I had drafted a post for today about love and relationships, using a sappy poem my main character receives from her love interest on Valentine’s Day. Then, last night I unearthed another dark side of publishing which broke my heart: Piracy.
After reading multiple five-star reviews of Kristin Hannah’s newest book, The Four Winds, I decided to download the Kindle version, despite a hard cover I ordered was waiting at my post office held mail window. I had finished The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett and was ready for another good read. When I pulled up Four Winds on Amazon, lo and behold, the Kindle version was listed at $3.70, an incredible deal for a new release. My only thought was this was some special flash sale price, maybe Amazon showing some love for Valentine’s Day. I purchased it and spread the news through my Facebook reading groups so others could enjoy a great book at a great price.
As comments flew in with “thank you!”, “grabbed it”, “awesome”, a couple of comments raised the flag this could be pirated version. Sure enough, I dug deeper and found the publisher listed for the Kindle version only was not Hannah’s legit publisher, St. Martin’s Press. A search of the publishing company’s name returned zippo. Fury ran through my veins, pumped by my broken heart. A despicable pirate was earning royalties off of Hannah’s genius and well-known name. What’s more amazing is the pirate’s talent and boldness. He/She hacked Amazon to display their Kindle version directly on the master page for the book where the other format options were listed.
Irate at the situation, I immediately:
- Returned the book on Amazon for a refund – no sales proceeds would go to this pirate.
- Deleted my posts from all the Facebook reading groups, including from my page.
- Issued an apology post in all the groups to alert others of the situation and recommended they return their purchase asap as well and included directions on how to do so.
- Reported the issue to Amazon which took 20 minutes of being re-directed up the chain and my insistence they look into the matter immediately and delete the listing.
My anger kept me awake, but at least by 2:00 a.m. when I checked the listing, it had been removed and by this morning, the correct listing at the correct Kindle price of $14.99 was back available from St. Martin’s Press.
In the span of a couple of days, how many sales did Kristin Hannah and her publisher loose?
This morning I awoke to a few more comments on my post thanking me for alerting people to the situation, and unfortunately, reports Four Winds was not the only victim. Other recent best-sellers were available on Kindle, and other e-book platforms, as pirated versions.
This situation has heightened my publishing angst. Before starting the query process, I copyrighted my novel through all the procedures with the U.S. Copyright Office, thinking I would be protected as my work began circulating out into the public with beta readers and agents. Now, I’m conflicted. Two agents have my full manuscript as requested. Another 20+ requested the first 5-20 pages and/or a brief or full plot synopsis as part of their submission guidelines. My ideas, my writing, my characters are out there, exposed and vulnerable until I secure a publishing contract. And, when might that be? And, with whom? And, can he/she be trusted to represent me in a legitimate manner?
How about we pile on more anxiety in the process? I carefully researched the agents I submitted to, contacting ones who represented current historical fiction authors, well-known and debut ones. Yet, two names / agencies popped up on Twitter recently. Like the gators roaming the swamps and side roads here in FL, other predators walk amongst us. One tweet claimed: “Like many @xagency authors, I have NOT been paid. They are holding authors and agents money with no sign of paying out.” Another: “Xname (xagency) is a predatory agent and should not be queried. Stay away from the entire agency.”
Now what? These are in my “No Reply” pile. If they’re unscrupulous, could they use my synopsis in some manner? Could the agents who passed on my manuscript reshape it a bit with one of their authors and publish?
A day off tomorrow will be spent evaluating and soul-searching for the best way to publish Eliza’s story – soon. For now, I need to down another swig of Pepto Bismal.
I’ll end this rant on this day to celebrate love with some brightness. My husband and best friend of 34.5 years supports me with whichever path I choose. We’ve walked many miles together, we’ll walk many more. Hopefully, he’ll have a published author by his side soon.
And, for those who do want a sappy love poem, here’s the one Eliza receives on a fated Valentine’s Day in 1903.
I invite you to follow my blog for further updates on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction. More information about my debut novel is available on my About page. You can sign up to follow from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I’ll email you an invitation.
I also post book reviews and tips and ideas for book clubs. I’m on social media, too. On my Facebook page, I also post deals I find on Kindle specials ($1.99, $2.99, etc.) for books I recommend. A great way to add to your e-library with minimal costs. UPDATED 2/14/21: I will check each title before posting to ensure it’s a legitimately published version.
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