Blackmailing the Written Word

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For many readers, picking up a book is a simple act. You go to your favorite online retailer, visit one of the few remaining bookstores, or visit your local library. As a reader, I rarely gave a second thought as to what when into making my favorite read possible.

Enjoying superbly written prose, visualizing a sense of place and time, rooting for the hero and hoping the bad guys got their justice. The written word is one of the few things that can change a person’s perspective, goal, lifestyle, or intelligence. You knew the old saying: “A book a day, keeps the stupidity away.” No, not sure who to attribute that to, but all readers understand this turn of a phrase.

At this moment in time, readers are quickly, (as quickly as the tide can reduce a sand castle to tiny fragments) losing the written word. Imagine if you will no more stories, no words to take you away from the tediousness of long days. No more Regency heroes to sweep the heroine off her feet, no more Rambo’s rescuing military personnel, no more words to make you rise from your depression or begin a healthy lifestyle, or help you become a better parent.

You see, there is a war on against the written word and it has many battlefronts.

  1. Pirating.
    According to the reader website, Goodreads, last year alone U.S. publishers lost $300 million dollars to book pirating. While that sounds bad….the reality is worse. That means all those authors who pen the stories you love lost a significant part of their income or, in some cases, all of their income. You can read the details here: https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/last-year-the-ebook-piracy-industry-cost-american-publishers-300-millionIt’s not just a U.S. problem— “the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally.” Which means any new quirky British mysteries we so love may soon disappear.

    The fact most books are prices below $6 (US) makes one wonder why pirating is so lucrative?

    Yes, author can file, submit paperwork and many have succeeded in shutting down these sites. But, the very next day, they reopen under a new name with a new website. It’s rather like a cyber-game of ‘Whack-a-Mole’.

    And the time and money it takes to battle these sites puts many authors out of business. Instead of creating epic battles fought in space, they are being forced to change vocations.

    If those pirating books were on the lower economic scale, one could see the attraction, but according to several studies, most readers who read pirated books aren’t hurting for money.

    In a recent U.K. Guardian article several highly paid professional were quoted: “Doctors, accountants and professionals described themselves as well-off, but said they pirated books to “pre-read” them, because they often felt dissatisfied with a book after purchase. “I have paid for some truly terrible books and regretted it – thanks to piracy, I can read first. I’ll buy if it was good enough that I kept reading it,” said one. Another said he’d pirated around 100,000 books in “a few hours.”

    I often wonder how those professionals would react to a customer saying; ‘hey if I don’t have to pay taxes, I’ll pay that accounting invoice,” or “let me see if this surgery is to my satisfaction, then I’ll come back and think about paying you,” or try telling your mechanic, ‘if my car runs good for six-months, I’ll come back and pay the bill.”

    In no other industry, with the exception of the music industry, do professionals get treated with such disdain. Why? Writers create the worlds Hollywood uses to let us all escape from reality for a few hours. While there are a myriad of talented actors, can you imagine what they would say on screen without a script?

  2. Plagiarism.
    Copying of books isn’t just from outsiders trying to make a quick buck off a well-known author’s works, no, many books are copied fully by other authors and much like the pirate book sites, re-packaged and sold as their own work. One of the most notable was the multi-bestselling author Nora Roberts, who opened a case against another author who’d stolen the works of over forty authors. You can read the entire story here.
  3. Blackmailing the Author.
    This is the latest case against the written word. Not content to copy, pirate or steal, there have been a slew of authors blackmailed over their works. There are several ways in which this is being done. The most common seems to be on social media. An author is sent a message or perhaps an email stating hundreds of people will spam, intimidate or leave inflammatory posts on their Facebook and other social media pages if the author doesn’t pay them money.Next is the review blackmailer. Many readers may not be aware that legitimate reader reviews are the lifeblood of an author’s book. A little backstory for readers who may not be aware—Reviews impact purchases by other readers, suggest a book for a blogger site or as a suggestion for purchase for libraries, and the more reviews a book gets the higher in the mighty world of algorithms and rankings, which means that book gets seen by more potential readers.

    The latest scam against authors is leaving bad reviews. If you have a book listed anywhere online, and every author does, an author gets a notice, usually via email, saying they will flood online retailers with 1-star reviews (the lowest ranking) of their book unless the author pays them money. If it is a multi-published author, they can do this for every single book.

    If you don’t pay, those reviews will plummet you to the bottom of the online retail store and your books will disappear like the Do-Do Bird.

    Take a look at this in-depth piece by author Terry Black, or this one from The Literary Hub.

    The flip side of this scam is to pay to have bad reviews removed from an authors online book page. This was highlighted in a recent article by Romance Daily News.

  4. These issues don’t just affect fiction works or a particular genre. Pirating of textbooks, non-fiction works and blatant copyright infringement are rampant within the publishing industry. Little has been done to legally address these problems.While these issues will put many authors and publishers out of business, it is the reader who ultimately suffers. There will be fewer scripts for epic movie adventures, no more great tomes of literary excellence, no more romance, mysteries to solve, thrillers, science fiction aliens or sweet moments in small towns. There will be no more horses that capture the hearts of little girls, or weird rhymes to trigger a toddler’s imagination.

    If any of this seems trivial in the world today, it’s understandable. But remember, every cereal box you read, every list of directions on medicine, every instruction manual for a product, every speech, every planner you use, every movie you watch, every news broadcast you listen to, every book you read….they are all created by a writer.

    Authors are having to make hard choices with the blackmailing of the written word and for many, the books are becoming forever closed.

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Her fiction writing has received the Author / Ambassador at Library Journal Self-e Authors, Winner Queen of the West Reader Favorite Award, Amazon Bestseller - Historical, Double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories. Writing humorous cozy mysteries and romantic comedy, Jocie can find humor in most everything, even when she shouldn't. She lives in the Midwest on Dust Bunny Farm with her family.