I hope everyone has enjoyed their January and are getting ready for February. Here in Ontario, Canada it is a typical winter day, and I am here pondering the events that occurred a couple of months ago.
I am really new at marketing and the author social media thing. Yes, I have used facebook to connect with my family and friends, but this account has around 70 people on it and I have actually met ninety percent of them in person. Since publishing my novel, I have accrued over 1000 facebook friends on my author account which I’m still amazed over. Connecting with other authors, responding to posts about posting my own book and pages, taking part in groups, posting ads, book launches and takeovers are so new to me. So, I am fumbling around, learning as I go.
I have been promising to relay what happened with my novel. How a group of women attempted to steal it right out from under me. I have to admit that I have been putting this off because I truly don’t want to dwell on it. I want to put it behind me as just a little blip in my journey as an author. I decided to do just that. I believe that is for the best. No, I don’t want it to happen to other authors. So, I will give a brief accounting without mentioning any names for legal reasons.
Last November, I had seen a post about a takeover. At the time, I didn’t know what a takeover was. Being the inquisitive person I am, I made a post that asked: What is a takeover? The person who wrote the original post, answered my question and that should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. Another person, an author, responded by offering her help. Instead of saying thank you and passing on the help, I responded with yes, I’ll take her offer. I guess I was feeling a bit lost in the quagmire of marketing and wanted a guide. Anyway, she messaged with the offer of help. No, not a simple invite to a takeover. She offered more than that.
This woman introduced me to her friend who is a cover designer, author and owner of a publishing company. Over a two week period, these two women helped me make teasers, claimed my writing had many errors, breaking down my self-esteem, but promising to help me make my book more marketable with a new cover and editing. They would do all this for a very small fee. I was invited to takeovers and they created a new cover and teasers with very little input from me. Every suggestion I made was diminished in some way or ignored.
I didn’t listen to the warning bells going off. I ignored them. I really wanted my book to make it and they made promises that seemed real. They weren’t outlandish. I observed a takeover, I sent them quotes for teasers, they said there were errors without telling me what they were. I began re-editing my novel and found errors, but not in the quotes I sent. There are always going to be errors and I began fussing with my word choice, second guessing myself.
They offered to edit my novel for an additional small fee. I agreed. I sent them my slightly altered manuscript. The following day, I was accused of plagiarism.
They claimed that I had copied my novel from a famous author. I confronted them, asked them to prove it. They couldn’t of course. I downloaded the book I was supposed to have copied “word for word” and began reading. At this point I knew what they were about.
One of them demanded I take my book off Amazon, immediately.
I said no. I would have to look into this further.
Needless to say, things became worse after that with more accusations and my asking for proof. I reminded them that I have a copyright on my novel and they were not permitted to use my novel. After another accusation, I ended the conversation.
I called Createspace. These people had my manuscript. No way was I going to let them try and publish it as their own. I made a report to Createspace. They can’t do anything but told me to contact Amazon.
I sent an email to Amazon telling them the situation.
I began reading the book I was accused of plagiarizing in earnest. Yeah, it was nothing like mine. Not even remotely close.
I spent the entire night reading this novel and then in the morning, I called Createspace again and made another report with a different person. This person actually said she was giving it to their legal department and making a note in my file. It was the best she could do.
I looked up lawyers and sent an email to one.
I sent an email to these women. I told them that I had contacted Createspace and Amazon and informed them of what they were doing. I also reminded them of my copyright and that I was contacting a lawyer.
They sent me an email in return. They claimed since we didn’t have a contract they wouldn’t report me but they attached cease and desist letters about using their graphics and screen shots showing they had deleted my manuscript. It is possible that they deleted my manuscript but I wasn’t trusting them at that point. I may be gullible, but I’m not stupid. Their “threatening” email didn’t impress me and only made me find a lawyer in earnest.
Amazon responded with an email telling me that unless there is a report of plagiarism, there wasn’t anything they can do. Contact a lawyer.
I found a lawyer who specialized in copyright law. She was all too happy to help me. She said until they actually resell and remarket the novel, there isn’t anything we can do. She advised that I keep an eye on them, but she didn’t think at this point they will do anything. I had scared them. From what I explained to her and their email which I had forwarded to her, she said they didn’t seem to know what they were doing, probably didn’t even have a business license. She advised me to keep an eye on them from time to time. I do.
The lawyer helped me compose an email informing them that I had contacted a lawyer and they were not to use my work in any form or part and remind them of my copyright with the copyright number attached. Lots of legalese in that email. It cost me $350. She was a Toronto lawyer. They are expensive, but worth every penny I spent.
I have not heard back from them.
This was quite the experience and I am embarrassed that I fell for their scam, but did I ever learn a lot. I learned to look out for the scammers. To be very careful with people offering me free help with nothing in return. Let’s face it, we don’t know the people who become our facebook friends, but for some reason, we blindly trust their integrity, that they are authentic. This is not always the case.
The one thing these people did do for me was to teach me about teasers, where to look for stock photos, about takeovers, and helped me get an author page. They may not know it, but this information is of value and they taught me a valuable lesson. This new endeavour into authorship is a slow climb up a mountain, not a fast ride. The first book is rarely ever a best seller, not without a big publishing house. Sometimes it takes several books over a long period of time to build a readership. Learning something new, like a new job in a new field, you have to start at the beginning, the bottom, and work your way up.
Despite all the negativity and duplicity these people sent my way, I stay positive and hopeful. I have learned so much about the author world and myself. I learned I’m not afraid to stand up for myself and fight with whatever tools I have available. I didn’t let them bully me into taking down my novel and I wasn’t afraid to contact a lawyer when I needed advice. I knew in my heart I hadn’t done anything wrong. They tried to make me a victim and I fought back because I was in the right.
I hope my story helps my fellow new authors in some way and explains what happened to me. My advice is to listen to your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Ask around, talk to other authors, check out the publisher. And remember, nothing worthwhile comes easy. It takes old fashioned, hard work to be successful. I know I won’t forget that again!
Along the way, I have met some truly wonderful people. Most of them trying to be authors just like me. Some are farther along than me and some are getting started. I am thankful for them for they are making this journey worthwhile.
I do have to give a shout out to Hanliegh Bradley with Author Friends With Benefits (AFWB). She was extremely supportive during this mess and gave me some really good advice. If you are starting out, the people at AFWB are willing to help. Their fees are reasonable and worth it. They have a lot of tools and services. Check out their website. http://authorfriendswithbenefits.com/
I have to thank Claudia Vincetti, author of January Obsession. She has become a great friend. She listened and encouragement me after the fallout of this mess. She has been so supportive, and without her, I may have simply given up. She has taught me that not all people are out to use you. In fact, we help each other. I’m helping her to edit her next book and she is teaching me how to do graphics. She is awesome. Check out her most recent novel, January Obsession. http://amzn.to/2wQHkrt
For now, I keep writing, I keep learning, and I keep reading. I will write a sequel to Signs of Love and Deliverance. I will make the corrections that need to be done to Signs. And I have a short story spin off of Signs coming soon. I think my readers will enjoy it. It is fun writing it. As I told my stepson the other day, writing makes my heart sing!
Keep on reading!