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Book Design Plagiarism, Getting Your Book Into Bookstores, Negotiating Rights, And More Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black In Our Member Q&A Podcast

Book Design Plagiarism, Getting Your Book into Bookstores, Negotiating Rights, and More Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black in our Member Q&A Podcast

How to handle book design plagiarism? That's among the questions answered in this month's AskALLi Member Q&A with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black. Other questions include:

  • What services are authors using to setup direct sales on their websites?
  • What is the best way to get my indie book into bookstores?
  • What is the best way to negotiate the rights to an audiobook to a publisher?
  • If I am rebranding my series, should I release the new covers at the same time or can I stagger the new covers?
  • How can I avoid scams?

And more!

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Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

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Watch the Video: Book Design Plagiarism and Other Questions

How to handle book design plagiarism, and getting your book into bookstores. For answers to those questions and others, tune in to the #AskALLi Member Q&A with @MichaelLaRonn and @sacha_black Share on X

Show Notes

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is ALLi’s Outreach Manager. He is the author of over 80 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings (now graduated!). You can find his fiction at www.michaellaronn.com and his videos and books for writers at www.authorlevelup.com.

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition winning author, rebel podcaster, speaker and casual rule breaker. She writes fiction under a secret pen name and other books about the art of writing. When Sacha isn't writing, she runs ALLi's blog. She lives in England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. You can find her on her website, her podcast, and on Instagram.

Read the Transcripts: Book Design Plagiarism and Other Questions

Michael La Ronn: Good morning and welcome to the Members Self-Publishing Advice podcast.

I've still got to get used to the name, and Sacha, we have to remember that we need to record this locally.

Sacha Black: I'm just doing that.

Michael La Ronn: I'm doing that as well. So, folks just to start things off a little bit differently than we typically do, we record these, and we record our local audio so that our good friend Howard can edit us and make us sound in our own glory, and I can't promise that sometimes we don't always remember to record our audio session. So, I'm just talking now so that I can fill some time.

Sacha Black: How are you?

Michael La Ronn: I'm great, Sacha. How are you doing?

Sacha Black: I'm good. Yeah, I'm good. I'm glad now I'm having my second coffee of the day, a bit late for me. Normally, I've had a couple by now.

Michael La Ronn: Second coffee. The second coffee always tastes better than the first.

Sacha Black: Oh, it really does.

Michael La Ronn: It always does, and I think it's because at that point, the caffeine is kicking in. So, you savour it a little bit more, whereas I feel like the first one's more of a jolt to the system.

Sacha Black: Yeah, the first one is necessary oxygen to actually get out of bed.

Michael La Ronn: Yes. I used to know somebody that had a coffee pot next to their bed.

Sacha Black: Oh, wow. That's amazing.

Michael La Ronn: And they would program it, so it would turn on about 30 minutes, or however long it takes to make coffee, I don't drink coffee that much, but it would turn on 10 minutes before they're supposed to wake up. Yeah, it was a problem.

Sacha Black: No, no, I think that's amazing.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Well, it's amazing in the right hands. In the wrong hands, it becomes a coffee/caffeine addiction.

Sacha Black: Oh, I'm all the way there.

Michael La Ronn: All right. You good?

Sacha Black: I'm good. I'm good. Yeah.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. I'm good too.

So, we got a lot of questions this month, and we're going to cover a lot of ground.

The title of this month's show is Design Plagiarism, Getting Your Book into Bookstores, and Negotiating Rights, just to name a few things. Like I said, that's a pretty wide-ranging number of topics, and we're looking forward to getting into it.

We will answer chats, so folks who have questions in the chat, we will answer those as we go if it makes sense to roll into the topic. Otherwise, if you've got a question in the chat, we will try to get to it before we wrap.

What hyperlinks or images to I need to setup on my shopping cart?

Michael La Ronn: So, let's jump into our first question, and that is from member, Hema, I hope I've said that correctly. The question is, what images or hyperlinks do I need to set up on my shopping cart? My advertising is to focus direct traffic directly to my website, in short.

