On Writing,  publishing

The Magic Bakery: Copyright in the Modern World of Fiction Publishing


Indie writers make great money these days with their small and medium-sized businesses. Some make millions, while at the same time others sell few books.

The writers selling few copies tend to look for reasons why they are not selling. I could spend a lot of time listing all the reasons writers find for a book now selling, but almost always the reason is a very simple business reason.


And a complete failure to understand what they are selling.

But that seemingly simple answer has a vast universe of issues around it. And understanding inventory in publishing takes an understanding of copyright.

So for this book, I am going to extend the metaphor of a Magic Bakery far past its breaking point. Over the years, as I have used this metaphor to help people understand how the business of publishing works, the metaphor seems to help.

And it helps writers understand copyright, the very thing that generates the sales and the money for the business.

So here goes.

Let’s open the door to the magic bakery, let the wonderful smells of baking bread and fresh doughnuts flow around us. Ignore the racks of cookies sitting in one case and the counter full of wonderful cakes with chocolate frostings.

Head right for the vast cases in the center of the bakery full of pies of all types. All cut and ready to be served either whole or by the slice.

Welcome to your writing business.

The Back Room

Back behind the main counter, beyond that swinging door, is where the magic really occurs.

Flower and flavoring and fresh fruit. Then add sugar and other ingredients and it all comes together in a certain way to create a pie.

A magic pie.

Skill is involved to make the pie, to have it look right, smell right, and most importantly, taste right to the customer.

Years of practiced skill.

Yup, I’m talking about your creation of story. Novel or short story, doesn’t matter.

Just like a pie, you take things from the world and combine them in your own unique way to create a wonderful product, a story, for your customers.

Some stories are similar to one another as in a series. Others are as different as a chocolate cream pie would be to a Dutch apple pie. But the customers don’t much care.

Sure, each customer has a favorite. Some like the chocolate cream, others go for cherry. But if you have a regular, a true fan, they will try most everything eventually.

A Few Things This Book Will Cover

So in this book, as each chapter goes on, I will talk about opening your bakery when you are still learning how to bake. (Yes, you should, to answer that basic question right off.)

You are learning how to make your pies look like a pie and have a unique taste that customers will return for over and over. That takes time and work. Learning any skill does.

Also, this book will deal some with how the presentation to the customers in your bakery is critical as well.

And how to even get your customers to the front door of your bakery and then what do you do when they walk through the door to help the customer stay, buy, and return later.

All critical aspects to any business.

Real bakeries or magic. Hardware stores or bookstores.

All businesses worry about those exact problems.

But mostly this book will talk about the magic in the pie itself.

You see, just one element of your magic pie is that when you remove a piece, if you do it correctly, that piece can make you money with a customer and yet the pie will remain whole.

The piece of pie that just made you money magically is back in the pie and ready to sell again.

A magic pie.

And that is only one small aspect of the magic.

So stay with me for some chapters here as I extend this metaphor to the extreme in order to help you understand the value, the importance, and the magic of copyright in your writing.

And also help you understand some real reasons why your work isn’t selling many copies in this new, crowded world.

You might not like the reasons. But at least you will know how to fix the problems.

And by the end of this book you will know how to have a bakery where lines of customers form out the door to buy your wonderful work.

That is what this book is all about.



  • Leah Cutter

    I recently received a short story contract that was pretty good in terms of payment, exclusivity, indemnity, etc.

    However, it only specifically licensed the electronic and audio rights.

    It did *not* specify print rights.

    Yet, in another paragraph, it talked all about the print version of the anthology, how authors could purchase the print version inexpensively, etc.

    I’m certain that the publisher thought he had everything covered. (I’ve dealt with him before. He’s a well-meaning amateur.) But he needs to learn copyright, and that every part gets licensed separately.

    Thanks for doing these posts Dean. I anticipate sending *a lot* of people your way…

  • Jim Johnson

    Looking forward to this one, Dean. You’ve talked about the magic bakery for years.

    Question–how do you see pen names in this new world? Each pen name a separate bakery, or each pen name a different kind of dessert within the one bakery that represents the author with however many pen names?

    • dwsmith


      Each pen name would be like opening a separate store with the same management. Especially in this new world.

  • Leszek

    I’ve followed your blog for a long time and backtracked it to years back. It this book going to be like “the best of” what you already covered, or will I find something new as well?

    • dwsmith

      Oh, I sure hope there will be a lot of new stuff and deeper than I have ever covered before. This topic has only been covered sparingly at times in different posts, so this will all bring it together here in these posts. I hope. (grin)