Over at The Passive Voice, indie authors discuss trends and data and writing and readers. Normally, we find all sorts of interesting tidbits that help to clarify our career decisions, trigger story ideas in underserved genres and generally give us a better understanding of the exploding universe that is the publishing industry.
But lately, there's been an odd little comment that pops up with great regularity whenever a new idea is presented.
"What's in this for me?"
Needless to say, Annoyed Writer has said this. But others have that well...I thought they knew better.
What is it with the need for instant gratification in our culture? Why does someone else have give these people a step-by-step instruction manual on how to interpret data that MAY help their individual case? Who do they think they are to demand such things in the first place?
What it really comes down to is these people have no faith in their own talent. Why doesn't someone GIVE them the Magic Formula (TM)? Why work harder when all they have to do is find that blasted Magic Formula (TM)? Because they KNOW people are deliberately hiding it from them!
And even when they don't believe in the Magic Formula (TM), then the reason they aren't raking in the money has to be because other writers are holding them back! They moan that all the other writers and all the other genres should just GO AWAY! If the field was totally clear, then EVERYONE would buy their books!
Um, no, kids. It doesn't work like that. The reason the BHPs have been seeing slow, steady losses over the last decade is because they weren't giving readers the stories that they wanted.
However, if you're new to the indie game, it takes time to build a backlist. It takes time to build a fanbase. It takes time to market your stories. Some writers think they were promised a rose garden with 20's and 50's hanging on the thorrny branches.
Please show me who promised y'all this because I sure as hell didn't. And I want one of these magical rose bushes.
I also want a lightsabre and the U.S.S. Enterprise-D while you're at it.
In the meantime, only you can make your career decisions. I can't. No one can, but you.
Have faith in yourself. Have fun. And if something doesn't work, then the lovely thing about indie publishing is that you can change it.
A friend commented in an e-mail about how intense my blogs were last week. I had to think about my reactions to the subject matter, and I believe I figured out the commonality.
"You're not good enough."
Even though only one particular incident was aimed directly at me, that was the gist for most of the people I mentioned in last weeks' posts. I've heard this refrain my entire life, and it still pisses me off.
I wasn't good enough for my mother. Why couldn't I be athletic like my sister and brother? Why couldn't I be a pretty cheerleader like my cousin Stephanie? Why couldn't I stop embarrassing my mother by speaking my mind?
It continued through school, but now my peers and teachers piled on. Why was I such a nerd getting straight A's? Why couldn't I get a boyfriend? Why couldn't I dress right?
And it carried through my adult years. I wasn't good enough because I refused to sleep with a boss. I wasn't good enough because I wasn't employed at a big law firm. I wasn't good enough because I wouldn't work for free.
When I started writing, the rejections and the angst only added to the miasma of insecurity. Ironically, what helped, really, really helped, was indie publishing. Trusting my voice. Trusting my talent. Trusting myself.
The put-downs haven't gone away.
I had an indie writer bitch me out for congratulating another writer who was ecstatic about signing with a publisher. It's not my life; it's not my career. If this particular person was happy with her decision, then I would support her.
I also had a trad published writer tell me that since I had made a trad sale last year, then maybe now I could get an agent. There's something wonderful in having a little self-confidence. I simply asked her why I needed one if I could make my own sales.
It took me nearly fifty years to learn not to let people make me feel inferior. Sometimes, I think I would have learned that lesson a lot sooner if had someone in my life had been willing to stick up for me.
So yes, that's why I get passionate when I see someone bullied or put down. I know what it feels like, and I want the recipient of such treatment to know they're are not alone.
In today's environment, nearly everything you say or do or type is recorded. It's simply the nature of the Information Age. The problems occurring today are no longer those of twenty-somethings posting pictures from the bong party they went to over the weekend. (Though you should watch what photos you post on Facebook.)
Now, we're seeing issues of people not thinking about the consequences of their actions, and those consequences come back to bite them on the ass.
Blazek's response to a young job-seeker was through LinkedIn, a social media site specifically for professionals. It was bad enough that the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, picked up the story. Even worse was CNN and NBC. According to CNN, the backlash against Blazek was so bad she apparently deleted her Twitter account and her blog.