Sacha Black: Yes. Okay. So, I keep this pretty simple, for me, and I use a 3D image of my book, and there are some free 3D cover generators online. If you just Google it, you'll find one. I basically upload the flat eBook cover into the website, and it spits out a 3D image, and then I just load that to my website, and that's what I use.

In terms of linking out, generally speaking, I will search Google for each stores logo, and I'll pull off like a little icon, so it's a small image anyway, but it will be like the icon for Barnes and Noble, or it'll be the Apple logo, or the Kobo logo, and then I put all of those on the books page and I hyperlink those logos, the image, out to my books page on that store.

So, it is quite simple, but each image becomes a bit like a button, in essence, and that enables people to both see visually and see all the options, which sort of acts a lot like the universal book link that Draft2Digital do, except it's on my website. So, that captures everything in one go.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's great. I do something very similar to that. On every page on my site, I do exactly what you do, whereas I get the logos for all the retailers. I do the top five, I do Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Google Play, and then Audible, if I have an Audible book.

Then what I do is, I put a button below that, that says ‘more stores', so then they can click and then it goes to Books2Read where they can get all the other little.

Sacha Black: Guess what I'm going to be doing at the weekend. That's brilliant.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I mean, I tried that because I had some people once that reached out and said, can I find your book on OverDrive? And I was like, well, yes you can, but it's not listed on my site. So, it worked out, and then I also sell books direct too, through Payhip

Sacha Black: Yes, so do I.

Michael La Ronn: I've got a button under that, that says, ‘buy the book directly from Michael'.

So, I don't know if it's the most elegant thing in the world to do, but I know that there are some WordPress plugins.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I have my store on the WordPress site, and I use WooCommerce to do that. So, that page that I'm talking about is the sales page for that book. However, I'm definitely going to be adding the universal book link, I don't know why I didn't think of that, it's brilliant, Michael. Thanks for that tip.

Michael La Ronn: Oh, yeah. Well, I've had enough people reach out to me and ask for places that I didn't put a button for, that I was like, okay, I've got to solve this problem, you know?

So, there's multiple ways of going at it, multiple ways of biting the apple, so to speak.

I think the question, you know, the ultimate answer is, can you just put together something that is user-friendly, and that also supports a going wide strategy, and I think there's no wrong answer behind how you do it, it's just how you accomplish it.

How can I make sure I’m covered if my work is unintentionally plagiarized?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, next question is from Yoda, and they ask, I've just read some of your guidebooks and listened to Helen Sedgewick's podcast with Orna around legal topics, but still need some guidance around an issue I'm dealing with. I'm about to publish a meditative colouring book with sayings, with artwork purchased outright by me from my illustrator. My illustrator sourced some of the initial artwork from somewhere, but not sure where, as this person is overseas, and some things get lost by translation in email. As I am now the copyright owner of the illustrations, I naturally don't want to be liable for infringement of other people's work. We had both signed a legal agreement at the outset stating that all work would be her own and that she would indemnify me, but there's some issues around, around that.

So, ultimately the question's getting down to, would the signed legal contract be sufficient cover for me if my work has been unintentionally plagiarized. And then, do I need to put a disclaimer in my book regarding unintentional copyright infringement. And then, is paying for additional IP insurance a good idea or a waste of money?

So, there's a lot there. I thought I would read that whole question because there's a lot of really good stuff in this.

The first is, it certainly sounds like Yoda did a lot of things right in this case. So, the important thing to understand is that when you work with an illustrator, unless you sign a contract that says otherwise, the copyright belongs to the illustrator, and the illustrator is licensing the work to you to use for commercial use, your exclusive commercial use, typically.

If you sign a contract that says that you own the copyright, that's certainly much better. You typically have to pay a little bit more for that. That's a copyright issue. The copyright issue is settled, in this particular case, which is awesome.

The other question that comes in is, well, what happens if the illustrator designs something that is not, or what if they take a design from someone else and it's not their own? That's copyright infringement. But then what about plagiarism, because they're two separate things?

