Creative types have always fought for the protection of their creations. Musicians have battled copycat artists stealing their hooks long before Napster made it common place to steal complete songs outright. The movie industry confronts on the regular the selling of shaky bootleg copies of their films from car trunks in back allies. Inventors have feuded with large corporations over patent rights long before the rise of the patent age over the last two decades.
The internet itself has created a whole host of intellectual property issues, from photographs being digitally traded with no recognition of the author, to news stories being repeated sans credit to the originating source, to media conglomerates trying to smack down illegitimate feeds of their broadcast like a futile game of whack-a-mole. I’m sure intellectual property protection was an issue long before the terminology intellectual property came into existence. Hell, people have questioned for centuries whether Shakespeare was in fact one person, or many people, or one person who stole many people’s stories.
So I can’t say it surprised me when I saw The Atlantic’s recent story in the digital edition of its magazine about the outright stealing of the books of self-published authors. It seems just another extension of the ongoing battle creativity fights with the monetization of imagination. But it was a form of plagiarism about which I was not yet aware.
While it didn’t surprise me at all, it did give me pause. As a self-published author myself, I felt for my self-published brethren and sisters that have found themselves in the same situation as Rachel Ann Nunes. The Atlantic does a wonderful job of sharing Nunes’ story, among other stories, and how she found her out-of-print romance novels nearly copied and being sold online by someone else.
While I feel confident that my minuscule novel is most likely safe from this kind of attack, partly because it is minuscule and partly because it is literary fiction, which has a readership the size of the population of Liechtenstein, I still found myself with palpitations of despair. In a world where newspapers are offered freely, bloggers write wonderful pieces without compensation (Ahem!), and ebooks are called too expensive if they exceed $0.99, it’s nearly impossible for a writer to make any semblance of a living as it is. Add in the fact that people are now stealing our written works outright and, excuse me, but us authors are f*$&@ed.
Again, this doesn’t surprise me–I have not been silent on the matter of how easy (or not) it is to be a “successful” author–but it certainly won’t make my pillow any softer tonight.
“In the world of self-publishing, where anyone can put a document on Amazon and call it a book, more writers are seeing their work ripped off.” – Joy Lanzendorfer, The Atlantic
I believe firmly that the publishing industry will look drastically different in the next 5-10 years. Just as Amazon turned the industry on its head over the last decade, sending the Big Five fearfully curled into a ball on their bedroom floors, we are at the forefront of another changing tide. Self-publishing, digital media, and mobile devices will be the large catalyst for this change, but there are two other issues I think that may have an impact the shifting landscape, and both center around trust.
The first, which I have been saying for a while now, is trusted titles. Publishing a book is so much easier today than it was ten years ago that the Big Five publishers have found themselves in a state of confusion without being appointed the gatekeepers of literature. However, it has become very easy to publish less than quality titles as well. This is reaching a boiling point for readers. We want to know what titles are good, not from a critic standpoint, but from the standpoint of being well-developed and excellently edited. To account for this, I think more and more small-house publishing labels will pop up and will be relied upon as trusted sources of quality titles in their niche genres. Readers will look to certain small-house publishers for their next teen romance or poetic short story or dystopian fantasy or whatever niche genre.
The second is authors’ rights. The larger Amazon’s ebook market share has become, the more comfortable it has felt pinching another penny from its authors. Amazon knows that self-published authors need them more than Amazon needs self-published authors, but that won’t last. It never does.
The Atlantic article’s depiction of Amazon’s almost indifference to suspending or removing copyright offenders wholesale is indicative of this mentality. At some point, a publishing label that support authors’ rights and that wants to help authors succeed in making a living will gain marketshare. They will become a label that indie authors trust and to whom we flock.
I feel a change is coming over the next 5-10 years. I truly do.
Until then, however, let me know if someone is publishing heartfelt stories with thematic ties to the Sorrowful Mysteries.
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