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Why I tell writers not to get too excited about copyright.

November 7th, 2011 . by Peggy

There are reasonable privacy precautions to take when you start a publishing project. But don’t obsess over the stuff that doesn’t matter.

Almost every Author comes to me with a lot of fear (read: baggage from bad stories they’ve heard or imagined) about “copyright” and the possibility of people stealing their stuff. In all 12+ years I’ve worked as an editor, I’ve only seen two Authors who have lost anything because they didn’t sign the proper contracts. Neither were clients of mine, but they came to me for advice after such a thing happened. One was a case involving a divorce, (yeah, like I’m going to get involved in *that*!) and the second was a business partner that wasn’t happy and split, taking the IP (Intellectual Property) with her to market on her own. I’ve seen many, many more people throw around their IP without any protection at all, and never had anything happen. From what I’ve witnessed in my own businesses and those of my husband, disputes over ownership of content are very rare and usually involve something much more complicated, like an ugly divorce or the breakup of a business. It seems to become less common as technology advances, as it’s easier than ever to simply show a date stamp on a document and prove that we thought of it first.

All written works are protected by default copyright laws in Canada, the USA, and most of Europe, as per the Berne Convention. As it states on Wikipedia,

In all countries where the Berne Convention standards apply, copyright is automatic, and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights.

In other words, as long as you can prove that you were the originator of the work (old files, notes, printouts with your edit marks, etc.) then you’re pretty safe in a general sense. The thing is, if you catch someone stealing your stuff, you would still need to prove it, and take it to court to be compensated in any way. (Although usually the threat to sue is enough to make people hold off.) The only benefit of actual copyright registration is that if you sue, you can sue for more money, and in different ways. But you’d still have to decide if it was worth it to fork out money for a lawyer in the first place.

When should you worry about copyright? In the music community, it’s a popular theme and debate. I’m not saying that theft doesn’t happen, because of course it does. And nothing I say here on this website replaces the advice of a good lawyer. But if worrying about this is stopping from creatively progressing with your work, I think you need to pause and consider if there’s a real issue, or an imagined one.

Now on the other hand, a smart and cheap way to give everyone a little more comfort is to sign an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement. I paid a lawyer to write mine, which you can now download by clicking the linked image at the top of this article. (Feel free to steal this and re-work it for your own evil purposes.)

What does this NDA do?

- It says that you promise not to steal my ideas about editing / technology / marketing, and I promise not to steal your ideas about your content.

- It says that you can’t circumvent me and go to one of my suppliers without paying me, nor I to your suppliers.

- It says that we’re both bound to do this equally. This contract doesn’t make a distinction between you or I, and so it doesn’t favour any one party.

- It says that we both agree to do this for 5 years, for a variety of projects in that time. (You don’t need to sign one for each of the 5 books on which you’re working.)

- It says that this NDA does not constitute a contract to do work, and that we’re just agreeing not to steal from each other.

So, to whom should you send this document? Certainly your editor, because we know all your secrets. And possibly any consultants that you hire to work on the project, and your graphic designer. And anybody that you ask for input as you develop your ideas. But that’s about it. You would not ask early reviewers and potential distributors, for example. In the first place, you want to be really nice to those people, and in the second place, they’re not interested in stealing anything anyway. Not that asking people to sign an NDA isn’t nice, but it can put some people on the defensive.

It’s not that your stuff isn’t worth stealing – I’m sure it is. But it seems we’re all too worried about our own ideas being stolen to worry about stealing anyone else’s.

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Great Example: Pre-Release Book Marketing

January 26th, 2011 . by Peggy

Blood Work, by Holly TuckerAuthor Holly Tucker is about to release her book “Blood Work” on March 21st. Check out her pre-release activities to help market her book.

Holly has great cover artwork, and she uses it. She also happens to be adorable herself, so she has her photo in her newsletter. She has created regular and clearly-written contact with her potential reader base, and she’s quick to remark on things like positive reviews (in Publisher’s Weekly – congrats, Holly!) in her neatly crafted newsletter.

But here’s the thing I like the most about this newsletter: the opening line. “My amazing agent, Faith Hamlin, wrote something today in response to a bunch of questions that I had sent her. ‘You’re doing. Fine. Don’t worry.’ ” The periods are what caught my eye. It’s subtle, reassuring, and you want to know the answer to the implied question. It’s like a promise stating, this will not bore you. It slows down the reader and forces them to pause and pay attention.

A good subject line or opening line is tough to write. It must convey excitement, create good feelings in the reader’s brain, and encourage them to read the rest of it. I rarely read an entire newsletter, I confess. So many of them are poorly-written, contain no useful information, etc. But Holly’s style is very readable, and even though she’s not giving me anything scientific I can use in my business, I want to know about her journey as a Writer, as the creator of the “second baby” as she refers to it. I feel her excitement. I want her to succeed.

Good luck Holly! You can learn more about the book here: and follow her on Twitter as @history_geek.

