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The Snowland Deck Goes Digital!

Writing Quotes Backlash

Writing bones smallerI own over 150 books on the writing craft, both in print and in digital format. I love supporting my fellow authors with coin just as much as I enjoy reading their wise insights on craft and their encouragement to keep on keepin’ on with the creative life.

Last summer, I noticed my highlights in a particular book. Wow, this is good stuff, I thought. It’s always fun to revisit inspirational or instructional passages. I pulled another writing book off my shelf, and another. A trip down Highlighting Memory Lane, I guess.

I marveled at how far I had come as an author since buying my very first writing book over a decade ago (Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg): two traditionally published non-fiction books, another under contract for this year, over a dozen eBooks, a companion book to an oracle/creativity deck I created with my artist husband, over 1,200 reviews on Amazon.com that netted me the coveted title of Hall of Fame Reviewer (there are only 125 of us), various magazine articles and more.

Never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be where I am today, especially as the daughter of blue-collar parents in the heart of coal mining rural Pennsylvania (where I still live)—and as a parent, myself, to a special needs son (whom I homeschool).

Struck by how much I’ve benefited from writing books—and writing magazines, too—I had the idea to curate the best quotes from these books to help encourage my fellow writers…especially ones that felt alone, discouraged, dejected and overwhelmed.

111 Quotes for Writers 300Amidst other projects, including publishing our Snowland Deck and overseeing all that went with it, I’ve been working on 111 Quotes for Writers for half a year. Two weeks ago, I decided to buckle down and get the eBook finished, so I spent about eight hours a day or more—every day—poring over dozens of writing books and magazines to cull the best brief quotes to share. (Yeah, in addition to buying lots of writing books, I also subscribe—or had subscriptions to—Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, Publisher’s Weekly, Bookmarks, Tin House, Lapham’s Quarterly, Poetry and The New York Review of Books).

At last, I finished the eBook earlier this week! I was so excited about this eBook, because I know the value of a timely quote of encouragement, inspiration or motivation to bridge the gaping maw between despair and hope, fear and courage—especially with the often solitary, angst-producing writing life.

With excitement, I tweeted that my eBook was now available on Smashwords, soon to be available on Kindle. I happened to “@” three writers whose insights I quoted in my eBook.

Imagine my dismay that, within seconds, one of the writers (who I’m not going to name) tweeted back to me:

Wait, I'm sorry, are you selling our quotes?

 The implication is obvious.

I went to his twitter timeline and, not surprisingly, he tweeted to his followers about “some lady” trying to make a buck off his work.

Twitter EyeMortified, hurt and embarrassed, I tweeted back something about “fair use” but, noting his tone, I said something like “You know what? I’ll remove the quote. I don’t want to point people to you or your work after all.”

Doing what many self-important people do on Twitter—the ultimate act of passive-aggressiveness, in my opinion—he retweeted MY tweet to his followers to involve them. Now, they knew who this “lady” was. It’s a favorite tactic of bigheaded authors: draw blood, and allow the sharkophants to finish off the individual.

Suddenly, I get an onslaught of tweets from perfect strangers, calling me a thief and plagiarist, as well as other nasty invectives.

I ended up blocking about two dozen people in an hour’s time, including the author.

Understand that when I call this author “bigheaded”, I’m not exaggerating. He used to be a pretty cool guy before he became known. But then he got some book deals, began blogging on the writing craft and—viola!—the fame gods and fairwind crowds blew favor his way. He began unfollowing people right and left. He said he could only be bothered with following the “important” people in the industry (not the readers that got him where he was, of course).

And although I stopped following him because his cockiness nauseated me, I still quoted him in my eBook because I felt a brief passage from one of his (self-published) eBooks was valuable.

Two Writer’s Digest authors that I happened to be Facebook friends with, Joseph Bates (The Nightime Novelist) and Christina Katz (The Writer's Workout, Get Know Before the Book Deal, Writer Mama , thanked me for including them in my 111 Quotes for Writers. I appreciated that, but still felt awful. Why do I even bother? I asked myself.

Wired for storyThe next day, Lisa Cron, author of the fantastic Wired for Story, thanked me heaps on Twitter (not sure how she found out she was in my eBook—must have been the brouhaha). Also, one of my favorite Writer’s Digest contributors, Elizabeth Sims, sent me an enthusiastic email wishing me success with the eBook and thanking me for including her in such good company (I had never communicated with her before, so it was so cool to get a note from her. Yes, I’m a fangirl! And spreading the love for writers I admired was one of the motivating factors in penning this eBook, especially since I don’t have the time to write many reviews these days.) By the way, Elizabeth's coming out with a brand new writing craft book next month called You've Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams. Woohoo!

See, these professional authors don’t have a scarcity mindset. They understand that having ME quote THEIR books means dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of new readers discovering their stellar work—which was part of my intent. After all, that’s why I started reviewing over a decade go: to push great books on a hungry reading public. And in this glutted age of information overload, discoverability matters.