You can commit copyright infringement, and that's very clear, but plagiarism is not necessarily something you can get sued for, although you can. It's just more of an ethical, hey, you shouldn't pass words off, or designs off, as your own. So, anyway, that's a little bit of context just to kind of set the table for this.

So, the question is, would a legal contract be sufficient cover for me if the work has been unintentionally plagiarized. Well, it's a good idea, as Yoda did, to put what's called a ‘hold harmless and indemnification' clause in your contract, and what that says is that the illustrator, or whoever you're doing business with will, basically ‘hold harmless and indemnify' means they will defend you, they will basically pay for any legal costs that you incur, usually run a reimbursement, as a result of any negligence that they have. So, if they accidentally commit copyright infringement and you get sued, they will reimburse you for your legal costs, effectively. That's a smart thing to have in any contract, especially when you're working with a designer, because you do want to ensure that the work that the designer does is their own.

So, we always recommend contracts here at ALLi, that's a really good contract to have, or clause to have in your contract. We're not lawyers, of course, we're not solicitors, but certainly that is a smart thing, and especially because that incentivizes your designer to say, oh, wait a minute, I'm not going to commit any copyright infringement. So, that's the answer to the second.

As far as whether you should put a disclaimer in the copyright page, I don't know about UK law, I don't think it's going to make a bit of a difference. I think ultimately you just need to settle whether you've got some copyright infringement in your book or not, or plagiarism in your book or not. I don't think anything you put on the copyright page, if you say, I didn't intentionally plagiarize something, on your copyright page, I still don't think that's going to protect you a whole lot.

Then the third question is a question we get a lot here at ALLi is, do I need IP insurance. So, media liability insurance.

I'm an insurance guy. I've built my career in liability insurance in this particular area. I would say, I always recommend insurance, but it is expensive for people, and it's not necessarily always applicable for many people.

If you're in a situation where you're hoping to buy IP insurance so that you're protected from some potential copyright infringement, you may not qualify for it. So, it's always a good idea. Whether or not you can bear the expense is another question entirely.

Anything you want to add, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I think that was expertly done.

What is the best way to get my book into bookstores?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. All right. So, good old legal questions. Always fun.

Okay, next question is from Brett, and the question is, I am self-publishing my first book, what is the best way to approach shops with regards to selling to the public?

So, I think he means, or they mean bookstores.

Sacha Black: I think so.

Michael La Ronn: I think so, but we can answer that.

Sacha Black: Yeah. Well, we also have a guidebook, actually, so perhaps we should start there. So, Debbie Young, I believe, was the team member who did that. So, we have a guide to selling in bookstores and libraries, which if you're a member, you can download for free in the allianceindependentauthors.org website.

If you're not a member, then you can purchase a copy in our bookstore on the selfpublishingadvice.org website, and that is a really comprehensive guide. I think the big thing here is that selling to bookstores is difficult, because traditional publishers have established relationships. They have established networks of sending advanced copies and relationships with the booksellers in the store, and that's really the key here. You need to build relationships with the individual bookstores, which is why indies often don't go this route, or at least they don't spend vast amounts of time doing it, because you're going to sell a couple of copies per book, sorry, per bookstore. Therefore, the amount of time that you're going to need to build relationships with each individual store is not going to offset the amount of time, or the amount that you sell is not going to offset the amount of time it's going to take.

That said, sometimes if you have quirky, local independent bookstores, and sometimes they're willing to do things like ship out signed copies for you, or they will do launch events with you. So, sometimes setting up those relationships, and working with local bookstores can be beneficial. But just understand that it is a one-on-one type of relationship that you're going to have to build with individual bookstores when you are an independent author, because you don't have those traditional publishing networks where they've got the systems in place.

