Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Bring Back The Weekends Project: Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

So far, my quest to reclaim my weekends has been going swimmingly. I'm less stressed. I actually can do things I'd like to do over the weekend instead of stuff people dump on me.

This weekend is where it gets tough. I have two meetings over the weekend, and only a couple of people have given me things I've repeatedly asked for. Deadline for some was yesterday. Deadline for the rest was this morning.

If you got your stuff to me by the deadline, thank you. Thank you. Did I say thank you? Because I really mean it.

For the rest, the tough part for me is going to be sticking to my principles. Do I cave and and make myself look good? Or do I show up with a sloppy presentation? It's gonna be the latter. I'm not going to name and shame. I will name and praise, and that will definitely happen this weekend.

Filed under: Life            
3/20/2015 12:44:11 PM
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Publishing Myths, Part 11: I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Ah, payment. We all like to be paid for our hard work, make no mistake. We all like to be paid on time, too. One of the more worrying trends in the publishing industry is shifting payments to a purely royalty-based system. Sometimes this includes editors and cover artists along with the writers. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, it seems. Over the last year and a half I've seen more reports of publishers with payment problems than I have in a long time. Several small publishers have gone under owing money to authors and others. Some of those have had a good reputation for payment in the past, which makes this all the more worrying.

Now there are lots of small publishers that are doing well and paying royalties on time. Obviously, those are the ones you want to try to work with. 

So what do you do? First, do your virtual legwork. What is the publisher's reputation? Have you seen any verifiable stories of late or missed payments recently? 

How are royalties calculated? When will you see your first payment, and how often after that? Will you get a statement if no royalties are due? You should be able to find these things out from most publishers.

You should also see if you can find out some details on how they hire and pay editors and cover artists. Small presses often hire those positions on a contract basis, which is not a red flag. There may not be enough work for full time positions. You don't need to know what they pay, but whether the payment is on a flat rate or hourly basis or a royalty basis. 

For me, paying staff on a royalty basis is a red flag. It suggests to me that the business is very under-capitalized. If, as a writer, you don't get paid for 90 days until after publication, then it's a fair assumption that others who work on a royalty won't get paid for 90 days, either. This is just my opinion, but editing, layout, and cover art are items that should be paid by the job (or on a salary basis) rather than payment being dependent on how well the book sells. 

And how are royalties calculated? Royalty on the net is becoming more and more common, so it's important that a publisher be absolutely transparent in how that royalty is determined. See Writer Beware's excellent write up on this for more information.

How can you protect yourself?*

As a contractor, I can tell you entering into an agreement always carries a certain amount of risk. But hey, many people with day jobs run the risk that they'll be laid off tomorrow. Nothing is free of risk. If I follow my end of the contract to the letter and the client runs into financial problems, I can get an attorney to write a Strongly Worded Letter. I can sue. But there's the old blood from a turnip thing. And it would probably cost me more money to sue than I'm owed in the first place. So I can give you some ideas, and it's up to you to decide your level of risk.

1. Get a contract. If there's a royalty payment involved, have the contract vetted by a literary agent or someone versed in publishing law. That goes double if your an author or artist assigning rights. 

1.a. If intellectual property is involved, make sure your contract explicitly sets a threshold for return of rights. It may be a set period of time or it may be a sales level. If this is a work for hire job (where the rights belong to the publisher or other entity) then that should be explicitly laid out as well. (A TV or movie tie-in book is an example of a work for hire job.) 

2. Don't be afraid to ask for something up front. You probably won't get it, but ask anyway. 

3. For editors and cover artists, try to negotiate a flat payment, due on completion of the job (also #2 above). You may be taking a risk that the payment is less than royalties turn out to be, but a payment in hand now might be uh, handy if the publisher runs into trouble down the road. 

4. Keep good records. Keep copies of contracts. Keep your invoices. Keep copies of royalty statements. If you keep all of your records electronically, make backups. Use whatever method works best for you, but just be sure you keep up with it so you know what's going on at a glance.

5. If you have to produce invoices, add a line to your invoice to reflect when payment is expected. An invoice is a bill. Your own bills have a deadline, and so should your invoices. Consider tacking on a late payment fee. This is tough to do, but that should be part of your policies that prospective clients need to know up front, and you should try to get it written into the contract. Like any item in a contract, that can be negotiated and you could waive the fee on a case-by-case basis, but you have to show that you mean business.

As yourself this: Would you go to work flippng burgers if the manager promised to pay you at the end of the week a net share of profits based on how many burgers sold? Would you go to work for a company developing a product with the promise of payment after the product started to sell? I don't know about you, but my bills won't wait that long.

Yes, there's always a risk, but do your due diligence and minimize your exposure. You can't always count on the other party following through.