I gazed at all the writing craft books in my library. I pulled book after book off the shelves. Here’s just some of what I found: the books listed below all feature quotes from writers—at the beginning of chapters, sidebars, etc. Please understand that the numbers beside each book do NOT reflect passages excerpted for the express purpose of instruction, but are merely “ornamental” quotes.

Vein of gold 300Author Julia Cameron quoted several (living) authors six or more times in sidebars—with no mention of where she got the quote. Indeed, none of the books below states where the quotes are from—just who said it. However, in my 111 Quotes for Writers, I credited the book or magazine article where I found the quote (when applicable, which was most cases). Only one author was a repeat quote in my eBook, by the way (I sourced110 different authors).


The Vein of Gold
by Julia Cameron – 391 quotes

The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz – 366 quotes

A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie – 365 quotes

The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters – 260 quotes

For Writer’s Only by Sophy Burnham – 220 quotes

A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves – 216 quotes

Write-a-Thon by Rochelle Melander – 91 quotes

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by Editors of Writer’s Digest - 86

Do you seriously think that any of these amazing authors/editors were accused of plagiarism? Called a “thief” or worse on Twitter? Got permission from every single author to use those quotes?

I don’t, either.

So…why was I?

Is it because my eBook was self-published? Or was it simply yet another case of hyena mob rule on social media—cyberbullying at its finest?

Quotations 200Did you know that “Quotations” is a sub-genre of Reference? Sure is. So, according to some of those reactionary tweeters, anyone who’s ever penned a book of quotations is a “plagiarist” and “thief”, out to “make a buck” on the beleaguered backs of those they quoted.

One of my Facebook friends asked me how I would feel if I were quoted in a book.

Are you kidding?” I replied. “I’d be thrilled! More exposure for me and my work. Why in the world would I mind being quoted? It’s an honor!

If any of the authors I quoted do NOT feel it’s an honor or good exposure, by all means email me. I’ll gladly remove your quote and name from my eBook, as well as all vendor descriptions.

P.S. In the Kindle version of 111 Quotes for Writers, I had planned on hyperlinking to every single book that I quoted from so that readers could click and discover more about the title on Amazon.com—and, hopefully, purchase it. The only reason I didn’t is that I couldn’t figure out how to copy-and-paste URLs in Word’s hyperlink box (it only allows me to type in URLs). When I realized how much time it would take me to manually type in those Amazon URLs with its convoluted strings of numbers and letters, I abandoned the idea.

Note: I had intended to write 111 Quotes for Tarot Lovers, and although I paid a professional to design my cover (as I did with 111 Quotes for Writers)—and am a dozen quotes into it—I’ve decided not to dedicate my time to an endeavor that may provoke a similar reaction among some hostile individuals. In fact, I don’t plan to pursue my Call 111! series at all after this experience. 

[Update: Shortly after this post, I removed the eBook from Amazon. Who needs to be ganged up on via Twitter for a $1.99 reference book? No good deed goes unpunished... Btw, less than two weeks later, I posted all the quotes here on my blog. For free]

-- Janet

Comments

Sue

So sorry to read you had this nasty experience. I completely agree that being quoted is a boon to those authors and I cannot wait to read your book. I too am an avid highlighter of my reference books. What a great, generous idea.

Janet Boyer

Thank you so much, Sue! I love exposing people to authors and books I admire, which is one reason I've reviewed so much. Since I've been short on time, I thought this was the next best thing... After all, give a taste of a book, and readers will buy the whole meal!

I've bought MANY books, myself, just based on quotations found on books or even online.

Are you a trivia buff, too? The quote loving seems to go hand-in-hand with trivia obsession! :oD

Che

You know I've read your reviews for several years because you seemed to cut to the chase on card decks, books etc so that I could make a buying decision much easier. I would have thought that any author, etc would be happy to be mentioned. But one lousy jack bleep has to go show his "it's all about me" how fabulous I am by knocking down someone else and their reputation without regard to principle, morality, or human kindness much less any intelligence about the bigger picture! Which he doesn't get. Keep on keeping on being Janet. There are people out here who do respect and appreciate you! Be well!

Janet Boyer

Thanks, Che!

He tried to post on my FB page, but it contained lies, so I immediately deleted it. He wanted his quote removed from the eBook, which I've already done. Funny thing is, a lot of my writer friends said "Who IS he, anyway? I've never heard of him!"

I have no interest in getting into a flamewar with a bunch of hyenas. I've got tons of stuff to write, after all! ;o)

I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to post...and for being a faithful reader!