Also, another thing that you need to make sure is that your books are either on IngramSpark or Gardeners, or whichever distributor works in your local country, because bookstores will not buy from KDP print, so that's another thing that I just wanted to add.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I was going to add that as well. You definitely need to make sure your book is available on Ingram, and the reason for that is because that's how bookstores purchase their books. So, if your book is not in their catalogue. Essentially, when you put your book on Ingram Spark, you discount it. So, usually I think that the general discount is about 55%. That makes it attractive enough for book sellers to purchase. So, if you are selling just through KDP print, they can't purchase it at a good enough discount in order to purchase it and make money on it. So, that's absolutely critical. So yeah, distribute your book through Ingram, build relationships, and then also don't be afraid to ask your readers.

If readers want to buy your books at bookstores, ask them to ask their local independent bookstore.

Sacha Black: Yeah, that's actually often even better than you trying to build the relationship. That often works better.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly, because I've spoken to bookstore owners and what they say is, they don't really have a bias against self-published books, it's just that they need to make sure there's a demand. So, if their readers are asking for the book, as long as it looks professional, and as long as they can purchase it and sell it at a sufficient discount, they don't necessarily care whether it's self-published or not. It just has to be a good market for their audience. So yeah, definitely check out Debbie's book, but all some good things to think about.

Sacha Black: Yeah, one last thing when you are setting up in Ingram Spark, there's an option to click ‘no returns, because what can happen is, if booksellers order your books, and say they order a big quantity of books and then they don't sell them, they will try and return to you/Ingram Spark at a cost to you, so you end up being charged. So, lots of independent authors do click ‘no returns', which does lower the chances of you getting those sales to bookstores, but it also protects you in the long-term.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, if you're prepared to click that box that says returns, just be prepared for what can happen, meaning that you could end up with negative royalties for the month, or be charged for the books. So, it's possible it can happen. What I always tell people is, if you're willing to click that box, just watch Ingram like a hawk, and if it gets to a point where things are trending in the wrong direction, then you always had the ability to turn it off. So, great answer.

So, our next question is from Celine, and Celine asks, we have a publisher who wants to sign a contract to release our new children's books. They need the rights to the books and the audiobooks they are creating. They would like exclusive rights to the audiobooks, but they only distribute in the USA. We would like to distribute our audiobook to the world. Can we distribute another version of the audiobook if we sign an exclusive deal?

I'll take that. Probably not. The other thing you have to think about is the language. So, when you license in a contract, you also have to think about the language. So, generally you want to negotiate in the grant of license, the term, the territory, and the format.

So, you could say this audiobook contract is for five years or seven years, that's the term. The territory, it sounds like that's what you're negotiating already, which is audiobook rights for the United States, but you retain the rights to distribute an audiobook anywhere else in the world. But then there's also the language, so you also want to settle that.

So, if you can get it in writing from them that they're only purchasing the audiobook rights for the United States, in English, and that you have the right to produce another audiobook, in English, to distribute across the rest of the world, that's probably the way to do it.

It probably would be expensive, but if that's what you want to do, certainly go for it. But just make sure that the contract is teed up, and then that might be something you want to discuss with the publisher as well, because at least if they're aware of it then, you know, as long as everyone's on the same page when that ink dries, I think that's the key. So, if they understand what you want to do, and you understand what they want to do, that's always the answer. That would be my answer on that.

Sacha Black: And we do have a rights desk, don't we, if there are any queries over contracts. So, you could send your contract to the ALLi rights desk to get some advice on that, should you need it.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, just go to selfpublishingadvice.org/contact, and we can get you in the right direction there.

Should I re-cover all of the books in my series at the same time or one after the other?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, next question is from Nathalie, I'm about halfway with writing a book series, and I intend to conclude it in a few years. I'm looking at doing new covers in the series, and I'm wondering when to get them done i.e., when do I put the covers on the books? The title and the blurbs of the books aren't changing, just the underlying cover design. Do I wait with getting new covers on the books when I've released the book, or do I do it for all the books of the series at the same?

