This post was inspired by a recent problem I experienced with Amazon.com while at my day job. They didn’t believe we were the publisher of a book (that they had been selling since 2016!) and eventually a bestselling author’s personal assistant had to get involved to say, “Yes, they are!” Next step would have been to involve the author’s agent, and my head still hurts just from thinking about THAT.
Yet, the whole experience got me thinking about a problem Amazon has had with their Kindle eBook self-publishing and their CreateSpace trade paperback self-publishing over the years — and how that trouble caused the headaches we had this week of proving we were really a book’s publisher.
I don’t know how wide spread this issue was, but people were taking published books, scanning them, and uploading them to Amazon or CreateSpace as if THEY were the publisher of the book.
I distinctly remember a thriller author friend who discovered a trade paperback edition of his new hardcover — which wasn’t OUT YET — listed on Amazon as a brand new book, ready to ship in 24 hours from CreateSpace. Someone had scanned the review copy, uploaded it, and was making money off the author and the publisher’s work until the author noticed and got the publisher’s lawyers involved.
The other and maybe even more common problem has been people using famous author’s names, or slight variations on those names, on their own books and publishing them via Amazon. So you might see something like THE COURTROOM by “Jon Grisham” on Amazon, and you might assume like a ton of other people that it’s the same guy who has written dozens of bestsellers set in the legal world… and you would be wrong!
And for years Amazon did NOTHING about it.
There were “fake” versions of bestselling authors selling just awful books — and a lot of them! One of these people, I’ve heard, was able to quit his day job thanks to the sales of his extremely bad horror stories he published under a really well-known author’s name. Amazon even deleted customer reviews trying to warn other readers because the review was not about the book itself.
All of that said, Amazon finally started cracking down on the outright copyright infringement, which is why we have to jump through a ton of hoops whenever we publish an eBook of a book that someone else published years ago. But I’m glad those hoops exist to stop the outright fraud that was going on!
This is a long way to get what I’m thinking about today, but I figure it’s a problem most readers have no idea exists, so I thought it needed mentioned.
Here’s what today’s post is really about (or is it?):
As much as I dreamed from a very young age of being a bestselling author, and as much as it crushed me as I learned more about the publishing business and realized I didn’t fit the “mold” New York required for that to happen, I’ve accepted that I was wired to write the stories I write, and I’m okay with that.
When I was 22, I had an well-known agent tell me he could teach me the formula for writing bestselling thrillers, and I politely passed. That wasn’t the type of book I wanted to write and I couldn’t imagine “pounding out” a book a year based on a formula someone else gave me.
This agent has since represented dozens of bestseller thriller authors. They’ve sold millions of books. One of them owns his own small island in the Caribbean!
In terms of doing what’s best for my family, WOW did I make the wrong choice! I should be churning out Generic Thriller #18 this year and making big bucks.
But it felt like the right choice at the time… and as the person who still has to try to get these stories out of my head and onto the printed page, I’m okay with that decision from a creative standpoint. I don’t even know if I could have managed to stick to the formula and provide what he wanted!
That said, no matter how much money was on the table, I cannot imagine being the person who cobbles together some stories real quick, tosses them on Amazon under a famous author’s name or a slight variation thereof, and then rolls around in the money that arrives every month.
Does that person feel GOOD about the writing they did? I cannot imagine they do.
Do they feel GOOD that all of the money is from people they tricked. I hope they don’t.
And yet… Yes, yes, I can see someone being smug and satisfied with their “success.”
Which is frustrating from the point-of-view of someone who has been trying to get his work out there “the right way” since I was twelve years old.
I don’t have a tidy ending to this, but I wanted to share these thoughts in case you might find them interesting… And maybe some day I’ll think of a good ending for this post! 🙂