Thanks for stopping by. 

*Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or an accountant, and I don't play one on TV. Please seek professional advice from you know, a professional.

Tags: Publishing Myths Writing Publishing

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3/12/2015 12:58:53 PM
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Publishing Myths Series, Updated

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

About once a year I try to go back and update my Publishing Myths series. I'm kind of surprised at how well things have held up since 2009. (2011 update) (2014 update)

I've gone through and added a few updates plus rechecked and updated broken links.

There are some major trends I've noticed in the last few years:

  • Ebooks continue to gain popularity. It's also getting easier for authors to produce their own ebooks. Some of the caveats still apply. You need a good cover. (If you think you can just throw together any old art and typeface, check out the Lousy Bookcovers feed.)
  • The rise - and fall in some cases - of small publishers. I kind of figured there would be some shakeout, but some good publishers have folded or are in trouble. I have an anthology story stuck at a struggling publisher. I'm a little reticent to share details as I don't have anything solid to share. They just appear to be struggling right now. 
  • And the scammers just don't go away.

Which reminds me, I do have one more item I need to add to the series. Maybe after lunch.

But thanks for reading!

Tags: Publishing Writing  Publishing Myths

Filed under: Publishing   Writing   Publishing Myths      
3/12/2015 10:50:53 AM
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It's Friday. Have A Cat.

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Waiting on Slave One to get home from work so the Treating may begin.

Have a great weekend!
Tags: Pictures  Cats

Filed under: Pictures   Cats         
3/6/2015 5:36:37 PM
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Snow Day

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Here's the album on Flickr.

Hey, we had some snow last night! And some ice.

Is it ever a snow day for people like me who work from home? Sadly, no. I have a lot to do today. More on that later...

Filed under: Weather            
3/5/2015 11:45:30 AM
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Here Comes The Snow Again...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

The snow has started to fall at the Manor. The forecast calls for 1-3 inches. We'll see what we get...

Filed under: Weather            
2/27/2015 10:52:28 AM
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Taking My Time Back, Step One

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

If I had anything approaching a resolution for this year, it was to try to carve out more free time. My definition of a weekend seems to be "catching up on stuff people dump in my lap at the last minute." I push myself to get things finished, and then I get to work on Monday cranky and with no rest. To channel Winston Churchill, this is something up with which I shall no longer put. 

Well, this is something I've brought on myself, and I have to take the initiative and put my foot down like Bronzino's cupid crushing a comedy troupe logo.

So it starts now. If you owe me something, I need it by Friday morning. Conversely, if I owe you something, let me know ASAP so I can get it done. Chances are I've forgotten about it or I'm waiting on someone else to get me something so I can finish my thing for you. In either case, ping me and I'll let you know.

Yes, I know there are weekend meetings and previously set deadlines that must be made. That's different. What I'm talking about is getting stuff dumped on me at the last minute. As the old cliche goes, lack of planning on your part will no longer constitute an emergency on my part.

The weekend starts as soon as Paul walks in the door, or I drop everything at 5ish to start dinner. 

This is going to be hard. I'll probably twitch all weekend knowing something isn't getting done, but it's a start on carving out more time for family. And for me.

Filed under: Life            
2/26/2015 9:54:58 AM
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ConDFW Report

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Better late than never, I suppose. I spent most of last week trying to fight off the crud, and just wasn't up to writing.

This year I was a vendor as well as a program participant at ConDFW. Thursday night I checked in...and managed one of my patent pending klutzy moves, meaning I spent the weekend limping around and with a wrist in brace for most of the time. 

Friday's alternate history panel was fun, even though I had an asthma attack. Then we went down for dinner. One thing this hotel needs is some lower-priced food options in the evening.$46 before tip for two people (no alcohol) is kinda high. They did have a reasonably priced food station going during the day, and I did take advantage of it. But I really wasn't keen on leaving to go find food because the half the freeway interchange was shut down for construction. Not ConDFW's fault, but the last thing I wanted to do after a long day was to fight construction traffic.

Saturday Lorretta Morgan and I tag-teamed the Wearable Electronics panel. It went over well, and I was pleased with the response. I think the tag-team format worked well. While one of us talked, the other was passing stuff around or prepping the next part of the presentation. It kept things moving nicely. 

Sunday was the fascinator demo. I was really looking forward to that, and only a couple of people attended, which was disappointing. I hope they learned something. The Mad Hatters panel later in the day was better attended.

Sadly, the dealer room was dead. I did do well in the art show this year, but I didn't sell enough to cover my dealer table fees. My table partner got the viral stomach crud that was going around and had to back out Saturday and Sunday, which meant there were times the table was unattended. I'll give it one more year and see if it improves. When a con moves hotels attendance is generally off the first year. 

