Rant Alert! Authors Gone Mad

First, check out this review by the SciFi Guy 1: Some of you didn’t so here’s the low down. He reviewed this book and had some well thought out reactions and then mentioned that the author states on her website that blogs and internet users are prohibited from quoting from her books. I went off and looked at her website because, wow, can she really have said that? More about that later because it turns out her website is hard to find.

Yes, she did say that. And it’s actually worse than SciFi Guy makes out.

A few things. SciFi Guy is in Canada, which has certainly had some different intellectual property case law than the US lately. But IANAL2 so I’ll leave the whole mess about whose IP laws would apply to someone who is. For the purposes of this rant, that actually doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure, though, that an author doesn’t get to pick how she’d like the law to be applied.

Now, I totally understand about spoilers. But spoilers happen in regular conversations, too. Really. People stand around and talk about Harry Potter in front of people who haven’t read it and WTF! Cedric dies? And what do you mean Dumbledore’s gay? If your mission in life is to prevent spoilers, I feel sorry for you because number effing one is that most authors think stuff is a spoiler when any reasonably smart person is going to see it coming anyway. And if your book is really good, no one’s going to care. Seriously. I laughed, really, I did when I read that she justified the policy as a means of preventing spoilers. Let’s apply some intellectual rigor to that.

What does a fair use (or not) quotation have to do with a spoiler? Spoilers can happen even in reviews (professional or not) that do not quote a single word of text. Most reviews don’t contain quotes anyway. And how likely is it that an included quotation is going to have the spoiler. Not bloody likely. Watch me do it right before your eyes:

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire is a long, wonderful addition to Rowland’s saga of the boy wizard. The death of Cedric Diggory is the point at which we realize that the Wizarding world is taking a dark turn.

See? Woe to anyone who hasn’t read this book yet. And I did it without quoting a single word from the text. Any discussion of a book, oral, written, via email, in the newspaper, in a magazine or on the internet can contain spoilers. Want to see a lot of spoilers? Go check Amazon reviews. They abound and with no quoted excerpts. If you want to stop spoilers, you’re better off refusing to have your book reviewed. That would stop the spoilers for sure.

Therefore, I think we can safely say that prohibiting quotations will have little to no effect on the possibly worthy goal of preventing spoilers.

And then there’s the part about copying. My brain hurts from trying to make sense of that. People quote from a book and place that quote on the internet. That quote (fair use or not) may be copied by others and placed on their site(s). Suddenly, people all over the internet may be seeing this quote. OK. And? That’s bad because? Some people go too far and somehow place a larger quote from her book on their unprofessional cheesy site and that goes viral too. Oh noes! Remember, she’s talking about quotes, not pirating the whole damn book like Google did without asking me first. 3

The You can’t quote from my books if you’re an internet nobody has an even bigger peril in it besides just being silly and ineffectual. And that is, print reviews are disappearing faster than those dinosaurs smoking behind the boulder. Print reviews do not reach the masses of people the internet can and will reach. Today’s nobody internet reviewer is tomorrow’s Dear Author. Many of the big review services are behind paywalls. (Publishers Weekly, are you listening?) Or they have their internet sites structured in such a way that they lose a massive number of eyeballs. In fact, these Professional review sites can be exceedingly hard to find if you happen to be average Jo The Reader just looking for a good book to read.

Genre books appeal to an incredibly wide audience, from PhD wielding academicians to hourly wage workers like Jo the Reader. As an author, it behooves me not to forget that the individual fan who reads my book and LOVED it so much she posted about it on her blog or MySpace or some personal review site is probably one of those social hub types followed socially (pick any sense of the word you like) by other book readers. And even if there are only five people who visit her site, she may well persuade those 5 people to read my book.

SciFi Guy also complained about this author’s website being structured in such a way that it was difficult, it not impossible, to deep link. To my mind, this may actually be the most damaging this author is doing to herself. Linking is the life and breath of the internet. More to the point it is the key to Google page rank. Making it hard to link to a website is going to hurt you more than just about anything. And don’t think that a link to the home page is sufficient for all incoming links. It’s not. People who click a link expect to end up on a page relevant to the reason for their click. When that doesn’t happen, they will NOT BOTHER to search beyond the home page. They will click away.

