Today Is David B. Silva's Birthday

Today is David Silva's birthday, and as you know he passed away several months ago. Still, his Facebook account is still active, which means Facebook is notifying all his friends that today is his birthday, which means some dimwits have been posting inane birthday screeds on his wall. Not all of them, mind you (some clearly know he's dead and are saying how much they miss him), but there are others with such posts: "Happy Birthday David! Hope you have a fantastic day and hope all your wishes come magically true!" and "Happy Birthday and many more! Consider yourself birthday-spanked!" See that right there, people?

That's my middle finger, right in your face.

On Entitlement

Psst! Hey, you. Yeah, you.

Are you a writer?

Do you spend countless hours and days and weeks and months on your story/novel/whatever? Have you gone over the thing so many times you practically have it memorized? Have you had your closest writing friends read it over so they can tear it apart? When the book is ready to go, have you worked hard on your query, getting every word right? Have you sent that query to over a hundred agents? If an agent signs you, do you work nonstop to get the MS in the very best shape it can be so that agent can send it off to publishers? If a publisher wants to buy the book, do you do a happy dance? Do you spend the next year or two closely working with the editor and copy editor and marketing department so that when your book is finally released, it's going to be a big hit? Does the big day finally arrive and then nobody buys your book?

Well, guess what -- nobody has to buy your book.

Why? I don't know. Maybe readers never got the memo. But all that hard work you put into your book? Yeah, in the end, it doesn't really mean much to readers. They don't owe you anything. I hate to break it to you, but you aren't entitled to be read. You are especially not entitled to sell a bunch of copies.

On the flip side, those readers who don't owe you anything? You better believe they're owed a damn good story. You better believe they're owed getting their money's work from your book.

In fact, speaking of your book, that's what's owed the most: the story itself. I mean, why are you writing that story in the first place? For yourself, sure, okay, but also for the story. You have to do right by the story, and maybe, just maybe, the story will do right by you. And then all that other stuff? It might fall into place. Then again, maybe it won't. Again, you as the writer are not owed anything by anyone.

Cheerful thought, isn't it?

The reason I mention this is because it seems more and more writers feel like they're owed stuff. The biggest offenders I've seen recently are a certain select self-published camp. They feel because they self-publish, places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble should be bending over backwards to sell their books. And so if their books aren't sell, well, IT'S NOT FAIR!

Guess what -- nobody ever said it would be.

And say if you do sell a copy of your book, what then? Well, regardless if it's traditionally published or self-published, you should thank your lucky stars. There are hundreds of thousands of books out there. The fact someone other than your family or friends decides to spend their hard-earned money on something you wrote, well, that's pretty amazing if you think about it. Then, say, a reader emails you telling you how much they enjoyed the book. Even better.

But wait -- the reader doesn't leave a review on Amazon! *gasp!*

Guess what -- you're not entitled to a review. You actually aren't even entitled to that reader emailing you in the first place, so be thankful for what you get.

In the end, in case you haven't picked up on it yet, you as a writer aren't owed anything. If you're a reader, well, my friends, you are owed very much indeed. You are owed a great book, plain and simple, and any writer who can't deliver that is a writer you probably shouldn't waste your time with in the first place.


Tit For Tat And Other Shenanigans

So earlier today I finished A Face in the Crowd, the new ebook collaboration between Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan, and scrolled through the rest of the ebook (the second half are excerpts from The Talisman and Black House) until I came to the very end and found the "Before you go" page, which encourages readers to leave a review or share their thoughts on Twitter, and also recommends books which other readers purchased after reading this particular title. Here's what I saw:

Now, the first title there, Tit for Tat by Steven King, is currently ranked 1,446 in the US Kindle store, which means it's selling pretty well. Plus, despite the fact Amazon estimates the page count to be 73 pages, it's priced at $3.99, so you have to figure it's bringing its author over $2.50 for every unit sold.

Why do I say its author?

Well, because this King is not the King, which is reiterated by the seven (current) one-star reviews for the book. Each review exclaims how awful the book is, and how (and this is the important part) THIS IS NOT THE REAL STEPHEN KING!!!

And yet ... people keep buying the book.

They even seem to be purchasing Steven King's other Kindle title, Davey's Brain Drain (seriously, I'm not making that title up), which is currently ranked at 9,190 in the US Kindle store and has two one-star reviews. Oh, and it, too, is priced at $3.99, despite being even shorter than Tit for Tat, coming in at 28 estimated pages despite the subtitle on the cover "A Novel."

Now is it possible that someone named Steven King is also a writer of horror? Sure. But quite honestly, I don't think that's the case here, despite what it says on Steven King's author page:

Steven is 29 living his dream of being a writer in his downtown Toronto loft. Forever being confused with the famous Stephen King, he never pretends to be him, but can only aspire to do the name justice, and hopes on day to shake his mentors hand. While Steven looks for his life partner, he continues to write in his favorite style, horror/thriller. He considers Tit For Tat his crowning achievement, taking 1 year to write it and hopes one day it will become a major motion picture. He is fortunate to write for three different publishing companies, his novels reaching over 100. Graduating from the University of Toronto, he continues to take night classes to keep fresh, and reads anything he can get his hands on. His hope is to spend the rest of the life writing, next to a woman who will spend the rest of her life reading.

I could be wrong, of course, but I think this is one of those instances where some douche is trying to take advantage of a household name (while, at the same time, aspiring to "do the name justice"). And, I don't want to be a complete dick, as I understand every writer is different and works at different paces, but Tit for Tat took a year to write and is only 73 pages? That's, like, 30,000 words, if that, which works out to be 82 words a day. Also, check out how the book is categorized (!!!):

I actually became aware of Steven King weeks ago, and sort of shrugged him off. But when I came to that "Before you go" page on the Kindle, it really made me think.

