By Keith D. Young
I was born in 1976 and outside of “Blaxploitation” movies, there were no African American action or science fiction stars. My favorite movies included Tron, Superman, The Last Star Fighter, and Dune. The heroes in those movies had super powers, super intelligence, and had to dig deep to overcome extra-ordinarily difficult situations, often at great personal cost. It is worth noting here that the stars of these movies were all Caucasian males, and none of them looked like me. Hell, in most of the movies with a futuristic theme there was not even a Black person cast as an extra! As if, as Richard Pryor so eloquently put it, white people were not expecting us to be in the future.
It is no secret that many action, fantasy and science fiction movies contain ancient magical and mythological elements incorporated into the fabric of their stories; to see titans, gods, goddesses and fairies as characters in modern day cinema is a fairly commonplace occurrence – with one caveat, these characters almost never appear in movies written or directed by Blacks, or with an all Black cast.
When it comes to Black cinema we have few choices for our movie going pleasure. We have comedies, action comedies, the all important “Jesus Will Fix It” film and “Hot Ghetto Mess Drama,” (usually not the good kind), and last but not least is the “Catharsis Drama” – movies about profound suffering and abuse and how the characters where able to somehow carry on after being both victimized and traumatized. Few Black writers explore the realm of science fiction, fantasy, or create movies with a magical or mythological theme.
To add levels of depth and subtle complexity to their stories, adept writers and directors are able to use the archetypical and symbolic elements of the heroes and heroines of ancient mythological stories and folk and fairy tales. Many times these elements are used so skillfully as to be hardly recognized by the majority of the movie going public, but to the trained eye, these elements are obvious. However it does take a study of classical literature, world mythology and symbology in order to use these elements with any level of effectiveness. Study that many burgeoning African American film makers seem all too willing to ignore in their movie making process, as these elements are often sorely lacking in the plots and storylines of Black cinema.
But it seems like all that is changing with Will and Jaden Smith’s Sci-Fi epic “After Earth”. The After Earth screenplay was written by Gary Whitta and M. Night Shyamalan, with the story by Will Smith, tells the type of story that Black entertainment hasn’t seen the likes of in a very, very long time.
Critics dislike this movie because they know what Mr. Smith is trying to accomplish with this type of movie, and they don’t like it. While Smith’s traditional audience may be slow to co-sign this movie for two reasons, one is they are not used to seeing African Americans play these types of roles, (although they will pay top dollar to watch Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reaves play these roles over and over again,) and two, they don’t really understand the themes portrayed in this movie due to the fact that as a culture, we were stripped of our initiatory practices and our stories, and as a result we are used to seeing these types of roles played by White or Asian actors and actresses. Our legends and folklore have been demonized through religion and western culture, and so it seems we shun the magical and fantastical images of ourselves as sorcerers, demigods and heroes.
Below I will outline various elements of the movie “After Earth” that make this movie worth seeing over and over again. Fathers, if you have been looking for a movie to take your sons to that will help you to begin a profound conversation about rites of passage and growing into a man, you’ll want to check this out.
!!!SPOILER ALERT!!! – We are going to be discussing the story and plotline from this movie and by doing so parts of the actual story are going to be revealed. If you don’t want to spoil the movie before you’ve seen it, STOP NOW, and then come back after you’ve seen it to participate in this analysis.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the theme of initiation that runs throughout “After Earth”.
Initiation was important in indigenous tribes because it was a system by which the young boys and girls of a given culture or tribe were guided through in order to educate, prepare and move them through the phase of childhood into adulthood and all the attendant rites and responsibilities which adulthood entailed.
Initiation always begins with education and training, and in the movie we begin with the main character training with his military academy class. Readers will take note that cadets in the military go through a process of initiation designed to strip them of their life as a civilian to remold them as a soldier, and make no mistake, this system of initiation was taken from the ancient indigenous cultures of Africa and passed down through other cultures and societies throughout the world.
