Essential writing skills: how publishers credit photographs

Someone asked me the other day about how to credit photographs in publications. How do the professionals do it? And is there a standard?

This is MY photo. MINE. I TOOK IT. Bwahahahahaha. (This isn't how to credit a photo...)

This is MY photo. MINE. I TOOK IT. Bwahahahahaha. (This isn’t how to credit a photo…)

The answer depends on house style, the design of the pages and, to some extent, on the quantity of credit required. Terms of use imposed by the owner of the photo, or the licensing terms – such as Creative Commons – can also affect how the photo is credited. Read them. Respect them. Quantity of credit is often a major issue. Some photo libraries demand several lines of acknowledgements and references, frequently quite arcane. Others don’t. The quantity of that material helps determine where the credit goes when a book is being designed. That’s also true of material released on the internet under Creative Commons licensing. And to my mind, even if you’re using public domain material, it’s courteous to provide due credit. That said, there are three main ways publishers usually credit photographs in print books:

  1. Directly attached to the photo on the page – for example, in a small point-size font running up one side of the photo. It’s direct, up-front, and works well if the credit is short.
  2. Attached to the caption – this suits longer credit information and unmistakeably attaches the credit to the picture.
  3. In a separate page, typically as part of the back matter, with references identifying each photo through the book and crediting it. This is done often for page-design purposes in picture books – avoiding clutter – but also because it accommodates the very longest forms of credit.

These days, given the way things have swung to electronic formats, there’s also a fourth option:

  1. Hyperlinking – basically as (3), but a link associated with the photo jumps you to a separate page in the same document, which carries the credit. Care needed to ensure that, if the link fails, you aren’t breaching any terms of use.

Bottom line for the whole process is respecting the terms of use – and finding a way of presenting the credit information in a way that works for the design of the book. Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Essential writing skills: a few interesting publisher terms

Like all professions, publishing has its own terms – many of them plain English words that mean something different within the field. Today I thought I’d share a few of the more interesting ones.

  1. The way books should be sold, cover out (the best way to display them). I wrote this one...

    The way books should be sold, cover out (the best way to display them). I wrote this one…

    ‘Title’. This has two meanings in the publishing industry – (a) The identifiying name given to a book, in the sense we usually know it; but also (b) a particular book. For instance, if I’m contracted to write a new book, it’s referred to as my ‘new title’.  Publishers, similarly, don’t talk about the ‘number of books’ they release in a year – it’s ‘number of titles’. The distinction helps avoid confusion with ‘book’, which to the industry can also mean ‘stock unit’. I can always tell whether an author’s worked with the trad publishing industry for a while or not, because the term leaks into everyday author-speak.

  2. ‘Release to trade’. This is when a new title is made available to the market. It differs from ‘launch’, which refers to a special social event designed to mark that release. Outside the publishing industry, the terms ‘launch’ and ‘release’ are often used interchangeably to mean a title’s on the market, but that’s seldom done within it.
  3. ‘List’. This refers not just to the catalogue of titles that a publisher has available, but by implication also to its nature – to the style of title the publisher seeks to produce and be identified with. It can also refer to an author’s own personal catalogue of titles.
  4. ‘Back list’. The prior catalogue of titles that a publisher has issued, but which may not necessarily be available. Authors can have back-lists too (mine is in process of being re-issued, heh heh heh).
  5. ‘Imprint’. This is the brand under which a book is issued. Many of the larger publishing houses issue under several imprints, each usually associated with a specific sub-brand. Penguin, for example, always issued generally under its house brand; but also into more specialist markets as Puffin (kids), Pelican (intellectual) and Allen Lane (elite).
  6. ‘Sale or return’. This refers to the practise of a publisher lending their stock to trade. If the books don’t sell, they’re returned to the publisher, hopefully undamaged. Authors, who are at the bottom of the financial food chain, usually get a proportion of royalties withheld – by contract – as the publisher hedges against too many copies coming back. While it means publishers can get mountains of books physically on sale inside bookstores, to my mind all it really does is transfer the risk of a bad stocking decision by a bookstore back on to the publisher (and, of course, the author).