Do readers seriously just buy whatever Amazon (or any place else) recommends them to buy? I'm not complaining, of course, as I'm sure most of my sales on Amazon come from the fact Amazon is recommending my stuff, but don't readers at least check out the product description and customer reviews before purchasing? Or, even better, download a sample? It's clear many people are staying away from this Steven King, but it's also clear based on those sales rankings many people aren't.

Now, I can see many readers accidentally downloading it because they honestly believe it's really Stephen King. I've seen many people refer to Stephen King as Steven King. Hell, I've even seen a blurb given by very well-known author, in which that well-known author stated that the writer in question reminded him of a young Steven King. And this, my friends, was on a website run by a major publisher. Unfortunately, they eventually noticed the mistake and had it fixed, but still, the confusion does happen.

Anyway, getting back to our friend Steven King, he even has a follow-up to Davey's Brain Drain, cleverly titled Davey's Brain Drain 2: The Sequel (seriously, people, you can't make this shit up). That one is estimated at 22 pages and is priced at $2.99. There is also another title called Amulet of the Queen: Erotic Horror (erotic horror!!!), estimated at 47 pages and priced at $3.99.

Sooooo, my fellow authors busting your asses to produce quality work and gain a readership in a tough and unforgiving marketplace, what's new with you?

The LendInk Fiasco

Did you hear about the LendInk fiasco? If so, were you even aware that LendInk existed before now? There are a bunch of ebook lending sites out there. Places that do not provide pirated copies of ebooks, but instead list books that are available for lending, and then match readers up to lend those books. For writers who publish through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, lending is already enrolled by default, though the writer can opt to have their books taken out. In fact, here's the skinny from Amazon KDP:

The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family. Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period. Lending is not available for Kindle books purchased on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es or Amazon.it.

All KDP titles are enrolled in lending by default. For titles in the 35% royalty option, you may choose to opt out of lending by deselecting the checkbox under "Kindle Book Lending," in the "Rights and Pricing" section of the title upload/edit process, but you may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. For more details, see section 5.2.2 of the Term and Conditions.

Is this an awful thing? Absolutely not. You buy a paperback or hardcover book, read it, what do you do with it? Oftentimes, you'll lend it to a friend. That's what you do with books, either physical or digital.

Of course, not all writers understand this. And I guess earlier this month some writers stumbled across LendInk, saw their books listed, immediately assumed it was a pirate site, and freaked out. And mass hysteria ensued.

I can understand why some of these writers freaked out, but clearly they did not take the extra moment or two to actually research the website and see for themselves that there was no pirating going on. In fact, from what I understand (because the LendInk site is currently no more), the books were only listed on the website. Again, it wasn't a pirate site, so there were no actual files. But that didn't stop people from freaking out and creating a virtual riot.

Maybe I find this entire situation so ridiculous because of my views on pirating. While I don't necessarily agree with pirating, I don't really care much either that many of my ebooks are available on torrent websites. You can Google "robert swartwood torrent" and see for yourself. I know some writers who would piss their pants with rage to learn that their books were on ones of these sites. They would immediately send DMCA takedown notices. They would raise a battle cry. They would, in my opinion, be wasting their time, time that would be better spent on, you know, writing.

Anyway, so LendInk is no more, and many writers who didn't know any better right now feel a sense of vindication stopping a website that was, ultimately, helping to promote their work (from what I also understand, the books listed also included links to Amazon, so readers could, you know, buy the ebooks if they so wished).

These writers I'm talking about? They're the silly ones who give self-publishing a bad name. Their books might not suck completely, they might have decent cover art and formatting, and they might sell a lot of copies as they grow a readership. But despite all that, they also have no business sense. If they did, they would understand what they're signing up for when they publish through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and would also understand that, in the end, lending is a good thing.

Again, that's just what you do with books.

Worse Than Pirating

So just about a half hour ago I'm browsing through the top 100 horror Kindle titles on Amazon, as I am wont to do (I don't check the New York Times bestseller lists anymore, but the Kindle top 100 lists), and I noticed this title was currently free:

It stuck out to me immediately, because my friend Aaron Polson not too long ago published a new book with this cover:

As you can see, a very striking resemblance.

So then I thought, Okay, somebody just stole his cover. That's ridiculous but not too awful.

Then, on a whim, I clicked on the "look inside" option, and guess what.

It was the same book.

Word for word.

I immediately contacted Aaron and let him know.

The first book -- the plagiarized book -- according to its pub date, has been available since November.

But that's not all.

I noticed a few other suspicious-looking e-books and brought them to Aaron's attention, too.

One of them, he told me, was his as well -- a short story published under a different title.

Clearly this is a very fucked up part of digital publishing. Many e-books are published without DRM, which stands for digital rights management. E-books with DRM basically make that title only available on that device. Most authors are encouraged to publish their e-books without DRM to make it easier for the reader.

And while it is easier for the reader to transfer the e-books from different devices (you can even take Kindle titles, download them to your computer, and convert them to epub or anything else using Calibre), it makes it even easier for pirates to take your work and put it up for anyone to download for free.

As I've said before, while I don't agree with pirating, it's a reality we all need to face. And, to be honest, it doesn't really bother me. The way I see it, those who download my books from pirate sites wouldn't have even considered buying the books in the first place. And, who knows, maybe they'll really enjoy that pirated book and seek out more of my work.

But someone taking my e-books and putting them up on pirated sites is one thing.

Someone taking my e-books and doing like they did to Aaron -- republishing them under a different name and cover for profit -- is fucking despicable.

How can we fight this sort of injustice?

By being vigilant, for one.

What else?

I'm not so sure.

And that, when it comes down to it, is what I find really scary.