I just spent what was probably the most difficult four and a half months in my recent memory writing a book that we sold to Scholastic on a very short proposal less than a week before my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly of a deep vein thrombosis.
After turning in the book to my wonderful editor Jody Corbett last Friday, I set off with my daughter, sister, and two young nephews to visit my cousins at their house up in Maine for a much needed break.
I was so determined to relax that I didn't take my computer with me. But I did have my phone, and when I was on wifi, I got this email:
So I recently read your book, Backlash. I love it. It is an amazing book and I'm in the proccess of reading it for a third time. I would like your permission to post your book on a website/app called Wattpad. It would give thousands to millions of people to read the book and enjoy it as much as I have. It would be written just as it is in the book and all credit will be towards you. It would be published within the next few months. Please get me back to me as soon as possible.
Seeing as I had just had to notify my publisher about someone publishing chapters of Backlash wholesale on WattPad so they could get their legal department to issue a takedown notice, and I'd sent them a list of about 15 websites claiming to offer "free PDFs" of my books, this was not good for my blood pressure and relaxation.
I forwarded the email to my agent, the wonderful Jennifer Laughran, with a brief message: "OMG WTF?!"
Her response was equally succinct: "LOL WTF?!"
I decided to wait till I was back in front of a computer to write a response, because, my lovelies, Auntie Sarah is going to need all ten fingers for this rant.
We authors LOVE that you LOVE our books. We LOVE that you read our books more than once. People wonder why I still have books from my childhood on the overcrowded bookshelves in my house. Why I still have books from my mother's childhood, and the copy of Noel Streitfield's Ballet Shoes that my Aunt Marilyn read in her childhood.
It's because these books are like old friends to me. I cannot bear to part with them and I love to walk into a room where I am surrounded by my old friends. It gives me joy to think that a book that I have written might someday be old and worn on someone else's shelf, and similarly handed down as an old friend.
BUT - and here is the big but...everyone in my family PAID FOR BOOKS, even if we bought them second hand. Now not everyone can afford to pay for books, and at the rate I read, I would have read my parents out of house and home. So my parents would take me to the library every week and I'd come home with a stack of books to keep me sated until the following week.
"Oh, but Auntie Sarah," I hear you whinge, "It's such a HASSLE to go to the library....and I'm TIRED and it's HOT or RAINING or it's COLD and SNOWING" or _______________(fill in excuse here).
Guess what?! There's this great thing called OVERDRIVE that many libraries offer so you can borrow ebooks onto your e-reader or phone or laptop without your butt even leaving the comfortable surface upon which you have placed it!
I use this myself and it is both fabulous and convenient. You can even put books on hold and they will automatically download to your bookshelf when they become available. It couldn't be easier!
What's that I hear? "But Auntie Sarah...what about me posting your entire book on Wattpad, where it would give thousands to millions of people to read the book and enjoy it as much as I have. It would be written just as it is in the book and all credit will be towards you" ???
Oh yes. That.
HERE IS MY CLEAR, NON-NEGOTIABLE, UNEQUIVOCAL ANSWER:
NO YOU MAY NOT POST MY BOOK ON WATTPAD, OR ANY OTHER SITE. THIS IS CALLED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT, AND IF YOU DO THIS YOU WILL BE HEARING FROM MY PUBLISHER'S LEGAL DEPARTMENT.
Why am I being so mean about this, you ask?
Let me explain a few financial facts of life for you, Dear Reader.
If you mean what you say about loving my books, you should know that I write these books you love from a home upon which I must make mortgage payments. I am a single mother with two children, who is self-employed, and therefore does not have health insurance as a benefit of employment. Such health insurance doesn't come cheap, but it is very, very necessary with the medical conditions I have in my family.
I'm not complaining about working hard. It's what I do and it's how I was brought up. I work many different jobs in order to be able to pay my bills.
But nothing makes me more depressed and demoralized than looking at the search terms that are used to get to my website. My name is the 1st, but the 2nd through 10th terms are "free PDF" and permutations of my various book titles.
If you say you "love" my book, but then have the chutzpah to ask me to publish it on WattPad, it's exactly the same as saying, "Hey Auntie Sarah, I love what you do," at the same time you're picking the wallet out of my purse.
Then when I call you on how wrong it was to do that, telling me that losing all my money and credit cards because you want to give the money I've spent years working for and am counting on to pay my mortgage and health insurance (not to mention keeping THIS GUY in dog food and Lambchop toys) to 'thousands and millions' of random people because.....???? I'm not really sure why. "Exposure?" Honey, let me tell you a fact about banks that hold your mortgage and health insurers (see also, electric company, gas company, car mechanics, gas stations and grocery stores): THEY DO NOT ACCEPT "EXPOSURE" AS VALID CURRENCY FOR PAYMENT.
Here's the thing, dear readers. If you keep posting and downloading my books illegally and my publishers don't make money and therefore I don't make money, then why am I going to bust my butt to write a book when I'm intensely grieving my mother, who modeled a strong work ethic as well as respecting others and not stealing?
I write because I love it and it's what I've always wanted to do, even when I was getting my MBA in Finance and being told I'd never make a living that way by my late father. Do me a favor: don't make my father right by illegally downloading my books. Or any writer's books.
If none of the above is enough to convince you to cease and desist, know this: it would kill my very soul to have to go back to working on Wall Street because you've made it impossible for me to make a living doing what I love.