There are many other terms, often technically associated with the editorial and production process. More of them anon. Do you have any curious publishing terms you’d like to share, or which you’ve encountered? Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

In which I discover someone’s selling a book of mine for $4896.01

The other day I was blown away to discover someone was trying to sell one of my books, new on Amazon, for $4896.01. Plus shipping.

Yes, it's a four-figure sum for one of my books. Amazing. Click to enlarge.

Yes, it’s a four-figure sum for one of my books. Amazing. Click to enlarge.

The Reed Illustrated History of New Zealand has been out of print nearly a decade, and I’m not sure where the vendor got their stock from. I don’t see a cent for it, of course – I’ll have fielded the $1.50 royalty (less tax and expenses) when it was originally sold. Thing is, I’ve got a couple of copies myself, new, and I’ll happily undercut that vendor. Let’s say $US4895. I’ll even throw in the shipping, free. Call me.

I discovered this while sorting out my Amazon author page. It was time. I’ve got an awful lot going on just now. My book Man Of Secrets was released by Penguin Random House at the end of January, and last week the first in a series of reissues from my military-historical back list became available. Next week my book The New Zealand Wars (Libro International 2014) will be released in print for the North American market. And I’m also contributing to an Australian science-fiction compilation, which I expect will be published later this year.

So it’s all happening, and I thought I’d better get my own online arrangements in order. Starting with my Amazon author page. Check it out for yourself.

My Amazon author page. Click to check it out.

My Amazon author page. Click to check it out.

Some authors are known for one ‘thing’ – a specific non-fiction subject or a fiction genre, and eyebrows get raised if they do something else. I’ve never felt limited by such things. My work breaks into three categories: (a) military-historical non-fiction; (b) social-historical non-fiction; and (c) fiction. I’ve negotiated a partial re-release of my back-list in (a), but new stuff is primarily (b) and (c).

I’ve also set up a Facebook author page – which I cordially invite you to ‘like’, if you haven’t already. It’ll be populated with the latest news and other stuff related to what I’m doing – or what I find interesting.

Watch those spaces. And this one.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

‘Kiwi Air Power’ – out now, and it’s the best launch party e-v-a-h!

There ain’t nothing like the sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin thundering overhead as you sip your morning coffee.

I’m on my annual pilgrimage to the Art Deco weekend in Napier, New Zealand; a light-hearted nod to the styles of the 1930s and early 1940s. And its hardware. This was the age when Britain’s Supermarine Spitfire and the North American Mustang reigned supreme in Europe’s skies on the back of genius design, heroic pilots – and their Merlin power-plants.

This weekend, they’re supreme in my skies – flying over residential Napier doing aerobatics, which is super-cool. And from my perspective that’s apt, because this is the moment Intruder Books are re-releasing my original military aviation title, Kiwi Air Power.

Wright - Kiwi Air Power 450 pxKiwi Air Power was originally published in 1998, but it’s been out of print for fifteen years, and I’m delighted that Intruder have been able to bring it to a new audience. The main thrust of the book is the Second World War and its long-duration scion, the Cold War. And you can get Kiwi Air Power for Kindle right now. If you haven’t got a Kindle, you can get a Kindle reader for PC or whatever device you own, here.

Kiwi Air Power is the first of a series of re-releases from my military-historical back list, and the REAL launch party, the one you’ll all share, will happen when Intruder publish the second title from my back list. Watch this space.

As for the amazing Hollywood-style deco age fantasy I’m in the middle of? It’s still unfolding – watch this space, and check my Facebook author page for pictures – if you haven’t ‘liked’ already, the widget’s in the right hand column.

But enough from me. I’m back to the deco-age Hollywood magic. And that classic Merlin sound. Woah!

Catch you soon.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Essential writing skills: why commas count when you write

Commas count when you write. Really. Franz Kafka thought he could do without them. But for the rest of us, commas are essential. Look at it this way. If I said to my wife, “I bought a new camera bag,” she’d be happy, whereas if I said “I bought a new camera, bag,” she might take it entirely the wrong way.

Photo I took of some essential writing fuel I was about to consume...

Photo I took of some essential writing fuel I was about to consume…

Some writers, beginning writers especially, wrestle over commas – like, where does the comma actually go? In fact, they are obvious in a well-written sentence. The confusion emerges when the sentence hasn’t been structured properly and the phrasing isn’t clearly delineated. That’s a matter of practise.

