For writers looking to go the traditionally published route, there’s a lot to keep in mind contract-wise, including, according to Kristine Kathryn Rusch, control, fairness, and clout. She explains that you want as much control over your project as possible, though some contracts may not allow for negotiation, so you’ll have to ask yourself if that contract is something you really want. Also, things will not always be fair, but you don’t need clout to negotiate, you just need to get past the idea that you need a certain level of success before you can negotiate and just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is the person you’re negotiating with can say “no.” Continue reading
By Valley Brown – author of Speeding Tickets
Piracy can be a serious issue for indie authors of ebooks. Valley Brown explains her personal experiences with digital piracy, and what she did to fight it.
The Internet is a vast ocean swarming with pirates. So I had been warned by any number of publishing professionals and experienced authors. Being a newbie author with an appalling lack of discoverability, I doubted I had to worry about that little problem for some time. Wrong.
August 2014: A Google Alert popped up in my Inbox. “Speeding Tickets by Valley Brown” was available as a free download on Google Docs. What?
I had never used Google Docs, and I certainly hadn’t put my book up there for a free download! I followed the link. The only legitimate PDF version of my book was available for sale through Smashwords, but they had no sales for my account. The supplier of this PDF version had a totally foreign name, which appeared to be of Eastern European origin. Through the Google Doc site, I was able to register a complaint for copyright infringement, after proving that I was indeed the owner of said intellectual property.
The online form – there was no way to contact a live human for this issue – stated the results of the claim would be sent to Chilling Effects and that a notice would be put up in the place of the removed material. I soon received an automated email reply from Google letting me know that they were taking this seriously, but due to the high volume of claims they dealt with, it might take them a while to investigate, and then to take the offending site down. Great. While my paperwork is lost in the ether-queue, hundreds or even thousands of people could be downloading pirated copies.
This was a real problem to me. I had barely any sales on this first book, even after (or maybe I should say especially after) having made the Kindle version free for three days the year before. It had not begun to pay its own expenses. The last thing I needed was someone cheating me out of income the book needed to earn. Within a week, Google took the book down. I had no way of knowing how many – if any – copies were downloaded, but at least I was safe. Not.
September 2014: Another Google Alert! Quite possibly the same individual had put my book up yet again for free download on Google Docs. Again, I filed a complaint with Google. Again, they took the book down. I was irritated at having this happen a second time, and so soon. Surely this person would be banned from Google Docs for life. Right.
January/February 2015: Another Google Alert. Seriously? The scenario repeated itself. I repeated the complaint. Google responded, a bit more quickly than the previous two instances. I could only shake my head. Why my book? It was still an unknown little tome adrift in the online ocean. My son, who is far savvier and techie than I, informed me there are a lot of individuals out there who spend countless hours pirating books and other forms of entertainment, all to share these luxury items with the less-wealthy around the web.
This perplexed me. Was this a form of flattery, or had I simply been ensnared in a wide net with who knows how many other unsuspecting authors? I had no way to know. And then…
March 2015: The now-familiar Google Alert arrived in my inbox. This had become more than annoying, more than ridiculous, and I let Google know it in my comments. The book was removed in a matter of hours, not days. Somehow, a live person must have seen the comments and raised an eyebrow over them.
Four times in seven months. That’s a lot, I think. I’m thankful I had Google Alerts set up for all my books, name and pen name. They catch a lot of tidbits that are nothing to fret over, but they also caught all of these piracy incidents. It begs the question: what DIDN’T they catch?
I’m just waiting around for the next one, for it surely is inevitable, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. With all the sophisticated software available (as free downloads, even), no form of digital/electronic IP is safe from being pirated. I trust that the majority of people out there don’t steal, that they respect and value our writing enough to pay us for our labors. Thank God for those readers. They allow us to pursue our dreams, and it is a privilege to share with them.
Incidentally, you should visit Chilling Effects sometime. The number of copyright-infringement complaints registered involving Google are endless. Mine were in company with such well-known names as The Zac Brown Band and Coldplay.
Valley Brown lives in Southwestern Indiana with her husband (who swears she killed him off in Book One – “Speeding Tickets”). She is a member of Romance Writers of America, including Indiana RWA. “The Rocky Road” romantic suspense series celebrates mature women who realize life is one big amazing journey and that love is always worth a second chance. Valley openly admits lusting after Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream, but chocolate and coffee will always be her first loves.
