Monthly Archives: March 2018

Spring News: Blog Posts, Events, and More

I’ve been busy with freelance projects since the new year started, including academic papers on everything from forest growth to service marketing. I’ve been taking a class in developmental editing of nonfiction, which is helping me understand how to manage the “big picture” of an edit: Is there too much or too little material? Is it well organized? I’ve also participated in several webinars.

Blog Posts for Authors and Editors

poster advertising hybrid publishing

One thing I love about learning new things is being able to reorganize the material and share it. There are three new posts on my editor blog:

  1. An overview of hybrid publishing, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/what-is-hybrid-publishing/
  2. Basic information about working with legal issues for authors, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/copyright-and-privacy-and-libel-oh-my/
  3. Some tips for working with UK English, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/how-to-deal-with-uk-english/

Upcoming Events

Flyer that says, Is self-publishing right for you, May 20,, 2018 2 PM at the OC main libraryI have three events coming up:

  1. Beginning Kneading Class: I’ll be teaching again at the Asheville Bread Festival on May 5. This year, the Bread Fair will be at the New Belgium Brewery from 10 to 2, with classes in different locations around town. Mine will be from 10 to 11:30 at Living Web Farm. Look for updates and get tickets at http://www.ashevillebreadfestival.com. (Tickets for my class are here.)
  2. Self-Publishing Talk: I’m giving a talk at the library in Hillsborough about self-publishing. It will be an overview of the whole process with a focus on what it would take to do it all yourself. It’s free and open to the public on May 20 from 2 to 4 PM. Learn more (PDF).
  3. Science of Bread Class: I’m teaching a week-long class at the Folk School June 3 to 9. Learn more here: http://emilybuehler.com/classes-events-2/class-at-the-folk-school/ (The link to register is at the bottom.)

Writing News

My fiction manuscript (working title: Intelligence, hashtag: #IntelligenceBook) went off to a developmental editor, Tanya Gold, this month. It’s my first attempt at writing fiction, and while I feel good about some aspects of it, I wasn’t confident that it was the best it could be. I’d taken a class from Tanya and liked her style of working with authors (the class was on how to work with authors!) so I’m excited to hear back from her when she finishes.

people walking in New York City

Walking through Manhattan to the EFA conference in 2016

I’m attending the North Carolina Writer’s Network’s (NCWN’s) spring conference in April. Fifteen years ago, when I first considered writing for other people, I joined NCWN; at the time, they had an office at White Cross, just west of Chapel Hill, and I biked out to use their library. I let my membership lapse, though, because I did not get much value from it. At the time, I was writing Bread Science and trying to find a publisher, and then turning my efforts to self-publishing, which was not much accepted.

Well times have changed! I’ve been to conferences the past two years (the EFA in 2016, AWP in 2017) and looked forward to one this year. When I decided not to travel far, I settled on attending both NCWN conferences. I rejoined the network and realized how far I have come: self-publishing is now mainstream and slowly gaining acceptance in the industry, and I have two self-published books; and I have two full-length fiction manuscripts that I’m ushering through the process of revisions.

I often think of myself as having three careers rolled into one: (1) writing my own books, (2) editing other people’s writing (and sometimes writing for other people as well), and (3) self-publishing my books and sharing the process with others. I’m glad to be involved in all three of these spheres.

figurines of American and British soldiers in 1776

How to Deal with UK English

When I first started editing, I dreaded getting an assignment that specified UK English. (I hadn’t even known there was a different version of English until I became as editor.) I knew the basics, but was sure I would miss something.

I won’t give details here, as there are many websites that do (such as this one, or this one), but a few examples of the differences are the following:

  • Spellings (behavior/behaviour, analyze/analyse)
  • Diction (the hood of a car versus the bonnet of a car)
  • Punctuation (Americans write, “Hello,” while the British write, “Hello”.)

A recent paper that I edited in UK English had just about every “iz” word you could imagine: optimization, minimize, size, decentralize, realize, linearize. Were all of these supposed to change to “is”? I set the paper’s language to UK English, but many of the variants are correct in UK English, if not preferred.

The I made a discovery. The online Cambridge Dictionary has separate tabs for UK English (“English”) and US English (“American”)!

image from computer screen showing a page at a dictionary website

When I looked up “horizon,” I found it was the same in either language. However, when I searched “minimize” and clicked on the English tab I found that while the “iz” spelling is correct in UK English, “UK USUALLY minimise”:

image from computer screen showing a page at a dictionary website with word "minimize"

A few options showed up:

  • Some spellings are always used in one language or the other, in which case the spelling has its own dictionary entry (see behaviour)
  • Sometimes either spelling is acceptable, but on is preferred: UK USUALLY (see optimize, minimize)
  • Sometimes either spelling is acceptable, with no preference: UK ALSO (see centralize, minimization)
  • Sometimes one spelling is only preferred at times: FORMAL UK USUALLY (see utilize)

Word "English" with a flag that is half UK and half USI decided that if the “is” version was merely an alternative, not the usual spelling, I would not change it in the paper, but I changed the spellings when the “is” form was preferred.

Having the Cambridge Dictionary as a place to check spellings was reassuring.

random text

Libel, and Copyright, and Privacy, Oh My!

