You may have heard of a little scandal last week involving LendInk, where a group of authors — mainly indie, although some were traditionally published — misunderstood the purpose of borrowing site LendInk, mistakenly believing the site had pirated their books. In reality, the site was matching borrowers and lenders for authors whose titles had borrowing enabled under their Amazon and Barnes & Noble contracts.
Using the power of social media — despite the fact LendInk wasn’t actually pirating any material — authors were able to get LendInk shut down, igniting a flurry of support for LendInk and a backlash against authors who did not understand the terms and conditions of their own contracts, and the fact that they had indeed enable lending themsleves. In short, the event did nothing to enhance the reputation of indie authors, who (as we all know!) already battle accusations of lack of professionalism.
When you don’t have a team behind you as in traditional publishing, it’s all too easy to hit the panic button. I know, because I’ve done the same in many situations when I’ve experienced Amazon glitches, inexplicable drops in sales, or other phenomena out of my control. It’s easy to feel the sky is falling when you spot your title on unauthorized websites; to jump to conclusions that your hard work is being taken advantage of. However, there is one thing we can do to regain some control: educate ourselves.
Okay, so we may not be able to explain away every technical glitch that occurs. But we can take the time to make sure we read and understand the fine print in our contracts. Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Sure, it’s boring. Yes, it’s tedious. But if we want to be treated as a professional, we need to act like one. Understanding the ins and outs of our business is critical.
In the comments section of this post on The Digital Reader, Smashwords founder Mark Corker says:
Over the last four years, here at Smashwords we’ve faced probably hundreds if not thousands of mini-panics, many of which might have developed into raving angry mobs as developed around this one had we not taken steps to diffuse them. For example, dozens of times we’ve had authors claim illegal copies of their books were being distributed by our retail partners, simply because the author didn’t realize we were a distributor (!!). Dozens of times authors have accused of us withholding their payments, only to discover their mailing address changed, or the gave us the wrong PayPal address.
We’re living in a time when authors have never had more power. It’s exciting, it’s inspiring, and it’s scary to be in charge of our own destiny. But we still need to keep a firm grip on the reality that what we’re doing is also a business. And that includes reading the fine print.
Being the least detail-oriented person on the Planet, I know it’s no easy task! So I’m curious: how do you deal with understanding all the ins and outs of contracts with Amazon, B&N, etc?