Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. 2 comments


Part IV.ii
What Pirates Say To Copyright.

(WTF? Start from the beginning)


How writers will make money

Way #2:

We will sell our books (and whatever else we want.)

(WTF?  Check out Way #1)

For all the talk about our right to control how our writing is reproduced and distributed, few authors actually retain this right.  The monopoly that publishers have on production and distribution means that the only books that can be distributed are authorized copies from the publisher.

“How do I get my rights back?” is a common question in writing forums.

No writer should ever have to ask this question.

Books go out of print.  In-print books don’t always sell.  Series get cut short.  Sometimes when these things happen, authors take matters into their own hands. Some authors have turned to POD and ebook publishing to bring back old titles, finish a series, or reach a wider audience.  And some have pirated their own books.  Whatever an author chooses to do with their book should be up to them.  But it’s not.

While publishers are not likely to go after wildly successful authors who sell or pirate their books under the table what of the other authors?  At the whim of the industry, they could face a massive lawsuit and get sued into bankruptcy.

Authors are being scared away from some of the best marketing tools available to them.  I’m not just talking about piracy.  I’m talking about distributing their work however they want.  The consequences of failure are enough to frighten away anyone not plucky enough to take matters into their own hands and give the entire publishing industry the finger .

A savvy author with some leverage may demand a clause in their contract that returns these rights after a certain amount of time. Some contracts have two or three year (or more) time limits built in.  Happily, the profusion of writers’ forums on the internet has new writers more aware of just what they are signing away in a contract and it may be that more writers are demanding the return of their rights.  But if it’s not in the contract, or if the companies refuse to comply, the author does not have the right to produce, distribute, and price their own book.

Authors fall out with their publishers all the time.  Sometimes over being ignored, sometimes over edits, sometimes over marketing budgets, sometimes over bitchiness.  Doesn’t matter.  Should our right to our own work hinge on the good will of the publisher?

And aside from selling the actual book, authors will have the right to sell stuff related to their book. When writers build communities around their work, they may want to offer extras to help promote their community.  Maybe these will be special editions with illustrations or commentary or the beloved scenes that the publisher edited out.  Maybe it’ll be t-shirts. Maybe it’ll be bobble-head dolls.  It doesn’t matter.  The point is, no body will take away their right to do so because it is their project and they should be able to to whatever they like with it.

Authors are so busy asking how they will be protected against those who would share and create from their work,  they have not realized that they do not even have that right themselves.

The publishing industry isn’t going anywhere.  But they don’t need a monopoly on our work to prove useful.


Before anyone points out that a writer still “owns” his or her work because it has a © with their name on it, and what they sign away–of their own free will–is publishing rights, let me point out that publishing rights are only possible because of copyright.  Copyright law gives a creator exclusive rights to the use of their work.  Publishers require a writer to expressly sign over the right–the exclusive right–to publish their book.  In a world where people were free to share art freely, (commercially AND non-commercially) publishing rights–or the rights to produce and sell a book- -would have no meaning.

2 Responses to “How will we get paid? part ii: Self-Publishing”

  1. live60

    You’re correct about never signing over your rights. That seems to be something I haven’t been able to get through the heads of writers, actors and musicians. I give up nothing. But, I’m one of the few writers who will sell my rights. I won’t sign over rights, but I will sell them outright. This means I’ll make this agreement before I write or ghostwrite a piece for someone. And, make them pay as you go, page by page or chapter by chapter.


    • aeliusblythe

      And there’s nothing wrong with a writer deciding to sell specific rights in specific cases. Writing or ghostwriting for someone is a perfectly reasonable exchange of work for money. I’d add that another example of a perfectly legitimate exchange is selling first rights for a short story to a magazine. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

      Many writers just don’t realize (or they just don’t really think about it) that the norm for most publication (of books anyway) is to basically sign over all your rights. And right now there’s not really any other option, that I’m aware of. So if a writer wants to choose to do something with his or her work at a later date, they can’t–without the blessing of the publisher of course.

      It’s too bad that many young artists don’t realize this.


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