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You Reap What You Sow

I wasn’t going to address the situation currently exploding all over social media. I tend to try to focus on my own work and stay out of the drama, but this is far more than that. And a comment made during a conversation with a friend who is an aspiring author made me realize I can’t be quiet about it after all. The comment? She said she wasn’t sure she wanted to publish the books she wrote, after seeing all that has gone on over the last few days. It was a wake-up call for me. So, while this situation hasn’t affected my books personally, I feel I need to publicly stand with the authors it has.

When I was writing my first book, I was in awe of how the indie community was so welcoming and helpful to a newbie like me. I was able to reach out, ask questions, and generally make a nuisance of myself while I learned what I needed to know. And I had authors who were happy to take me by the hand and show me the ropes. It made me feel included, part of the club. I’m still friends with many of those authors to this day and I’ve tried my best to pay their actions forward, in the sharing of information and supporting fellow authors.

This doesn’t seem to be the case in this situation.

I don’t know the author in question and had never heard of her before this whole mess started. I’ve read the posts and I tried to watch the video that made the rounds. I couldn’t get past certain parts of it and had to turn it off. But I will say this: I understand protecting your brand and trying to build your business. Believe me, I know. I was a small business owner for ten years before I started writing. I started that photography business in my living room from nothing and worked hard to get it off the ground and successful. So, trust me, I understand all about building your brand.

But here’s the thing: your brand is directly linked to your reputation. You don’t – can’t – build your brand by stepping on the heads of your peers in your journey to the top. Or, at least, you shouldn’t.

As authors, we’re all in the same boat, trying to make dreams come true by writing the words and creating works for people to enjoy. We each have something to say, and we all say it in different ways. If you want to protect your brand, great! It’s smart business sense to do so. But make yourself the brand, or the series name, and so on. By trade-marking a single word – one word – this author has the indie world in a state of worry, fear and angst. Authors are scrambling to come up with funds to change books titles for fear of being sued, since they have to purchase new ISBN numbers (and at around at least $100 a title, that could get very expensive). They’re having sales frozen of titles they published before the trademark, titles containing the word this author trademarked and are receiving not only cease-and-desist letters from this author, but letters from Amazon about copyright infringement, when they've done nothing wrong. Reviewers are having their reviews, from years (yes, YEARS) ago removed because they contains the word in question. And the readers…well, the readers probably think we’ve all lost our damn minds. And they’d be at least partly right.

All of this from one word, claimed by one person. To her I offer the multi-faceted southern compliment of bless your heart. Maybe you tried doing things the way you thought was right, maybe you knew exactly what you were doing all along. The only person who knows for sure is you. But the chaos you’ve created is entirely of your own doing and you keep feeding the fire. Maybe it’s time to step back and be a little humble for the sake of your karma.

If I thought this author was the least bit contrite or apologetic, this could be a totally different blog post. If she had offered to correct the situation, to do things properly, I could be a little more sympathetic. Or if she had even addressed the situation with a little compassion and respect. But for now, I can’t.

So, let me offer a few messages to the rest of the folks in the book world:

To my fellow authors: I know it’s a hard time right now and some of you have had your writing world flipped on its ear. Please know, you are not alone. I, along with many others, stand with you. We’re here if you need to vent, cry, scream, or just need someone to lend a shoulder. We’re here to share your work, to help recoup some of the money lost from this situation. And when this situation is corrected – and if there’s any justice in the world, it will be – we’ll be here to celebrate with you.

To the readers who support us: We love you. Please know, this is not a usual situation and we’re dealing with our frustrations as best we can. It’s not pretty at times, but we’re fighting for our right to create our books for you our way, the way you’ve grown to love and the reason you support us to begin with. We hope you’ll stand with us as we stand with our fellow authors being targeted by this whole affair.

To the reviewers: No, it’s not fair that one word should affect your reviews. And though it’s not my place to apologize for them being removed, I will. I’m sorry your time and work in supporting authors is being disregarded. I know I speak for all the authors I know when I say we appreciate you, we need you and we hope you don’t give up.

And to Jodi: You’re not just my PA, you’re also my friend. Please, please don’t let one person’s actions keep you from following your dream. Don’t let those manuscripts you‘ve put so much time and care into wither away in some dark drawer or corner of your computer. You and I both know the indie author world can be a wonderful community and I sincerely hope you join us as an author soon. And if you do, know you’ll have at least one person already there waiting to stand with you. <3

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