Whoo-Whee! Now, That’s One Snotty Librarian!

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After we ran last week’s article, Library “Gifts” And Copyright Harvesting – AUTHOR BEWARE!, by Heather Vallance, we received an anonymous email from a librarian (below). Coincidence? I don’t think so. Heather’s article highlighted “gift” contracts given to some authors who want to donate their book to a library. Many of these “gift” contracts ask authors to give up their copyrights. In her note, she refers to a page we have on Booklocker titled “Reasons Not to Use Us.

Here’s the angry librarian’s ridiculous letter:



I’d like to suggest that you folks add a new item to the list on your “reasons not to use POD” page: availability in libraries. As a librarian, I receive numerous POD books donated by eager authors, and they simply can not be added to any collection. No library that I know of – in the US or Canada – catalogs POD books. They have no peer review and no verifiable credibility. Authors should be advised to save themselves the expense and seek publication professionally before submitting to libraries.

Sincerely,
Frazzled Librarian Who Just Received Another POD Donation


THIS IS HOW RICHARD RESPONDED:

We sell our books to libraries all the time. In fact, one of my best friends was a reference librarian for a system in Wisconsin and bought one of our books specifically because it was the only book on the subject he could find on foreclosures from the perspective of the homeowner going through the foreclosure process.

Our books are distributed by Ingram and have ISBNs, just like any traditionally published book does. And this is also the case with just about every major self-publishing service company that competes with us. They don’t look any different in Ingram’s system. You’ve probably ordered lots of them and never even known.

In fact, here is one book we publish that I found in your library system:

The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money is Worth a Fortune / Leffel, Tim.
Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library

Author Solutions, the largest self-publishing house, published 19,000 titles last year – six times that of Random House. In total, 480,000 books were published or distributed last year in the USA (Source). Most of those were self-published. So I would also bet that you have many, many more POD books in your inventory besides our book.

I’ll give you no argument on the point that there are plenty of crappy POD books. But not all POD books are crappy. We filter our submissions in an effort to put out quality material, but not everyone does. (Most POD publishers) appear to be in it only for the fees they can squeeze out of the authors.

That said, having been in this industry since 1999 I can tell you with certainty the trend in publishing is for first-time and midlist authors to do it all themselves through a company like ours. Traditional presses are offering little or no advances and no marketing support, yet still taking all rights. Authors are starting to question what they are getting out of a traditional publishing relationship if they have to give up all their rights and still do all the work, too.

My prediction is that in the near future most books will be self-published through POD and only a minority of big-name, bestselling authors will have traditional contracts. So unless you plan to stock your catalog with only NYT Bestsellers, I’d recommend you get over your bias against POD books.

Best,
Richard

Heather Vallance also sent in additional comments after receiving emails from librarians concerning her article. Notice one librarian’s complete contradiction to the librarian’s note above.

Angela, finding ways to strip writers of their copyright, no matter how this is justified or manipulated in a court of law, is unethical and nothing short of theft. There is absolutely no other way of describing the removal of income or creative rights from individuals. I have and will continue to argue this.

I also think that those associated with libraries and resource centers are losing sight of the fact that they have guaranteed incomes and those upon whom they depend to remain employed more often than not do not.

One or two points that came out of the feedback:

1. Mainstream publishers are using some of their imprints as POD options for writers. If they want the manuscript but don’t think they can make enough money from sales of the book they offer the writer the opportunity to do POD under a specific imprint. Now, how do librarians know the difference between an imprint POD published and a POD published through, say, Booklocker? It’s called snobbery and librarians suffer plenty from this.

2. I have just had Golden Nemesis accepted by both the Library & Archives of Canada and the Toronto Public Library. So, about the statement that libraries do not accept POD writers’ work – this librarian needs to get out more.

Also, I received a long email from an “Amber” demanding that I clarify my statements because I was putting off fiction writers from donating books to their local libraries. Amber assured me that this was how many libraries were getting their books these days and that, without the donations from POD authors, there would be no new material coming in.

3. I find it interesting that administrators or librarians from institutions forcing authors to sign gift agreements have not responded or tried to clarify the documents.

4. “Amber” mentioned that she quite understood that some writers were not happy with the ‘new copyright laws’ in the States. May I ask what these ‘new copyright laws’ are and how I can get hold of a copy for clarification?

The article was intended to warm specialist writers to avoid signing away their copyright to published and unpublished works, conditions that often include the continued use of their own research.

The content of the article is also for all specialist writers, whether they publish through mainstream companies or as POD writers.

The article was not aimed at libraries nor at librarians, which a closer reading will show. It brings into question administrators of resource institutions who feel that it is okay to demand copyright from specialist writers.

For the record, I, like many specialist writers, mainstream or POD, tend to campaign for libraries under siege, not for their closure.

Heather Vallance
Golden Nemesis: Manifest Destiny Between 1880 and 1900.

FOR MORE, please see today’s LETTERS column, which provides links to gift contracts offered by public libraries. “Specialist” writers are not the only ones who must be wary of giving up rights to libraries!