Pirating Really is Stealing

© Can Stock Photo/ paulvinten

Every once in awhile I’ll come across someone who thinks intellectual property should never be copyrighted. Or they believe that everything on the Internet is public domain. Most of them understand copyright law. They just think they’re entitled. According to them, the movie studios, record companies and book publishers have plenty of money. Therefore, they shouldn’t have to pay for the music or book, and they see nothing wrong with pirating an artist’s work.

No matter how many times you try to explain to these people that pirating an artist’s work is actually stealing from the artist, they don’t care. Their argument is that books, music, and other creative works are merely ideas and nothing more. To them, it’s simply wrong to put a copyright on an idea. Creative works, however, are more than just an idea. They are the result of someone’s unique interpretation of an idea, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into creating it. This is why creative works are considered intellectual property.

I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving  legal advice. However, it’s common knowledge that a creative work belongs to the person, or persons, who created it. I’m also going to explain, in layman’s terms, what pirating, and plagiarism actually are.

Pirating

Pirating means you are obtaining a copy of someone else’s creative work  in such a way as to circumvent having to pay for it. A perfect example would be borrowing a friend’s CD and copying the music onto your computer. And yes, pirating is also illegal. Making copies of someone else’s creative work without their permission is illegal too. This is why, for example, a church cannot photocopy songs from a single songbook so that each choir member has a copy. If they were to get caught they could end up with a hefty fine. They would, instead, have to provide a songbook to each choir member.

Regardless of how the work is pirated, the end result is the artist who created the work it isn’t paid by the person using it. Pirating is stealing. Period.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is another way of stealing. It’s taking someone else’s work, putting your name on it, and then claiming the work as your own. This is why scholarly works include footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also why our teachers and professors would gave us failing grades on term papers if we didn’t properly credit our sources. There have also been cases of plagiarism in music when a riff used in one song may have sounded too much like a riff used in another published song.

For more specific information on copyrights, fair use, and other intellectual property law, or if someone has used your work without your authorization, please consult a copyright attorney.

Gayle Martin

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Are You Posting Your Politics?

© Can Stock Photo/
ShutterM

Nowadays many people express their political views all over social media, regardless of whether or not an election is coming up. I understand freedom of speech, and you certainly have the right to express yourself. However, there may also be unintended consequences.

Why political posts on social media is a bad idea for novel writers

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform we have for driving traffic to our websites and blogs and building our brands. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a following. It can take months, or even years. So why, after doing all that hard work, would you want to risk alienating your fans and followers?

If you’re a nonfiction political writer then it’s a given that you should write about politics. It’s what your readers expect. However, many of us aren’t political writers. If you write novels, short stories or other creative fiction, and your sole purpose is to entertain you reader, then you may want to think twice about posting your politics on social media.

The risk you take

I make no claims of being mathematician or a statistician. However, I think it’s a safe bet to say that roughly half of your fans and followers don’t share your political views. It doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, liberal or libertarian. They don’t share your views. Nor will you get them to change their minds.

If you’re all over social media bashing conservatives or liberals, or their candidate, then you risk alienating roughly half of your fan base. These fans may unfriend or unfollow you on social media. They may unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. Most importantly, they may stop buying your books. And if you’re made them angry enough they may leave scathing reviews. So, before writing that political post, ask yourself this question. “Do I really want to lose half my fans?”

I’m sure some of you are so passionate about your beliefs that you don’t want people who disagree with you buying your book in the first place. If so, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, I think most of us really don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.

Yes, they will unfriend you

I’ve unfriended many people on Facebook because of their political posts. This includes unfriending fellow authorss. Some of their posts were so hateful it was shocking. Others were people I’ve known for years. Unfriending them made me feel truly sad. However, I’m tired of all the hate. I’m tired of all the negativity, Most of all, I’m tired of all the mean spiritedness and the divisiveness. It’s also put me in a place where I’m seriously reevaluating some of my friendships.

I guess I must be old school. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that who I vote for is for me to know, and the rest of you to wonder about.

