What does an acceptance letter look like at @BlackDenimLit ?

WIDE - awards-310x178Dear [SubmitterFirstName],

Thank you for sending us “[SubmissionTitle]” for [Category]. We really enjoyed it and would like to publish it in the next open issue of [OrganizationName] online at [OrganizationWebSite] and in one issue of the monthly eBook anthology.

••• YOUR TO-DO LIST •••
You’re going to receive our writer’s agreement for you to sign and return. After reading and understanding the rights being sold or licensed, all you have to do is:
1: type your name and date at the bottom
2: with a 3rd person bio in the body of the email
3: provide us instructions on how to pay you with Paypal USD
4: Accept the Submittable ‘Agreement to Terms’
…then return the first three via email. To learn more about the definitions of the publication rights you are granting, please read writer’s advocacy resources (such as http://www.pw.org/content/copyright ).

••• WHERE CAN I FIND MY STORY? •••
Once published, your story will appear on a unique URL found on the Stories page located at http://www.bdlit.com/stories.html under the publication month to be read online or through an eReader, as part of an eBook anthology. After six months the link will be moved to the archives where it will remain permanently. Note that the URL for the story will not changed during the archive process. You will be eligible for selection for the twice-annual print Anthology issue. The next release for that is Fall, 2014.

••• WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE MAGAZINE? •••
You’ll note that you can sell your reprint rights right away, since we’re not asking for exclusivity at this stage of the development of our press. In the meantime we’re working very hard to build readership. We’re aiming to become an SFWA Affiliate Member and a Qualifying Professional Market by the end of 2015. Once we achieve that goal we will ask newly accepted stories for one year exclusivity. As for our progress on the qualification to apply for Qualifying Professional Market,
– we have about 60% the needed readership; and
– we are 40% into the regular continuous schedule needed; and
– we have budget to for for 40,000 words a year at pro rate.
Note that at this time we are choosing to provide only a semi-pro rate so that can extend our author payments to 200,000 words a year.

••• HOW CAN I HELP THE MAGAZINE? •••
– update your web presence so we can promote you – Goodreads, Author Central, etc.
– donate time (become a first reader)
– get readership (send friends)
– provide reviews of the eBook anthology in your favorite online bookstore.

Thank you for your submission. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Thanks again.
Sincerely,
[StaffFirstName] [StaffLastName]
Editor, [OrganizationName]
[OrganizationWebSite]

 

 

 

________________________________________

Author Agreement

 

••• INTRODUCTION •••

Congratulations! Your work, “[Title]” has been accepted! Your work will not be published anywhere until you have signed and returned this agreement. By signing this agreement, you agree to allow us to publish your story in the online literary publication, [OrganizationName] in the manner detailed below. Briefly described, your work will be published on the website permantently; and in one issue of the eBook anthology only, as files formatted to load on any eReader device. These files are made available for direct side-load from the website, or download through all major eBook storefronts for all eReaders. We would request separately (at a later time) any rights to reprint your story in any print edition.

*********************************************
You are granting First Publication Rights.
You are granting Electronic Rights.
You will retain all other rights, including exclusivity.
*********************************************

••• FIRST PUBLICATION RIGHTS •••
You are verifying that this particular work has NOT BEFORE BEEN PUBLISHED and that you are the SOLE AUTHOR of the work. You will receive pay for your work, EITHER a minimum flat fee of USD $5.00 per story OR USD $0.01 per word–whichever is greater. Your work will appear on our website and in one eBook anthology having a unique ISBN, which can be used as a future publishing credit.

••• ELECTRONIC RIGHTS •••
We will maintain online access indefinitely to your story, at no charge to the reader (under Online ISSN #2333-9977 with a URL to be determined, unique to that story). We’ll publish an eBook anthology for each month’s online stories. One eBook issue will contain your story (under Print ISSN #2333-9969 and an ISBN to be determined, unique to that eBook). The eBook format will be EPUB, MOBI and PDF. No copy of any of the eBooks will have DRM enabled. The eBook will contain statement of rights given to publish, plus rights retained by you.

••• PRICING •••
The online reading access will remain free ALWAYS. The eBook will have availability as follows:
– eBooks are provided as a free side-load ALWAYS, direct from http://bdlit.com; and
– IF newer than 45 days, eBooks are provided in worldwide electronic bookstore venues:
— free of charge, or else at the venue’s minimum charge; and
– IF 45 days or older, eBooks are provided in worldwide electronic bookstore venues:
— sold at USD $3.49, or else at the venue’s minimum charge.
NOTE: 99% of readership leverages the above pricing model to avoid any reading expense, since we provide at least one path to a free copy at all times.

••• FIRST PUBLICATION ATTRIBUTION •••
You will ensure clear and appropriate attribution to the original publication when you reprint elsewhere.

••• HARD COPY PUBLICATION •••
Your work will not appear in any hard-copy print publication from [OrganizationName]. Instead, you will be notified separately if your work is selected for one of the twice-annual print anthologies (under Print ISSN #2333-9969 plus an ISBN to be determined, unique to that volume), and you will have the right to refuse at that time.

••• EDITING •••
You are also agreeing to allow the editors of [OrganizationName] to make minor changes to your work that do not alter the content of the work. These changes may include grammatical changes, spelling changes, and format changes.

••• TERMINATION •••
If at any time you would like to remove your work from our website, please contact us at contact@bdlit.com. We will take down your work immediately upon request. Note that if your work has appeared in either the print or eBook anthologies, we will be unable to remove it.

••• NOTES •••
Thank you again for your submission. We hope to see your work again in the future. Please sign below and send this contract to the email address above. Please keep a copy of this contract for your records. We would ask your assistance (before you sign) in highlighting any changes made to the agreement.

••• YOUR STATEMENT OF AGREEMENT •••
I, [SubmitterFirstName] [SubmitterLastName], agree to all of the above terms and give [OrganizationName] the right to publish my work on its website. I also verify that I am the sole author of the piece mentioned above, and as such have the freedom to submit it for publishing.

____________
Name

____________
Date

Five Tips for Picking and Executing Author/Writer Press Release Announcements~!

Write it yourself, but watch out for Seomonsters~!

Writing a press release means following a very specific format. It’s not any harder than figuring out a submission format. There are a lot of examples on the web, but it’s a map, really, with five or six really specific parts. Here is a good example. It boils down to making your press release sound intelligible, but not jargony. It’s not a tweet. It’s not a status update. It’s not an email. It’s a 400-word newspaper article slash essay about what happened and why the reader should care and how to engage, if interested. Maybe no more than four to five hyperlinks, with an image is good. With a video link is better. Spell out any link URL, in case the link is disabled in some downstream venue.

Template

Press Release Elements

And don’t try to make it “SEO” that will just get it hidden from search engines, if it looks too obvious. There are a zillion articles about the decline of SEO techniques so you can read up on that separately.

How to pick a Press Release service?
As for picking which company you want distributing the document, perhaps you can inform yourself about how press releases are found. Try to “search” for something yourself  and figure out which press release leads you to what you want.

Pick your favorite publisher and try a phrase like “is proud to announce” with it. Once you begin finding actual press releases (not just bloggers or interviewers or pundits who read the release and are paraphrasing now), you can watch for patterns in the source name attribution as you search. The name below the title should be a clue — prweb, sbwire, emailwire, etc.

What’s the lesson here beyond “who does press releases about stuff I like?” It’s this: you can pay a fortune for a press release only to have it circulated through other PR services that just rebrand it. More about wholesaling in just a minute. Let’s first talk about where press releases get sent.

