Don’t Steal my Book! (or do, I’m fairly non-committal on the subject)

Over the years I’ve spent as an author trying to make my way in the world of publishing, I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to keep up on the current topics being discussed by those in the publishing industry.  The themes tend to stay pretty much the same year in and year out, things like, why aren’t people buying books?  here’s why ebooks need to be as expensive if not more expensive than paper! and ohh, <insert hot genre here> is the next new genre, everyone should be writing it. . . which is always immediately followed by a bevy of literary agents stating, no longer accepting <insert above listed hot genre here>.

The publishing industry, as well as the artistic industries in general, are rather fickle.  People fight constantly over what they believe to be important, what needs to be in a story, and, well, pretty much every single topic applicable to the industry at large.

But there is one topic that seems to have a majority consensus among the writing populace, and that has to do with theft of their work.

Now, I get it, I wrote something, spent a ton of time not only crafting that piece but editing it to a fine sheen, not to mention the amount of time I spent honing my craft and financing whatever needed to be financed to get the book out the door.  I agree that, should the work warrant it, I deserve to be compensated for that time.  I feel no true qualms about charging for my books under those circumstances.  I believe it is worth something and have set a price for it accordingly.

But. . . this subject, more than any other subject in the publishing industry, keeps coming up time and time again, under different premises, but the conclusion is the same, DON’T STEAL MY BOOK!.

We saw a very similar issue back when the music industry began going through the digital revolution.  And, this really isn’t anything new.  Not only did we see it in music dating back well before the digital age (the RIAA’s battle against cassette tapes comes to mind), but books as well.  I remember a rather high profile story about a group in China that was writing and publishing their own Harry Potter books, and making a nice little mint off of it as well, if memory serves.

Like I said, I get it, it sucks . . . but the point here is, it happens and it’s nothing new.

More recently, several fellow authors have been bringing similar topics to my attention directly.  One of the bigger ones is a new petition against Amazon regarding the 7-day return policy for ebooks.  Yep, that’s right, just like that cute outfit you can’t afford, you can return your book after you use it, as long as it’s within a given time frame.  Of course, in this situation, the price in question, on the higher end of the average, is around ten bucks, and, no matter what you do to that book, it’s coming back in pristine condition.

So, in this specific situation, you’re stealing an experience.  I mean, this comes down to something more similar to a movie rental, without any actual cost involved. Sure, there’s the late fee involved if you don’t return it on time. . . but in that situation, you’re not actually out any more money than you would have been if you were to purchase it in the first place, unlike the 30 dollars Blockbuster always wanted to charge me if I didn’t return a movie at all. . . or the 3 they would charge me if I came a day late.  Okay, on second thought. . . it’s more like a library.

You’re stealing an experience, a moment in time with the creation of an author, just like readers have been doing for ages in the much more happily recognized realm of the library (although I’ve heard more than enough stories of authors complaining about how libraries screw them out of sales as well).

I’m of the opinion that most of these returns are actually due to people unintentionally making purchases, due to how simple it is to buy an ebook on Amazon without even trying.  But, assuming there are people trying to game the system, well, good for them, I guess.  I believe that I’m deserved money for my work, but if you read my book and feel differently, that’s on you, I guess.  I’m not exactly in the service industry working for tips, by any means, but I’m also not going to lose any sleep over it.  Heck, money’s tight.  I get it.  I get many of my books for free nowadays as well, since other authors want me to review them.  Sure, they’re getting some sort of compensation from me, but whatever.

Heck, my books are all DRM free as well.  That means if you buy yourself a copy of THE LEGEND OF BUDDY HERO (or any of my future books, as long as I have the power to choose), you can ship that puppy off to whomever you want.  In fact, I urge you to do so.  Share the thing.  That’s the only way people are ever going to find out that I have a book out there anyways, is if you tell them about it.

I see it as being no different than a hardbound book.  Books are meant to be shared.  I just hope mine are ones that you consider good enough to do so with.

The other larger topic I’ve been hearing a lot about lately, however, is a bit different.  Here’s a link to a letter from the author.  Simply put, an author wrote a series of books, a publisher saw them, read them, rejected them, and then later put out some books that appear to be incredibly similar with almost the exact same title.

That is, what we call in the business, a d*ck move.  Sure, it’s possible it was all coincidence.  Many of the items of similar nature discussed in this letter would be the exact same things anyone would write about when dealing with the subject of time travel for kids.  But, I think we can fairly safely assume that someone saw a great idea (with possibly a not so great implementation of the idea) and came up with a way to make some money off it, without dealing with the originating creator.

Very similar to the above talked about story of the Chinese Harry Potter, this happens.  It’s really crappy when a publisher as large and respected(possibly?) as Harper Collins does it, but more than likely it was the act of several smaller cogs than it was anyone in power.

But it got me thinking about how I would deal if I were in a similar situation.  First of all. . . seeing as Buddy Hero is mostly an homage to comic books, there’s plenty that could be said for people being pissed about me stealing their work.  In fact, the main villain in the first book shares an awful lot of similarities to the villain Gog from DC’s The Kingdom series.  And I guess that’s where my thought path starts going.  The ideas may be similar, but the implementation is incredibly different (in my opinion).

Take, for example, something I think we can all be aware of, the movies Deep Impact and Armageddon.  These movies both came out in the same summer, both are basically the same exact idea, but they are incredibly different movies.  Implementation is the key point here.  So, if I were to be pissed that someone stole my idea, the only reason I can truly be pissed is that they did so more effectively than I did.  DC does not currently care that I have a character similar to Gog in my novel.  Why should they?  They have no clue about it.  But if I were to start to become some sort of New York Times bestseller, perhaps their tune would change.

There is a fine line between protecting one’s intellectual property and allowing the market to have competition.  The linked to article may be crossing the line into theft, I don’t know, I haven’t read either series.  But what I do know is that I’m tired of the publishing industry being so pissed about theft.  Theft is going to happen, it’s been happening since the dawn of time.  I just hope that we won’t find books in the same situation as movies where we have 15 screens of “don’t steal” messages before we get to the 30 advertisements for other movies.

Books should be above all that.  Books are, after all, entirely about the experience.  I beg you not to steal the experience I have created.  It is only 3 bucks after all.  But if you do, perhaps you would be so kind as to tell your friends about it?

Or. . . leave a review on Amazon.  My friends keep telling me I should work on getting more reviews out there.


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