Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Oh, Sweet Myster(ies) of Life, at Last We've Found You..."

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of Booknook.biz, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 500 authors and imprints. 
I don’t know about you, but I’m ecstatic about Penguin Group’s decision to relaunch Dutton Guilt-Edged mysteries as a digital imprint. Sure, in a way, they’re competition for us here at Booknook; but at the end of the day, anything that signals a Noir comeback is okay with me. Penguin eSpecials, launching this summer, will specialize in original crime shorts and novellas. For one, I’ve missed the days of Black Mask and other great platforms from which budding mystery novelists could springboard their careers—and you know what? I’m just bloody EXCITED.

Some of you may also recall those tedious blog posts and newsletters in which I’ve nagged you to put freebie teaser fiction on sites such as Scribd, Wattpad etc . Well, now (yes, I’m sure you hear that “I told you so” coming, loud and clear), Brittany Geragotelis has inked a deal with Simon & Schuster to re-launch her (serialized) Wattpad-published title, Life’s a Witch, which commanded a very respectable 18million readers (yes: Eighteen MILLION). In addition to relaunching the original book (which was also released as a Createspace title via POD), she’s agreed to publish both a sequel and a prequel to this popular YA book.

This Week's Things That Make You Go..."Hunh?"

Lastly, this week’s query, which always makes me scratch my head in ponderment: invariably, at least 1-2x per week, I get an potential authosher (it is my new work for Author-publishers—remember, you read it here first) asking me—in ever-so-polite, disingenuously couched terms, "…if I send my manuscript to you, how do I know that you won’t steal it?"  It’s always crafted a bit less bluntly than that—but that’s the gist.

Now, here’s my question: firstly, even if I wanted to respond cheerfully and robustly, (without taking offense, which frankly is a lot to ask), how the hell does one prove a negative? And secondly—and far more amusing to me than my initial question-- if someone’s a thief, why do you think that they’d be honest enough to tell you? My working hypothesis is that if someone’s a thief (ahem, rather, “copyright infringer,”) they’re probably also a liar, as a lack of morals in one aspect tends to make me presume similar deficiencies in other facets of their personality—but I could, of course, just be caving to baseless bias.  Do these folks really expect me to respond, “[w]ell, yes, of COURSE I’ll steal it, put it under my own name and put it up on pirate sites as soon as it hits my servers?” Would a real pirate say that? Can we all agree that the likelihood is slim? Then, logically—what’s the point of asking?   Of all the choices (an honest person, a dishonest person), who's going to respond that they'll steal the book? 

I understand that people get nervous about sending their “children” into the unknown of cyberspace—I do. But a large number of these questions come from the same people who’ll, without a worry in their minds, send hundreds of digital copies of their manuscript, willy-nilly, to any Tom, Dick or Harriet that hangs out a shingle on the Internet that says “Literary Agent,” with no credentialing whatsoever. If you’re sending your manuscript to anybody on Planet Earth who’ll set up a blogsite claiming to be an agent (or, for that matter, a new publisher)—for the love of heavens, folks, why would you ask the book converters for promises of security? If your book gets stolen, will you automatically think of the 100 agents you contacted, the 50 people in your online critique group—or will you instantly blame the conversion house which, of ALL the people mentioned in this paragraph, are the only ones who DON’T take the time to read it?

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read on various writer’s groups that it’s a “deadly sin” to send a manuscript with a copyright notification on it to an Agent, because it will insult her integrity. The next time you’re tempted to ask some poor conversion house for proof that they’re not thieves—try to keep that in mind. If you've blithely sent your manuscript to 100 strangers you don’t know, simply because they claim to be agents or publishers—that “piracy” train has already left the station.
On a bright note, however, despite all the doom and gloom, statistically (as depressing as this is to many writers' egos), you are indeed more likely to be struck by lightning then to have your book pirated (unless your book is Playboy or Hustler, or Excel macros or video-game cheat tips).  So cheer up!
This week's chuckle, from Reader's Digest:  ""I just read a great book on my Kindle. It was a real button-pusher!"


  1. With all of the fear (paranoia) among writers that their work would be stolen by someone who read it prior to its being published, you would think I would know someone it's actually happened to.

    I don't.

    I hope Brittany Geragotelis inked a sweet deal, because otherwise she might be leaving some money, and readers, on the table.

    Thanks for then post!

  2. I don't know anyone who's ever had their novel stolen either. I stopped worrying about such things many years ago. Of course, I also stopped sending my manuscripts to agents long ago too.

    On the other hand, my ebooks are offered as free downloads on many illegal sites but I've decided there's nothing I can do about it. As Hitch points out, if they're thieves, why would they take the file down just because I asked nicely?

    Thanks for a interesting post!

  3. This brings back such good memories. I have to say that if anyone would be the type to think the worst in people it would be me but I NEVER worried about someone stealiong my book. You're right, it is somewhat insulting to even suggest it (although I don't think they intend to). I have a friend who won't even share part of a manuscript with me (for advice or comment) because he's afraid it might "get out there" or something. Funny. As for myself, I would actually have to produce something of value before even the worst of people would consider stealing it and based on the lack of interest from agents I would say that hasn't happened. I suppose some of this is just wanting to "protect" your most valuable possession. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder right?

  4. I used to be a little paranoid about people stealing my work when I first started writing novels. For some reason, however, I gradually stopped being concerned. Not sure why. Maybe I just came to realize that in the digital age, there's really no way to stop it. They can plagiarize after the work is published just as easily as beforehand.

    Could be I just learned to stop worrying about matters can't control.

  5. Hitch,

    I remember when I first started writing how terrified I was that someone would steal my work. Bet then again, my family raised me to worry about everything.

    So far no one has stolen my work... but plenty of people have downloaded it free.


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