin in some remote bailiwick to somehow reap millions from it. In fact editors would be fools to put your words in print and not pay, as they know. Nor do 99% have the slightest interest in doing so.

What is the symbol and what does it mean? For literary items, it is a © followed by the date of creation and the writer’s name. The symbol tells others that according to the Copyright Act of 1976 (title 17, U.S. Code) you, as the owner of the copyright, have the exclusive right to do and authorize others to do the following:

• to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies
• to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work
• to distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
• to perform the copyrighted work publicly
• to display the copyrighted work publicly

For our purposes, you can register literary works, musical works (including words), dramatic works (including music), and motion pictures and other audiovisual works. But you can’t register ideas, procedures, methods, titles, names, short phrases, or slogans, to select the most appropriate items related to our topic. (More details? Go to

You don’t copyright ideas. You create, and register if you wish, the expression of those ideas. Although you write about pet care you cannot somehow prevent others from writing about pet care, in general or particular. You have only the right to what you say about the topic: the words as used in your means of expression. Others can write about the same topic, even in a similar fashion. But they can’t do it in precisely the same way, nor can they repeat or copy your writing. That right to copy is your copyright.

How do you register the copyright? In summary, you must complete the proper form and send $35 (for an electronic filing) or $65 (for a paper filing) plus the stipulated number of duplicates of the item to be registered. The symbol should be affixed to the item before it is sold or distributed publicly. Then you have up to a year to complete the registration once that item is sold or distributed. In certain cases you can also include many items of a similar nature (like poems) in the same form for the same fee.


Of more immediate importance are the rights that are purchased with your manuscript. Those are contractual rights. They define how often the editor can use your copy, and are part of the three-element definition of contract: offer, consideration, and acceptance. You want to sell your writing to an editor, yet you must know what you are selling, when, and the limits to how it can be used. Copyright provides a general legal framework for your protection. The contractual rights make that specific.

You write a query letter: “Would you be interested (in buying) an article about ..?” Or you submit a finished manuscript. Either is an offer. Consideration refers to money. Since the pay rates of most publications are listed in the current Writers Market, or that information is readily available, and it is understood that commercial publications pay for manuscripts used anyway, consideration is generally understood as being implied in this relationship and need not be mentioned in the correspondence or transaction. (If there was any doubt at the time I was dealing with the editor, however, I’d mention it, and if doubt still persisted, get it in writing.)

What remains is the acceptance. For our discussion now the editor must at some point agree that the article will be bought. Somewhere between the offer and that acceptance you should know the rights that will be purchased. Usually that is simple. The Writers Market entry will state: “all rights bought” or “we purchase North American first serial rights” or whatever. (Serial means magazine.) If that is acceptable, no mention of rights need be made in your correspondence. As long as the edition of that guide is current and the editor doesn’t alter that information, you can expect those rights to be bought.

Again, if it’s unclear or you want absolute confirmation, explain this to the editor. If nothing is stated concerning the rights bought, ask.

These rights fall into three general categories: all rights, first rights, and second rights.

Many of the highest-paying publications want all rights (yet many of those will settle for first rights). “All rights” is as comprehensive as it sounds. The publication buys all the rights to what you wrote, to use as it sees fit, in the first printing, subsequent printings, anthologies, and so on. Sounds dreadful until you realize that all the editors bought was the expression of an idea in the words as written. They can make modest editorial changes in the text, but their use is limited essentially to what you provided. They didn’t buy the idea, nor can they prevent you from using that idea elsewhere in another fashion or in other words.

So all rights is far less restrictive than it implies, and usually pays the best (though it’s rarely bought now). Don’t quibble, just rewrite it for other markets. The scope of change must be significant: a new title, lead, quotes, and conclusion. A better way is to find a different slant or approach and write a different article altogether. Facts are reusable, ideas can’t be embargoed, and an all-rights buy can indeed be all right!

But first rights is better, since the very same article without a word’s change can be sold again and again, after it has been in print. First rights entitles the editor to use the article first, which implies that it has never been in print in that form before. So you must adhere to that understanding, and by any sense of propriety, if not logistics, not sell that specific copy to more than one editor at a time.

What do you do if an editor buys it and doesn’t use it? Can you sell that manuscript again? No, you can’t. But after a reasonable period of time, which could be from several months to a year, I’d contact the editor and ask when the manuscript is going to be used or whether the publication would return the rights to you. (Keep the money, though. You sold it in good faith. Their decision not to use it was just that, their decision.)

The minute a first-rights sale hits the stands, you can sell the rights again, as second rights or reprint rights. There is no exclusivity there, nor often much recompense, yet it can be profitable. For many years I sold the original copy, after first rights had been bought, two or three more times as reprints, which meant I doubled, sometimes tripled, my income!

