Going it without an agent? What you should consider before you sign on the dotted line.

Today, author and “recovering lawyer” Diane Capri is joining me on the blog to offer some advice for writers considering going it without an agent.

Much as I would love to think that it’s all cotton candy and roses out there, the writing biz, like any industry, does not work that way. Contracts are complex legal documents not to be taken lightly. The industry is changing, and it’s easier to find editors who are willing to accept unagented manuscripts. Many writers are now willing to go it without an agent, at least at first. Making the decision to publish without an agent means that the author will have to learn a new skill–or hire someone with expertise in publishing contracts.

Bottom line, we should understand the terms of the contract before we sign on the dotted line. Diane is lending us her legal expertise to point unagented authors in the right direction. Feel free to ask questions!

Q: As writers, we hear so many scary stories about authors who signed contracts without realizing what they were signing. It’s hard to tell what’s exaggerated urban myth and what’s an issue for genuine concern. For writers who go it without an agent, what should their main concerns be? Any red flags or big no-no’s?

A: There are many clauses in a publishing contract, and any writer who represents herself in negotiations should be aware of the most common ones. Copyright, royalties, advances, acceptance of manuscript, subsidiary rights, special sales, manuscript revisions, warranties, indemnification, termination of rights, options, and so on.  Pay particular attention to how unexpected events will be handled. What if the publisher goes out of business? When and under what circumstances can you retrieve your rights to this project and what must happen to get the rights back to you? A good primer is “Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers” by Mark L. Levine.

Q: A publishing contract is a legal document–and a very complicated one. What are some resources for writers who want to learn more about the legalese of contracts? Are there any key terms we should know?

A: In addition to Mark L. Levine’s book, you might want to review “The Writer’s Legal Companion,” by Brad Bunnin and Peter Beren. Writers organizations such as Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America and the Author’s Guild are also good resources for contract questions. You can find the answers to most common questions online, but beware of the source of information. Understand that the law varies and is very fact specific, meaning that changing even one small fact in a question can make a difference in the outcome.

Q: Do you recommend that first-timers (or even experienced authors) hire a lawyer to review their contracts? If so, how can writers find lawyers who specialize in publishing contracts? What should they expect to pay for these services?

A: The  easy answer is that I am a lawyer and I hire a lawyer to review my contracts. Realize that no one can anticipate everything and a fresh eye is often helpful. Unexpected stuff happens. All you can do is apply the best of your knowledge under the circumstances. Understand that the deal could go south and before you sign, always ask yourself what you’ll do if this deal does fall apart. Everyone needs a “plan B.”

If you have a reputable and knowledgeable agent, s/he should be able to negotiate your publishing contract. But it never hurts to hire aknowledgeable lawyer to advise you privately. Just be sure the lawyer you hire has current experience in publishing contracts from the type of publisher you’re considering because the business changes constantly.

Lawyers charge either a flat fee or an hourly fee. For a first publishing contract, a flat fee is probably the way to go. Prices vary based on location (everything costs more in New York than, say, Iowa), expertise (the more expert the lawyer, the more expensive she’ll be), and jurisdiction, among other things.

When navigating uncharted legal territory, generally it’s good to ask yourself whether the fee is worth paying under your specific circumstances. A $500 legal fee may not be the best idea for a royalty-only book deal with no advance. Only you can put a price on your project. No one knows the work and its value like the author herself.

About Diane:

Bestselling author Diane Capri is a recovering lawyer. She’s a snowbird who divides her time between Florida and Michigan. An active member of Mystery Writers of America, Author’s Guild, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime, she loves to hear from readers and is hard at work on her next novel. Diane’s books, including “Annabelle’s Attack” and “Carly’s Conspiracy,” are available wherever e-books are sold. See her Amazon author page for more info.

Connect with her online:

Website: http://DianeCapri.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/@DianeCapri
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Diane-Capri/187483551314626

The Kink Factor: Author Shara Lanel dishes on the difference between sweet and erotic romance

**EXPLICIT CONTENT**

Today, I’m turning the blog over to award-winning romance author Shara Lanel. Romance is a complex genre, ranging from the chaste to the downright naughty. Shara’s post helps shed some light on the distinctions between “sweet” and erotic romance.

Shara’a latest book, Blame it on the Night, will be available for purchase on Nov. 15–be sure to check out the link to a free excerpt below!

***

Do you want to follow the hero and heroine into the bedroom? Or would you rather stop at the door and give them some privacy? This is generally how I think of the difference between “sweet” romance and most popular romance today. But “sweet” doesn’t mean there’s no sexual tension. Pride and Prejudice is loaded with sexual tension culminating in one sweet kiss. Many romances have incredible sexual tension with very few love scenes.

