Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Small Warning to Authors

It was brought to my attention today that an author felt her e-book had been pirated and put up for free on Amazon. She had it free on some other online book sites, but she wasn't the one who put it on Amazon. Trying to figure out how this happened, I checked the book's Sample and discovered this language, put there by the author (this was the original book with the author's name on it and the author's cover):"This book can be reproduced, copied and distributed for noncommercial purposes provided the book is in its original form." It was right there in the license notes. She essentially gave others the right to put the book on Amazon as long as it was free (they weren't using it commercially) and as long as it was the original book (it was.) 

The warning is obvious. DO NOT put that notice on your work. You are giving away nearly all of your rights. She states her copyright, but by giving it to the world that way, with two stipulations, it is possible she's set the book free into the Public Domain. I'm not totally sure about that and the author will have to do some study on the laws to find out if it amounts to that, but in any event this was a bad move.

Anyone can now even stand in New York City's Times Square and hand out copies of the printed book or electronic copies on any media (CD) all day long every day as long as he didn't charge for it or change the original book. Since the word "reproduce" is in that statement, someone could even make a film from the book and never pay the author a cent, if the film was offered for free. Or that's how I read it.

Authors are often confused about copyright. It is important not only to declare one's copyright to a work, but to then make sure you protect it. If you place a statement as this author did, giving people the right to copy, reproduce, and distribute, then you just blew holes in your own copyright. Once that's done, it's done. It's out there. It's gone--or at least it is holey and apt to be Copied, Reproduced, or Distributed.

The reason I have a copyright notice on this blog is for this reason. I have a free short story here for you to read and the first couple of chapters of a novel, but my blog states they are covered by copyright and no one has the right to use the work in any way or form without permission. I might give you something free to read, but that doesn't mean I am going to permit anyone in the world to come along, scoop it up, and reprint it for free without my permission. If that were to happen my copyright would be infringed and I would be able to bring suit.

Authors, please, be careful what you state, not only on your blogs, but in your e-books and print books. Your intellectual work belongs to you as long as you don't give it away. Be warned.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Introducing THE PUB! Come one, Come all.

 Bryan Hall, ArmandThe Pub-Main Page Rosamilia, and I have opened THE PUB. Here's a link to the front door: THE PUB

Pub Conversation 1
Getting Hooked....or not
With: Armand Rosamilia, Billie Sue Mosiman, and Bryan Hall

(I have joined with my two friends to do a weekly blog called The Pub. This is the first installment. Go to the main Pub page and bookmark it to read conversations we have with editors, authors, publishers, reviewers, and various other people involved with the book industry.)Yo

u know the old cliche'... three horror writers walk into a bar. The first orders a bloody mary, the second orders a bloody mikey...
Ahem. What happens when three (or more) horror writers sit down in a corner, order a few (or more) drinks, and have a casual chat about publishing and reading, but not from the angle of simply being horror writers, but readers first?

Each week the three of us (Bryan, Billie and Armand) will invite a friend or two to join in the conversation, buy the first round (or more) and add their thoughts to a continuing conversation about what makes us tick. Each week we'll tackle a new question, giving our own thoughts and answering your questions... oh, and perhaps giving some of our eBooks away... all because it's fun... and we're drinking.

What hooks you in a story and keeps you turning pages?

Armand: As a reader, I need to be hooked by the characters within the first couple of chapters or I get bored. You might have the greatest plot thrown at me, an eerie or unique premise, but if you don't make me want to invest my reading time in the character(s) you've lost me. I've read several books in the last few months that I couldn't get through the first three chapters because the main character was boring or unrealistic or was so passive with the plot pulling them along that I stopped reading. I have three bookshelves overflowing with thousands of books I haven't read and a Kindle loaded with over 500 eBooks. I'll never get to all of them, so for me, hook me with a great character, or expect me to move on.

Bryan: I'll agree, the hooks have to get sunk in quick or I'll stop reading as well.  But as important as I think great, believable characters are - and they're really, really important - if it's just another rehashed plot I'll end up struggling to finish it.  Characters are what you connect with, identify with, and the main thing that draws you in.  But if you just spend 300 pages of them doing nothing at all, just building them up with no kind of real plot action, there's no point.  And no matter how great those characters may be, if you just drop them into another cliched zombie story or the same old haunted house tale that's been told a thousand times over, it's a lot harder for me to keep interested.   So...yeah, I think characters are a vital cog in the machine, but if they're just spinning on their axle with nothing interesting going on, they're doomed to lose my interest. Bentley Little is one writer who really hooks you fast in most cases.

Billie: It's almost indefinable. Hooks can be anything from stating a death occurred, a house is being built, or a ship is sinking, but some kind of concrete premise for the character has to be in place. Conflict. Without either an outward action-packed conflict or an inner turmoil conflict going on, the character, no matter how well-developed, has nowhere to go. Building up to telling the story is something that some writers mistake as telling the story. Most stories and novels can have the first scene or chapter lopped off and start better. Hooks can be quiet and ominous. Or they can be fast and pin you to the page. The important thing is that the writer writes with confidence. He first hooks and amuses himself. He has to -see- it, feel it, taste it, smell it, know it is real and it's going to be so thrilling that he can hardly hold onto the mechanics of the writing long enough to get the words down. That urgency and excitement, even in quiet openings, builds within his reader, pulling him deeper into the page, immersing him into the story, holding him in a vice so that he won't wander. If I read a story that opened, "He walked in the dark." I might go on, I probably would, but I'd be skeptical. Yet if the first sentence said, "He walked in thunder." I would not be able to stop. I'd have to know more. Did he walk in real thunder, during a storm or something? Did he walk with high purpose and if so, what's that purpose? Did he walk in anger and that's the thunder wherein he walks? We want fiction to grab us quick and hold us tight. That can be accomplished in a myriad different ways.

With all that said, how quickly does a story need to hook you and draw you in before you give up on it?

Billie: I probably give it two paragraphs. Sometimes a whole page, if there's some small glimmer that I'm going to like it.

Armand: I will generally try to finish the first chapter of a story and see if it hooks me. Again, give me something mysterious about the character, give me some questions in my head I need to find out so it keeps me reading. Spelling and formatting errors, however, take me out of the book right from the opening, so if I find them it pulls me away from the story and I will give up quicker.

Bryan: I give it a couple of pages.  Even if there's not a big "Holy Crap" moment or a mystery, I'll give it time.  Unless the writing style is just a struggle to get through.  But after the first few pages if I don't find something interesting, I'll usually skip ahead a chapter or two and read a page to see if something interesting is going on there. 

Billie: Armand is a much more generous reader than I am, I see. I've always been a tough customer. When there used to be bookstores everywhere, I'd pull out a book from a shelf and look at the blurbs, look at the back description, and give it a first paragraph or so check and that's all the chance a book got. Today, browsing on online book sites, I do the same. I sample. Small sample.

Bryan: Good point, Billie. Nowadays, if that Amazon Sample or a few minutes in the bookstore don't catch me, I'll just keep on going.

Drop in next week when Weldon Burge, editor of the Zippered Flesh anthology, drops in to talk about what makes anthologies a great read for him.