On Licensing and the Importance of Copyright

Hi Folks,

This special post comes mid=week because, well, it’s important.

If you write at all, you need to understand the value of your short story or novel. You need to understand what you own—Copyright. Intellectual Property (IP)—and you need to understand that you own the right to license that IP.

As an aside, THIS is the big reason I’ve always been so frantic about getting the next short story or novel out. Because that one might be the one someone out there (film producer, toy manufacturer, game creator, etc.) is looking for.

On the other hand, my very first short story or novel might be the one they’re looking for, and me putting out more work and getting my name out there more widely might be what leads them to that short story or novel.

But I digress. Here’s what instigated this topic:

A writer who regularly reads my Daily Journal wrote to ask me about Dean Wesley Smith’s licensing Learn-Along. The exact question was, “What is it exactly?”

What the writer was really asking is “What is licensing, and for that matter, what is copyright?” Because frankly, if you don’t understand the value of licensing (and learning about licensing), you don’t understand copyright.

First, if you have the same question, please read Dean’s last two or three blog posts and the comments after them. You can find them at https://deanwesleysmmith.com.

Second, get a copy of The Copyright Handbook (NOLO). Or be prepared to never make big money on your writing.

But I’ll do my best to explain as briefly as possible:

Say you own a hotel with 100 rooms. When you “sell” a room for the night, you aren’t actually selling it. You’re licensing its use for one night. Get it? Tomorrow, that person moves out, but you still have that room to “sell” (license) again. Even if you “sell” 365 reservations on that room in one year, you still have it to sell (license, rent) in the future.

If you had actually “sold” that room, that would mean it now belongs to whomever you sold it to (like a condo) and you would have only 99 rooms still available in your hotel.

When you write a novel and “sell” it on Amazon or B&N or wherever, you aren’t actually selling it. You’re licensing it (they’re renting it) for one person to read. But ONLY to read.

And that’s where copyright and licensing come into play.

That reader isn’t allowed to make a movie of your story. He isn’t allowed to produce a line of action figures based on one of your characters. He isn’t allowed to create an electronic game based on your characters or your storyline. He isn’t allowed to do anything else to make money on your story.

Unless you sell him a license to do so. The cost of that license is up to you as the copyright owner. (I recommend you hire an IP attorney to help you negotiate. Type “IP Attorneys” and the name of your city into a search engine.)

The license to READ your book costs maybe $4.99. But would you sell a license to turn your book into a movie for only $4.99? (Um, no.) Would you sell a license to produce a line of action figures based on one of your characters or to create an electronic game based on your characters or your storyline for only $4.99?

If you would, I have some choice ocean-front (someday) property here in southeast Arizona you might be interested in buying.

The point is, you don’t sell your work outright, you license it. You can do that for your entire lifetime plus 70 years on each story or novel you’ve written.

UNLESS you go to a traditional publisher and sign away your copyright for that nice $5,000 advance. If you do that, then THEY own it and can license it for millions to the aforementioned film producers, toy companies and game creators et al.

Understand? THAT’S the value of IP. That’s why a traditional publisher can afford (and laugh all the way to the bank) to pay you a $5,000 advance for all rights to your book, and then never even publish it if they don’t want to. The IP (copyright) for that one book adds MILLIONS to the value of their company.

And that’s exactly why Dean’s Learn-Along is so important. If you’ve written even one short story, you are potentially sitting on millions of dollars in revenue. FOR ONE SHORT STORY.

And now you have the astounding opportunity for only two hundred lousy bucks (and really, only $50) to learn along with New York Times and USA Today bestseller Dean Wesley Smith—as he learns at the actual Las Vegas Licensing Expo—more about licensing opportunities: what they are, how to find them, how to entice them to find you, etc. ad nauseam.

But I get it. Writers are the best when it comes to devaluaing their own writing. If you think what you’ve written sucks, well, you believe you must be right. It must suck. But if you’ve written something you think is really GOOD… then you must be wrong because writers are the worst judge of their own work.

Do you really not see how ludicrous that is?

How good your work is isn’t up to you. It’s up to whomever reads it. It’s THEIR job, not yours, to judge your work.

And if one of those readers is a film producer or a toy manufacturer or a game creator and you aren’t up to date on copyright and licensing information, they WILL take you to the cleaners.

They might even pay you $5000 cash, right up front. Then turn around and make MILLIONS selling just the OPTION to film your one poor little short story. Maybe even the one that you thought sucked.

And before you ask, No, having more work “out there” doesn’t mean you’re any closer to (or farther away from) getting a movie deal or whatever. It just means there are more opportunities for them to find you and your work.

In Dean’s Learn Along, which costs only $200, he actually includes his Magic Bakery Classic Workshop (which explains copyright), a $150 value. So really, you’re attending the Las Vegas Licensing Expo (virtually) for only fifty bucks.

Seriously? You’re gonna pass that up? You can read the description and sign up here.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


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