Is Copyrighting A Good Idea?

My business school background pounded it into my head the importance of copyrighting one’s work. Now, there is a train of thought that copyrighting is not a good idea. It is said to hinder the author in a variety of ways. Hmm…

I find this very interesting since I have seen my blog posts/articles being picked up across the Internet and placed onto others’ websites. And, some of these sites are making money off of my work. It does not settle right, on the one hand. However, on the other hand, it is nice to see my work on sites located in Australia, etc. (I am in the United States). My exposure has increased, as has my readership.

Regarding the topic of copyrighting, here is a portion of an excellent article written by Leo Babuta, author of Zen Habits and Write To Done. (Write To Done is his blog about writing). He is a firm advocate of not copyrighting. (Visit his website at http://www.zenhabits.net. (Copy and paste link…) ENJOY!!

The Culture of Sharing: Why Releasing Copyright Will Be the Smartest Thing You Do

Recently I stirred up a roar of controversy with a post at Zen Habits: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (or, The Privatization of the English Language). I had no idea the post would bring out such strong reactions in people, but I feel very strongly about freedom of speech and allowing ideas to be freely circulated.

And while I was a bit dismayed at some of the anger that was aimed at author Susan Jeffers (a number of people posted angry reviews for her book on Amazon), what did give me hope was that people made it clear that they have strong feelings about the issue.

A large number of us want people to be able to share ideas and communicate freely, without legal restrictions. And I’d go even further: we like it when creative people freely share their work with us, and allow us to use their work (or derivatives of it) in our own work.

This is the Culture of Sharing that is growing on the Internet. It has a long history, even pre-dating the Internet, but in recent years it seems to be blooming nicely. Open-sourced software is a great example: people collaborate to create code that can be used by others — it can be used freely as software, but more importantly others can use the code in their own software projects, or take the code and improve upon it. Everyone wins — the users of the software, the programmers who are able to use open-sourced code, and even the original programmers, who receive recognition for their work and the knowledge that they’ve contributed to something good. Microsoft and the other companies that use their might to protect their code are suddenly made much less powerful by open-sourced projects like Firefox, OpenOffice, GIMP and the like.

Now extend this concept to writers and other artists — musicians, photographers, painters, filmmakers, etc. — and see how powerful the Culture of Sharing can be. All of a sudden, copyrights become barriers to creativity, and sharing becomes a way to contribute to the overall creative community, and to the world in general.

Last year I uncopyrighted my blog, Zen Habits, and my ebook, Zen To Done, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. People have used my articles in blogs, newsletters, magazines, ebooks, books and more. And yes, they’ve made profits off me without me getting any of that money … but at the same time, I’ve benefitted: my ideas have spread, my name and brand have spread, and my readership has grown and grown. Since I Uncopyrighted the blog, it has grown from about 30K subscribers to 113K. You can Uncopyright your blog, your ebooks, and even your print books. And I can almost guarantee you: it’ll be the best thing you can do as a writer.

The Old Model, and Why It’s Wrong
People who are used to the traditional model of copyrights will be alarmed and perhaps even angered by this article. They’ve been taught that copyrights actually protect the rights of artists, and in doing so actually encourage creativity. After all, if an artist doesn’t have copyright, he can’t make a living, and what would his motivation be to create anything then?
This logic is plain wrong.

First, history proves it wrong. Copyright laws originated in the 1700s, but amazingly, there were a few people who were able to create works of art without the protection of copyright laws. Shakespeare, Milton, Cervantes, Virgil, Dante … to name but a few big names. There are, of course, thousands more. And here we’re only talking about writers — a few other artists also were able to create art: da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Mozart, Beethoven and Vivaldi are just a few who created before their works were protected by copyright.

Second, copyright has evolved into protection for corporations more than for artists these days. The people really pushing for copyright protection are not really people at all, but huge media conglomerates. They are protecting a system that is set up to make them money, but that only helps a handful of artists. The vast majority of artists are never read or seen or heard by the public, because the corporations don’t deem them to be profitable enough. So the system doesn’t help artists anymore — it hurts them.

Third, I have proven that it’s possible to make money, even today, without using copyright. And so have many others (Cory Doctorow being a notable example). The release of my copyright didn’t decrease my income — it increased it. It didn’t decrease my exposure — it increased it. We’ll talk more about this below.

