It happened again. Another author (I’ll call her Karen) abandoned an entire book she’d spent months writing, editing, tweaking, etc. Why?
Copyright infringement…with a little invasion of privacy and potential libel thrown into the mix.
At BookLocker, we often see manuscripts that have entire strings of real text conversations and/or emails in them. Most authors don’t understand that the person who WROTE those text messages and emails owns the copyrights to them, NOT the recipient of those messages and emails.
It’s astounding now many “authors” think this is a unique thing to do, and an easy way to write a book.
NOTHING IS EASY IN AUTHOR LAND, MY FELLOW SCRIBES!
When the author sent her manuscript to me, I saw right away that it was non-fiction. And, huge portions of the manuscript were copied and pasted text messages between her and another individual. Sighing deeply, I wrote to the author, explaining the laws regarding this topic, and including a link that explained it further.
I gave the author two options:
1. Obtain written permission and a legal liability waiver from the individual who sent those messages.
2. Change the book to fiction, anonymize EVERYTHING (change places, names, locations, descriptions of events and people, etc.), and create her own fictional text messages to replace those written by the other person.
The author was, understandably, upset. I’ve had authors who submitted similar books ask me to publish their books as-is, insisting that the person who originally wrote the material would never know. BookLocker is an ethical, law-abiding company and we would never infringe on the rights of another to make a buck, even if that person isn’t a professional writer or photographer, and even if that person may never know their words or image(s) were used by someone else illegally. That’s the ethical concern.
Then, there’s the legal concern. Copyright infringement damages can be astronomical if the infringement was willful. And, copyright infringement might not be the only problem. Invasion of privacy and libel accusations might come into play as well.
It’s simply not worth it for a company to take such a risk for one author. You’d be surprised how many authors beg me to bend or outright break laws for them just so they don’t have to do a re-write. I never bend or break the rules – moral, legal, or otherwise.
This author in particular chose to do what many authors do when they realize they need to start over from scratch. She abandoned the book. It will never be published. She spent months writing, editing, tweaking, editing, re-writing, adding text, removing text, etc…all for nothing.
So, what’s the lesson for today? Don’t be Karen! Research publishing laws BEFORE writing that book!
Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
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Just how stupid can someone be? Beyond understanding.
I published several books through Amazon. Because Amazon has been sending me 1099’s on which I have had to pay taxes but has NOT paid me for the past 3 years, I want to transfer my books to another publisher/distributor. Amazon is holding the books hostage and refusing to allow the transfer to go through. Can I publish them with a new publisher/distributor by putting on a new cover and a new title? If so, do I also need a new ISBN number and or a new copyright date on the books.
We will be happy to add you to the BookLocker family under our disgruntled author special, which is $158 less than our regular fee, and includes original cover design, interior formatting, basic epub/mobi (ebook), distribution, etc. HOWEVER, we are currently running a sale where you can get $219 off. See: https://newsletter.booklocker.com/25percent
And, yes, you can republish. Amazon’s publishing division (which we, too, have seen lots of complaints about) has a non-exclusive contract. Yes, a new ISBN is required but we’ll assign one of ours at no extra charge. Re: copyright – If you aren’t changing the interior drastically, that’s really not necessary but we also have a $99 copyrighting service. 🙂
Thanks to you and your firm for the high level of ethics that pervades BookLocker. It is truly a joy working with you.
Zack Carden (author of A MEMORABLE THING)
We LOVE working with you, too, Zack!!! 🙂
Once again, cheers to BookLocker for maintaining high standards.
You have given honest, straightforward, do’s and don’ts in the publishing world — as I often have read in here.
Would-be authors should simply say ‘Thank You’ from the bottom of their hearts and not hand you verbiage.
Our entertainment attorney is brutally honest and expensive — your statement (real a** saving words) came free of charge.
I’ll add some additional advice. A friend of my wanted to do what this author did, include in her book someone else’s emails without the bother of getting permission from him. She even had a lawyer tell her that’d be OK. I had to tell her that was utterly wrong.
If you need advice about copyright issues, consult a lawyer that specializes in the field not just any lawyer.
When I wrote An Eye In Shadows, I only named the guilty and didn’t name family but I had to name the real locations and real publishing outfits because they related the rape scandal played up in 1993 and my classmate committing murder in 1993 then tried in 1994. I wrote the book ultimately in the spring of 2007 then published the summer of 2007. I revised it once in 2008 then again in 2014 to keep with the revisions. This one never written creative nonfiction or had the means to get it out there.