An important step in writing a book, particularly if you’re self-publishing without the guidance of a legal team, is securing permissions. There are three types of material to consider for permissions:

  • any material that might be copyrighted,
  • any material that might infringe on someone’s privacy, and
  • any material that might be considered libel.

judge's gavel atop keyboardEach of these areas is complicated. For example,

  • If you quote an email that someone sent you, the copyright of the material may belong to the person who wrote it.
  • If you take a photo of a sculpture, the sculpture (a work of art) might be copyrighted, and you’d need permission to use the photo, even though you took it.
  • With songs and poems that are relatively short, even a small quote might be too much. The music industry is known for being particularly strict about copyright.
  • If a living person can be identified, even with a name change, you might be infringing on the person’s privacy.
  • A fictional character that is obviously based on a real person, even with a different name, can get you in trouble.
  • In addition to the right to privacy, there is a “right to publicity”; you cannot use a famous person’s name or image to make money without permission.
  • Using “in my opinion” before a negative statement about another person is not enough to protect you from an accusation of libel.

And this is only a sample of the points to consider. The laws about copyright, such as the concept of fair use, can be vague and are often decided in court. Remember that in addition to doing the right thing, you don’t want to get sued, even if you think you’d win.*

Resources

stack of books mentioned in the textI read four books when I self-published Somewhere and Nowhere, the memoir of my cross-country bike trip. While I still hesitated over certain items in my book and what to do with them, I felt more certain that I had considered every problematic item, and was able to make more-educated decisions. The books were these:

  • Copyright and Permissions by Elsa Peterson: This is a quick read that focuses on copyright. If you want to deal with permissions yourself (see more below) it includes guidance, as well as sample letters.
  • Self-publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick: This is also a fairly approachable book. In addition to copyright, privacy, and libel issues, it covers setting up a business, understanding contracts, working with various types of self-publishing services, understanding taxes, and more.
  • The Copyright, Permission, and Libel Handbook by Lloyd Jassin and Steven Schechter: This is a very detailed book about copyright, privacy, and libel and the one I would read if you want to learn the most about all three issues.
  • The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and Tad Crawford: This includes a wide range of information (contracts, taxes, agents, dispute resolution, how to register a copyright), but you can find copyright infringement information in Chapter 5 and privacy and libel information in Chapter 8.

There are also many online articles (like this one), and the US Copyright Office has material online. Writers conferences frequently include a session on copyright or other legal issues, and groups like the Authors Guild sponsor online webinars.

What To Do

words illegal and legal on slips of paper, fingers are choosing legalSo, if you have a manuscript written, what’s your next step?

If you want to use copyrighted material and there’s a lot of it, you might work with a permissions editor, who will hunt down the copyright owners, send permission letters, and pay the necessary fees (using your money, of course) or let you know if a fee seems out of your budget. Note that a permissions editor might not work on material that infringes on privacy or could be libelous.

If you want to handle permissions yourself, go through your manuscript line by line and make a spreadsheet with every possible problem. Don’t skip over passages that seem problem-free, because all kinds of things will pop out that you never thought of as problematic when you wrote them (this might be more true for certain types of nonfiction, like memoir). Even if you suspect it’s not really a problem, include it in the spreadsheet so that you feel like you have not missed anything.

Lego police arrest Lego office man

Don’t let it come to this

Then, solve each problem. Some will be easy to check off your list. For example, maybe you’ve included the title of a book; then you read that titles cannot be copyrighted, and so you check off that item. In some cases, you might decide to seek permission. In others, you might decide to cut material to avoid a problem.

What if you don’t have a budget to pay for permissions, or someone just says “No”? Then it is time to rewrite. I know this might seem like a tragedy at first. I struggled with the simple task of changing people’s names, thinking, “It won’t be true anymore!” But then I realized that readers won’t know; they won’t be thinking about whether or not the names are accurate, and ultimately, it won’t affect their experience with my book.

woman standing with two bikes at the border of Wyoming, with a sign overhead

Mary at the Wyoming border on the bike trip

In some cases, the rewrites made the book better. For example, while on the bike trip, Mary and I often sang to pass the time. “Blowin’ in the Wind” became a favorite because of the difficulty of biking into the wind. I was pretty sure I could not afford permission to use the lyrics, however. Then I realized that I hadn’t actually known the lyrics when biking—I’d been making them up. It was only once I got home that I searched online and found them, and pasted them into my manuscript. So I changed the passage to have me singing, “How, are the times, of a man, um-de-ahhh, … before he’s asleep on the sand? How many laaa, da-da, white dog ale, before it’s for contraband?” This version actually better captured what happened, and didn’t require permission to use. In another instance, I had to remove a scene to protect someone’s privacy, but the scene was important. I ended up writing a new scene, and as I wrote it, I felt the spirit of the book coming through, and really felt okay about making the change.


Issues of copyright, privacy, and libel can be intimidating. It’s tempting to keep your head in the sand and ignore them. But you will feel better if you learn about them and try to do things right.

* It just seems like I should have a disclaimer on this post, saying I’m not a lawyer and that this isn’t legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.