Anyone who has read my previous posts might have noted how I’ve wanged on about how writing is a dull activity to write about. Well, I would be quite happy for the activity of writing to continue being ‘uneventful’…
On Monday, going about my business, I received this email from Amazon:
Thanks for using Amazon KDP. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within five days:
Ivory by Merrifield, Steve (AUTHOR)
Acceptable documentation includes:
– A contract or statement from the author or publisher verifying you retain publishing rights
– An e-mail from the address listed on the official author or agent’s website
– For authors using a pseudonym, copyright registration or statement of pseudonym use
If you publish books for which you do not hold the electronic publishing rights, your account may be terminated. If we terminate your account, we will remove all of the books previously uploaded through KDP from the Kindle store and you will not be permitted to open new KDP accounts.
Kindle Direct Publishing
I quickly replied and confirmed that I am indeed the author, glad to have seen the email and replied directly. I thought it might be a routine check triggered by a recent upload of a corrected edition (spotted a typo) and didn’t think much of it. Until the next morning when I received this email from Amazon:
Thank you for the information you provided regarding the following book(s):
Ivory by Merrifield, Steve (AUTHOR)
Prior to your submission, we received a notice and takedown for the same book, from a third party claiming that the distribution of the book above was not properly authorized due to copyright infringement. We don’t involve ourselves in third party disputes and because we have not received any communication from the involved parties that the matter has been resolved, we have determined that we will not be making the book(s) available for sale in the Kindle store at this time.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter.
‘Ivory’ had indeed been removed from Amazon. I don’t blame Amazon for this in any way, and don’t have any issues with them, other than as yet the details of the supposed copyright infringement haven’t be explained to me (it’s not the cover image as it’s licensed), and the details of the claimant have also not been provided to me, so I can’t even defend myself against this claim or the person(s) at the moment. It has made me realise how vulnerable any self-published writer is on the Internet. It seems that essentially a claim can be made and your work is removed from potentially the biggest market for ebooks.
I wrote ‘Ivory’ when I was 19. And after proving to myself I could write a lengthy novel (in ‘Harvest’) I revisited ‘Ivory’ and got it in a shape I was happy with. About four or five years ago I released it into the wild (the Internet). It was available for free on manybooks.net and through smashwords just to see what people thought. The feedback on both ‘Ivory’ and ‘Harvest’ was encouraging enough for me to invest more of myself in my writing. I decided to release it on Kindle, and wanted to do so through KDP (where you have to be exclusive, but earn a higher royalty), so I had it removed from all the sites that were hosting it, had it professionally edited and re-released them through Kindle this year.
Having a finished product has always felt like an achievement, because that’s the main thing about writing–it takes time, commitment, discipline, and lots of hard work, work that doesn’t just happen on the page, but in research and lots of thinking time. If you want it edited to make sure it’s up to scratch it also takes money. I thought it was bad enough when someone pirated it a couple of years ago and tried charging for it when it was free–I managed to get it taken down then–but this is worse. To have someone make this claim against my work, and to a distributor (not to me, even though I’m pretty easy to find on the Internet) and gets my work taken down, means all that work, time and money, has really kind of been for nothing.
I’ve done a search and while there are other books out there with “ivory” in the title, I haven’t seen any other horror novels with it.
I don’t know what happens now. Who did this? This is MY work, so why did they do it? Are my other titles safe? How do I protect myself and my future work from such claims again? I know one thing. I’m not staying exclusive to KDP. No good having all my eggs in one basket if I can’t rely on it. I won’t be releasing anything else until I have looked into how to protect my work. I could well be at fault for not doing something about copyright before, but I hadn’t come across much that details how to protect written work (other than the oft mentioned postal method–which doesn’t really work by the way!).
I have replied to Amazon and asked for the details of the claimant so that I can get to the bottom of it. I can evidence computer files for ‘Ivory’, and the novel has been receiving reviews through goodreads (with the original ugly cover) since 2010, and was listed by a Horror Hostess, Emerian Rich, as one of her top 10 reads of 2010. And I had it edited for the Kindle release by Natalie G. Owens. I don’t know if any of this is going to be evidence enough to back up my authorship or not, and I don’t know whether ‘Ivory’ will be reinstated. Reading up on copyright issues, it looks like my own recourse is a legal one. So, writing about my writing business can be far from dull. I would really rather it had stayed dull.
I don’t know who did this, or why, it hasn’t done much for my faith in people, and that’s already worn pretty thin. Whoever did it really put the ‘unt’ into ©.
I’ll keep you posted, but I’d be really grateful if you would share this story, not just for me, but to show how easily a self-published writer’s work could be threatened.