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Writing Books/Writing a book with outside submissions


I have two ideas for books that involve others contributing their stories.  This would be my first attempt at writing/putting together information in a book format.  How do I arrange an agreement with others to use their stories?  Do I pay them for their stories or offer a chance to win $ if their story is chosen?  The book would be offering advice to teens and the other has to do with examples of how teens can change their communities.  I have no idea where to start.  Any suggestions?

Dear Kerrie:

Before you do anything, get to know the legal ramifications of acquiring the works of others. Iím not an attorney, but I have been a contributor to several books that are compilations of stories, as yours will be. Each time editors choose my work, they send me a contract that spells out what rights they are acquiring and for what payment. A good attorney will probably explain why there has to be some exchange of value (even if itís simply a free copy of the book), for you to acquire the rights to the works of others. You may ask Adams Media, the publisher of the Cup of Comfort series for its standard contract or see if you can find one online. Check with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in your state and see if that organization has any contracts or suggestions that can help. Talk to friends who have sold works to anthologies and see what contracts they signed.

Once you have a typical contract, you can probably use it to formulate your own, if you don't want to use an attorney. Again, although Iím not an attorney, I don't think you can acquire rights to anything on the chance that the writer merely might win money. Something of value must be given (or paid) for the contract to be legal, or at least thatís what I remember from business law 101 back in the 1960s.

After you know what you will offer and how, you can send a call for submissions out to every writers group and newsletter for writers you can find on the Internet. List the call for entries with and freelance sites, too. See other calls for entries for Chicken Soup, Cup of Comfort, and other similar anthologies to see what wording to use. If you can keep the call for entries short and refer readers to a Web site that explains much more, you're more likely to get the request published in more places, because most newsletters want short articles, almost blurbs, with a link to more information. In addition, the Web site tends to make the enterprise look more legitimate.

You'll still have much to learn about organizing, choosing, editing, designing, and publishing, so you have a big task ahead of you, but itís been a successful one for many. Let me know if you need an editor; itís what I do full-time. See my Web site for more information.

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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