Training involves physical and mental exercise and tests designed to give initiates/cadets control over their bodies, their emotions and their minds.
It is at this point in the movie that we find that young Kitai, while exhibiting impressive physical abilities is lacking in emotional and mental control, issues which he will be forced to deal with later on in the movie.
Below is an outline of initiatory steps as experienced by the people of many African/Native/Indigenous cultures and portrayed in “After Earth”
- Trek Through Nature in Solitude With a Mission to Complete.
- Initiate Versus Nature, Beasts, and Self (FEAR).
- Initiate must face and overcome several trials in order to reach their goal (manhood).
- Endurance (Breathing linked to inhalers).
- Initiate must protect and ration limited amount of supplies, ie; food, water, medical.
- Handling confrontation with potential danger.
- Initiate must make a connection to the spirit world.
- Initiate learns to master him or herself and to conquer fear.
It is worth noting here that Kitai failed his first encounter with danger (the monkeys)spectacularly! His Father told him to take control of his Power and watch what he creates. Kitai could not control his fear and anxiety and thus created a scenario where his life was in danger and forcing him to flee from the confrontation he created out of fear. In initiation, this is to be expected. The initiate must fail in order to understand what can result from recklessness and unchecked fear.
This same scenario played itself out in the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke was sent into the “Cave of Darkness” by Yoda. Luke took FEAR into the cave with him and was confronted by it in the form of his Father, Darth Vader – though this Vader was purely a creation of Luke’s fearful thoughts.
- Facing medical emergency – poisoning by river leach and self administration of anti-venom.
- Surviving the elements – finding thermal heat vents and shelter to keep warm during cold spells.
- Defying Authority or “The System” in order to do what is right.
- Leap of Faith – Jumping off a cliff in the hopes that his brash act will carry him to his goal.
- Surviving a predator – The Raptor or Hawk representing Heru*
- Assisting Mother Nature to defend her children – fighting for the lives of the baby hawks against the attacks of the feline predators.
- Divine Aid – Initiate is pushed to his physical limits and thus transcends and is able to make contact with the spirit world where he is able to make peace with his dead sister and is given the aid and the protection of his spirit totem, the hawk.
- Initiate reaches physical goal but must still go higher in order to reconnect spiritually with his Father – Kitai finds the beacon however it does not send the signal. Out of anger and frustration he hears the spiritual voice of his Father telling him to take a knee, (lower his physical nature so that he may listen to his higher “spirit” nature) - his father then tells him that he must go higher, to the top of a nearby mountain so that he can send their beacon signal (plea for assistance) into the heavens.
- Initiate must face and overcome his fear – symbolized by the “Ursa” monster. Note here that “Ursa” is another name for a Bear which in some native tribes had to be faced and overcome by the young teens of the tribe in order for them to become men.
- Initiate has to enter the Cave of Darkness/Fear. It is here that the monster reveals itself to the initiate and must be fought to the death.
- Initiate is hurled into the abyss and must experience death. This death is not a physical one usually, but represents the death of the childish nature of the boy and the birth of the man. Fear, doubt and disbelief dies here , and the man, the warrior is able to be born. Initiate is put in mortal danger in order to force a change of mind and heart.
- Upon reaching the mountaintop, the initiate is able to completely conquer himself and as a result his own fear and is thus able to destroy the monster and send a beacon into the heavens to receive a rescue and a return to his heavenly home.
- By completing his task, the initiate is able to return home and redeem (save) his Father who was symbolically dead and in the underworld or in a deep soul sleep from which only the sons sacrifice could save him. **
The makers of “After Earth” also make use of archetypes to help them tell their story. According to the Concise Encyclopedia an “archetype” is “Primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered universal. Literary critics adopted the term from Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. Because archetypes originate in pre-logical thought, they are held to evoke startlingly similar feelings in reader and author. Examples of archetypal symbols include the snake, whale, eagle, and vulture. An archetypal theme is the passage from innocence to experience; archetypal characters include the blood brother, rebel, wise grandparent, and prostitute with a heart of gold.”