Before I go farther, I'd also like to point out that Blood Lines has seven followers and roughly seventeen regular readers as opposed to the thirty-two followers and 60-70 regulars that follow Wild, Wicked & Wacky. There's not a lot of crossover viewing between the two blogs.
At 4:35 p.m. on Sunday, February 23, I received an e-mail from Matt Bradbeer.
Matt is the co-founder and director of Autharium, though he failed to identify himself as such in his e-mail to me. Now, I can't repost the e-mail here without Matt getting a bug up his ass about me violating his copyright (which frankly, I find hilarious given the original terms in Autharium's Terms and Conditions from March of 2013). That doesn't mean I can't fisk the generic items of his message.
[First paragraph - statement concerning his knowledge of my blog post followed by snide comment] One of the first rules of negotiation, kids, is that you never start by pissing off the person you want something from.
The gist of the entire e-mail is that Matt wants me to change my opinion of his company.
Matt wants me to do something for him. And he starts his message with a snide comment.
Thereby irritating the shit out of an ex-attorney, born under the sign of Scorpio and who has just started menopause. Nope, he's definitely not the brightest crayon in the box.
P.S. All that information about me that I just stated can easily be found on the internet. ALL of it. Did Matt do his research before engaging someone he perceives as an opponent? Nope. Which leads to rule number two of negotiation--know the person on the other side of the table.
[Second paragraph - claim that Autharium tried to contact PG last March]
According to Matt, someone from Autharium tried to contact PG after his blog post last March, twice by e-mail and once through social media, and that PG did not respond. PG's original analysis of Matt's company was coming up on the first page of search results when Matt googled his company.
For the record, I pretty much doubt everybody's story without proof, and Matt failed to send me any proof of his attempts to contact PG.
But back to the actual notice issue, there are three problems here:
1) Let's assume Matt is telling the truth about his attempts to contact PG. E-mails go awry. People don't always check their social media everyday. Basically, shit can and does happen.
So why did Matt wait eleven months? Why didn't he try to contact PG again? Why not try through other means? Leave a message on the blog? Look up PG's address and phone number?
I know other countries can send certified letters because I've received one from a solicitor in Dublin before.
And the most important question of all, why is it someone from Autharium had no problems whatsoever contacting PG on Monday, February 24th?
2) Other websites have mentioned the March 2013 contract terms, most especially Writer Beware. Victoria Strauss had similar opinions concerning the old contract terms. If you'll note, her addendum concerning the changes wasn't appended to her original post until November 2013. According to Victoria, she was accused of defamatory comments about Autharium.
[Legal note: It's not defamation when the facts are true and accurate at the time they were made. Matt really needs to hire a better class of laywers as you'll see later.]
3) While Google is the most popular search engine in the US, and arguably the world, why didn't Autharium send DMCA takedown notices to Bing? Or Yandex? Or Yahoo?
I'm really trying to give Matt the benefit of the doubt here, but he's making it very, very hard. Especially when he's the co-founder and director of eGurus, Ltd., a management consulting firm. You'd think with a name like eGurus they would know how the internet works and how to use alternate communication devices.
So this all puts me in a weird position. Do I believe the attorney I've known for three years and have referred friends to for legal counsel? Or do I believe a total stranger?
[Third paragraph - claim that Matt was forced to file a DMCA]
Um, sorry, I don't buy it unless you can produce the guy who held the gun to your head. There's always choices in this world, folks. Matt chose a not-so-wise decision given the current Streisand effect he's suffering.
[Fourth paragraph - T&C terms were changed based on PG's dissection; original terms were drafted by publishing industry attorneys]
On the first part, great! I'm really glad Matt read PG's analysis, realized some of his mistakes, and fixed them.
On the second part, egads! *facepalm*
Matt doesn't appear to understand why writers are leaving trad publishers in droves, much less why we find indie publishing attractive. And he hired the same idiots that are helping to drive away the writers from trad publishing. Lack of this kind of knowledge could be death to his company. As Joe Konrath has said many times, indie publishing is a HUGE shadow industry that the trad publishing either fails or refuses to see. Trying to cash in on it without understanding it? *shakes head* Definitely not a good idea.