I spent last week doing a whole lot of nothing, and it was good. Well, it would have been better if I hadn't been fighting off the crud, but I can't have everything. 

Above all, it was great to see old friends, and I do hope to be back next year!

Filed under: Life            
2/23/2015 10:46:05 AM
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My ConDFW Schedule

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Forgot to post this. Pardon the typos, but I made one of my patent-pending klutzy moves last night, and I'm still waiting on the sodium naproxen to kick in. 

In addition to the programming, I'll have stuff in the Art Show, and I'll also have a table in the Dealers Room. Please stop by and say hi, and if you want to buy stuff, I won't stop you. ;-)

Friday 3 PM, Programming 2 (Madison): For Want of a Nail
Alternate history geeks talk ... you know, alternate history. 
With: Lou Antonelli (M0), Melanie Fletcher, Rie Sheridan Rose.

Saturday 11 AM in the Art Show: Demystifying Wearable Electronics
Lorretta Morgan and I will talk about how to enhance your costumes - or every day wear - with wearable electronics. We'll also show you where to find parts. Bring along your own projects to show or get troubleshooting help.
(Update: I'm told Steve Liptak will be joining us. I'm sure he'll have some awesome stuff to share.)

Sunday 11 AM in the Art Show: Easy Fascinator Fabrication
I'll be showing how to make a buckram base fascinator using items you can find at the craft store. No ordering expensive supplies or hat blocks!

Sunday 2 PM, Programming 3 (Hamilton): Screenplays for Dummies
What it says on the tin.
With: David L. Gray (M), Dan Bernardo, Teresa Patterson, Mary Gearhart-Gray

Sunday, 3 PM in the Art Show: The REAL Mad Hatters
Yes, it's the return of the mad hatters. We'll show you some hats we've made and discuss construction, sourcing, and so on. (Maybe I'll bring the Infamous Three Ferret Hat!)
With: Peggy Dee Haslbauer, Steve Liptak, Dan Bernadro, Lorretta Morgan.

See you this weekend!

Filed under: Conventions            
2/13/2015 9:27:19 AM
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To The Copypasta Brigade

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

This is mostly directed at people who comment at a certain web site, and who will probably never see this, but I have to get it off my chest:

Are you one of those people who copy bits from articles you find on other web sites and "forget" to mention the source? It matters not if you're liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between. Please consider the following:

You read that piece (or at least part of it) on a web site somewhere and thought enough of it to copy part (or all) of it and paste it into the comment section of a news site to bolster your position. The author of that article is flattered that you thought that much of their writing, but would appreciate it if you were to give them a little credit.

You thought that piece touched a nerve (right or wrong) with you, tickled your fancy, or simply provided a factoid you needed to make your point. Please give the author the compliment of linking back to the original article. 

But..but.. someone will complain that I quoted Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow and see it as proof of my lack of intellectual stature! Well, that's their problem. 

Here's what you're doing when you link back to the source:

* Yes, you're giving credit to the author. It's okay if you agree with them, but please consider that author spent time crafting those words (hopefully) checking their facts, and ensuring the grammar and spelling was correct. (And yes, editors may have been involved on the latter front, as well.) 

* It gives you credibility. Stuff that gets copied and pasted over and over tends to take on a life of its own. Some people "improve" upon the writing, or change the facts to fit their agenda. Before you know it, an article on toenail fungus can morph into a screed on back hair. (I'm trying to stay apolitical. Give me a break.)  A lot of people - whether or not they disagree with you - like to find the source of that factoid so they can be better informed. I've lost track of the times I've gone down an Internet rabbit hole trying to find the source of some screed that's been copied and pasted - and morphed- many times over the course of a year. And you know what? It makes you look bad because you just copied and pasted it. What if you hate toenail fungus but love back hair and the screed you copied and pasted in favor of back hair was originally an ode to toenail fungus? Well, maybe no one will see your embarrassed blushing through your back hair.

* When you give credit to an author, you're supporting them. Maybe you don't have the money to subscribe to the web site of your choice, but you're supporting the author and the web site by showing your source.

* You don't look like a complete idiot because someone with half an ounce of sense and enough brains to use Google checked up on you. 

* Because plagiarism is bad. When you take someone's words and try to pass them off as your own, that's theft. And you know what? People can tell. They see they off the cuff remarks you make in the comment threads, and then suddenly you post something in a completely different style. If you don't think someone isn't going to check up on you, think again. 

Be honest. Be yourself. Give credit where it's due. 

Thank you for listening. And if you find this useful and want to share, please give me credit. ;-)

Tags: Life  Writing

Filed under: Life   Writing         
2/3/2015 7:47:33 PM
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Events and Appearances:
6/26/2015  - 6/28/2015