Some of the archetypes that “After Earth” makes use of include, the “Father,” wise and valiant, yet fundamentally separated from his son, due to some perceived weakness or character flaw within the Son. The Son has let his Father down in a profound way, which has caused emotional and physical detachment.
The archetype of the “Son/Sun” in movies has the son following in his Father’s footsteps, while at the same time trying to make his own mark. He loves his Father but is resentful of him because he knows that he has fallen short of his Father’s expectations and/or achievements and he yearns to be like his Father and even to surpass him, in order to gain his love and respect. It is the Son’s job ultimately to redeem or save his Father, which makes him a suitable replacement for his Father, and which earns him the right to become a Father in his own right.
The steps that the Father and Son archetype takes in the movie “After Earth” are listed below.
- Son in search of Father
- Son fails to achieve an expected goal, and is judged by Father to be a failure. In After Earth this is unspoken, though in some stories the Father tells the Son outright that he is a failure.
- Father and Son embark on journey to attempt to mend the rift between them. (This is a mask for the beginning of the initiatory journey.)
- Father and Son encounter disaster, which only the two of them survive, leaving the Father severely wounded and having to rely on the Son for salvation.
- Father demands absolute obedience and adherence to his rules and commands as he does not fully trust the mental and physical abilities of the Son.
- Son is sent out to face the elements and enemies alone, but with the “spiritual guidance” of the Father. In After Earth, the spiritual guidance of the Father is represented by the com-link that keeps them in voice communication, and the “All Seeing Eyes” or cameras that the Father deploys in order to observe his Son’s progress and to watch out for danger.
- Son VS Father – The Son begins to question his Father’s authority when his Father exhibits a lack of faith that the Son can accomplish his goals. This is perhaps the MOST important part of the movie when Kitai chooses to outright disobey the direct order of his Father. The lesson is this: when authority is wrong or becomes oppressive, it must be disobeyed by the hero in order for justice to be done.
- Son Disobeys Father and is Cutoff, Cast Out or Cast Down. Being cut off from communication with the Father is symbolic of being cast down from heaven, which was shown literally as Kitai took a leap off the top of a waterfall in disobedience to his Father’s order that he return home. This event caused his communication link to his Father to be broken, leaving the Son alone and without guidance at a critical stage of the mission/initiation.
- Son Forced to Face Enemy (FEAR) Alone – In the movie fear is represented by the Ursa, which is a monster that tracks its enemies through pheromones released when its prey is afraid. This creature can literally smell your fear. It is only when the Son has mastered himself that he can overcome the fear inside him, which the Ursa beast in the movie symbolizes.
- Son Redeems (SAVES) Father, Returns Home a Man, Understands and Becomes Father.
The Heru Mythos
Every hero story you have ever read or saw played out on the silver screen is based on the mythos of Heru. Heru was an ancient African deity or Neter (force or aspect of nature) and the template for all good kings. You can read about his exploits in “The Passion of Osiris (Ausar)” and “A Tale of Two Brothers”. These tales come down to us from the land of ancient Kemet, now called Egypt.
In the myth Heru’s Father Ausar (Osiris) is betrayed and murdered by his jealous brother Set. Ausar is resurrected as the spiritual ruler of the underworld or afterlife. As a ruler, he is perpetually made to sit on a throne and cast his judgment on those who have recently passed on. [This is shown symbolically as Kitai’s Father Cipher was stuck in the chair inside the ship and using the ships camera’s (spiritual eyes) and the comm. Link (spiritual communication) to watch over and provide guidance to Kitai]
This throne motif is important as it was foreshadowed in “After Earth” by the soldier in the wheelchair, who approached the General and his Son. Upon approaching the General, the soldier declared that the General had saved his life and asked to be “stood up,” or in Biblical terms, “made upright”, by his companions so that he could make a proper salute to his hero (savior). This theme would play itself out again as the General would make the request “stand me up”, so that he could salute his son. This symbol represents the son redeeming or saving his Father.
Getting back to the mythos of Heru… after his father Ausar (Osiris) is murdered and his brother takes over the kingdom of Kemet, it becomes the mission of Heru and is Mother Auset (Isis) to get Heru on the throne as the rightful ruler of the land. Heru has to go through years of training under the auspices of his Mother Auset, His Aunt Nebhet (Nephtys) and the diminutive Bes who is the Neter of child birth, happiness and war. It is Bes who trains Heru to be a warrior. In the movie Star Wars Yoda played the part of the trainer (Bes) to Luke Skywalker (Heru).
The symbol of Heru was the Hawk. He was often depicted with wings and having the head or mask of a hawk. In the movie After Earth we see the relationship of the Hero to the Hawk in the “Leap of Faith” sequence where the hawk chases Kitai down and then carries him off to her nest to be food for her baby chicks. Kitai awakes while being nibbled on by the newborn chicks, but finds that the hawk nest is under attack by feline predators intent on eating the chicks. Kitai helps the hawk to defend the nest but fails to keep the predators from killing all of the baby birds.
The hawk mourns the loss of her baby chicks with a screech of rage and begins to follow Kitai in the air, which seems menacing in the beginning, but we find out later that the Hawk has bonded with Kitai and she later drags him to safety and protects him from the cold by using her own body heat to keep him from freezing. This is an obvious symbol of Kitai’s mythic relationship to Heru the Neter** of the Sun and the Sky… the original sky – walker.
After many contentious battles and adventures, Heru, with the help of his Mother would go on to gain rulership of the land of Kemet (Egypt) and thereby redeem his Father Ausar (Osirus).
It is important that you know that the story of Ausar (Osiris) and Heru (Horus) has been told and retold across the world and can be found in many variations, the names and characters and even some of the circumstances may change, but the root of the story remains the same. It is the duty of the Son to succeed his Father as ruler of the land or EARTH, but only AFTER he has proven himself worthy to do so. So you can see that the movie After Earth has a lot more depth to it than meets the casual eye.
There are many other examples of the mythological and archetypal symbolism that are incorporated into the movie After Earth that I was not able to touch on like the Mother as the “Queen of Heaven,” or the Sister as the “Spiritual Guardian” of her Brother. This movie is chock full of all the elements that make a great story and I for one feel that the story of After Earth was masterfully told. I’m looking forward to more of this type of movie from not only Will Smith and crew, but from other Black film-makers as well.
*Also known as Horus, Heru wan an ancient Kemetic (Egyptian) Neter (Deity) of the Sun and Sky, his symbol was the hawk. Heru was often depicted with the head of a hawk and the body of a man.
**Kitai’s Father Cipher being trapped in the innards of a spaceship evokes the symbolism of Jonah in the belly of the fish as well as the Ausarian (Osiris) mythos of Ausar sitting on a throne and providing spiritual guidance to Heru from the spirit world.
*** Neter means aspect of nature or divine nature. Neter has been translated as God and Goddess.
All rights reserved. Copyright 2013 Keith D. Young | www.AfroPerspectives.com
On June 8, 2013 the Motown Writer’s Network along with Scribblers, Screamers, and other Wordslingers Magazine will conduct its regular monthly meeting around the theme, “Real Men Write”.
“Real Men Write”, is an effort to introduce more people to the contributions African American men have made to the literary community.
The June meeting will feature approximately six African American male authors who will talk about their books, give insight into the reasons they started writing, and actively reach out to young people in the community with the hope of encouraging them to follow in their footsteps.
Barnes and Noble Café at Wayne State Campus on Warren and Cass will be the site for this great event. It will start promptly at 10 a.m. If you have a young man in your life that you want to expose to the literary arts, bring him on this day! This will be every young man’s opportunity to see and talk to some real men about what they love…Writing. For more information, check out the link to the PSA here: http://www.sswmagazine.com/
Please spread the word! Use hashtag #RMW when mentioning this event on your Twitter or Facebook. Scribblers, Screamers, and other Wordslingers Magazine and the Motown Writers Network are looking forward to seeing you!!!!
Motown Writers Network
I had the honor of speaking at our last Motown Writer’s Network Meetup on the subject of Blogging. I love talking about Blogging! Blogging is the perfect combination of entertainment, literature, and journalism. That loud groan you hear off in the distance, is the disdain of professional journalists with my mention of Blogging and journalism in the same sentence.
Many journalists resent bloggers. Journalists spend years in college studying Journalism and Media Arts. They feel Bloggers haven’t earned the knowledge necessary to write a proper article. One journalist went as far as to say that “Bloggers do no more than sit at a computer in their underwear spewing incoherent opinions”. If I were in my underwear, I thank God I am in decent enough shape that I won’t look so bad. I understand however, Print journalism is dying. Newspapers are shedding jobs and the years spent honing their craft seem to be in vain. A gifted writer with access to the internet can command a nice initial following. Good Blogging however, gives one a sustained following. I will give you 3 sure-fire tips to Good Blogging.
1) Do the Research! It is important that you research your topics. Even if you are doing book reviews, you want to look up the author’s bio and or other works by that author. Not only does research give you excellent material for your Blog, It shows your readers that you are knowledgeable about your subject. Keeping a file on your computer with your research in it is extremely helpful and time-saving!
2) Keep slang to a minimum and avoid swear words! This is the biggest issue people have with Bloggers. Your blog has to look professional and easy to comprehend. I have a book that I refer to and has helped me a lot! That book is called “My Grammar and I… Or Should That Be Me? : How to Speak and Write It Right” by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines. However, if your target audience likes swear words, then fire away. Just take note that you audience will be severely limited.
3) Be open minded and reflect that in your writing. Readers love blogs that can pose both sides of an argument. Even if you are doing a book review and you hate the book, try to find at least one thing you like about it. This helps you avoid what one of my friends refer to as being “Preachy”. Flexibility will help you get more readers faster than being inflexible or polarizing.
These are the three main points that have helped me in building Hollaifyouhearme.com into a well respected and often read blog. In fact, I am a current member of the Detroit Chapter of National Association of Black Journalists and have opened their eyes to the power of a good blog! I haven’t won over everybody but I hope that with great blogs from great bloggers, it can be done. On behalf of the Motown Writers Network, I wish you all… Good Blogging!
Do you regard writing as heaven and getting your work known as hell?
If so, I’m guessing that you’re an introvert. Introverts love being alone, neck-deep in work projects they have initiated. Solitary passions feed their soul most, and they become cranky if they don’t get enough quality time to themselves.
Introverts usually shy away from selling and calling attention to themselves. They dread or despise small talk with strangers. In a large group, they look for ways to escape or to create an oasis of comfort with just one or two others.
If you recognize your personality in the previous paragraphs, you probably look upon marketing your work as something alien, exhausting and hard. Well, cheer up. If you approach marketing in a “no rules” spirit, it can feel as comfortable as cooking a meal with friends, singing in the shower or exploring trails that don’t seem to have been trod in years.
You see, society teaches us that promoting yourself is a kind of performing, it is done in public and those with the gift of gab do it best. However, each of those statements is untrue. Let’s take them in reverse order.
In the early 1990s, I teamed up to offer business writing seminars with a friend who could fearlessly schmooze with anyone, on the phone or in person. The idea was that she would land clients and I would serve as the back-office person, in charge of details. We would both deliver the seminars.
After a year or two, though, when I analyzed who was actually responsible for bringing business in the door, I discovered that I was far more effective than she was. My quiet skills of precise writing, creative positioning and connecting with participants in the small adult education classes I regularly taught far outperformed her ability to mouth off like a salesperson.
Promotion doesn’t necessarily take place in public. Putting together a postcard, a press release or a newsletter to send out, or a blog piece to post is something you do in private. Talking to a reporter on the phone, in your writing office or even in a studio under spotlights isn’t like standing on a stage or amidst a crowd at a party, either.
And last, promoting yourself actually works best when you stay true to your values, your attitudes and your personality. Fans of your work won’t want you to pretend you’re brazen when you’re shy or that you’re a city sophisticate when you feel most at home on your ranch in Big Sky country (or vice versa).
So I encourage you to reject the myth that marketing your work requires you to put on a mask, to steel yourself to play a role or to engage in unpleasant tasks. Build an audience your way.
Toss out the “shoulds” dictated by so-called experts and instead, start by listing at least three things related to getting the word out about your work that you enjoy doing. For example, you may love writing answers to questions on writing forums. You may like designing stuffed creatures who resemble your novel’s characters. You may find it exhilarating to coach others who are beginners at their craft compared to you. All these things are activities that can become part of your unique marketing plan.
In addition, stretch yourself and try some promotional activity that’s not on that list. You may be shocked to see how readily you take to something you mistakenly thought you couldn’t handle. For instance, I grew up thinking I was hopeless at public speaking. But when it came to commentaries I had written and then edited with a skilled producer, I was able to deliver them on National Public Radio. It turned out to be one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. And weirdly, even though those commentaries had nothing to do with my primary business activities at the time, they promoted me effectively.
Again, pay no attention to the “musts” in anyone else’s marketing system. Someone says you have to blog to be successful? I don’t blog. Someone says you have to do a book tour? Noted recluse Thomas Pynchon never does. Discover what works for you.
A bookworm as a child, Marcia Yudkin grew up to discover she had a surprising talent for creative marketing. She’s the author of more than a dozen books, including 6 Steps to Free Publicity, now in its third edition, and Meatier Marketing Copy. She mentors introverts so they discover their uniquely powerful branding and most comfortable marketing strategies, and helps them create a promotional presence that attracts the kind of clients who make them happiest.
To learn more about the strengths and preferences of introverts, download her free Marketing for Introverts audio manifesto: http://www.yudkin.com/introverts.htm
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Marcia_Yudkin
You love a poem you saw on the Internet and want to quote it in your book. But is that plagiarism? You want to quote a passage in a book but you’re not sure whether you need to ask permission or not. What counts as fair use and when do you need permission to use a copyrighted work?
All the time I see people stealing from other people on the Internet by reposting their articles, stories, or photographs. Before you post anyone else’s information on your website or use it in your book, you need to get permission. Yes, there are such things as public domain and fair use, but it’s always best to be safe regardless. Before you decide to use something that belongs to someone else and risk angering that person and facing a potential lawsuit, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Do I really need this piece of information, poem, cartoon, or whatever it is? Will my book or website be okay without it?
2. Is this item in the public domain?
3. If it’s not in the public domain, can I use part of it under the fair use laws?
4. Can I rewrite or reword the work and then reprint it?
5. Is giving credit enough?
Let’s look at each of these questions in detail.
Do I really need this piece of information? Will my book or website be okay without it?
I can almost guarantee that in every situation the information, document, poem, cartoon, or whatever it is, is something you can do without. Why use someone else’s property to illustrate your own? Hire your own cartoonist, artist, or write your own poem. If you can’t do that, then look for one in the public domain. If you, however, absolutely want to include something that is copyrighted, then be prepared to pay for it. You will need to contact the owner or his or her heir for permission, and you will doubtless have to sign some sort of document promising you will only use it as you are given permission to do so. You will also usually have to pay to use it, especially if it is for commercial purposes, such as in a book you plan to sell, and you’ll usually pay dear for it-in the hundreds of dollars or more is not uncommon. At that price, do you really need to include it in your book or on your website?
Is this item in the public domain?
Just what constitutes public domain? It varies by country and by the kind of work it is. Today for authors, copyright in the United States is for life plus 70 years, so if I were to die tomorrow, it being the year 2012, anything I write would be copyrighted until 2082. However, copyright laws were less stringent in the past so some works may have shorter copyrights that have expired. As a rule, if an author or artist has been dead since 1941 or earlier, you’re probably safe, but it still never hurts to investigate. Furthermore, while an old work like “Don Quixote” may be in the public domain, that doesn’t mean a modern translation of it is.
What counts as fair use?
If a work is not in the public domain, a lot of the time you can still use a small part of it if appropriate, such as a quote or passage, usually not to exceed a page. That said, a short work like a poem cannot be used in its entirety despite its short length because you will be using the whole work, but you might be able to quote a verse or stanza from it. Even so, in such cases it is best to play it safe and ask for permission to quote from the work in your book or on your website. What constitutes fair use depends on many circumstances including: the purpose of its usage, whether it is commercial or charitable, whether the quote is used to promote the work such as in a book review, or whether your use of it will harm sales of someone else’s book because you provide too much information from it.
To go direct to the source, here is what the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites as examples of fair use:
“quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” (source: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html )
There are always fine lines that exist in using someone else’s work. Even if you are sure it falls under fair use laws, if it’s not in the public domain, it’s best to ask for permission to use the work, and if that seems impractical, it is always best to consult an attorney.
Can I rewrite or reword the work and then reprint it?
You may paraphrase a work by giving a summary of a basic idea, provided you give credit to the source, but you may never rewrite someone else’s work and pass it off as your own, or even as theirs when it is rewritten. And even when you paraphrase an idea, it is still someone else’s idea (intellectual property) so you must give credit where it is due.
Is giving credit enough?
No, it’s not enough to give credit. You need permission to reprint as well, unless as noted above, it is in the public domain. You must always give credit to the owner, whether it be an author, publication, artist, another website, etc. It is usually sufficient to state who is the original creator or copyright holder of the work. For a poem, provide the title and the author’s name. For a passage from a book, you can state, “George Smith states in his book ‘My Brilliant Ideas,’ that:” Depending on your own book or website, you may want to consult a style manual for how best to cite a source. “The Chicago Manual of Style” is the preferred style manual to use for most books, although others exist depending on the kind of book you are writing, such as the “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” (APA style) or the “Christian Writers Manual of Style.” If you do receive permission to reproduce copyrighted material, make sure you ask the owner how you are to cite that permission to reprint the work.
Always find out if a work is copyrighted and always give credit where it is due. Then you will avoid issues of fair use violation, copyright infringements, and plagiarism that can later come back to haunt you.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, http://www.readerviews.com, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Irene_Watson
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Books have a short shelf-life. Most bookstores will only keep a book on the shelf for a few months; if it doesn’t sell well by then, they send it back to the publisher. With a million-plus new titles being printed every year, it’s hard to make a book competitive.
That said, giving up after three or six months on trying to promote a book can be a big mistake. Your book’s life has only just begun at that point. It takes time for people to read a book and begin to spread the word about it. Many a book has not sold well its first year, but then suddenly, it becomes extremely popular, so don’t give up on a book’s promotion just because it’s a few years old. Promoting an older book may turn out to be rewarding, provided you do it honestly. Here are some mistakes to avoid in trying to get new readers for your older title.
Copyright Date:One mistake authors make in trying to promote an old book is to give it a new copyright date. For example, if a book were first printed in 2004, an author might reprint it with a 2012 copyright date to pretend it is a new book. It is dishonest to pretend a book is new when it is not. Instead, the copyright should remain the same and it should be listed as a second (or later) printing in the current year. Honesty is always the best policy, and if a reviewer or book contest catches you passing off an old book as new, it could ruin your reputation and chances of them giving attention to your future books.