How can you sell a reprint? Make a list of all the publications that might be interested in the topic that buy second or reprint rights. Then write a fetching one-page cover letter to accompany a copy of the actual sold article. In the letter I’d tell the respective editors, in the first two paragraphs, the virtues of the topic and prose, and I’d include in the third paragraph a statement something like this: “As you can see from the copy of the article enclosed, I sold first rights to X Magazine and it was published on Y date. I am offering second/reprint rights.”

In the fourth paragraph I would offer any photos I had available, and in the fifth, I’d offer to send the original download file, if interested, for their easier use. I’d include my email address in the cover letter and, if they asked in the Writer’s Market, an SASE too.

If one or five editors bought the reprint, super! Remember, no exclusivity.

Just don’t worry much about rights in the beginning, or really ever. Worry about writing something worth stealing, then sell it.

In a week or so I’ll share a blog here about paranoia, what to do if in fact your works are “stolen,” and your many remedies (including puffery, that they stole from you!)

If you want the law stuff in an actual writing context, it’s better seen in the Travel Writer’s Guide.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Six tools that will help you get booked as a speaker

So you want to give a speech to a convention or club, or at a business or corporate gathering. Congratulations! That takes courage, some booking ability, and—well, something to say that they want to hear.

I’ve done it hundreds of times (it helps that I’m old and have had, it seems, a million available days). In fact, I’ve given over 2,000 paid presentations. And almost none of the folks who contracted me found me out of the blue and begged (or even asked) me to astonish and delight their gathering with my verbal legerdemain.

The trick was getting booked. The speaking you can learn. The courage, you can acquire or fake.

What you can’t fake is somehow convincing a booker or programmer that you have the goods and the skill to make them look brilliant by putting you near their microphone.

I just released an ebook called Four Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First: Attention Getters That Work Fast. It costs $10 bucks flat, is 103 pages long, and is in yours in about 20 seconds.

Actually, it describes six booking tools in detail (with examples), but three are kind of the same thing in different portions: (1) a book, (2) reports, ebooks, and half-books, (3) booklets, and (4) tip sheets. You don’t need all four (or six), but one of the first three plus (4) will almost always get booking doors to open.

The most controversial (or heinous, to non-writers) has to be (1). They ask me, appalled, “I should write a book just to get booked?” They want to add, “Are you daft?”

I know, book prep is hard and very time consuming and expensive—you can keep adding objections. That’s probably why, it seems, nobody does it!

Except that 25+ years in the National Speakers Association has proven to me that the top speakers do write books—and they speak enough to be at the top. In fact, it appears to me that by the time they reach the top, the doers far outweigh the bookless.

And you’re correct that the actual writing requires a ton of attention to detail. I’ve got 40 books in print and that hasn’t changed much at all. (If the writing is a real mountain for you, it’s also fair game to hire writing and cover-making help. The book’s ideas and contents are still yours.)

The best news is that the publishing part has undergone an almost miraculous change. In a sentence, a first-rate publisher can create your book for you in days, all but free (figure $25 if it’s bound, nothing if it’s an ebook). They’ll even sell it commercially and pay you a monthly royalty while you use the book to secure better speaking gigs!

About a decade back, if you wanted to create a book, it took months to get through the presses. It might have cost $1,000—or $5,000. And most of the books (you needed a run of 500-1500 to get affordable unit costs) probably sat in your storeroom gathering dust.

Then along came computers and the print-on-demand process, which brought the run size down to double digits and the print time to days or weeks.

A couple of years ago the miracle also occurred: a radical new business plan was put in practice by a half-dozen publishers (I call them ancillary publishers). They will take your ready-to-go manuscript and cover and from them produce professional-looking books. You needn’t know a thing about the publishing and marketing process. They’ll even pay you a royalty per book sale, from 30-85%. They print your book as the orders arrive, mail each order, and pay you at the end of the month. No order taking, no inventory, and they do the open-market promotion. I discuss the whole process in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.

But that book selling is really secondary to you once you have the book in hand because you mostly want the book to show that you are an expert about its contents. And that you can share that expertise through a speaking contract. (That the book is almost free and might earn you extra profit, that’s an unexpected, earn-as-you-sleep boon!)

So that’s the premise: I suggest you create a book to vastly increase the number (and value) of the contracts you can obtain as a professional speaker. (Having your own book will also give you a back-of-the-room product to sell, or something the booker can buy to have available for every listener in your audience.) And once you have a book, you can dice it up creatively and produce reports, ebooks, a half-book, and booklets. Tip sheets are one-page p.r. broadsheets that remind the programmer of you, your book, your expertise, and your availability to be cheered lustily (or demurely) at the end of your presentation!

My ebook, Four Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First, provides a full explanation of the six magic booking tools that help get you chosen. It tells what each tool contains or looks like and how you can quickly get them in print and working for you.

Alas, being the chosen speaker doesn’t just happen. (I wish it did!) The tools are a huge boost.

Best wishes speaking and booking!

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter