concept to publication

Month: April 2010

Frequently asked questions — how do I protect my work’s copyright?

copyright logo

I receive a lot of e-mail from aspiring authors, mainly because of the popularity of my guide to getting a book published, and to a lesser degree my book publishing glossary (which is actually aimed at a more advanced audience). One of the questions I get most often is “How do I protect my work from being stolen when I send it out to prosepctive publishers?” This is not a question that established authors usually agonize over, and I’ve fumbled around a little bit for an answer before evolving my current response:

In the U.S. your work is automatically protected by copyright from the moment of creation (at present it lasts for your lifetime plus 70 years). Reputable publishers stealing work from authors is rare (less rare is being offered an unfavorable contract after acceptance). If you are concerned, you may discretely place somewhere a notice in the form of Copyright 2010 by YourName, although most established authors do not do this, and you should be aware that doing so can make you appear amateurish. It conveys to publishers the subliminal suggestion that you don’t trust them not to steal your work.

It is possible to register your work with the copyright office for a small fee, which provides significant additional protection, but it is probably best not to mention having done so to a prospective publisher at the time of submission — again, it can appear unprofessional, since it is usually beginning writers who are most concerned about this. For more information see

It is sometimes suggested that you could also document the date of your work through taking a photo, sending the work as an attachment in an email, or mailing it to yourself, but I doubt this really accomplishes much. I have published quite a few books, and I have never done this with any of them.


Image from El Mariachi 94’s photostream


Why Google Chrome is my default browser

google chrome logoI was reluctant to switch from Firefox, which has been my browser of choice for a long time. But Firefox is often very slow to load — sometimes I would get tired of waiting and after a while open up Chrome, and it would still open first — and Firefox takes up a lot more memory. In Chrome you can check the memory usage of each tab separately and just close an offender without shutting down the whole program. Moreover, Chrome seems more secure — at least, it escaped unscathed in a couple of hack contests.

I like the way I can rearrange tabs in Chrome — I can move the one I opened last to the left if I want. I can type a search term directly into the address bar. I can open a download from the status bar at the bottom of the page. On the New Tab page I can see a list of pages recently closed, and links to my top sites are opened automatically.

In Chrome I can easily sync all my browsers — if, for example, I change something on my netbook the change will be made on my laptop and my work computer as well. Extensions are intelligently managed. One click gets me to facebook, local weather, Google Translate, Google Docs, and my calendar (which is synced to my smartphone).

There are a few things Chrome lacks that I miss: There is no print preview button, which is crazy. The back button for some reason takes me to the top of the page rather than the place I left from. And because my laptop has a wide screen I liked to have the sidebar open in Firefox.

I hate the idea of one company controlling so much of the world’s information and the ways we access it. I always seem to come to Google products a little reluctantly. But in the end it’s the features that win me over.

Sorry, Firefox.

100 meters of humanity

hoegsberg photo

For the 100-meter-long photo of which the detail above is a part Simon Hoegsberg shot one-hundred seventy-eight people, “in the course of twenty days from the same spot on a railroad bridge on Warschauer Strasses in Berlin in the summer of 2007.” Impeccably stitched together into one enormous photo, the images create something like one of the great narrative scrolls of the East Asian tradition. Check out the full image here.


Via Substraction.


How to pick a typeface: The flowchart

how to pick a typeface flow chart

You could do worse. Click the detail to view the entire chart at inspiration lab.

Who was Phillipa Fallon?

I linked to this video on Friday, but it’s so hep it kept calling out to be embedded here.

The scene is from the movie High School Confidential. Phillipa Fallon, who plays the poet, is brilliant, but she seems to have had few other roles, and not much is known about her. Jackie Coogan is the piano player. The poem itself seems to have been written by “B-movie actor and writer” Mel Welles (1924-2005). The lyrics to “High School Drag” kinda go something like this:

My old man was a bread stasher all his life.
He never got fat. He wound up with a used car,
a 17 inch screen and arthritis.

Tomorrow is a drag, man.
Tomorrow is a king sized bust.

They cried ‘put down pot,’ ‘don’t think a lot,’ for what?
Time, how much? And what to do with it.

Sleep, man, and you might wake up digging the whole
human race giving itself three days to get out.

Tomorrow is a drag, pops, the future is a flake.

I had a canary who couldn’t sing.
I had a cat who let me share my pad with her.
I bought a dog that killed the cat who ate the canary.
What is truth?

I had an uncle with an ivy league card. 
He had a life with a belt in the back.
He had a button-down brain.
Wind up a belt in the mouth with a button-down lip.

We cough blood on this earth.
Now there’s a race for space.
We can cough blood on the moon soon.

Tomorrow’s dragsville, cats.
Tomorrow is a king size drag.

Tool a fast shore, swing with a gassy chick.
Turn on to a thousand joys.
Smile on what happened, or check what’s going to happen,
You’ll miss what’s happening.
Turn your eyes inside and dig the vacuum.

Tomorrow, DRAG.

Friday roundup

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Spamming Amazon

Via Slashdot:

In recent months a flood of so-called books have been appearing in Amazon’s catalog. VDM Publishing’s imprints Alphascript and Betascript Publishing have listed over 57,000 titles, adding at least 10,000 in the previous month alone. These books are simply collections of linked Wikipedia articles put into paperback form, at a cost of 40 cents a page or more. These books seem to be computer-generated, which explains the peculiar titles noted such as ‘Vreni Schneider: Annemarie Moser-Pröll, FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, Winter Olympic Games, Slalom Skiing, Giant Slalom Skiing, Half Man Half Biscuit.’ Such titles do have the marketing effect of turning up in many different searches. There is debate on Wikipedia about whether their ‘VDM Publishing’ page should contain the words ‘fraud’ or ‘scam.’ VDM Publishing’s practice of reselling Wikipedia articles appears to be legal, but is ethically questionable. Amazon customers have begun to post 1-star reviews and complain. Amazon’s response to date has been, ‘As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking.’ The words ‘and pay us’ were left out. Amazon carries, as a Googled guess, 2 million different book titles, so VDM Publishing is currently 1/35th of their catalog, and rapidly growing.

Two views of the future of book publishing

. . . in one pretty cool video.

Read an interview with the creator.

“It’s only books and shelves . . .

keith richards in his library

. . . but I like it.” That’s the title of a story in the Independent about Keith Richards’ forthcoming book Life, in which he confesses he would have liked to have been a librarian.


Image via Book Patrol


Some rights reserved 2021 Right Reading. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via