Elizabeth Sims

Janet, I appreciate your transparency. In fairness, I might mention that some authors have endured major ripoffs of their work, and this makes them angry and reactive. (For all I know, I'm one of them; I don't check around online for pirated versions of my work.) (Also, of course, it just plain feels good to be righteously angry, and this might help explain the fans as well.) However, in this digital age there is just no way an author can keep total control over his/ her work, and moreover, most of the time if an excerpt is cited somewhere, it only does the author good. Best wishes again. I see your private email and will reply.

Angela Perry

Hi Janet. I'm new to your blog, and before I say anything, I want you to know I'm not here to attack you or create a big scene. Full disclosure: I did find out about the book from all the broohaha.

I'm a technical writer/editor who works in the computer industry. We make a point of always getting permission to use quotes in any publications. I suspect, if you look in the front matter of the books you list that contain quotes, you'll see the copyright information of the original authors and the phrase "used with permission."

Fair use is a slippery topic. Please check out this article: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fair-use-rule-copyright-material-30100.html With the book being entirely made up of quotations without commentary, it isn't considered a new creation.

I plan someday to publish books outside of my day job, and I've met some great people in the publishing industry. We all support each other. I hope you don't take this the wrong way, because I honestly just want to help. Copyright can be tricky.

Janet Boyer

Hi Angela! Welcome. :o)

I appreciate you sharing your insights. I'll ask my lawyer who specializes in intellectual property to get his take. Regarding books crediting sources in the front matter (used by permission): I just checked all the books I mentioned in my post and NONE had a permissions credit save one book where the author excerpted 4 lengthy passages.

Janet Boyer

Hi Elizabeth! Thanks so much for stopping by. I am against plagiarism, pirating and copyright violations where individuals try to pass off another work as their own. Books of inspiration (which my book is) not only pays homage to the quoted writers, but seeks to point readers DIRECTLY to the source materials so readers can not only discover new (to them) books, but also buy their books.

I appreciate your encouragement and taking the time to stop by to comment! (Btw found your recent article in WD of interest since I'm a fan of the well-placed F bomb. LOL)

Angela Perry

That sounds like a fantastic idea. If you have an IP lawyer available, he'll be able to get you a definitive answer.

I have to say, I'm surprised none of the books had permissions credits. We have to be impeccably fastidious about them. Maybe it's the difference in genres? Maybe computer geeks are just really picky? :)

There was one book where we shuffled permissions to the Acknowledgements and Bibliography sections...I'll have to look into it further and see if things differ outside the geek world. I'm curious now. I hope you'll share your final answer when you get it!

Janet Boyer

Yeah, I wonder if technical books are more fastidious because of possible connections between research, discovery, credits, awards and patents?

I'll be talking to my lawyer this week; will definitely let you know what I find out, Angela!

Ms. Nick

I wonder if it does fall under "fair use." A compilation of fairly long quotes (like a mix tape) seems different than using quotes in the context of making their own points. It'll be interesting to hear the legal opinion.

Anne R. Allen

Janet, I first saw this last night and I've been running it through my mind ever since. Thing is, if you had run a contest of "best quotes for writers" these same writers might have happily paid an entry fee just to have a chance to be included in something that was going to promote their work this way.

Personally, I'd have been sooo honored to have my writing book quoted in your collection. (And I'm very impressed with Elizabeth Sims classy comment.)

I think what upset the crazies was that you're not "one of them"--however they identify themselves--and they turned into a hive of angry bees. No brain, just instinct: attack the intruder!

I've seen this happen a number of times (it happened to me when I dared to write post about how to write Amazon reviews when I wasn't a member of the elite reviewer club.)

It's a scary, dangerous trend, and I think the fear of "piracy" is a trigger point for them, so any mention of the word sets off an irrational mob. There was the poor disabled veteran who tried to set up a book sharing site and got attacked by a swarm of haters (actually, I think the same mob that attacked you.) His months and months of work were taken down in an hour by their complaints.

Thing is, as Neil Young said, "Piracy is the way stuff gets around these days." Not that you were being a pirate in any way. You were being a fangirl/promoter.

But they couldn't hear that, because they perceive you to be an "outsider."

I'm going to be writing about this on my blog in May. It needs to be addressed. I hope it doesn't get me any more death threats!

Janet Boyer

Still waiting to hear from my lawyer, Ms. Nick!

Janet Boyer

Your wish is my command! #9, from your fangirl. ;o)

I think you hit the nail on the head, Anne. Had I been "one of them", the eBook would have been passed around, RTed, promoted to death, etc. (Considering the looks of the "bees", I'm quite happy to NOT be one of them! Blech.)

Susannah

I'm curious to know what the outcome of the "brouhaha" was ~ did the IP lawyer help clarify the situation?

Janet Boyer

Hi Susannah! Basically, a jerk writer protested about my quotes eBook and turned his rabid Twitter followers against me. In a nutshell, I should have gotten permission from every author and/or publisher. The fact remains that many writing quotes eBooks are for sale on AMZN...and the author's haven't srcured permission (nor received the backlash I received).

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