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Subtlety Demonstrates Confidence

August 26th, 2010 . by Peggy

Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post about how subtlety can be a better approach in marketing. His post really got me thinking.

Subtlety is really about the confidence that you have a great product and that your quality will be shown over the long term.

Subtlety is also about letting the reader take ownership of your message (or your book, indeed) because it was not blasted at them in hi-fidelity.

Ownership of discovery of details is what happens when people read a sample chapter.

Ownership is what makes people feel trust for you as a marketer and an Author.

Trust is what lets people give themselves permission to buy.

Smart guy, that Seth.

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Work/Life Balance For Writers

March 31st, 2010 . by Peggy

(This article reprinted with permission from Joan Craven of

One of my heroes is Joan Craven, of Craven Communications ( in Calgary, Canada. Joan is a Mom, Grandmum, Business Owner, Professional Speaker, and about a million other things to boot. She is what I hope I can learn to be like: happy, fulfilled, and most importantly, completely organized. (No kidding. You should take a look under her bathroom cupboards. Everything’s in neat little piles and rows.)

She’s written an article that I feel compelled to share with you as Writers. While she may not have had Writers in mind when she wrote this, it certainly applies to all of us obsessive writing types, who once an idea enters our brains, we cannot sleep/eat/do laundry until it has been purged by writing it out. Balance is not one of my fortes, to which Joan will attest. This simple article seems to set me right, and I’ve posted it on my office wall, to re-read it often.

Sometimes as we think back on our past work week we begin to beat ourselves up over what did not accomplish. That nasty little voice in our head says “why couldn’t you get it all done?” or “if you just used your time more wisely you would have been successful.”

Are you asking too much of yourself? Where is your time being spent?

The value of any work week is based on two things:

  1. what we accomplished
  2. what we have learned

The first question to ask yourself is “What goals did I accomplish and what ones need more time? Why didn’t specific goals get accomplished? Was I realistic in my goal setting? What have I learned?”

Once you have answered those questions plan out your next week, keeping in mind your professional and personal priorities. Devise a visual method that works for you.

Personally I use a “Things to do list” that has professional and personal goals for the day. When something isn’t accomplished one day I add it to the next day’s list. This has helped me in two ways:

  1. I set realistic expectations for myself because I try to jot down estimated time each item will take. I include some stress-reduction type activities. For me that is chatting with a friend, going for a walk, baking, preparing a meal or visiting a library or bookstore.
  2. As soon as I think of something to do, I jot it down so it doesn’t keep circling in my head. Once I see my list getting too long for one day I start a sheet for the next. Sometimes I have to juggles items from one day to the next.

Once I trained myself to check my email only twice a day and return phone calls once or twice a day, I had more time for other items. Two other strategies I consciously started were:

  1. To turn off my computer at 6 p.m. each night.
  2. To only watch 1 hour of TV a day.

All of a sudden I had much more time and I began to sleep better. When I travel to do workshops I now plan for the day-after to be a shortened day where I do ‘mindless tasks’ like filing or sorting or even just some professional reading because my energy is depleted from delivering the workshop. I try to set realistic expectations for myself.

By asking “what have I learned?” when I’m not successful in completing my goals make a huge difference to the way I talk to myself. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and am up completing a project until the wee hours of the next morning or I watch TV all night. Exceptions happen; they are just no longer my norm. What I consciously try to do is build high fences around personal time and strive to balance work and home.

What do you do to find balance in your life? What methods work for you?

Thanks, Saint Joan, for putting me back on track, once again.

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The Ghost CEO Chris Flett

December 3rd, 2008 . by Peggy
Chris Flett - Author, Speaker, and Entrepreneur

Chris Flett - Author, Speaker, and Entrepreneur

Tune in LIVE this afternoon when I’ll be interviewing Author Chris Flett. His book What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business is published by Wiley in Canada and the USA, and he’ll be here to talk about marketing, especially for female entrepreneurs and authors.

To listen LIVE, click to:

I invite you to call in to the show with your questions from Female Authors at (347) 205-9352. This is a great opportunity to ask a well-respected speaker, author and entrepreneur about your own business.

If you don’t want to dial in live, you can also submit questions via the live chat window available at the link above, or via skype at my user ID: “peggy.richardson”.

See you on the air!

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Podcast: Interview with Catherine DeVrye

October 22nd, 2008 . by Peggy
Catherine DeVrye is a former IBM Executive who now tours worldwide offering speaking and corporate coaching. She is the author of several books, but most lately the author of Hope Happens: Words of enCOURAGEment for Tough Times, and her autobiography, Serendipity Road: A Memoir, which was nominated for the Australian National Biography Prize. Her books have had positive reviews from everyone from Jack Canfield (author of the Chicken Soup series) to Sir Edmund Hillary. Catherine was kind enough to give me some of her time this past Monday here in Las Vegas.

Catherine here talks about how small and micro businesses, like self-publishing authors, can use added value and good customer service to not only keep the customers they have, but add new ones. And all of this can be accomplished without spending a dime.