Gayle Martin

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Tax Tips for Authors and Writers

The holidays are over, which means it’s time to start preparing for tax season. I want to begin by saying for the record that I’m not a tax expert, nor am I giving any kind of legal advice. However, one thing I have learned, through trial and error, is to save those receipts. Come April 15, it’s far better to have your tax preparer tell you that you can throw a receipt away because you don’t need it, instead of having him or her tell you that you won’t be able to claim a deduction you would have otherwise been entitled to because you don’t have your receipt.

Generally speaking, if it’s an expense incurred in writing, publishing or promoting your books, you may be able to deduct it. Your tax preparer will ultimately determine which, if any, deductions you are allowed to take, however he or she will want to see your documentation first. Therefore, you should keep your receipts for:

  • advertising expenses
  • book design services
  • book reviewers, (if you had to pay for a review)
  • editing services
  • photographers and illustrators
  • publishing services
  • research materials

Does your publisher charge you for copies of your books? If so, hang on to the receipts.

other potential deductions

Other expenses which may possibly be deductible would include:

  • Book signing materials, such as tablecloths, display items and signage
  • Cell Phones, (if purchased for business use)
  • Computer hardware and software, (if purchased for business use)
  • Office supplies
  • Postage and shipping services, such as UPS
  • Website hosting


Do you work out of your home? If so, a portion of your rent or mortgage payments, and utility bills, may be deductible. Save those receipts.
Some authors, including yours truly, write genre books which may require special attire for book signings. For example, I write Old West historical fiction, and some venues where I sign my books require me to wear western clothing. Therefore, if I have to buy any special outfit or accessory for business use, such as a book signing, I keep the receipts, as it may be tax deductible.


Travel Expenses


Some authors have book related travel expenses. This would include travel for book signings, research or business meetings. Whether it’s across town or across the country, you need to keep track of your travel expenses, as they too may be deductible. These expenses would include:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels and lodging
  • Meals
  • Rental cars
  • Taxi fare

Business mileage is another tax deduction many us may forget about. You can document your mileage by either keeping a logbook in your car, or via websites like Google Maps. Simply enter your address and the address of your destination, and the exact mileage will display on the page. Print out the page and put it in your tax files.


Remember too that authors and writers are not immune to tax audits. You should keep your final return, as well as all of your documentation, including receipts, on file for at least six years. Rest assured, if you’re ever audited, you will most certainly need your receipts. If you don’t have them, the IRS may disallow the deduction. They may also hit you with a penalty. It’s far better to have those receipts and not need them then the other way around.


For more specific information regarding taxes, and which deductions you may be entitled to take, please consult with a professional tax preparer, or the Internal Revenue Service.


Gayle Martin

 

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Don’t Do the Project

 

if you can’t pay your people

It’s one of my all time biggest irks. Seeing so-called “job listings” for creative services with such caveats as, “we can’t afford to pay at the present time,” or, “no pay but we’ll provide food.” Then there’s my all time favorite. “We can’t afford to pay you but we’ll give you free exposure.”

Wow. Some things make me so angry it’s hard to find the right words.

I get it. We all have dreams. Whether it’s writing and publishing a book, producing a film or recording a CD, we all need professionals to get the project off the ground. But here’s the rub. These professionals spend years learning their craft. And, depending on the project, they may have to use their own equipment as well. So makes you think you’re entitled to get it for free? Think about it. Your doctor doesn’t work for free. Your mechanic doesn’t work it for free. So what makes you think your editor should work for free? 

We don’t have the money because we’re just getting started.

That’s the same lame, tired, worn out and overused excuse that everyone uses whenever they want something for free. “We just don’t have the money.” Well, too bad, because in the real world people expect, and deserve, to be paid for their time and labor.

It’s a business, so treat it like a business.

Any kind of creative business venture, whether it’s writing and publishing a book, making an independent film, or recording a music CD is just that. A business venture. Any business venture, whether it’s creative or not, requires a certain amount of capital upfront. Fortunately, there are places where you can get the money. If you’ve ever registered a business name then you know your mailbox will soon be filled with all kinds of offers for business loans. Here’s an idea. Apply for them. Even if you can only qualify for a small amount, it might be enough for you to pay your people.

