Our very own WG2E Team Member Gordon Kirkland has had a recent experience with pirating that is a must-share-so-writers-can-beware situation.
Take it away, Gordon…
Not All Pirates Are Fun Folks Like Jack Sparrow
My old friend, the late Stan Rogers used to sing a song called Barrett’s Privateers, with the opening line of the chorus “God damn them all! I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold. We’d fire no guns; shed no tears”
Over the last couple weeks I have twice had modern day privateers fire their guns across my poop deck. Today’s pirates take the work of others and put it out as though it is their property. I’d like to make a couple of them shed some tears.
The copyright pages at the front of my books say, “No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.” It is meaningless when dealing with people who can only find scruples in a dictionary.
In the first case, which I wrote about earlier, a woman took one of my pieces and incorporated into her own column. It was unprofessional and proof that plagiarism is alive and well. The second case is even more serious, and could spread out and affect a lot of other authors.
I recently discovered one of my books was being sold on both the Kobo and Nook platforms. I hold all of the rights to this book, so it was a bit of a surprise to me, especially when you consider the fact that I am in an exclusive relationship with Amazon, and have been for some time.
When I was writing my syndicated newspaper column, I published three books using the services of AuthorHouse, a company now under the corporate umbrella of Author Solutions Inc. At the time they were a good company to work with, and had a number of good people at the helm. I even willingly provided them with several testimonial statements. If you ever run across one of those statements, please disregard it. It is no longer the company it once was.
I knew there was a problem when I started getting pushy marketing calls from people who could not pronounce my name. (How hard is Kirkland?) Apparently AuthorHouse had moved the customer contact jobs away from Bloomington, Indiana and to the Philippines.
One Sunday morning I got a call at 6:30 from someone wanting me to sell me a spot in their New York Times advertising for a book that was published in 2005. Despite being a bit groggy from being woken up at that hour on a Sunday, I still managed to access the part of my brain where I store the special words that I reserve for those sorts of situations. They are not what you might call ‘Sunday words.’
When I checked their website to see who I knew that was still working in Bloomington, to try to get these calls stopped I discovered a bigger problem. Electronic versions of my books were “In production.” I immediately sent an email to one of the few people still there from the old days; a lovely woman who I knew would try to help me out. She forwarded my email to someone else in the company, and I received the following response.
I’m sorry that you have had a bad experience with AuthorHouse.
I’m putting in place measures to make sure we do not create e-books for any of your titles, and I will make sure no publishing consultant, marketing consultant or book consultant contacts you. This will mean that if you want to purchase books you will have to call in.
I should have realized that it was too easy.
At the beginning of November, I discovered that their website still showed that e-books were “In production.” I wrote the person who had supposedly taken care of it the first time. He replied:
I hope everyone has followed my instructions not to contact you. Please let me know if that is not the case.
I’ve also put in a second request to make sure that we do not produce e-books for your three titles.
He “hopes” that they followed his instructions? What company just ‘hopes’ their employees follow instructions? Can you imagine an airline ‘hoping’ someone followed instructions and put fuel in the plane? As it turned out hoping was not enough.
On December 12, 2011, I discovered that an e-book of my 2007 book, I May Be Big But I Didn’t Cause That Solar Eclipse, was on Kobo, and later found out that they had also put it on Nook, I was just a teensy bit annoyed. Of course, that’s like saying that Mount St. Helens had a teensy eruption in 1980.
I fired off an email demanding that AuthorHouse remove the e-books immediately. The person who “hoped” people would follow his instructions tried to explain how this happened:
I put in requests that your books were not to be distributed as e-books. I’m afraid a member of staff missed the instructions when we launched a new $3.99 pricing initiative.
I’ve asked the team that’s responsible for our e-book distribution to fix this ASAP.
I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
“Inconvenience?!” “IN-CON-FREAKING-VENIENCE?!?!” He thinks it’s an inconvenience?! I’m not sure what dictionary he is using, but ‘inconvenience’ does not even come close to being the appropriate word. Perhaps a more honest response would have been:
· I’m sorry, but this company is now has a policy of hiring the most incompetent people we can find;
· I’m sorry that you discovered that we pirated your book because we hoped you wouldn’t notice; or,
· I’m sorry, but I really don’t give a great heaping pile of steaming elephant turds about keeping my word to customers.