Finally, copyright actually hurts artists, instead of protecting them. When you try to protect your copyright, you waste precious time and money pursuing violators — time and money you could be using to create instead of threaten litigation. When you protect your copyright, you are denying someone else the use of your ideas and creativity — which might seem good to you, but it doesn’t seem good to the person on the other end, and the community in general suffers a bit. And it hurts your reputation (if people think you’re selfish and protective) and stops your ideas from being spread as widely as possible.

By protecting your copyright, you are putting up barriers for the spread of your ideas. In this digital age, that is a mistake, plain and simple.

Why Releasing Copyright is the Smartest Thing You Can Do

So let’s put aside the old model of copyrighting works for a minute, and ask ourselves: “What might happen if I release my copyright?”

Sure, some websites might scrape your content, re-using it and putting ads on it — making money from your hard work. And sure, someone else might throw it into a book and sell it, without paying you. You’re losing money, right?

Not necessarily. These people are making money by selling your work to customers you probably wouldn’t have reached anyway. They’re making money, sure, but how does that hurt you? If you could have reached these readers, you probably will anyway. In fact, if these readers really like your work, they’ll probably come looking for more … and you’ll gain a bunch of new readers.

And many others might use your work without making a profit. They might put your work in a free newsletter, or print it and use it in a classroom, or put it on their blog without making money. They’ll share your ideas with others, and give you credit. Now you’re reaching thousands of people you never would have reached before. These people are doing your marketing for you, for free! I’ll repeat that in case the italics and exclamation point weren’t emphasis enough: by releasing copyright, you might get people to do your marketing for you, for free.

This digital age is defined not by how much money you can make with an individual post or book, but how widely you can get your ideas to spread. If you get your ideas to spread widely, you’ll make money. Somehow.
END

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Book Writing Suggestions

As I have mentioned in other blog posts, I subscribe to a useful and wonderful blog titled, Write to Done by Leo Babauta. (http:writetodone.com)

Having recently published a book, Leo’s most recent blog post contained information on helping others write a book. I thought I’d pass it along since it is both informative and entertaining.

The helpful information is as follows:

1. Focus only on the book. I was definitely overwhelmed with all the things I mentioned above on my plate. My schedule and to-do list was too complicated, and to be honest, I busted my deadline to submit the manuscript for this book.
So what did I do? I simplified, of course. I cleared away my schedule, told people I couldn’t work on certain projects, asked others to fill in for me on my blogs, got someone to help with the wedding planning, turned down many requests. I devoted my time to writing the book, and nothing but the book.

2. Have a deadline to meet. Even though I didn’t actually meet my deadline for the book, it did help that I had a deadline. I hate missing deadlines, although I’ve done it many times. Sometimes it’s a part of life. But having that deadline gives you an incentive to get things done. Even if you don’t have a publisher, set a deadline for yourself to actually complete your book.

3. Be accountable to someone. My editor was breathing down my neck to submit the manuscript — that was his job, and as I was late he had other people breathing down his neck. So there was some pressure there, and it helped me to focus and get things done. I don’t always like pressure, but sometimes a little pressure is a good thing. If you don’t have an editor, find someone who you’ll be accountable to. And make sure they hold you to it. A good idea is posting your commitment and progress on your blog — you won’t want to look bad in public!

4. Keep things simple. One thing that helped was that the outline of my book was simple. I kept the chapters easy to write, didn’t have anything difficult in the outlines for each chapter, and was able to crank out the text. Complicated and hard-to-research books take much longer to write.

5. Clear away distractions. Email, Twitter, IM, RSS feeds, forums, things like that … those all get in the way and distract us from writing. I knew I really needed to focus, so I put my email on hold (and checked it as little as possible), shut down all other types of communication as much as I could, stopped reading on the Internet and RSS feeds, closed my browser. I wrote in a simple text editor and shut everything else down.

6. Do one thing at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a large project. Instead, focus on just the next task that needs to be done. Not even writing a whole chapter — just the intro, or just one section. Don’t worry about everything else — just the task in front of you. Complete the task, figure out what’s next, then do that. Repeat until you’re done. You can’t do a whole project — only one thing at a time.

7. Set a writing time. It’s easy to allow your day to get away from you. You might check email, or do some chores, or talk to people, go do some errands, and before you know it, the day’s over and you haven’t done any writing. Avoid this by setting a time to start writing, and a time to finish — whether that’s one hour, two, four, or eight. I suggest doing your writing first thing in your workday — otherwise it might get pushed back because of other tasks. Stick to your schedule!