However, I would say most popular romance today ventures inside the bedroom. This ranges from somewhat flowery, rather vague, one-page love scenes—which I tend to skip—to the several-paged, we’re-right-in-the-bedroom-with-you love scenes. To me, the line between these romances, generally not labeled erotic, and those that are labeled erotic comes down to word choice. One particular word that my mom disapproved of when she read my first novel, ENLIGHTENED LOVE. In erotic romance the sex needs to be descriptive (fuck, cock, pussy, etc.—can you guess which word Mom didn’t approve of?), raw, maybe some kink, frequent, and each scene should last several pages. And you still need to have that sexual tension.

My erotic romance books TELEKINETIC KISSES and FINDING MR. RIGHT IS MURDER aren’t really structured different than “traditional” romances, but the sex scenes take it up a notch.

Then there are the stories my mom hasn’t read. For these the sexual premise becomes very important. If your hero/heroine just met and don’t particularly like each other (conflict), why would they have sex in the first couple of chapters? Even if they have the classic “mistake” of a one-night-stand, what’s going to make them have sex in chapter three and so on? You can’t just throw a sex scene in there if your plot doesn’t call for it.

In BLAME IT ON THE MOON, Kitty can read minds. Therefore, she’s immersed in Haden’s erotic thoughts before they even speak to each other. In THE MEN ON MARS, Nate walks in on Helena in a threesome, and Helena is highly motivated to do whatever it takes to get a ride to Earth. Other examples: maybe your hero’s a stripper or a voyeur or your heroine’s an FBI agent undercover in a BDSM club. Maybe your heroine’s curious about the BDSM lifestyle and your hero is very happy to teach her. In other words, there are other sexual forces at work, not just random hopping-into-bed-together. In one story I’m working on, the hero finds out about the heroine’s very sexy backstory.

When I entered PRIMITIVE PASSION into contests or pitched it to agents before published, there were drastic differences in opinion (scores) because some people didn’t see Heath as heroic. Sylvia needs his help to get out of the jungle, but he has a price: three days of obeying his carnal demands. But without Heath’s demands, Sylvia wouldn’t have discovered new things about herself and the story wouldn’t have been erotic.

As a writer, you learn to target different publishers by researching books similar to yours and seeing who published them. Then you may cater a story toward the requirements of that specific publisher. This is the same when it comes to erotic romance. A publisher may want male/male, interracial, or ménage-a-many. A certain amount of kink may be expected or a certain familiarity with the lifestyle. The nice thing about the publishers I’ve worked with is that they’ve helped me up the heat level if I didn’t quite hit it in my manuscript.

So what’s the difference between erotic romance and erotica and porn? Well, first and foremost, we always have a happy ending, but the erotica I’ve read seemed literary or thought-provoking rather than sensual. Many movies labeled “erotic” do nothing for me. Meanwhile, porn seems to me male-centric and based on plot-less fantasy. “A sexy woman comes up to me in a bar, says she wants to do me in the bathroom, and then calls her friend to join us…” A lot more explicit, of course, but totally lacking in motivation.

Feel free to post questions or comments!

Here’s an erotic romance excerpt from my upcoming release, BLAME IT ON THE NIGHT, coming to www.Loose-Id.com Nov. 15!

About Shara:

At age 10, research to Shara Lanel meant hopping aboard the local steam engine and writing the equivalent of The Great Train Robbery.  Nowadays, she gets hands-on research at the Writers’ Police Academy. Give her a gun and she might hit the target…or a pedestrian. She swears her characters are much better shots, hitting the bulls-eye with the villains and the heart.

BLAME IT ON THE MOON, winner of the HOLT Medallion, delves into the life of a werewolf wanted for murder, while FINDING MR. RIGHT IS MURDER introduces you to the girl-next-door who, in the middle of an adult slumber party, finds a body in the freezer. Shara’s novels are always full of suspense and hot romance, whether set on the moon or in a Mexican jungle.

Shara resides in Richmond, Va., with a clingy dog, an action-oriented son, and a handsome hubby. Don’t put her in the kitchen, unless you want to burn it down, and her green-thumb is hit-or-miss, but she excels as a bibliophile, hoping she never has to pack up and move, since her hubby might see just how many volumes she really has.

How to Escape a Vampire Assassin: A few survival tips for Halloween from guest-blogger Samantha Warren

Please join me in welcoming my first guest-blogger, the lovely fantasy and sci-fi author Samantha Warren. Today, Samantha’s character Jane is offering us a few survival tips in case we ever find ourselves face-to-face with a vampire assassin. (Hey, it’s Halloween; anything can happen.)

So, I hope everyone has a great day stuffing themselves with candy corn and other assorted goodies. Happy Halloween! (Or, if you walk the Wiccan way, blessed Samhain.) The surprisingly chilly last few days, complete with sleet on Friday, have pretty much dampened the last blast of fall color that remained on the leaves, but those cold, rainy days are perfect for dreaming up mystery, I suppose…

And now, I’m handing the blog over to Samantha’s leading lady, Jane.