What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: So, I don't think that there is a right or wrong answer here. So, the only thing that I can do is answer from a personal perspective in terms of what I would do. So, in the question she did mention that she was thinking about doing a big thing for each reveal and each book, so that is one method, you know, month on, month on, month on, she would reveal a new cover, and I think that's a great idea. For me personally, if I'm changing the covers, it's going to be because they are not on trend anymore, and I would like to throw some advertising at the series in order to be able to generate a better ROI on my advertising spend.

Therefore, for me, I would change them all at once, because I wouldn't want mixed branding out there, especially if I'm changing them in order to try and increase the sales. So, I'd want them all to look uniform and all of the series to be the same, especially if I am going to start putting money into advertising on the first book. So, I think that's what I would personally do.

But that said, I did like the idea of doing a cover a month and the sale. And as I said at the start, I actually don't think there is a right or wrong answer here, it just depends on what your marketing method is going to be, and what you are trying to get out of changing the covers. If it's to generate sales, I probably would change them all at once. If you're trying to increase awareness, and build audience and engagement, then maybe a month on, month on is probably a good idea. I don't know what your thoughts are.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I'll take a contrarian view. I think the answer is what you just described, Sacha. I think I would change all the books at the same time, because the worst thing you can do is confuse readers. You don't want them clicking on book one and they're like, wait a minute, this design looks different than book three, are these really in the same series? So, I think you've got to nip that in the bud.

That said, I do think before you change the covers, I do think you could do the reveals. So, if you wanted to do the reveals the week before or a month before so that your audience knows that this is coming, I think that's better. I just wouldn't have different covers in production at the same time. I think that's the critical piece.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and I think we both agreed on that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I think we both agree on that. I would change everything at the same time, and then I wouldn't, you know, I mean the only time the cover should be different is because Apple or Google are changing them, so maybe it just hasn't cycled through yet. But eliminating reader confusion, I think, is just critical, because confused readers won't buy your books, so you just want to avoid that. But if it's your audience and they're familiar with it already, then I think there's something to be said for building an event around it. I would just do that before you actually publish it, but hey, good old opinions.

How do you avoid scams as an indie author?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, next question is from, oh, this is from our member, Brent, have you all thought about doing a podcast or info segment on the topic of scammers in the publishing world? I've been contacted by several entities offering to get my book on radio shows from different states for a significant price. I've also been offered to publish with certain publishing firms for big bucks too. Is there a listing anywhere which shows bogus firms, marketers, etc.

Sacha Black: Yeah. Okay. So, first of all, be very sceptical of anybody who contacts you offering you a service, I think that's probably the first thing to say. The second thing to say is that we have a Watchdog, which is run by John Doppler, and often the posts are usually on a Tuesday, but we will have articles from John that do look at scams, look at companies, look at things going on in the community and in the industry, and you can look in the archives. So, if you just go to the selfpublishingadvice.org, and search in ‘watchdog'. Everything's tagged, so that's one place that you can look for historical articles and advice on avoiding scams and things, and then the second thing that we have is we do have a ratings page. It is going through a big change at the moment, we're updating it all. So, just to be aware of that, but the ratings page looks at lots of different things.

Then if you are a member, you can sign into the allianceindependentauthors.org website, and you can go to the trusted partners directory and the service listings, and John assesses and approves all potential, or doesn't approve, all potential partners, and they do actually go through quite a rigorous check with John. So, anybody that is on that list is 100% approved by ALLi, and we assess them against various metrics, so you can be assured that they are legitimate.

The other thing is not part of ALLi, but still really good, and that's Victoria Strauss, I want to say, who does writerbeware.blog, and she does a very similar thing to John, where she goes into a lot of detail investigating scammers in the industry. So, that's another website that you can look at.

But I would be very sceptical about the return on your investment that you would get from booking onto radio shows. The reason for that is, whilst some listeners will listen to audiobooks or read books, it is very unlikely that you are going to get a significant return on your investment because people aren't listening to radio to get book recommendations. They're listening to radio for music, and for news, and the comedy sketches between the presenters.