Clearly, the time for emails had ended, so I called him. I have to give the man credit. He knew that there was no way I could reach my hand through the receiver and slap him silly, so he, in his infinite wisdom, decided to say the words that every customer just loves to hear.
“It’s not my job.”
I decided that, if I was going to get this dealt with, I would have to do it myself. Knowing how hard it is to get to the right person in a company quickly (in other words, someone who wouldn’t later say, “It’s not my job,”) my assistant posted a plea on Twitter:
“Hey @kobo, someone is publishing my book on your service without permission. How do we get it off ASAP?”
Not surprisingly, that got a response within five minutes.
I have to say, I am impressed with the way Kobo handled this situation. I am not one of their customers, and I am in an exclusive arrangement with one of their competitors, but they still responded with concern about what had occurred. I was assured that my message would get to the right person immediately.
When I returned from a meeting a couple of hours after the initial contact, I had a message on my voice mail from a gentleman at Kobo, who, because of the three hour time difference between us, gave me his personal phone number to call. Not a lot of businesses have employees who would do that in order to solve a problem for someone who was not even one of their customers.
Barnes and Noble also moved quickly to remove the book from their site. Clearly these companies do not want to be in breach of my copyright, even mistakenly. I don’t blame either of them. They took it on good faith from a publisher that it had the right to publish electronically. I’m sure they no longer have that faith in AuthorHouse.
I have since spoken with another author who once published with AuthorHouse. She has also been receiving pushy marketing calls from their Philippine operation. She has also tried to get them to stop production of an electronic version of her book.
AuthorHouse knows that they do not hold the electronic rights to my books. They just chose to ignore that fact, and produced an e-book version without my permission. They also did not adequately ensure that once notified, none of their staff would continue working on producing the e-books. They seem to be working on the theory that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
If you have ever published by using the services of AuthorHouse, I strongly recommend you take the following steps if you do not want them to produce an e-book of your title(s), and keep a portion of your royalties for doing so:
1. Go to the AuthorHouse website and select the Author Center tab.
2. After signing in, check to see if they have produced an electronic version of your book(s), or if they are showing them to be “In production.”
3. If you find that either case is true and you have not given them permission to do so:
a. Send an email to Erica Dooley-Dorocke, Director, Marketing Communications, Author Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the one person at AuthorHouse that I feel I can trust.
b. Or call her at 812-334-5308
c. Send an email to Kevin Weiss, CEO, Author Solutions at KWeiss@authorhouse.com. If you don’t hear back quickly, send him another one… and another…
d. Tweet @authorhouse and say, “Hey @authorHouse, you have illegally published an e-book of my book [insert title]. Remove it immediately.”
e. Tweet all platforms where AuthorHouse has published ebooks of your title saying, “Hey [Twitter name of platform] AuthorHouse has illegally published an e-book of my book [insert title]. Please remove it immediately.”
While I have been specifically talking about my experience with AuthorHouse, those of you who have been published by other print on demand companies in the past may very well be facing the same issues. Author Solutions Inc., the parent company of AuthorHouse, also owns iUniverse, XLibris, and Trafford.
I honestly hope you never have to deal with something like this. I had to use the better part of one day and a portion of the next on this issue, at a time when I am spending countless hours on the marketing if my books for the holiday season.
I’d like to wish you all the very best of the season, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised if I hope certain people at AuthorHouse find coal in their stockings on Christmas morning.
Gordon Kirkland has been called ‘one of North America’s premier humorists.’ BookExpo-America named him one of the 7 Book Industry Characters in 2007. He has received the Leacock Award of Merit for three of his seven books. He is a frequent speaker and workshop leader at writers’ conferences, festivals and university programs in Canada and the United States. He was a member of the cast of the 3-Day Novel television series, which aired on BookTelevision in the Fall of 2009. He lives in near Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit the Gordon Kirkland website at http://www.gordonkirkland.com/.
Thanks Bunches, Gordon, for bringing this situation to our attention.
This is exactly what The WG2E is all about…writers helping other writers by sharing their real experiences.
It’s Your Turn, WG2E Peeps: What have your experiences been with pirating?
The Best of The WG2E Wishes — Gordon Kirkland