8. Be free with your first draft. If you fret over every little word, you’ll never get things done. Instead, just write. Get it out. It might suck, and probably will. That’s what revision is for. After you get the first draft out, let it sit for a day or two, then go back with fresh eyes and revise, clean things up, make them more concise and clear. But with the first draft, just get it out!

Read more about these simple productivity principles in his book, The Power of Less. Visit
http:powerofless.com for more information.

Recent Interview on Writing A Best Seller

I received this email newsletter a few days ago about tips on writing a best selling book.  It was found in the ‘Write To Done’ newsletter, authored by Leo Babauta of the popular blog ‘Zen Habits’.  It’s very informative and interesting, so I thought I would share it.  Enjoy!

By Leo Babauta

It’s pretty rare that a first-time author, a virtual unknown, can have his book rapidly climb to the top of just about every best-seller list. But that’s what Timothy Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek did in 2007, and the way he did it was just as remarkable as what he achieved.

Ferriss created an incredibly powerful idea and crafted the perfect book title. With the power of that title (and of course, the great content to back it up), Ferriss set it up so that all the work he did promoting his book was multiplied many times over … because many others ended up promoting his book for him.

His book took off in the blogging world — perhaps because many of us bloggers are the perfect audience for such a book — and as a result he got tons of positive reviews, interviews and even spin-off websites that focused entirely on the premise of the book.

Today I’m happy to share with all of you an interview I just finished with Timothy Ferriss where we take a more in-depth look at how he accomplished this amazing feat that has changed the face of publishing. No longer does publishing a best-seller require a top name, crazy advertising budgets, or big-media exposure (at least, not at first). Now you can take your book viral.

Leo Babauta: The 4-Hour Workweek really took off, even before it was sold, in part because of its fabulous title and theme — it really connected with people, excited them, made them want to read more. Tell us about how you hit upon the idea of the book, how you crafted the title to the exciting few words it ended up becoming. Did you think about having a title/theme that made people instantly curious?

Timothy Ferriss:  If bloggers should spend 70% of their time on the post headline, writers should spend — not 70% of their writing time, of course — but at least a few weeks on the title and title testing, if needed.  I’m amazed by how amazing writers will regularly settle for the most mediocre of titles.  I set up Google Adwords campaigns to test the “headlines” (titles) and “ad text” (subtitles) that worked best in combination, using keywords related to content (world travel, retirement, etc.) as the fixed variables.  “The 4-Hour Workweek” also bothered some people and was ridiculed by others, which I took as a positive indicator.  It’s not accidental that Jay Leno parodied the book on-air — the title lends itself to it, and that was by design.  You can’t have strong positive responses without strong negative responses, and beware — above all — the lukewarm reception from all.  “Oh, that’s nice. I think it’s pretty good.” is a death sentence.

Leo: The idea and the book really took off in the blogging world. Tell us how you started the viral idea of your book out in the blogosphere — how you contacted bloggers and got them to do posts and interviews with you so that it could take off from there.

Tim:  I met bloggers at tech conferences by 1) asking panel moderators and event organizers who they’d recommend I meet (after a brief description of my background and projects), and 2) buying small groups of bloggers beer and then asking them questions about blogs.  I never hard-pitched the book.  I’d be interested in their work, which I was, and someone would eventually ask “so, what do you do? What are you working on?”  The book came up naturally and — if you pick a few pages that actually would be of interest to them vs. asking them to read a 300-page book — I had offers to check the book out.  I made it clear that I didn’t expect them to write about it, but I did go above and beyond to find a few pages I felt each blogger could use immediately.  It all came down to non-confrontational approaches and offering highly targeted content, even if it wasn’t in the book at all.  Become a trusted source first, then worry about your book.  I suggest people check out my post on tracking my case study in hitting the NY Times.

Leo: Once the idea started spreading in the blogging world, how did you get it to translate to Amazon.com and real-world bookstore sales?

Tim: Amazon is a no-brainer, as most people will link there to identify you.  The real-world offline bookstores is trickier.  Even if Scoble sells 3x as many books as The Today Show, the mainstream media will still get the chain buyers to pre-purchase more books.  What does this mean?  They put it on an endcap or front table and — lo and behold — you sell a ton of books.  It’s from the placement and not the mainstream media (with a few exceptions), but this is a process you need to understand.  Read “Author 101: Bestselling Book Publicity” by Rick Frishman.