Second Edition vs. Second Printing:While changing the copyright date is a mistake authors should know better than to make, a lot of people are confused by the terms “second edition” and “second printing.” A second printing is when your first printing runs out and you reprint the book without making any significant changes to it. (Insignificant changes such as fixing a few typos are acceptable.) By contrast, a second edition implies that the book has new material. Most novels will only be second printings unless the author makes severe changes to the plot, which usually isn’t a good idea anyway. Better to write a new novel than to try improving one that wasn’t very good and didn’t sell in the first place. Non-fiction books, by comparison, frequently do and should come out with second and third editions because they are updated as new information becomes current. “Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide” comes out with a new edition every year, and people frequently will update by buying the new edition because their 2009 edition doesn’t list the hundreds of movies that were added for the 2012 edition. Similarly, “Writer’s Market” has a new issue every year to update lists of publishers for authors seeking publication. In the case of new editions, the cover should clearly state something such as “2012 edition” or “Revised and Expanded Second Edition” and additional taglines might include, “over three hundred new movie entries added” or “New Material: John Smith’s 30 Days to a Slimmer You Program.”
Finally, for book collectors (if you should be so lucky as to write a book that becomes collectible) a lot of confusion results when second editions and second printings are not noted on copyright pages yet printed books have small differences, leaving people asking which is the first and which the second printing.
New Titles:Nothing will make your loyal readers angrier than for you to reprint your book under a new title without any indication it’s a reprint. In my opinion, you should never change your book’s title. Spend considerable time deciding on a title and making sure you truly have the right one, and then stick with it forever.
Authors may think they will attract new readers by changing the title. For example, an author might decide his book “My Journey to Jupiter” didn’t sell because people thought the title was boring, but he thinks they’ll buy it if it’s republished under a more enticing title like “How I Met My Hot Alien Wife.” Yes, the second title might grab more people’s attention, and as a result, the author might sell more books, but what about the loyal fans who see that book title listed and think it’s a new book? They buy the book only to begin reading and realize they were tricked-they’ve read the book already. And even the people who bought “How I Met My Hot Alien Wife,” if they like the book, are likely to go looking for the author’s other books and could end up buying “My Journey to Jupiter” and equally become disgruntled.
If you are going to change a book’s title, make sure you destroy all unsold copies of the first version; recall them from the stores and remove all listings for sale online so no one can buy the old version. And be honest with your readers by printing on the new cover “Originally published as _____________.” Agatha Christie’s publishers often reprinted her books under new titles. Her British publishers had chosen a title, but her American publishers, thinking the British title might not appeal to the American reading public, would reissue the book under a new title. Most of the time, Christie’s publishers were good about statements such as: “The Boomerang Clue” (originally titled “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”) In this case, the author/publisher is being honest, but even so, Christie’s readers have frequently been confused in trying to keep track of which of her books they did or didn’t read-that she wrote about 100 books makes the task more difficult.
New Cover Image:Changing the cover image is perfectly acceptable for a second edition. There’s nothing wrong with giving a book a new look as long as the title remains the same so there’s no confusion about it.
I’ve seen some debates by authors and publishers about releasing a new book with two different book cover images to see whether one image will sell better than another. I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong about such a strategy, but it seems like a waste of time and energy to me since you have to pay for two pieces of art work and two separate printings. This strategy might work if you’re doing print-on-demand, but if you’re doing offset print runs, you could end up with a stack of books that don’t sell, and you’ll have to keep track of which bookstores and distributors get which copies. Too much confusion in my opinion, and yes, occasionally you’ll have a reader not discerning enough that he’ll buy both copies, not realizing it’s the same book. Better to pick one cover and stick with it, and then when you come out with a second edition in a few years, you can change the cover, or save it for a big event like the book’s 25th anniversary edition.
In conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with trying to promote an old book. Just be honest with readers, book reviewers, and others that it’s not a new book. If a book is truly good, readers won’t care when it was first published, but they will care if they pay for something they think is new, only to discover they’ve already paid for it in the past.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.
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