***

Hi folks! I’m Jane, your resident vampire assassin, here to give you a few tips for surviving the Halloween season. Ah, Halloween. The time of year when you carve pumpkins, eat way too much candy (or is that Christmas?), and dress up like scary movie villains. Ghouls, goblins, werewolves, and blood-sucking vampires are all popular choices. Luckily for you, it’s unlikely you’ll ever really be mistaken for one of those creatures and hunted by someone like me. But what do you do if you draw the ire of a vampire? Well, if I’m the one hunting you, you may as well give up. I always get my man (or woman, or big bad evil thing). The tips below should help you escape the clutches of the lesser assassins of the vampire ilk and allow you to wreak havoc on the world for another day. If you’re a werewolf or other baddie, please look away now. Save us both some trouble and head to the nearest church to turn yourself in.

Separate the myth from the truth.

There are numerous vampire myths out there that have been perpetuated by one Mr. Bram Stoker. Why would he do such a thing? Well, he was a vampire himself. It was in his best interest to mislead the masses about what could and couldn’t hurt a vampire. I’ll address a few of the more popular misconceptions.

Garlic: While I would love to let you all run around wearing garlic necklaces like they’re the next fashion, I have to dissuade you from doing something so ridiculous. It will just make you look silly and smell horrible. Garlic does nothing but add flavor, and if you don’t want to be sucked on, don’t make yourself more tasty.

Crosses: Another falsehood. A large portion of the vampire population actually works for the church in some form. Many of them can even be found on the pulpit. If you’re being hunted by a vampire assassin, there’s a good chance it’s because a church elder hired one. Yeah, a cross isn’t going to help you there.

Holy Water: See above.

Silver: *looks at silver rings* Nope. Not effective. It does work against a werewolf if you can get it in their bloodstream or under their skin. I always keep some handy.

Running Water: Vampires like a good shower as much as anyone. Getting one wet will do little aside from make them madder. I advise against making a vampire angry if they’re already hunting you.

Wooden Stakes: Stakes are great, and not just for vampires. They hurt like the dickens and will take out almost anyone if used properly. The biggest problem is keeping the stake in the heart long enough to cause serious damage and blood loss.

Fire: Like stakes, fire is fantastic for defending against anything but a fire faery. Fire hurts, but, more importantly, fire destroys. Once you’ve got your vampire attacker staked, pull out some gasoline and a match and set that baby aflame.

Sunlight: Yes, we are allergic to sunlight, but it has to be direct sunlight. And we don’t fall asleep once it rises. Full vampires will develop a nasty sunburn within moments of direct exposure and if forced to stay in the sun too long, blisters will form and expand, our skin will smoke, and eventually we become a raw mass of roasted flesh. It’s really disgusting and a very cruel thing to do to even your worst enemy.

Decapitation: Along with stakes and fire, decapitation works on almost anyone or anything. Very few beings have the ability to regrow the loss of something so important as their head.

Coffee: Mmm… coffee… Coffee is a drug to vampires. We love it. The stronger, the better. Almost all of us drink coffee. But we have to drink it very slowly and in small amounts, or it can incapacitate us. No venti quadruple-shot lattes for us. Once we’re incapacitated, any of the other methods will be a lot easier to apply and that will be the end of the line. It is also possible to take down a vampire by dousing them in the stuff, but it requires a lot more of it and if you don’t do it quickly, you’ll just have an irate killer on your hands.

So there you have it. Some of the myths are just that—myths. But there is truth buried in the lies, as always. Now I’ll give you the No. 1 foolproof way to avoid being taken out by a vampire assassin:

Don’t be a bad guy.

Simple, right? And surprisingly easy. Be a decent person and you won’t have to worry about me breathing down your neck at any point. But if you decide to try to take over the world, know this: I will find you, and I will destroy you.

Have a lovely day!

***

Want to know more about how I became a vampire assassin? The first book in my aptly-titled memoir series is free everywhere, and books 2-4 are 1/2 price on Kindle. I’m working on book 5 (Til Death) right now and it should be out in December, so keep your eyes peeled!

Vampire Assassin (Available on Amazon.)
Jane (Books 2-4) (Available on Amazon.)

Samantha Warren is a fantasy and science-fiction author who spends her days immersed in dragons, spaceships, and vampires. With her pet dragon, Anethesis, she ventured to the ends of the universe, but the cost of space travel cut into her sock fetish fund, so she sold her ship and returned home. When she isn’t writing, she’s milking cows or trying to feed them Pop-Tarts. She spends a lot of time in her weed patch (aka: garden), watching any show featuring Gordon Ramsay, or posting random things on her blog.