Same goes for grants. There are all kinds of grants out there for creative projects. Apply for them. Yes, it can be time consuming, but you just might get the funding you need to get your project off the ground. Another option is crowdfunding through Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or other crowdfunding platforms.

If all the above fails, then do it the way our parents and grandparents did it. Put a little money aside from each paycheck until you save up enough to pay for the services you need. Sure, it’ll take some time, and in the interim it won’t hurt to go out and start promoting your project. Who knows? You might get lucky and find yourself a sponsor.

The bottom line

Here’s the bottom line. Unless you’re a 501(C) 3 nonprofit, and the people providing their services can provide them as a tax deductible donation, then you frankly have no business asking a professional to provide you a service free of charge just because you want it. Not only is this demeaning to the service provider, it’s also insulting. If you can’t afford to pay your people then you can’t afford to do the project. Nuf said.

Gayle Martin

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And Now for a Time Out

© 2019 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve finally completed my latest Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel. Now I’m ready for a much needed break. In fact, I typically go on hiatus after a new novel is published.

Writing truly is one of my life’s passions. However, I’m also aware of the thin line between creativity and burnout, also known as the dreaded writer’s block. Burnout can happen when we overextend and push ourselves too hard, although sometimes we’re so into what we’re doing we’re not aware we’re overdoing it.

Once I finish one novel I’m already formulating the next one in my mind, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is starting page one the day after my current novel goes to press. Like the tide, creativity ebbs and flows, and none of us want it to ebb unexpectedly. I’ve learned, through experience, that the best thing to do after finishing a novel is to put my creative writing muse on the back burner, even as ideas for the next book pop into my head. Or, should I say, most especially when those new ideas are popping into my head. I’ll jot them down, and perhaps start working on a treatment, but I won’t take them any further anytime soon.

I enjoy my down time between novels. It can last for a few weeks to a few months because I’m no longer on a time schedule. Then, when I feel I’m ready, I’ll start my next book. Until then, however, it’s my time for me.

Gayle Martin

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Hey Google! I Can Think for Myself

 
© Can Stock Photo/ Curioso_Travel_Photo

I created this blog on Blogger and later migrated it to WordPress. Part of me hated doing this. I loved Blogger. It was so easy to use. However, there was a problem. Google owns Blogger, and, like Facebook, Google is getting much too creepy.

As I discussed in my previous post, The Best Search Engines for Novel Writers, no writer should ever use Google for their searches. Nor would I limit this suggestion to just writers. In my humble opinion, no one should be using Google. No one. Google has become too powerful. So much so that it’s now trying to tell us what to think.

How Google is trying to manipulate us

One night, as I was listening to Coast to Coast AM, the host announced her guest, an expert on alternative medicine. She began her introduction by stating that Google has eliminated ALL alternative medicine websites from its search engine. All of them. It has replaced them with ANTI-alternative medicine websites. This means if you’re looking for alternative treatments for your allergies, because all conventional treatments have failed you, you won’t find any information on Google. Why? Because Google thinks you’re too stupid to decide which treatment would be best for you. They will decide the treatment you need, not you. Nevermind the fact that we all have the right to live our lives as we see it. Unfortunately, this is but one example of how Google is trying to manipulate you and tell you how to think.

Needless to say, this can be especially problematic for authors. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ll need to do some research as you write. So what happens if you’re writing a novel about a character with cancer who seeks out other treatments? You certainly won’t find the information you need from Google.

Fortunately for us, there are other search engines that DON’T think they’re God. They will give you the information you are searching for, and they will allow you to think for yourself. These search engines include Bing, DogPile and DuckDuckGo, one of the search engines I discussed in my previous post.

Hey Google! We can think for ourselves, and there are much better search engines out there.

Gayle Martin

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Let’s Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips

I will never forget the time when I attended a business networking meeting, and someone’s guest asked me what I do. It was a fair question. The whole idea of networking meetings is to exchange information and refer business to one another. I told her I was a novel writer. Her response, however, was appalling. She looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, so this means you have ADD.” (Attention Deficit Disorder — a mental illness.)

I was completely flabbergasted. How could a so-called business professional make such a hurtful, hateful, and not to mention, stupid, remark? I looked her in the eye, and without even thinking I said, “Well, in my line of work, it would actually be considered a job requirement.” It shut her up. She walked away with egg on her face as well she should have.