[Fifth paragaph - acknowledgement of free legal advice from PG; repetition of contact issue; expectation that PG monitors every single website that discusses Autharium]
I'm pleased that Matt recognized PG was right, and Matt fixed the problem.
I think Matt's expectation that PG keep up with every website that talks about Autharium shows a bit of a narcissistic quality. It's a bit unfair when Matt himself seems to have difficulty keeping up with indie publishing as shown by my commentary on the Fourth Paragraph.
But still, really, dude? You might do something because some chick on the other side of the pond insulted you?
[Eighth Paragraph - released a writer from a contract when she received a trad deal]
So what? Matt did something out of the goodness of his heart. What would have happened the old Terms and Conditions if she wanted to leave but didn't have a trad deal?
Under contract law, promises, issues, or ANYTHING not specifically stated in the terms of the contract means nothing. However, I'm no longer an attorney, so please double-check with your own legal counsel.
And if you haven't clicked the link for Matt's job history above, he used to work for Waterstone's. For those who don't know, Waterstone's is a UK bookseller chain, similar to Barnes & Noble here in the States.
Which I would use as evidence of his mental state when it comes to writers.
If I were still an attorney.
Which I'm not.
[Ninth Paragraph - another reiteration of I'm mean] [Tenth Paragraph - request to change my opinion]
After all that, I have re-evaluated my opinion of Autharium, and I'm even more wary of the company for two reasons:
1) The Terms and Conditions Has Autharium changed their terms and conditions since PG's original post based on his analysis? Yes.
However, there's a couple of things in Autharium's T&C that I still don't like, despite the changes that have been made. There's no guarantee Autharium won't change the T&C back to the way it was in March of 2013. And frankly, while I highly respect PG, it isn't his intellectual property on the line; it would be mine by signing up with Autharium.
Don't get me wrong. PG's a good guy, and I would hire him in a heartbeat. Also, Autharium has used him as free legal counsel (and maybe they should think about hiring him instead of the attorneys they are currently using), which he doesn't have a problem with..
I, on the other hand, am a bitch, and I don't give advice for free to people I don't know. So I won't state the problems with the T&C I see in this blog. If you know me, contact me privately and we'll talk. Informally. Because I'm no longer licensed, and I can't give legal advice. *grin*
Matt's thinking seems to be firmly rooted in trad publishing mentality, which is scary in and of itself. I rather get the impression he hoped to intimidate poor, little ole' me.
What bothers me more are Matt's social missteps and his tendency to use a tactical nuke when a hug and kiss would have gotten him a lot farther in what he wanted.
Generally speaking, once the contract is signed the kid gloves come off, and you are fucked by whatever is actually written on the contract. Therefore, you are at the mercy of the other parties to the contract. You have to ask yourself, "Is this someone you want to do business with?"
In the case of Autharium, my answer is no. You, the reader of this blog, have to figure out what your own answer is.
Well, it's good that they figured it out. Hopefully, they learned something about how to deal with negative publicity in the future. Such as, don't piss off a respected blogger who can measure his followers in five digits per day.
In Autharium's original Terms and Conditions, the company made an incredibly blatant rights grab that put the NY BPHs to shame. Basically, even if you remove your book from their database, they would still own all licencing and ancillary rights to your IP property.
Well instead of addressing the matter directly with PG, these slimy bottom-feeders filed a bad faith DMCA notice claiming copyright violation in an effort to shut up PG's revelation. Ironic considering their own method for stealing any meaningful copyright from authors, huh?
As PG noted, if you're going to pick a fight, you should know who your up against. Which is frankly what makes the folks running Autharium a bunch of dumbasses.
The best we can do as writers is to watch each others backs from slimeball organization like Autharium. If you're a writer, spread this story as far and wide as possible. Information is power, and we need to arm our fellows.
This is a normal person's brain. This is what we're doing to our children by telling them to grow up, by telling them their imaginary friends aren't real, by telling them to sit still for hours on end while listening to boring lectures.
This is a writer's brain. (Link originally shared by the effervescent Kristine Kathryn Rusch.) As a writer, it's best that you take out only one kitten at a time. Otherwise, chaos ensues.
This is a writer's brain after spending the last six days working on the Selket-damned taxes.