Valley’s books on Amazon.com:
YouTube Book Trailer:
A while back, I watched Indie Game: The Movie and was struck by how much indie game development and indie book publishing had in common. I had the pleasure of interviewing the talented and inspiring indie game developer, Jonathan Blow. Below is the second in a three-part series that discusses the similarities between developing games and publishing books as an indie. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Piracy and DRM
DRM is a hot button issue in both the publishing and gaming world. According to Blow, PC games don’t have DRM, and because of that, 90 percent of PC games are pirated. Other platforms such as iPhone, however, automatically use DRM as part of their distribution service. Continue reading
I’ve been saying for a while that ebooks should take advantage of being digital and able to be produced quickly, so it’s exciting to see that publishers are finally embracing that (not that I claim they are listening to me!). Tomorrow morning, Random House will be releasing an ebook about Osama bin Laden, now that he is dead. I have no idea whether or not this is a book they’ve had written for a while and been waiting to release, or if they had a really knowledgeable and talented writer who was able to put this together in a week. But, that doesn’t matter. This book may end up being shorter than a traditional book, but traditional books probably won’t be around forever, (or at least they won’t dominate the market–ebook sales are really on the rise). The point is, publishers can defend themselves from “getting scooped” by newspapers and magazines. They can publish relevant, newsworthy stories just as quickly as journalists now, and that is a great way to take advantage of the ebook market. To read the article on Random House’s bin Laden book, go to RH Enters Bin Laden Book Craze with E-Original.
Another, arguably more exciting (in terms of the publishing industry embracing the future) piece of news involves Bookish, an online book site backed by Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Hachette (three of the six biggest publishers in the world). This is a first step in publishers working together to sell their books. Bookish is an independent site, but it will provide customized recommendations for users and it will be another channel for publishers to sell their books. To read the full article, go to S&S, Penguin, Hachette Back Bookish, Online Book Site.
In Scandanavia, readers and libraries want more e-books and are getting e-books from other countries. But publishers distrust libraries, thinking they help piracy, and they are facing a dilemma with pricing and copyright protection.
Even though there’s a lot of news about more schools using e-textbooks, a recent study shows that e-textbook sales are actually still low.
Still, e-books are making an impact. Print book sales are declining, down 8 percent in September, and nearly 4,000 independent bookstores have shut down since the 1990s. Several well-established indie bookstores had to close this week in Minnesota.
Despite what the New York Times said, publishers and BookScan figures prove that children’s picture books are still popular and thriving, representing more than 10% of the children’s market overall–which is the same as in 2005.
Just for fun, here’s a breakdown of how one writer managed to fool his editor’s into thinking he’d read and reviewed a book that hadn’t been published yet. The Onion’s A.V. Club has since apologized.
Lastly, Angry Birds recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and its popularity has suggested a larger shift in entertainment and in the kinds of brands that can win wide popularity.
Ok, maybe it hasn’t gone that far yet, but there has been a breakthrough in the way novels are written and promoted. It’s called The Novel : Live! and it involved 36 authors coming together for six days in Seattle and completing a novel. Basically, it’s awesome. And to keep things interesting, after each 12-hour session, writers, fans, and on-lookers all got to partake in Happy Hour. There was a live streaming of the novel-in-progress, and the end product will be an enhanced e-book, edited and all, with interviews with the writers and video clips of the writing process–soon to be sold on Amazon. And to top it off, all net proceeds went to Seattle Arts & Lectures Writers in the Schools program and 826 Seattle, which encourages and helps kids with their writing.
I hope this becomes an annual event. I’ve been studying piracy issues in the new digital book age, and it seems in a lot of online circles, publishers and writers are getting a bad rep. Readers seem to think that because it doesn’t cost as much to produce an e-book (since there are no printing costs), e-books should be super cheap or even free. Unfortunately, these people don’t take into account all the work that still goes into publishing a book, whether it’s digital or in print. Some writers spend up to 20 years to completing their manuscript, and once it is finished, it takes at least one year for an editor to polish it. And of course there is at least a year spent designing, marketing, and finding suitable distribution outlets. Plus, in the new digital world, especially with enhanced e-books, there are legal issues regarding all the enhanced features (music, videos, etc.) that must be worked out, and then formatted correctly.
I’m not saying some things shouldn’t be free. Several authors have managed to build up their platforms and make a living by giving away some of their material for free online. But people should remember that, digital or not, it takes a lot of time and effort to create a book, and writers especially should not be punished because readers feel they should have free content.
The Novel : Live! seems like it would help reunite writers and their readers. By showing people how much work is actually involved, and by reminding readers that the books they enjoy are written by actual human beings, I think we can minimize piracy. Ultimately, this will help the readers. The less publishers worry about piracy, the more time and money they can spend on cultivating good writing, which after all, is the main purpose of being a publisher.