I must admit, I was a little behind on this one. Apparently, an ebook lending faciliter, LendInk, has gone the way of Napster, Kazaa, and some of our other favorite file-sharing sites. Thanks to a barrage of Facebook posts, Tweets, and even hate mail, the site was taken down by their host and hasn’t come back online since. It was a question of DRM (Digital Rights Management), piracy, and the constantly-changing world of Internet technology.
If you, like me, haven’t been keeping up with this issue, click those links and read the general synopsis. Here’s my takeaway:
Basically, LendInk was matching books with readers, using completely legal algorithms to find and present books in their database that were available for lending. Amazon.com actually requires an author who chooses the 70% royalty structure to allow their ebook to be “lent.” All LendInk did was facilitate this lending. Again, LendInk did not host, serve, or “steal” in any way the work of these authors. All of the information presented at the LendInk site, including the cover art, was provided via Amazon’s API.
What this means for authors
First, it’s shameful that authors would be so ignorant about what that “lending” tick-box means on Amazon. The resulting blog posts, articles, and news mentions seem to make it clear that in general the authors involved didn’t fully understand how their books’ lending agreements worked–leading to the “lynch mob” that caused the site to be shut down.
Second, the whole crapstorm surrounding the “piracy war” is such a misguided effort it’s almost funny. As an author, I obviously don’t want my work being stolen (pirated). But I’m going to take the J.A. Konrath approach when and if I find my stuff on a piracy website: to generally not care.
To put it more bluntly: the real villain for us self-pubbed guys isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. And if you think about it, piracy is kind of the exact opposite of obscurity. Plus, I doubt anyone who would actively try to and successfully steal my work would have paid for it anyway.
This philosophy doesn’t mean that I think piracy is good, or even right. It’s not. It just is. Get over it, learn to accept it, and fight other battles that will actually improve your bottom line (like writing more books).
The other thing this means for authors
Aside from the don’t-join-a-lynch-mob-when-you-don’t-know-what-the-hell-you’re-talking-about argument, there’s the issue of “making it as a successful author” in today’s world.
We have never been able to produce content that’s available immediately, worldwide, that generates income. We have never had as many opportunities to promote ourselves, develop a readership, and build a platform, than we have right now.
But that means everyone else can do it as well. Everyone else–the other authors out there–have the same tools, the same ability, and the same opportunities.
So that means we need to work harder, smarter, and faster, but it also means we need to take situations like this LendInk debacle to heart:
The Successful Author of today’s world needs to understand today’s world.
Period. If you insist on writing in a bubble, removed from intelligent society, then you’re going to be unjustifiably ignorant regarding these types of situations (joining a lynch mob seeking to take down a legitimate website while barking about non-existent piracy). You’re not going to struggle trying to learn Twitter–you’ll dismiss it as “junk” or “noise.”
If you want to succeed as an author today, you need to either have a large-advance publishing contract or you need to sit up and pay attention when you sign a distribution contract.
Most of you (regular readers of my blog) will hear this and understand that I’m not talking to you–you already get it. But there are others out there (the ones who gang up on sites without researching and understanding the real issues at hand) who will remain indignant with the changing landscape of the online world and try to fight against it.
It won’t work, and they’ll just get more upset.
There are lots of things you can do to try to separate yourself from the pack, and stand apart from the other authors trying to make a name for themselves:
- Start building a platform
- Write more
- Write better
- Reach out to readers through social media
- Give your work away
…And more. I’ve tried them all, and they all work. But the most important way you and I, as authors, can “stand apart” from the rest of the swooning masses of wannabe writers out there is to simply understand our world.
Understand the rules, regulations, and guidelines governing this world.
Understand the pros and cons of the publishing platforms available.
Understand the lingo and terminology used to explain things in this world.
Understand what you’re involved in.
If you understand, the tools get infinitely easier to use and apply. If you can wade through a distribution agreement and know that your work will be lent through approved distributors, for example, it wouldn’t lead to this maniacal ridiculousness.
Just seek to understand, educate yourself, and provide value to others–not always easy, but the concept is dead-simple.