Are creative people somehow less worthy than other people? 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people. Why must they do this? Is there is some narrow definition of normal out there? Do creative, imaginative people not fit into this so-called norm? Is this why creative people are stigmatized? Or is making other people look bad how they make themselves look good?

I suspect the answer is all the above. There are people out there who simply don’t like creative people. Period. I recall once reading an article telling parents how to “reprogram” their children if they showed any sign of being, “right-brained creative.” It was as if being creative was a mental defect that needed to be nipped in the bud. 

Imagine a world without art, music or literature. No doubt it would be a dull and dreary place. So what defines us as a people? Among other things, it’s art, music and literature. And who creates art, music and literature? Well, certainly not the bitch at the business networking meeting.

I refuse to apologize for who I am

I happen to be one of those right-brained creative people. I’m the person the so-called experts don’t want your child becoming. And do you want to know something? I’m damn proud of it. I am the person God meant me to be, and, in spite of what some people may think, I’m actually mentally confident enough to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to think you have the right to pin your scarlet letter on me and label me with ADD? My job involves using my God-given creative skills, and I’m so sorry it makes you jealous because you don’t have them. Oh, and here’s another thought. Why don’t you worry more about your own life and stop judging people you know nothing about.


Gayle Martin

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One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

 
© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM

As authors we’ve all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I’ve made fans and sold books on social media. However, social media can also be a double-edged sword. Therefore, it must be treated with respect. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me a few years ago.

After posting a comment on a friend’s Facebook post, I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. We were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed. During our online conversation she mentioned that she was a book editor. At the time I was publishing books for other authors, so I told her I was a publisher. I then asked her to please send me a friendship request so I could include her on my referral list. She was more than happy to oblige. 

As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. However, I found her content troubling. She ranted about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, and her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time. She also posted about her hatred of churches and of people of faith. Anyone who disagreed was told to “go f— themselves.” No matter how respectful they were, they got the same hateful, vulgar, response.

I soon realized that I could NEVER refer this woman to any of my authors. If she was that mean spirited and disrespectful on Facebook, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated them. So, instead of sending her referrals, I blocked her.

The point I’m making is to use caution when posting on social media. Mean spirited and hateful posts really can come back and bite you. 

Gayle Martin

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Pondering the Meaning of Life

© 2019 Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

The other day I learned that an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. 


I’ll call her Jane. I saw quite a bit of her when I was young, but once I became and adult and left home I only saw her at special events; weddings, anniversary parties, and funerals. The last time I saw her was over twenty years ago. As soon as I heard she had passed away, I looked up her obituary. It included a photo, probably taken a good fifty years ago. And while Jane wasn’t overly pretty, she was an attractive woman and surprisingly photogenic. 


Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born. It mentioned her parents, grandparents, and siblings. It mentioned her marriage and a business her husband once owned. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother, and that’s when her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, it listed all the country clubs she’d belonged to. It concluded with saying that she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge at the country club. 

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for full time moms. I think they have one of the most important, and overlooked, roles in society. I also think we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It brings meaning and balance in our lives. If playing cards is what you enjoy doing then so be it. However, there’s a whole lot more to life than just playing cards at the country club.

Life is about what we do for others, and doing what we can to make the world a better place. It’s also about the legacy we leave behind. Whether it’s my Luke and Jenny series of novelettes for young readers, or my Marina Martindale contemporary romance novels, my job as a novel writer is to bring a little joy into people’s lives, even if it’s only for a few minutes out of their busy day. For me, doing what I can to help people take a break from their troubles is a life well spent.

Gayle Martin

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Welcome to From the Writer’s Desk

a blog for novel writers

There are a lot of writing blogs out there, and many offer great advice. However, most of the ones I’ve seen are geared toward nonfiction writers. As novel writers, we have different goals and needs. We’re storytellers. We write to entertain.

This blog is about helping you write a better novel as I pass along what I’ve learned about this crazy business. So please, pull up a chair and make yourselves comfortable. And if you see something you like, please be sure to post a comment.

Gayle Martin

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