What is the “value add” of a press release service?
A press release at a minimum has to take your blurb and make it discoverable on the web. The “value add” for a press release service is supposed to be, “look who we send the press release service e-mail announcements to” …  That is the real value. But watch out, even then:

  • 40,000 emails equals 4,000 reads,
  • 4,000 reads equals 40 clicks,
  • 40 clicks equals 4 “follow through”

This engagement “rate of decay” is a real possibility. Think of your Pinterest/Instagram/Twitter email notifications? How many do you actually open? How many do you read? Do you go to the site? Repin? Repost? Retweet? Respond? To everything?

What do you expect to happen?
For you and your book – the punchline phrase above was “follow through”… But follow through to what? When someone reads your press release, what exactly do you want to happen? What is your engagement platform? A buy-click? A book home page at your publisher? How is your press release going to be any different than standing on a street corner holding out your book to maybe 50 different people saying, “$10!!” You’re just as likely to get maced, as to get a sale.

Make sure the call to action section of your press release is really specific.

What’s wholesale got to do with it?
Something else that should make you cautious: Let’s say you can order a press release service for, say, $69 … Did you you pass up a deal to get unlimited press releases for just $299/yr subscription? That is a sign that the service is used wholesale by other folks for bulk distribution. Oddly, the one company that is offering subscriptions is probably the company you want–even if you don’t take the subscription. Rather than the smaller service that will just come here anyway.

Let’s be specific:  Press Release Monkey might charge you $129 once, for you to write your own single press release. Maybe they get fifty people to do that every month.  Their income: $6500/month. They order re-distribution to three other wholesalers like PRBuzz.com ($300/yr), SBWire.com ($840/yr) and maybe go nuts and get Emailwire.com ($6,000/yr). All those subscriptions allow them to submit unlimited press releases. They have near the income in just one month to pay for their wholesale subscription expenses for a year. Put another way, they only need 50 or 60 customers a year to cover their bulk subscription expense, for as many press releases as they want . Yes they have other expenses and value add. But that seems lucrative…

How to follow up
To begin with, put a unique phrase in your release that doesn’t occur anywhere else, including your own work or the web or any other promotional material you manage. Let’s say, you pick the phrase “unsurpassed gusto and vigor” … Use that to search later (with the quotes, to get exact matches) to find how far the phrase (and therefore the press release) went into the searchable Internet. Maybe you have a reach of 500 sites. Not bad. Now test how far beyond your press release the news went, say into blogs, discussions, etc. So, search again, but exclude your wholesaler from the results using dashes. Like this: “unsurpassed gusto and vigor” -emailwire -sbwire -prbuzz …. You might be down to less than a dozen sites.

Are they good sites? A good reach? One can only hope.

Could you have just contacted them yourself? Ha-ha. There is no substitute for direct marketing~!

TL;DR
The five tips are:

  • It’s ok to let someone else write it, but you can learn to do it
  • SEO makes no difference
  • Get to know a few press releases first and how they are discovered
  • Choose the company carefully
  • Understand the company’s value add
  • Be clear on what you want to happen
  • Design the text so you can follow up

I say five tips because I can tell already you don’t like two of them. So pick your best five, get out there and go nuts.

 

What we do with copyright violations

As can happen sometimes, one of the stories licensed to Black Denim Lit has been re-posted on another website without permission or attribution. The original author contacted us to say that there was no permission at all granted for the other “reprinting site” to reproduce this story. We acted quickly on the author’s behalf to get the post removed.

In this case, there are several reasons why the reprint violated the author’s rights:

  • All content on that site was made newly available under Creative Commons license “BY SA” which is insufficient to protect this copyrighted material (from being propagated for profit or being modified)
  • The posting of the story was missing the author copyright notice
  • It was missing the correct attribution to the author
  • It was missing the attribution for the source publication
  • The reprint site solicited for financial compensation (a gratuity), implying there was an agreement between the author and the reprint site, which there was not
  • The posting listed an email for the original author on the site’s domain, which was not under the actual author’s control. Also this appearance would incorrectly imply to a casual reader that the author is a contributor for them, which he wasn’t.

