Not All Pirates Are Fun Folks Like Jack Sparrow

TGIF, WG2E-Land!

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…

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Not All Pirates Are Fun Folks Like Jack Sparrow

Gordon Kirkland

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.

Dear Gordon

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:

Dear Gordon

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:

Dear Gordon

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 edorocke@authorsolutions.com. 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.

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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/.

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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

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Comments

  1. Julie Day says:

    I’m pleased that you managed to sort it out in the end. Give credit to Nook and Kobo for the way they handled it. Authorhouse was one of the companies I looked into for publishing my first children’s book but decided against in the end. So glad I did. Just goes to show that self-publishing your books is better as you have complete control over everything.

  2. This is something to get really mad about. Recently due to some Google alerts, I’ve discovered that two of my books can be downloaded for free on a site I don’t recognize. I’ve sent them serious e-mails that they are breaking copyright laws but we’ll see if they take me seriously.

    I know someone who regularly downloads free copies of any book she wants. She won’t tell me the site but if big name authors are getting pirated without consequences, how can a small name author hope to get them to cease and desist.

  3. D. D. Scott says:

    Thanks bunches, Gordon, for sharing this with us! It is such an important topic to discuss!

    Like Consuelo, I too use Google Alerts to at least track where all the pirating of my books is occurring.

    For example, a couple weeks ago, prior to my Boxed Set even being released, I was alerted to a site that had packaged four of my books into a pdf file and were pirating it that way, although for Free, not for a price.

    I’ve noticed that once I hit Amazon’s Movers & Shakers and Top 100 on both Amazon and B&N, the pirating is picking-up…which to some degree is good news because that does show my books are in demand! So yep, there’s the silver lining.

    I try to just look at pirating as Free Advertising…and also like Consuelo said about the person she knows who does it, these people would never buy a book anyway, but the people they know, just like Consuelo, will! So, they are helping to create buzz about your books to the buying reader base too.

  4. Jamie S. says:

    Sigh! Unfortunately, this is something else we have to keep on top of as writers/authors. It makes me angry as h___! Seems there are always a small group who want to try and spoil it for the rest of us. We work hard as (there’s that word again) hell to write and produce the best possible piece we can and then we have to worry about this.
    I haven’t been faced with this problem – yet – but I will now keep a sharper eye out. Sorry you had to deal with this Gordon.
    Merry Christmas to ya!

  5. Tonya Kappes says:

    I’m so glad that B&N took action. That just goes way beyond pirating! What a shame. I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more issues as ebooks become more and more the ideal book.

  6. I wouldn’t necessarily call what AuthorHouse did pirating. Usually pirating is a company or person with 0 ties to the original content creator using the content outside of the license. In this case, AuthorHouse had a pre-existing business relationship with the authors that it is now breaking. That’s class-action lawsuit material.

    I have 0 issues with someone distributing my book for free. I know people who pirate media content. They don’t buy it. And they have BIG Internet mouths when it comes to content that they like. But they wouldn’t make money off the distribution, the reason they are providing it free in the first place is because of their morals about exclusive licenses etc. This is another reason I do not put DRM on anything. I firmly believe if you pay your dollars to enjoy my content, *I* shouldn’t tell you where and when you can enjoy such content. DRM is like telling someone who bought a paperback they can ONLY read it on the couch, with the light on, and the book magically goes blank if they try to read it in bed or in the bath tub.

    Very glad to hear about Kobo’s customer service. I’m getting ready to apply to publish directly with them, so I’m glad to hear that they really care about their authors.

  7. C.San Filipe says:

    Something new to add to my list of new terms, ‘pirating’.
    My better half is a cooperate attorney, and she explained to me, that self-pub, independent, (whatever you want to call it), has taken the publishing industry by surprise, with no laws to protect them. Innocent newbies like myself, just jump into the big pond, and find there is unexpected obstacles, like sneaky dirt bags, lurking around every corner ready to mug you. And here I thought I was entering into a gentile calm world. I guess not. I better not lock up the 9mil just yet. I’m walking into a mine field of ‘making it up as we go’ situation. I’m finding from talking to other independently published authors, they are trying to go by the ‘old industry’ laws or the spirit of those laws, hope it works and that their neighbor is doing the same, while trying to develop a code of ethics. My understanding most of this pirating happens offshore. Which makes it impossible to pursue legally or even finger the prep. At my first writers meeting, I was impressed by the knowledge the authors had on all the legal ramification and mumbo jumbo. I’m a cop, live with an attorney and I was bedazzled. I discovered you have to become your own jailhouse lawyer to protect your work. One person did say and it made me snort coffee, “I haven’t been pirated. I guess I’m not even good enough for someone to steal my work.” I hope that’s not how independents are measuring their worth, by some slime ball stealing from them, because in this world, no one does anything for free. There is a profit being made somewhere and those authors aren’t seeing it.
    Gordon, you’ll find Silicon Valley companies are very cooperative, especially when it involves their name. It’s so competitive in the valley for money, business and customers, reputation is everything to them. I’m not surprised Kobo called you back and was so helpful. The last thing they want is a connection to copyright infringement, not when down the street Kindle has it’s campus, and all the employees meet for drinks at the local sushi bar and talk.

  8. I’m glad you got it taken care of, but you shouldn’t have had to do all of that. It’s commendable Kobo and B&N were quick to take care of the situation.

  9. C.G. Powell says:

    Interesting article, but having your book sold in the e-format by your ex-publisher, where you are still making royalties, is nowhere near being pirated. Ask Stephanie Nelson, Angeline Kace and Bookish Snob what it is like to have thousands of books stolen via Torrent sites or people all out selling their books as if it were their own.

    • Thank you all for your comments. While I did have a pre-existing business relationship with AuthorHouse, they did not have the rights to publish the book in any other form that print. That was pointed out to them repeatedly and they still chose to ignore my copyright and go ahead and publish.

      While I would have received a royalty from those sales, AuthorHouse would have taken at least half of it for themselves. That is where the pirating comes in. They took something that did not belong to them in order to profit from it.

      • That should read “in any form other than print.” It’s early morning here on the coast and I haven’t had a coffee yet!

        • C.G. Powell says:

          They are clearly in the wrong and know it. It is a shame that publishers are doing these kind of things…It is as bad a Harlequin going digital with its older books and giving the authors only .03-.06 cents per sale. It’s all very sad!

  10. Talli Roland says:

    Thank you for this post, Gordon. All too often, authors are the ones negatively affected when publishers don’t update suppliers or — in your case — when they certainly appear to be negligent! I’m happy to hear you got it sorted a Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

    PS – I love Barrett’s Privateers! I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia originally, and that song is a staple!

  11. Kirsten Zeller says:

    This reminds me of when movies became available for online downloading: the industry had no idea how to deal with the pirating that soon followed. Hopefully, as this becomes more and more prevalent, and as more big-name authors start selling ebooks, someone with a very expensive attorney will figure out how to deal with this. Laws change as the need arising, and we obviously need a way to deal with this. Personally, I hadn’t even thought about this before I read the article.

    P.S. – Another one here who loves Barrett’s Privateers. Started reading the lyrics and thought: “Haven’t I heard that on a show someplace?” Great song.