That Is the Question

file-20170818-7937-1mb0d7kIf you read the subject, you’re probably wondering what is the question. Here it is. To copyright? Or not to copyright? That is the question.

This may not seem like an important question, but it truly is. That pretty little symbol © is more than just a symbol and if it doesn’t have the certificate the copyright.gov sends out, it pretty much means jack. Let me break this down a little.

You’ve labored weeks, months, maybe even years over your work. You slaved away at a computer writing that bad boy, editing it to perfection (as much as possible), and now you’re ready to publish. DON’T PUSH THE BUTTON YET.novel

For you to understand how important a copyright is, I’m going to give you two scenarios. One you’ve sent your baby to the copyright office and the other you haven’t.

Scenario A: Copyrighted

You’re reading a book in your genre trying to keep up with the latest trends. And you notice that part of it sounds familiar. Maybe immediately you can’t figure out why, but at some point you realize it’s familiar because YOU wrote it. The words in the book you’re reading written by some other author are YOUR words. 

What do you do?

First, check their publication date. Second, check to see if they have a copyright symbol in their book. Third, go to the copyright.gov website and search for said copyright. If either they have no copyright filed OR their copyright was filed after yours, you have options. 

  1. Politely point out the usage and send them a “cease and desist” letter forcing them to remove their work.
  2. Contact an Intellectual Property attorney who specializes in copyright. 

copyrightBy your copyright being filed first, it is proof that YOU are the original owner. You have the right to have that work removed or even sue that author if they did not get your permission to use your words in their work. This is called copyright infringement and is illegal.

This is only accurate if MORE than a few lines or words of yours are in their book. IF they have only used a word or line or two, this is called fair use. There is a limit to the amount of sentences and/or wording that may be used.

This does NOT apply to an idea. An idea or concept cannot be copyrighted.

Scenario B: Not copyrighted

Using the same scene as before, if your work is NOT copyrighted, and you come across another novel with your words, you can still politely ask that author to remove their work.

However, they do not have to comply. 

If they have a copyright and you ask them to remove their work because they infringed upon your work without your permission, they in turn can ask you to remove your work stating just the opposite. They could go a step further and obtain a lawyer to sue you or get your work removed.

protect-yourself-rubber-stamp-vector-13678614
Courtesy of VectorStock

Let’s explore this a step further and say that neither of you have your work copyrighted. IF you see that, then file for the copyright BEFORE reaching out to the author. While it takes months to get a copyright approved, the copyright is valid from the date your file is loaded and the fee is paid.

You can request a copyright to be expedited, but it does cost more money and does require a valid reason for the request.

A copyright is your protection. This is another step in the writing process that should NOT be skipped. It may be the best money you ever spend.

 

Free Books

freebooksWe all love FREE books! Who wouldn’t? Okay, maybe a person who doesn’t read, but for those of us who do, a free book is the best gift we could ever get. Even a cheap book is awesome!

Here’s the thing, a free book isn’t always free.

Let me explain. Every author has the option to give away their books. Some opt to set a book as what we call permanently free or “permafree.” This means the author or the publisher has chosen to give that book away, but that is only IF it is on a verified site like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, I-Book, Kobo and so on.

IF you do not see on a verified site, then that book may not actually be free. In fact, it may be “pirated.” I’m sure this is not an unknown term. Nearly every DVD/Blue-ray features this commercial before the movie even begins.

Guess what? It can happen to books too.

And books take a lot of work, just like movies do. The idea for the story and the words begin with the author(s), but they aren’t the only one who works to put that final product together. That product that begins as words on a screen or paper and becomes a solid e-book, paperback, or hardback. It takes multiple people to put together the product that ends up in your hand.

Bookshop thief helping himself to 'How To Help Your Self' book.
Courtesy of Cartoonstock.com

This can include editors, proofreaders, cover artists, and publicists. And that’s only to name a few. These funds to pay those involved in the final production depends on the publisher. For a self-published author, like me, I have two people that I pay for their services—editor and cover artist. A big name or even a small publisher is likely to have all of what I’ve named and more. Which means it could take 4 or more people plus the author(s) to produce one book.

What does all that have to do with a free or discounted book that is not offered by the author or publisher?

If the book is being offered on a pirated website and you purchase it at a discounted rate, the author or publisher do not see any of that money. And if you get it for free, then they see nothing. That means you, as the reader, are taking money out of their pocket.

For the big name publishers this may not seem like a big deal. They have lots of money. But what if the book was produced by a small publisher or independently-published by the author?

bookproductionLet me break it down this way. If you’ve read my prior post on the cost to publish one book as an independently published author then you know where I’m going. If not, we’re going to go through this quickly. One book can cost an author anywhere from $1100 – $4100 to produce. If you want to understand that more, you can read my prior blog here.

Say I got the book out on the lower end of that spectrum. I then publish this as an e-book and set it at a fair price of $3.99. I don’t get all of that. Depending on how I release the book, I get anywhere from 15% to 70% of that price. We’re going to say I opted to put this out on Amazon only, in which case I make 70% of that price. That means I make $2.79 for every e-book that sells. So if I spent $1100 to put this book out, that means I have to sell roughly 394 e-books to break even.

Yes, that’s right. I would have to sell nearly 400 e-books to earn what was spent to produce that one book. It doesn’t seem like a lot when it’s thought of as less than $3 that is being taken from an author. But that increases every time one book is downloaded from a website that pirated the book.

I’m not going to say that every author agrees with me on this. To some, they consider it exposure. To others, it’s inevitable and not worth addressing. To most, it’s a disgrace. piracy-is-theft-typewriter

The next time you see a book being offered for free or seriously discounted, check the website. Does it look sketchy? Can you validate the site? Or the offer? No? Go to the author’s website, check Bookbub, Goodreads, Amazon, or another trusted site. If the same offer isn’t in one of those places, then the book has been pirated and the “so-called deal” is fake.