Other writers mistake the definition of single-word phrases and mistakenly use commas to bracket qualifying adjectives or adverbs.

You know. Single, qualifying, adjectives or adverbs. I once read a whole book filled with that particular construction. Ouch. (MS Word knows. It awarded my offending sentence a Wiggly Green Underline when I wrote it).

Typically, a phrase represents a single idea. It can be as short as a single verb or conjunction, or as long as half a dozen words. If you find a phrase extending much beyond that, look at the styling – there is a risk of convolutions that confuse readers. You might want to consider re-phrasing the sentence.

Commas can also string long sentences together. Sometimes it’s handy to add one in conjunction with the word ‘and’ to mark the final phrase of a sentence. This is the ‘Oxford Comma’ in honour of its origins with Oxford University Press, though I believe it’s also known as a Harvard Comma and Serial Comma.

So what’s the difference between a comma and its two cousins, the colon and semicolon? More soon…

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Kiwi Air Power: cover reveal and a sneak preview!

Here’s the cover of my book Kiwi Air Power, my history of New Zealand’s military aviation to the end of the Cold War, which is being republished as No. 1 in a new military series by Intruder Books.

Wright - Kiwi Air Power 450 pxYou can get Kiwi Air Power for Kindle right now – it’s being officially launched next week, but it’s already been released to trade and is for sale on Amazon if you want to buy ahead of the launch (sssh).

If you haven’t got a Kindle, you can get a Kindle reader for PC or whatever device you own, here.

The inspiration for the new edition cover is a photo I took last year as an RNZAF UH-1D Iroquois did some truly spectacular aerobatics over my head. Which sums up how I feel about this release. Kiwi Air Power was originally published in a case-bound edition by Reed NZ Ltd in 1998, but it’s been out of print for fifteen years. Now you can buy Kiwi Air Power on Kindle – and it’s the first release in a series that’s going to bring selected titles from my military-historical back-list to the market – and at reasonable prices – for the first time in years.

They’re also being published, initially, as e-books, meaning they’ll be available for readers anywhere in the world with a click. Reversing the old order of release embraces all the change that’s been sweeping the industry. And that’s super cool.

I’ve got other writing news soon, about my forward list, which isn’t military or non-fiction, and that is a return to my roots as a writer. Those roots are what made it possible for me to more easily find and infuse human truths into the non-fiction for which my academic work has been recognised.

Watch this space.

And on top of that, I figure when the next book in the New Zealand Military History series comes out – a re-release of my First World War title Western Front – I should throw an online party. What do you say?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

Essential writing skills: stripping out the language

One of the best ways to make your fiction writing compelling is to leave gaps that the reader then has to work to fill. This draws them deeper into your material.

Wright_Typewriter2The question is what to leave out. And it seems to me that a lot can be done by dropping speech identifiers and the adverbs that get added around them. Instead of ‘he said’, ‘she said’, try not identifying speakers at all. It has to be done judiciously, but the context and individual ‘voice’ of a speaker should be sufficient to identify who’s speaking, most of the time.

Similarly, the tone of words chosen for them to speak should also show the emotion behind it – you shouldn’t have to tell the reader; they should pick it up from the speaker’s words, if necessary by adding a couple of clues into the writing.

Check this out (I can write this pastiche because Conan Doyle’s pre-1925 work was declared public domain):

Great Scott, Holmes!’ Watson said forcefully ‘how the devil did you know that?’
‘My dear Watson, it was an elementary deduction,’ Holmes replied smoothly.
‘How so?’ asked Watson quizzically.

The identifiers and most of the adverbs are unnecessary. We know Watson spoke forcefully from the words, and we know he was puzzled, so we don’t have to spell it out. Each speaker also named the other – a trick Conan Doyle used, himself, to reduce the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ problem. So it will work perfectly without the identifiers and adverbs:

‘Great Scott, Holmes, how the devil did you know that?’
‘My dear Watson, it was an elementary deduction.’
‘How so?’

See what I mean? The writing is smoother, the pace works better – and it’s shorter. Word count, remember, isn’t a target – it’s a tool. Of course, don’t just listen to me. Go read Hemingway.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015