Copyrights and Other Thoughts

I’m not an expert on this stuff. But I’m a writer, so when people are talking about stuff, I have to take notice. Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, had an interesting article in the New York Times today that every author should read, so I’m posting the link here.

I’m sure those in the know will discuss it fully as it makes the rounds. I will say that as an author who lives and works outside the US, starving for my art has always been the likely reality. Very few people ever encouraged me to write, even friends that read and liked my work. There is simply no outlet here. Publishers are few and mostly do textbooks or assist in self-publishing those with the money to take such a route. Publishers that might publish a Caribbean author’s work are based in the UK and have the entire Commonwealth as their slush pile. With such odds–and writing genre fiction as I do, instead of contemporary literature or the usual post-colonial stuff–I never got anywhere querying agents and publishers in the UK. Most didn’t bother to reply. I have no idea if the expensive mail packages I sent ever went anywhere, and in the past, no way to follow up. Thank God for the advent of email!

The internet opened up worlds to me. I joined the best writers’ site ever in 2001, The Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror, learned all there was to learn about the industry, all while genre itself was opening up to email and the internet far faster than publishers and agents in contemporary literature. I would have no book deal and no way out of the Caribbean without the OWW.

But I also knew I would never make a cent just by being a good writer. I had to sell overseas.Now it seems even as we have the self-publishing market opening up writers to make more money on their own, the internet has begun to shrink our usual revenue streams, and in ways that may affect the new ones over time as well.

I feel as though we are living in a time of great flux. I do not think it will be for long–it will probably take five, at most ten years, for the industry to settle down and find its new legs. But there are many, many changes to go before that happens. It’s premature to call Amazon the great devil, but it’s also premature to thank them for the dubious pleasure of Kindle Select. In the end, for the moment, I think this industry is less about good guys, bad guys and who’s right or wrong, and more about everyone making a mad dash toward one new thing or another, trying to get on top of everything they think might eventually replace the old order.

In other words, we’re all just trying to survive and not get left behind. In a despearate scenario like that, I think we should be careful to not get caught backing one side or another. I think it’s better to watch, listen, learn and take the best decision you can for yourself at the time, given your circumstances. We can’t protect ourselves from every bad thing that might be out there. But we can make sure we go into this industry with our eyes open, understanding that in this new world, we are now the masters of our own fate.

And perhaps that in itself is such a wonderful thing that despite whatever else the future might bring, it is enough to hope that it will all work out for the best.


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