I met Catherine a year ago in Sydney Australia, where she has made her home since 1973. But she spent the early years of her life far from there, in an orphanage in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Catherine has a long and extremely interesting biography (click to her site at if you’d like details) which is now told in her autobiography. She has dined with Princes and Prime Ministers, she has cycled over the Andes and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. But she is now best known as a corporate speaker on the topics of change management and customer service.

Catherine’s remarks about not being afraid of change are so important at all times, but especially now as many small businesses close their doors in light of the current worldwide economic slowdown. She makes some very interesting points and offers examples of how even a one-person operation can maintain a successful business philosophy.

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Thanks For Staring at My Shirt

September 29th, 2008 . by Peggy

For the last year, I’ve been wearing geeky shirts that advertise my services. They’re great conversation starters with potential clients, interview subjects, and fellow editors, publishers, and now bloggers. For BlogWorldExpo, I wore this one on the Sunday. Thanks to Tara Anderson of (a cool search gadget that I’m investigating) for this photo of myself and my partner in nerdiness, Geoff Clay.

Peggy Richardson and Geoff Clay at BlogWorldExpo 08

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Concrete and New Media

September 24th, 2008 . by Peggy

The next time a client tells me they’re not sure that blogging, social media marketing, and new media will work for their company, I want them to watch this video.

Bruce is not ashamed to stand in a booth at BlogWorldExpo and beg people to blog about him and his company. It apparently worked, because his booth was swarmed by people. In fact, I’m extremely proud to say that just as I was putting away my own video equipment form this interview, the anchorman from the local newscast in Las Vegas dropped in the booth to beg for a short interview. (Gee, did I get in before you guys? Awww, that’s too bad.)

What I was late on was finding out about the concrete company’s product, because it might have save me about 10k on the construction of my new house. Oh well: next time.

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Tony Robbins and Train Rides

August 19th, 2008 . by Peggy

It’s been said that there’s a reason for everything, but despite communication difficulties, I was meant to be in Victoria today to meet Scott Humphries.

Scott works as one of 10 trainers in North America for the group of Tony Robbins companies. I came to Victoria today to meet Scott, and see if there was a possibility for Scott and Humanus to do some sort of creative work together.

A few wires were crossed, and what I thought I was coming here for turned out to be all wrong. However, Scott is a very interesting guy, and he’s a very hardworking speaker. I found his talk to be informative, uplifting, and definitely clarifying. I’m sure that there will be an opportunity for us to host Scott as a speaker at an event hosted by Humanus in the future. It’s a good thing I stuck around and decided to see what I could learn today.

But that’s not the only lesson I learned: to avoid driving the harrowing highway to Victoria, I took the passenger train. I imagined myself working during the 2.5 hour ride, while the world whipped past outside the window. As it turned out, the train ride to Victoria swayed too much for me to type or write accurately, so I felt cheated as I realized I would be seasick if I didn’t just look out the window at the scenery.

I admit that I was grumpy as I sat with my arms crossed, trying not to enjoy watching Vancouver Island’s beautiful pastures and ocean views. (Bad Peggy, bad, bad!!!) Of course I was moved by how lovely our island is when summer finally arrives. In fact, I found myself composing a few lines of poetry into my voice recorder. (Sorry, but I will not publish them here.) Once again, I learn the lesson that everything happens for a reason. That little time out on the train did me a lot of good.

When I arrived at the meeting location today to meet Scott, it turned out that Scott hadn’t heard about me coming to hear him speak. Neither had the hosts, who were extremely polite, and generously allowed me to crash their party. I could have made the choice to leave when confronted with confusion, but if I had done that, I would have missed a great talk that was really motivating.

I’m now considering going to the Tony Robbins event in Vancouver in October because of Scott. But most importantly, I’m definitely going to get my voice-recognition software working again, so that I can take that train ride again, and dictate all the way to Victoria.

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Anybody want my LiveAutograph?

August 15th, 2008 . by Peggy

What a fab idea – LiveAutographs is a personal video message from your fave celebrity or author, while they sign the latest copy of their book right in front of the camera, just for you. Can I just be the girl that gets the coffee in the video studio? (Another glass of Tang, Mr. Aldrin?)

William Shatner launched the new LiveAutographs product and website today. I can see why stars like this – no mobs, works on their schedule, lots of security, and their autographs retain integrity, because they cannot be faked.

Similar technologies allowing distance autographs and 2-way communication with your favourite author or celebrity have been born in the last year. The Canadian contribution to this next-gen of virtual:personal experience is LongPen, which was invented by that Heroine of Canadian Literature, Margaret Atwood. The advantage for LongPen is that the fan gets 2-way communication, not a pre-recorded video message. In addition, the LongPen technology allows the celebrity to work from their location, and not the LiveAutograph’s studio, wherever that may be.

I can imagine that if I were Carmen Electra, I’d prefer this over paparazzi anyday…

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