So, you are more likely to get a better return on your investment by putting that advertising money into the locations that readers actually are. So, for example, Amazon spend, or Kobo promotions, or so on and so forth. So, I would just be sceptical of the benefit of that anyway.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. I would also say, just be careful with traditional media because there's a bias against self-published authors there too. So, it's one of those things where, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. I've heard stories of people that have been featured on radio stations or on local TV stations, and it didn't go as well as they thought, because there's some hostility toward indies.

One, if they even let you in the door, is the first thing. Two, if they do let you in the door, what kind of interview are you going to have? And then three, the people listening, if they know you're a self-published author, if their stigma is there, they may not be willing to take as much of a try on your work.

Then the other thing to think about is demographics. I'm 35, I cannot think of the last time I listened to the radio. So, that's another thing, certain demographics listen to the radio, or certain occupations even, a truck driver or something like that, maybe they listen to the radio a little bit more than your average person, but maybe even not, right, because truck drivers are pretty sophisticated and they've got pretty good technology, maybe they're not listening to the radio. So, just think about demographics, if the people you're trying to reach are on the radio, then cool. If they're not, then maybe look at somewhere else, is another thing to think about.

Okay. Well Sacha, this is the point where we have blown through our programmed questions. So, now we're just going to go into uncharted territory here. So, I don't know what the questions are, you don't know what the questions are.

Sacha Black: This is going to be fun.

How do you deal with pirated books?

Michael La Ronn: So, we're going to have some fun here, okay. So, next question is from Jasmine. It says, some concerns around Apple, and I'll take this generally. What do you do about people pirating your book on retailers? What do you do about that, Sacha?

Sacha Black: On retailers or on pirate sites?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, like Apple or Amazon?

Sacha Black: I don't think I've ever had my book pirated on a retailer. I've had it pirated on pirate sites, and I just ignore it. I mean, you can issue a takedown notice, but they just go up straight away. On the retailers though, that is a different question. I think if you have proof that you own the ISBN, for example, or proof, because obviously in the UK, we own the copyright the minute that we finish the book, finish the product. So, it's not that it's not recommended, it's just that we don't have a system, like you do in America, for registering copyright. We can register copyright in America, if we want to, but it's one of those things that's recommended more often for American people than it is for UK people.

So, for me, I have ISBNs on all of my books, and I've always done that, and whenever I've had a rights issue with KDP, I have shown the USB portal with my address, my real name, my pen name, and the ISBN, and that has, generally speaking, sorted out most of the issues. But I'm not sure what else I would advise other than maybe registering copyright in America.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, the only reason you would register as a Brit, I mean, you tell me if I'm wrong, but the only reason you would register a copyright in the United States as a Brit, is if you want to sue somebody in the United States, because other than proving that you own the copyright, it becomes proof in a case if you've got a copyright registration certificate. Really, the only reason you're going to register your copyright is because you're about to sue somebody, and when you register a copyright here in the United States, it takes an ungodly long time to get that certificate. So, you can't just register something and say, oh yeah, I registered it on Amazon. It's going to take a minute.

So, I would say, if your book is being pirated by retailers, or pirated on retailers, I think you can solve that pretty quick, because it ultimately boils down to the date you published it. So, you can say, I published this book on, you know, April 5th, and the retailer will have record of it, so they should be able to remove it. Now, how quickly they remove it, I don't. It's one of those things, I have heard of people having their books pirated on Amazon, and I've seen it myself.

In fact, I was, I won't name the author, but it was a big-name author that a lot of people in the urban fantasy genre would recognize. I was doing some research one night and I stumbled across a page, and I was like, wait a minute, that book description looked suspiciously familiar. So, I clicked on the book and then on the copyright page, it literally {inaudible} had stolen the entire book, it said it right there on the copyright page, even though the book cover was different. The book cover had some weird author name on it, and it looked a little goofy, but when you clicked on it, it was actually the other author's book, and it was painfully obvious. And obviously, the book had no reviews. I don't think anyone would've bought it because the cover was just ugly. So, I question how frequently people are actually buying those books, because I think it just doesn't make any sense. But if it happens, I think you just reach out to the retailer, and I don't think you're really going to lose that much money. But, if you do, then I think that's probably more of a problem.