But let me provide some damning proof of why no author should build her website this way:

I Googled the author in question to see for myself if she said that stuff. I gave up clicking the results after page 4. As far as Google is concerned this author’s website probably exists somewhere deep in the search results. As far as readers looking for her, her website DOES NOT EXIST. I ended up going back to SciFi Guy and finding her website that way.

Now Google me. Carolyn Jewel. My website is the coveted number one result. People looking for me find me right away. But I also know that most people don’t start at my home page. The most viewed section of my website is my section on tips for writers. Lots of people read my excerpt chapters, too. But people who are looking for writing tips google things like How to write a query letter and my website comes up on their google search. And they head directly there. To one of the pages about query letters. In fact, you are foolish indeed if you think people start at your home page and explore from there. That idea flies in the face of ALL research done on web surfing habits. I also know that people have bought my books after finding my website for non-book buying purposes. I get email about it from time to time (and I love you all, madly!)

I got a little fancier. I Googled the title of her totally awesome first book. On the first page of results is there any link to her website? Answer: No. Though you would at least find out who wrote it, and go buy it, but you sure wouldn’t find her website.

Now Google my 2002 historical Lord Ruin. A link to my website is 3rd. I’d probably be number one but for the two words being so common. Her first book title you would expect to be highly selective for a search. (That is, the word is unusual and should return extremely relevant results, which it does. Just not to the author’s website.) Despite the far lower selectivity of my book title, you not only find buy links to my book, you find my website. And let’s face it, this author and this book are way more famous than any of my books or me, for that matter. I am (alas) not at all famous and cannot afford to have my website unfindable by Google.

Herewith:

Carolyn’s Review and Quotation Rules

1. If you review one of my books, please do include quotes you feel are relevant to the point you’re making, even if you hated the book (rats!) Please give me a link back (I’m easy to find via Google!) That would be pretty decent of you. Try to spell my name right, too. There’s only one L in Jewel. C A R O L Y N J E W E L

Also double check the book title.

Post your review anywhere you want to.

Thank you and Happy Reviewing!

Notes

1. Disclosure, SciFi Guy wrote a really nice review of My Wicked Enemy and ended with a comment on my heroine that was dead on. I wondered about writing to him to say thank you for making me see that, but I didn’t. Maybe I should.

2. I Am Not A Lawyer

3. But that’s OK, the Author’s Guild came to my rescue. Maybe. I don’t know. But actually I’m not so worried about this. That’s a whole ‘nother post.

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7 Responses to “Rant Alert! Authors Gone Mad”

  1. JenB says:

    Very little in the book community irritates me more than a self-important author. I don’t care if every word that author writes is pure literary gold–if the author is an arrogant twit, I will not buy or promote his/her books.

    How on earth can this author think she has anything to benefit from alienating her audience? More importantly, she’s alienating her most powerful PR team–bloggers and reviewers.

    Good grief.

  2. Shari Anton says:

    You’re dead on, Carolyn. Good rant!

  3. Carolyn says:

    JenB and Shari Anton: Thanks for the comment. I’m hoping she’s just had that FAQ up there a really long time and doesn’t realize it still says that.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. SciFiGuy says:

    Wow. What a thoughtful response. Your points about how the internet is really used are particularly well taken.

  5. Sandra Schwab says:

    The You can’t quote from my books if you’re an internet nobody has an even bigger peril in it besides just being silly and ineffectual.

    Add unprofessional and uninformed.

  6. Carolyn says:

    SciFi Guy: Golly!! Thanks so much for stopping by. I do think the policy is pretty boneheaded.

    And Sandy, I agree.

    Prolly she’s had that up there so long she forgot it’s there.

  7. Megan Frampton says:

    You are just so darn smart, Carolyn.