Leo: What are your top tips for authors who want to create a book that just takes off virally — what do they need to do in terms of title/theme creation, content writing, and promotion?

Tim: Read a book on PR first and understand the questions you need to answer with media and anyone really: Why now? Why you?  Focus on making yourself a credible expert vs. pushing a book.  It doesn’t matter how good your book is if the messenger isn’t trusted.  Don’t half-ass the book and expect good marketing to sell copies.  Marketing can get you an initial wave of customers, but you need a good product to go viral (i.e. word-of-mouth).  I like to thin slice and write short chapters vs. a few longer chapters, and I think identifying new phenomena or trends and offering labels offers a lot of mileage.  Ultimately, write a damn good book and put in the effort required.  You cannot use PR to make up for shortcomings in a book.  Read “On Writing Well” by Zinsser.

Leo: How did you firewall your time from your regular business duties so that you could write the book? How much time did you devote to writing?

Tim: I recognized that this was a process I wanted to experience, as well as a demon I wanted to conquer.  I’ve always had a fear of large-scale writing and expected it to be difficult.  This means that I fully expected to sacrifice other income and even some relationships in the name of writing a BOOK.  Not a blog post or article masquerading a book, but a real book that would stand the test of time.  I have no desire to write a book a year to keep the hamster wheel of royalties running.  I’d rather take the “Good to Great” Jim Collins approach and try and write a killer book every 3-5 years that can — hopefully — become a classic.

I left the US and did most of my writing in Argentina, Brazil, and Japan.  It doesn’t need to be that remote, but I suggest removing yourself from your current environs and schedule as much as possible.  I needed that separation for clarify of purpose and thought.

I spent 9-12 months full-time on this book and don’t regret a minute of it.  My next book will take even longer.  I strongly discourage people from 1) writing with royalty income as the main objective, and 2) taking writing a book lightly.  Once a book goes out, it’s your legacy and you can’t take it back.  Put in the time, take it seriously, and expect it to be f*cking hard.  It is hard, but it’s worth it if you treat it with the right kind of respect.  For those dark valleys of self-doubt that come up (and trust me — they will), I strongly suggest keeping “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott at your deskside.  Grab it, go out to a park, and take the day off.  Drink some wine with a few friends, take a deep breath, and get a good night’s sleep. Then get back to writing.  It’s one hell of a ride.

Leo: Thank you, Tim, for sharing this amazing information with us! I think my fellow writers will be just as fascinated with this as I am — you’ve been very generous.

Ways to "Keep the Flow" while Writing

I received this tidbit of information in my email box today and thought I’d share it.  These are great suggestions for “keeping the flow” while writing.

Chief Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Dave Navarro known for his blog that rocks: Rock Your Day

Feeling stuck? There’s nothing more intimidating than staring at a blank page (or screen) and realizing that you’re up against a solid case of writer’s block. Even a temporary absence of the writer’s muse can leave the most accomplished writer feeling less-than-capable, and suck the joy out of an otherwise fulfilling exercise. But there’s hope for all who have battled writer’s block before – put these five writing productivity tips into practice, and you’ll have your muse on-call and waiting for you, rather than the other way around.

Tip #1 – Keep A Tangent Journal As You Write

Just as conversations often branch off into unrelated tangents, whatever you’re writing about now can be the catalyst for many other things you may write about later. However, like shopping list items and people’s phone numbers, you know how easy it is to forget them after even a short time has passed. Don’t risk having your best ideas become nothing more than faded memories – keep a “tangent journal” with you as you write and jot down incoming ideas. Capture just enough detail that you can use them later when you need a great writing prompt, and you’ll give yourself a great resource without breaking your current writing flow.

Tip #2 – Write, Then Brainstorm

After you’ve successfully hammered out your quota of words for the day, don’t let all that mental momentum go to waste. Take 5 minutes to brainstorm what you could write about next while the gears in your head are still turning. Since you’re already in a writing state of mind, you may find it easier to generate upcoming ideas than if you pushed yourself from a “cold start” tomorrow. And as a bonus, having tomorrow’s topic in mind today gives your brain time to simmer up great ideas in the background so you’ll start tomorrow off strong.

