Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Writer’s Checklist

Before you send off that article, manuscript, or other chunk of your writing to someone else to read, do yourself a favor and run down this checklist.

  • Replace two spaces with one between all end-of-sentence punctuation. Don't use double spaces between sentences, it's a practice that is leftover from typewriters. All word processing and page layout software adds an appropriate amount of space after a period; adding two spaces just messes things up.

  • Run your spell-check program one more time, and double-check each questionable word with a widely accepted dictionary. This is especially important for documents using medical terms.

  • Check commonly mishyphenated prefixes and suffixes, such as pro, pre, post, anti, and non. Use The Chicago Manual of Style as your guide. Some healthcare publications may ask you to use the APA Style Guide.

  • Check that all numbers dates, times, and numbers have been handled according to The Chicago Manual of Style or similar guide.

  • Make sure you've noted sources for all clearly identifiable facts.

  • Check the spelling of names and proper nouns with a widely accepted resource. Encyclopedia.com provides content from more than 100 encyclopedias and dictionaries, including the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

When Is a Work Copyrighted?

These words, the moment I key them into the computer and they appear onscreen, so they can be read by someone else, from that moment, the words are copyrighted.

Yep, that’s right. Copyright happens the moment a person’s original words are put into a format that can be read by others. They might never be read by others, not ever not never, but they’re protected by copyright law just the same.

The U.S. Copyright Office says, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

If your words are published, however, copyright takes on new meaning.

Most publishers obtain copyright immediately on submission of your work. For instance, if you send a letter to the editor of a newspaper, the newspaper gains copyright immediately on receipt of your work. Your submission indicates that you agree to grant the newspaper your copyright in exchange for publishing your words. Fair enough.

Book publishers gain copyright through the book publishing contract. This contract grants the publisher the right to market, sell, and distribute the book.

But aren’t there advantages to the author in holding the copyright? I can hear some of you asking.

Not really. If you want your book to sell, you want your publisher to do everything possible to promote it. If your book doesn’t sell, the publisher in the vast majority of cases will be only too happy to give you back the copyright.

Think of the copyright as protection for the author and, should your work become published, protection for the publisher as well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Few Words About Fair Use

Authors often ask how much text from another author's book they can use without having to obtain permission.

For an answer we need to look to what's often called the Doctrine of Fair Use, part of the copyright regulations that deal with the use of another's content without permission.

The U.S. Copyright Office lists a number of purposes for with use of another's content may be considered "fair," including criticism, editorial comment, reporting, teaching, and research. More important, though, are the four factors that determine whether a piece of content can be considered fair use.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

  2. The nature of the copyrighted work

  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

When you look at these factors, copied directly from the Copyright Office, you can see how seemingly vague fair use is.

For instance, is there a certain number of words or paragraphs that can be used freely?


No? Not a limit of some kind?


So you can use as much as you want?

Absolutely not.

But you can use some.


Well, does it matter whether the content you want to use comes from a textbook or, say, a research book?

Um, it may matter. Or it may not.

That's not terribly helpful, Mr. Smartypants.

Maybe not but here's the key. Assuming you have a conscience, you should feel free to pick up and use a "little bit" of someone else's content. But the moment you begin to question yourself, gee, is this too much? Yes, it probably is.

Monday, May 10, 2010

List of Allied Health Markets

Here's a list of a few of what most publishers consider allied health professions.

  • Athletic Trainer

  • Blood Bank Technologist

  • Cardiopulmonary Technician

  • Dental Assistant

  • Dental Hygienist

  • Dental Laboratory Technician

  • Electrocardiography Technician

  • Emergency Medical Technician

  • Health Information Technologist

  • Hemodialysis Technician

  • Massage Therapist

  • Medical Assistant

  • Medical Coder

  • Medical Laboratory Assistant

  • Medical Laboratory Technologist

  • Medical Secretary

  • Medical Technologist

  • Medical Transcriptionist

  • Occupational Therapist

  • Pharmacology Technician

  • Phlebotomist

  • Physical Therapist

  • Radiology Technologist

  • Respiratory Therapist

  • Surgical Technician

How Much Will I Make from Authoring a Textbook for Allied Health?

Occasionally a potential author will ask about compensation before they have even written a book proposal. These educators (typically) have often asked a loved one for advice and then come back to me and say, "My husband/wife/friend/relative says I shouldn't write a book unless it makes sense financially. Can you tell me how much I can expect to make?"

I understand the concern, I really do, but until I have a proposal in hand, until I can really "see" what the book will be and where in the market it will best fit, I can't really talk about compensation.

These folks still deserve an answer, of course, and in a nutshell, this is what I tell them. (Keep in mind that I'm referring to authors of textbook publishers for allied health. Nursing textbook authors often make considerably more because there are so many more nursing students than those in any single discipline in allied health.)

You're thinking about writing a book for, say, medical assistants. The MA market is pretty solid, well over 150,000 students a year, but unless you're planning to author a book for a core course that all MA programs offer, you're looking at only a slice of that MA pie.

Even then, books for a core course are competing against a host of other textbooks, so take that slice and then divide it again.

If you're planning to write a book for a less ubiquitous course, or perhaps a book that supplements other books, your slice of the pie will be really small.

So know going into this that your book will most likely not make you rich, it just won't. You won't be able to send your kids through college on the royalties, but twice a year, in April and October, a nice little paycheck will arrive in your bank account.

If you're lucky, you could purchase some nice patio furniture with it or a lovely new rug for the dining room.

If you're really lucky, if your book sells really well, you could put a hefty down payment on a new car or install a new deck off your back door.

Only a precious few authors, though, make six-figure incomes for any single edition of their book.

Textbook authors by and large write because they have something to say, because they want to make an impact on their profession, because they want to earn the praise and respect of their peers, or for any number of other wonderful and fulfilling reasons, but the seldom do it for the money.

If someone's main reason for writing a textbook is to make money, they'll probably be disappointed. I'm not saying they won't make money, because they probably will. I mean, why would I sign a book that I believe isn't going to make us or the author money?

So a bit of advice if you're considering authoring a textbook. Don't do it purely for the money; you won't succeed. Do it for your profession and know that in April and October you'll receive a lovely little gift, which will make you glad you decided to write.