If you see your book pirated on websites, what you said Sacha, I do the same thing. I just ignore it, because nine times out of ten, it's not really your book, it's a trap to get you to give your credit card information, or log in so they can install malware on your computer, and then you're screwed. So, I probably shouldn't say that word, but you know what I'm saying? You know where I'm going with this, it's not really your book on a site, they just scrape the data and make it look like it's your book. And if it is your book, again, I think someone who pirates your book was probably never going to buy it anyway, and so it's kind of a different audience.

So, I think there's maybe some benefit and value in someone who pirates your book, because to me, I'll take my fans however I get them.

Sacha Black: Yeah, exactly.

Michael La Ronn: If they pirated my book, I don't necessarily care how they got my book, but I wouldn't mind them being on my mailing list, I'm not going to lie about that. But yes, I mean, piracy is wrong out of the principle of the matter, and I know that there's some people who take that very seriously, but I think you could spend your whole life chasing after pirates, and I don't think you'll really get anywhere, because even if you eliminate one, another one's going to pop up, especially the more successful you become. I think about Steven King, I wonder like just how many people pirate his books on a daily basis. It's probably a substantial number, but I wonder how many of those people are still avid Stephen King fans. Like, yeah, I pirated Stephen King's books, but I'm like the biggest fan ever. I wonder, what's the value of that kind of reader? I think there's a value there, but that's just me.

Sacha Black: I think there's a value if they convert to, you know, like, I love this book, I'm going to go and buy three more, or they do sign up to the mailing list, because we all use free as a mechanism, right? So, free is very valuable as a mechanism for gaining readers. It's just like in a supermarket, you will get to taste a bit of the product for free, and I don't mind that. I have a free book; I think we all use that mechanism. There's a bit of underhandedness obviously, if it's pirated, but if they then convert to a paying fan because they want the physical product, or they want a digital product on their really e-reader, then I think there is value in it.

Michael La Ronn: So, riddle me this, what if that person never buys a book but they tell all their friends about it, and their friends by some of your books. Is their value there?

Sacha Black: Well, that's exactly like a library, right? So, they don't pay for the books, but they're reading the content, and then become a fan who converts other people to buying customers, and I think there's a huge value in that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I do too. I think there are reasonable people on the other side of the microphone who might disagree.

Sacha Black: But we're on the mic and you're all wrong. No, I'm kidding.

Michael La Ronn: That's the quote of the podcast, Sacha. We'll do an infographic with that quote on there.

Can I write a book based on a story in the public domain?

All right, final question is from Jennifer, and Jennifer is looking into the possibility of setting up an LLC and is wanting, the theme of the day, media liability insurance. With all the entertainment lawsuits out there in the music industry, I've developed a fear that maybe my story, once published, may sound a little bit too much like Cinderella, and the writer of Cinderella will see me as an easy target for a lawsuit. Are there any alternatives?

Right now, one of the only ways to get media liability insurance is through the Author's Guild, who, if people don't know, the Author's Guild has a program with a United States insurance carrier, where you can purchase media liability insurance. Are there any alternatives to that? So, I can take that.

Sacha Black: Well, can I just comment about Cinderella?

Michael La Ronn: Yes, please, please.

Sacha Black: Yeah, let me comment about Cinderella. So, here's the thing, Cinderella is a fairy tale that is hundreds of years old. So, you can actually use Cinderella as the basis for your story because it is out of copyright. Anything where the author has passed, and it's more than 70 years past the date they died you can actually use the book as a as the basis for your own story, and it's called a retelling. That's why we have like, Hades and Persephone, these are mythology, it's a huge market and trend at the moment for Hades and Persephone retellings.