Tip #3 – Find Someone To Give You A Jump-Start

Sometimes you’ll find yourself absolutely brain-locked, unable to even begin thinking about what to write. When you can’t even crank up your creative centers, take a shortcut and let someone else’s way with words get you started. Find a selection of writing you like and copy it down word for word, writing or typing your way through a few paragraphs (or pages, if you’re really stuck). Even though you’re not writing something original, the physical act of putting words down will soon prime your brain to get back in the writing groove.

Tip #4 – Condition Yourself For Creativity

Sometimes a simple pre-writing routine can help you get anchored into a creative state of mind – all you have to do is pick a specific action and do it every time your creative juices are flowing. For example, if you brew a pot of your favorite coffee every time you sit down to write, you can condition yourself to link the smell of that coffee to “writing time.” Do this enough, and you may find that performing this little “ritual” helps you get into gear automatically, even when you’re feeling stuck.

Tip #5 – Show Up On Time, Every Time

Many an established writer will agree that showing up consistently – whether you have something to write about or not – can be the best writing productivity tip of them all. Making an appointment with yourself to sit in front of your keyboard (or blank page) every day at the same time, no matter what, is bound to help you become a better writer in the long run. Consistently showing up will also make it easier to schedule the rest of your life around your block of writing time, giving you one less thing to distract you when it’s time to get the words out of your head and into your reader’s hands.

Writing Inspiration From a Successful Blogger

Here is an inspirational piece about writing done during an interview with the successful blogger, Liz Strauss. She has developed a strong following through her blog known as the Successful Blog. It’s address is: http://www.successful-blog.com .

I came upon this through my subscription to The “Write to Done” newsletter. It is a newsletter about writing and is an off-shoot of the Zen habits blog. For more information, you can visit …..http://writetodone.com . Or, visit Zen habits.

Enjoy!

When asked for the reasons Liz wrote, she gave the following feedback:

  • I write because I can take ideas from my head and put them where I can see them.
  • I write because I hear the music of language playing and because I love to paint pictures with words.
  • I write because the universe can be expressed with breathtaking elegance and grace.
  • I write because some thoughts deserve precision in how they are expressed.
  • I write because I am a writer. It’s what I know.
  • Writing lets me reach out to people who aren’t here with me.

On how to cultivate ‘voice’, Liz shared this tidbit:

Let me know your humanity. Show your sense of humor.
Inspire me, respect me, make me think, and make me wonder.
Don’t just be conversational, be the voice of a lifelong friend

Finding Inspiration

Along with writing come the times when nothing seems to come to mind. In other words, ‘writer’s block’. If it’s not writer’s block, it is just plain lack of desire, hard time with words, etc. How does one overcome this state? Everyone deals with this temporary setback differently.

There is a great blog titled Zen Habits. Recently, it contained a blog post on just this subject. http://zenhabits.net/2008/03/31-ways-to-find-inspiration-for-your-writing. And, it’s great. It lists a variety of ways to find inspiration, some may work for you and some may not. One, in particular, works well for me. That is finding inspiration from nature. Here is my story:

While recently taking a walk with my new knee, I noticed the simple act of a flock of robins strutting around and just chirping happily. They were simply enjoying the scenery and provided me with thoughts of pleasure. My home state is Michigan – the state bird is the robin. Then I recalled seeing an entire backyard filled with robins while down in Florida. You could say it was a “carpet of robins”. 🙂 Very nice.

Anyways, when I returned from my walk, I was inspired to write again. The writing came easy, with the words flowing without any problem at all. It was quite nice. I kicked out two chapters of my upcoming book in one hour. Wish it would go that well all the time. 🙂

So, everyone needs to be inspired at some time or another. Find which way works best for you and go for it. Good luck!

Writing Tips #2

Always be on the look out for successful people’s techniques. By following tried and trued methods of success, you can position yourself positively.

  • Read a variety of topic-related blogs. Comment on the blogs and link back to yours.

  • Find motivational advice. A great blog is titled Zen Habits. This blog has over 38,000 subscribers and contains a wealth of information on a variety of subjects.

  • Write every day. This not only hones your skills, but keeps you motivated.

  • Develop daily habits. There is a great website titled Habitizer.com. This site allows members to keep track of their daily or weekly habits. Email reminders are available, if needed.

  • Read Productivity Secrets of Jerry Seinfeld. I found this link from Zen Habits. http://lifehacker.com/software/motivation/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret-281626.php

Staying motivated while writing can be difficult and boring. Try these methods to find some spark. Good luck!