Just two weeks ago, I found out—only two days after my novel The Prince of Winds was released—that the book had been stolen while available for a short while as a free read. Some other person changed the title and a few names, then published the book and claimed it as her own. Heck, she even published my 40,000 word novella as two books so she could make more money off it. This was a terrible shock and plunged me into a nightmare while my publisher and I worked to resolve the issue. Within hours, I proved my authorship by providing a copyright registration dated a year before the thief published the stolen books. That proof allowed my publisher to put my book back up for sale. But what a headache!
I’ve talked about that nightmare—and the valuable lessons learned—elsewhere, so check out my blog [HERE] if you want that story. Today I’m going to talk about how this ordeal showed me the extent and strength of our writing community.
When the theft was discovered, my publishers and editors were great. Writers don’t always know what their publishers truly think of them. We hope they like and believe in us. Well, I can tell you mine believe in me. They let me know this in several ways, but especially through personal communication that ranged from the completely professional to the heartwarming and intimate. One of my editors even called me up to tell me to think of myself as Sally Field, and that “We like you. We really like you.” I’m a new writer, and they were concerned this setback would affect my confidence and they wanted me to know it shouldn’t, that I was safe with them.
Who were the first people I told? Fellow writers. My two closest writing friends, both published authors with whom I’ve built up enormous trust and rapport. Only after I told them did I tell my husband. My friends did what I wasn’t yet able to do. I was devastated; they were outraged. Through emails and phone calls, they talked me through it and got me emotionally back on track. My book was good, it would be fine. They also both suggested I blog about my experience. Like many writers, we had tested our first efforts on free sites or fanfic, and we knew lots of other writers were exposed to having their early works snatched away.
Helping other writers is something writers do. Just let a fellow writer know you need help and most will offer you information, tips, or contacts. My fellow writers have served as models for my blog, given me cover art tips, taught me to write a tag line and blurb, introduced me to artists and promotional sites, and passed along writing and interpersonal communication tricks. We bring new writers on board and we connect with new readers.
So I blogged about The Prince of Winds and got the word out about the possibility of any work posted on the internet being ripped off. I also personally contacted writers whose free work I read and enjoyed. It warmed my heart to see other writers immediately begin to retweet and repost my blog. Several contacted me to ask about copyright registration (pros and cons) for their own work. Getting people thinking and talking was a good thing.
The most heart-warming response, however, came from readers. Readers of my books, some of whom had been waiting for me to publish The Prince of Winds because they wanted to read it again, sent amazing letters of support. Readers love stories and they don’t want to see writers ripped off and abused. They are fierce and loyal. That’s why I believe readers who enjoy following writers closely should get perks in the form of free reads, WIP chapters, or short stories. I plan to continue posting free stories, not for thieves to pluck, but for my readers to enjoy.
Why? Because knowing those readers love my work and want to read my books is what it’s all about. And they don’t read just my books. They read dozens, maybe hundreds, of authors. They even read the thief.
The other day, a reader left a message on one of the reposted blogs. She had thought she’d stumbled across a “too familiar” blurb, but when she looked deeper she discovered a book she’d bought and enjoyed and had been looking for sequels to… was my stolen book. And guess what? She’s now part of my community. Heck, I may dedicate the sequel to her!
Communities grow organically, often in unexpected ways. Much of the time, they can be kind of invisible. They may only exist in the background. But they’re there for us when we need them—and the more we contribute, the more we participate, the bigger and stronger that community becomes.
So, who do you turn to when the writing (or reading) life gets a little ragged around the edges?
Links to me and my books:
Dreamspinner Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_661