We've got Cinderella retellings, we've got Beauty and the Beast, which is a play on Hades and Persephone, right? So, you have all of these iterations of retellings that are completely legitimate and valid, and you are not going to be under any copyright infringements because the fairy-tale is so old.

Of course, if you try to use 50 Shades of Gray, right now, that would be a problem because the author is still alive and the book is under the copyright, but if you are using fairy tales or old mythology, then you are not going to have any issues with that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, just don't use Disney's, the things that Disney has done because Disney also had the right to create Cinderella, because it was in the public domain, but Disney made some changes to Cinderella. You can't use those changes; you can't use Disney's Cinderella as the basis for. your story. So, just be aware of that. But yeah, public domain, that's the beauty of it, is that you can remix and remaster to your heart's content.

What is liability insurance, and do I need it?

Michael La Ronn: Now, as far as liability insurance, I realized I didn't clarify what that is for people who don't know. So, media liability insurance, you purchase that, and basically it protects you from situations of copyright infringement issues where someone sues you because of something in the content of the media that you create. Traditional publishers purchase media liability insurance because they're publishing lots of people's content, and they don't necessarily know, I mean, they can sign a contract that says that the author has the rights to use the work, you know, that the work is original to them, but sometimes it may not be, and the publisher doesn't always know that. So, the publishers buy this insurance so that if they get sued, it doesn't have a material impact to their business.

So, authors can also purchase this insurance so that, if anything they write ends up creating a copyright infringement allegation, or even a plagiarism allegation, or it covers patent infringement or trademark infringement too, then the insurance company will essentially defend you up to a limit of insurance, usually a minimum of a million dollars, and it gives you a peace of mind, right? Because you know that, if you write something that gets you into trouble, you're going to have an insurance company whose lawyers are going to ultimately protect you. Now, I'm simplifying that, but that's why people purchase liability insurance, and the reason they purchase liability insurance is because your typical insurance policy will not cover copyright infringement.

So, your homeowner's insurance, that's not going to cover copyright infringement. Your typical commercial liability policy that you can purchase, that's not going to cover copyright infringement. So, you need a special policy for this. Now, the Author's Guild here in the United States does offer, like I said, they've got an arrangement with a company, and you can get media liability insurance at a discount. I'm not sure what the prices are. There are a few other companies who do offer media liability, and these generally tend to be international companies. I can't give any names out, because I just can't, because I work in insurance I can't promote any competitors, but you can do a web search, just type in ‘media liability insurance quotes authors’ and see who pops up. Generally, you'll probably be able to find some, and a lot of them, and I did some searches earlier this year, a lot of them actually provide copies of their policy too. So, just take a look at the policy, and certainly if folks have any questions, they can contact our rights desk and we can answer any questions that we can.

But there are alternatives out there, but you've really got to look hard for them, and as I said before, it just kind of depends on every author, if it's going to make sense for them to do.

All right. Well Sacha, we have come to the end of another show, which is good stuff.

So, we just want to thank everybody for listening to the Members Q&A Self-Publishing Advice podcast. We will be back next month. Our next live stream will be the second Tuesday in November at 1:00 PM London time, and for my friends in the United States, that's about 8:00 AM Eastern, 7:00 AM Central, and 5:00 AM on the West coast. Anyone who is brave enough to join us that early, feel free.

Otherwise, we do record this, and it goes live the following Friday, at 1:00 PM, so don't feel like you have to wake up too early to listen to us. But we do appreciate all of our live listeners. So, thank you for listening, and we'll be back next month. Take care, Sacha.

Sacha Black: Bye.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


This Post Has One Comment
  1. I’m developing a screen script for a novel. Do not believe it’s easy to get recognition when you self-publish. However, it’s better than it was when I published in 2015. Overseas sales are possible, but it’s a closed shop for British book stores if you’re not a main stream publisher.
    A screen script that is picked up and made into a film may garner interest for writing, in general. Liverpool library services bought in my maritime novels in 2022, which was a positive. Reviews are helpful on Amazon, but good reviews in journals and papers probably carry more weight.

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