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Answers to Writers’ Questions

Hi Micki,

Thanks for your question.

You can get insurance to cover you in such a situation. It's called Professional Indemnity Insurance. Here is a site or two that offer this:

http://www.imaginginsurance.co.uk/writers.html

http://www.q4.com/pi-insurance.html

Do a search on Google for "indemnity insurance for writers" and find some more.

It probably won't be cheap!

As to what you actually say in an article, well you must be circumspect, but I have done a bit of web surfing and find there are lots of articles on health that seem to give advice on myriad illnesses. One writer speaking about hemorrhoids (American spelling) does make the point that "newly detected hemorrhoids should always be medically investigated". http://www.1st-info.org/?a=articles&p=734 So perhaps that is an indication of how to cover yourself.

You don't say whether you have any medical experience or qualification, but if not do you know a medical practitioner who might be willing to vet your article before it goes to the publisher? This would be a reasonable safeguard.

Google "newspaper articles on health issues" or something similar and see what other people are doing.

Ruth,

Thanks for your enquiry. You are not alone in feeling that maybe your writing isn’t up to scratch. Even good writers can fall into that trap, so don’t be discouraged!

Although WritersReign doesn’t offer an assessment or critique service, there are plenty of places that do – often with no charge. A good place to start might be http://www.shortstorygroup.com/ who state their aim as follows:  “The Short Story Group is a small, friendly and free critique group devoted to the purpose of helping writers to refine and polish their writing skills through group interaction and critiquing.”

There are many internet writers groups, or circles where members circulate their work and make helpful comments and suggestions which come back to you. Try searching on the term “short story critique” and see what turns up.

Thanks for your question, Mike.

To get an answer for you I approached Andrew Crofts who is himself a ghostwriter and author. He has kindly offered the following comments:

"Virtually any writer will take on a ghosting project if it interests them and they are not too busy, although very few will call themselves full-time ghosts. The costs really come down to the usual forces of the market. If you are hiring someone for three months, (probably a reasonable guess for writing a complete book), then you are going to have to pay them about a quarter of their annual earnings. If they are a starving novelist this might be no more than £5,000, if they are a very successful ghost it could be as much as £100,000. It really is all down to negotiation. If you can convince the ghost of the eventual earning power of the book they might agree to write for a percentage of those earnings, or at least a mixture of fee and percentage.

"Probably the best advice is to start gently. Don't hire someone to do the whole book right away, unless you have a publisher footing the bill of course, hire the ghost initially to do a synopsis and maybe a sample chapter, something that will just take them a couple of weeks but will give you both time to get to know one another and be sure you want to work together. That way you will also then have a document you can use to try to sell the project to publishers and agents etc.

"The best place to find a ghost is without doubt the Internet. Just keep on trawling around. Or browse around a bookshop and look for the names of ghosts on flyleaves or in the acknowledgements. You can then either Google those names or approach the publisher of those books and ask them to forward a letter or email."

Andrew Crofts
www.andrewcrofts.com

Following up on Andrew's suggestion to trawl the Internet, I suggest you use a search phrase such as 'ghostwriting services'. This will give quite a few to follow up - and don't forget the ads in the right-hand column (in Google).

Find one you like the sound of and send them an email enquiry, or even 'phone them for a chat.

Dear Sheila,

I thought I could do with a little help on this one, so I approached an author who has great experience in crafting family sagas: Elizabeth Lord. She has written over 20 of these and has been kind enough to give a number of pointers and suggestions which will hopefully give you the guidance you are looking for.

This what she says:

"First - I am sure the book can be achieved - it will need lots of dedication and will take quite a long time, but it does sound as if this would make a wonderful story.

"As to guidance on where to go next, there is one thing I'm a little concerned about - you say these are your memoirs. If this is a story based on your own family, I should point out that publishers are not usually interested unless the person is famous. So it might be an idea to fictionalise it instead and not use any family names. This might seem radical, but please think about it.

"Real life can be flat no matter how many ups and downs it has, so to catch the publishers eye, some of it has to be virtually made up to become more intensive, i.e. filled with tension - a page turner. It should have a conclusive ending and an attention-grabbing beginning.

"Do take care that the use of three families doesn't become too complicated so that the reader becomes confused, but it certainly can work.

"Starting with a dream sequence can be very arresting so long as the dream is connected with something crucial in the story. In my novel "Company of Rebels" I began with a dream and that seemed to work fine. However, be careful that the dream doesn't go on for pages and pages. Use it to establish the context, or as a sort of flash-back, but don't overdo it."

In conclusion, Elizabeth says: "Do tell Sheila that I think she can make a splendid story out of this. Tell her to pace herself, trying not to get everything down on the first several pages - let it flow out slowly; remember a story should be full of hills and valleys, ups and downs, keeping the reader's attention going. (Hope I'm not preaching to the converted!) Keep at it. It sounds as though it could be great."

Many thanks, Nev,  for your question.

It’s great to hear that you are hoping to publish your father’s memoirs. I wish you every success and hope it works out well for you.

To answer your question: This is a really thorny one because there are so many if’s and but’s, but here are my basic suggestions.

The simple answer is to use alternative names for everyone, alive or dead, other than of course, your father himself. The reason for this is that you will want to avoid repercussions in the form of libel actions should anyone mentioned take exception to what is written. And even if an event is told in such a way as to enable a person to identify themselves you could still be in trouble!

I don’t know if your father was a celebrity of ‘famous’ in any way, but the more famous a person is, the more the people mentioned are likely to complain if they feel they have been misrepresented or maligned, because the book will sell more copies.

All of this may seem a bit grim, but I need to make you aware of it. Folk can, and do, take exception when some account which includes them is not described in a way they remember it happening or puts them in a perceived bad light. This can happen in the most innocuous fashion and people still get upset. Also, remember, everyone has their own take on an event which differs from person to person, and even though your father will have written about events and people as he remembered them, they may remember them differently.