In the beginning, we at Black Denim Lit were able to acquire the author’s story under paid license for First Rights only. Anyone reprinting without permission from the author is a misappropriation. In other words that act infringes on the author’s control of copyright that were never licensed to anyone.

Specific to us as a magazine, copying the material from Black Denim Lit threatens our ability to assure our authors that their works remain their own and that they have all other copyrights over what they have trusted to our magazine first.

In general, during the story acceptance process I tell authors not to agree to publishing stories without understanding what rights exist over their work and how to grant or license the rights to others. Advocacy sites such as www.pw.org can help. For our part we enforce a terms of service link on the site. Among many simple points of law and common courtesy, it advises site users that they aren’t supposed to be reprinting without written permission.

In the end, I asked that the reprinting site remove the story immediately and they complied within a day, providing an indefensible explanation and tepid apologies. They offered no means for the author to be given any funds that were solicited from the public on his behalf. Lastly, they severed their relationship with us, withdrawing all their articles about “Black Denim Lit,” which is arguably unnecessary, but probably for the best.

It was an unfortunate situation, but copyrights are important and should not be thrown down casually for the sake of exposure or ignorance of what is guaranteed by law to be fair.

A good story-teller can read from a phone book and have me enthralled, if they bring something to the table besides situation

What has made story-tellers believe that it’s a person’s situation that is what makes them interesting? Hospital stories. Cop stories. Time travel stories. Reality shows. Tabloid magazines. It’s (almost) all garbage. An interesting story-teller will never capture an audience if they cannot bring anything more to the table than the circumstances. Writers, bring the reader into the mind of your characters~!

Dear Writer, OMG, That happened?? Most uninteresting, try again. J/K, we’re really just mean editors. Go away.

So many writers draw on what they know and then are trapped by it, failing to use it as inspiration to get on with it–to get to the good part. Successful fiction has thought of any reader questions and already answers the ones that are worth answering.

Let’s say two editors read the new Ken Liu piece from the slush pile and are amazed. They both approve the award-winning author’s latest and, still on a high, move to the next piece. This one is by another of their favorite authors, who (for the purpose of this fictitious exercise) is fictitious. Unlike Ken Liu. Soon the editors are perplexed over this new piece about “Tim, the Boy Who Thought About the Circus.”

The first editor has questions by the end of the piece, about the character. The facts are all here. But when does this take place? Had the circus ever been around before? Was the strong man really gay? Why were there hyenas but not tigers? What did it all smell like? Didn’t Tim get dust in his eye? Did he want to join? Did he have any empathy for the poor animals or maybe the carnies? Did they really have small hands (the carnies)? Would it be better if one escapes (the animals)? Maybe leaves a scar? Maybe a carny leaves a scar? Is it ‘carny’ or ‘carney’…?

So much for the first addled editor.

The second editor reads all about Tim, but instead thinks, “Boy, that Ken guy is an awesome writer… I bet he gets all the girls.” And then he votes Tim off the table completely.

As an author, you got one shot with a reader. Don’t waste it. If you haven’t worked out the reader experience–anticipated reader questions and answer the ones that are worth answering–by the time you submit it, your story is probably a miss.

Anecdote, Reminiscence and other Side Effects

Selecting first-person narrative is high-risk. Will you, the writer, create a first-person story that is anecdotal, reminiscent, exposition-heavy, didactic or …? Odds are: yes. Check out this example:

  • Narrative gives off this tone: “This is important because I remember it.”
  • Readers think: “Stop talking already. I’m trying to hear the story.”

Is this your story? If so, try shifting the narrative power to stealth mode. It more easily transports the reader without speed bumps, without authorial intrusion. Does “first-person” always fail?  Of course not. Just be objective about how your choice in relating your story either complicates or enhances the reading.

Another loss means nothing. Give me your worst, life. I can take it.

I did not win a competition in which 25 winners were selected from 6000 entrants. Less than half a percent chance. You know what? There are 5975 people who can say the same thing. You know what we’ll be doing tonight? Writing.