Before you wring your hands in despair, there are things you can do to cover yourself and mitigate any disasters..

You would be advised to contact every person mentioned, if that’s possible, explain what you are doing and say that you would like to mention them in the biography. Send the actual wording you will use. Also send a pre-written letter which you will ask them to sign and return, in which they give you permission to use the quotation you sent.  Include a stamped self addressed envelope. It’s not sufficient to pick up the phone and get their verbal agreement. You can, of course, phone them first and, if they are agreeable to the idea, then say you will send them a letter to sign and return. If they object to that, or don’t send the signed letter back, don’t use their real name.

Then we come to relatives. It may or may not be easier to talk to family members, but the basic rule above still applies.

Some of those mentioned will no doubt have passed on by now, but it would be just as well, and a matter of courtesy, to contact any of their relatives with the same query and seek permission from them as well.

Nev, you are the one who knows what the contents of the book are and are best able to judge what effect the biography will have on those included in it.  But I strongly advise you to err on the side of caution on this particular element of your project.

You don’t say how you anticipate publishing the memoirs, but if you are going through an agent, or using a publisher direct, they will no doubt have the legal eagles on hand to deal with these matters. But if you intend to self-publish, then these precautions are essential.

Hi Madeleine,

This is a difficult one as, whilst there are competitions for children (usually below age 16) I come across them only infrequently. One of the best competition listings sites I’ve found (apart from my own , of course!), is a site maintained by Sally Quilford - http://www.writingcalendar.com/. This has competitions from around the world and does feature the occasional under 16s one. It still means you have to trawl through the listing, even visiting the competition site to check the rules, to find one.

You could try searching on Google or Yahoo! I did a search using “children’s+writing+competitions+free” (without the quotes) and this seemed reasonably productive. One site that may be helpful was Scribblepad.co.uk where you can sign up to receive their newsletter which includes details of competitions. http://www.scribblepad.co.uk/LookingForChildrensCompetitionsAndAwards.html

Other suggestions I have would be to ask at your local library. UK libraries seem keen on promoting competitions for youngsters. Don’t know what it’s like in the States or elsewhere, but worth a try.

Also, have you tried enquiring at the school? They might well receive information about comps but not necessarily promote them to the pupils.

Dear Dejected,

What I'm NOT going to tell you is 'Pull yourself together and get on with it'. That doesn't really help when you are feeling so low. What I have done is to look up some websites that deal with this very problem. Some are funny, some are serious, but all will help you to 'renew your mind' and begin to see those rejection slips in a different light. Please give it a try.

Have You Had A Paper Rejected Lately?

http://www.columbia.edu/%7Exs23/reject.htm

A collection of ideas that were rejected but which went on to become huge successes.

Rotten Rejections (The Letters that Publishers Wish they'd never Sent)

http://www.writersservices.com/mag/m_rejection.htm

Quotations mostly taken from Andre Bernard's wonderful little book Rotten Rejections. Take heart from this little collection.

How to Deal With Rejection Letters

http://www.writersandartists.co.uk/2009/06/writin-rejection-letters-emma-bow/

Behind every published author is someone who’s had to deal with rejection. But how do you get over it? Guest blogger novelist Emma Bowd shares her experiences of dealing with the dreaded ‘no thank you’ letters.

Dear M Chadwick,

This is a very pertinent point you raise and is something all writers should be very careful about. It can be a minefield.

Although Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in June 1861 and therefore her works are technically out of copyright, you still have to consider the question "Are her works held in an estate which holds the copyright or are they public property?" I've done some surfing but cannot find any repository of her works that claims copyright on them This doesn't mean there isn't one, just that I couldn't find it. On the other hand several websites seem to quote her poem, in full, quite freely. One of these, http://www.mediawebapps.com/picturelike.php?id=728, puts this disclaimer at the bottom of the page:

"All images and quotes remain the intellectual property of their respective originators. We do not assert any claim of copyright for individual quotes and images. By quoting authors we do not in any way mean to imply their endorsement or approval of our site or its contents."

As to the Beatles songs, an article by Renee C. Quinn in 2009 titled 'Michael Jackson and the Beatles Copyrights' states that Michael Jackson owned these copyrights, but that following his death Sony/ATV does. She says, "Sony/ATV holds the rights not only to more than 200 songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but also has rights to songs written by many others as well." (http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/07/01/michael-jackson-and-the-beatles-copyrights/id=4363/)

I would suggest they are the people to contact for permission to quote.

On the other hand, if only a small quote were to be used used it is most likely that no complaint would be brought against you providing it was not used in any derogatory way against the author/songwriter.

These thoughts and opinions are my own, and at the end of the day when, hopefully, you come to publish your book your agent/publisher will look into the rights and wrongs of it all and advise you accordingly. And if you've noticed the absence of a definitive answer in all of the above, it's because there isn't one!

UPDATE:

Dear Mr. Love

I wrote you an email about using lyrics from the Beatles song and also quoting How Do I Love Thee (Eliz.Browning).

I thought you might like to know my results of further inquiries:

re: The Beatles

I contacted several sources, winding up with the final decision made by Lacey Chemsak at Sony.

From my novel, I was required to send the pages before and after my few words from the Beatle's song. Though I was using probably less than 19 words from the song, she denied permission to do so unless I would pay $200. I was permitted to use the title without charge, so I re-wrote that section leaving the words out, hoping the reader would know what they are.

Of course, I have discovered there are younger people who don't even know who the Beatles are. Such is life.

About the Poem, I guess anything before 1923 is public domain. I still intend to use the disclaimer you sent me.

Thank you.
Maxine Chadwick

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