When I decided to start writing fiction with an erotic bent, I didn’t tell anyone initially, not even my SO. I was out of town taking care of some business at the time, and after Skype-ing with him in the evening I sat down and wrote (in about two weeks), “An Accidental Affair”. When I returned home I told ‘Mr. Man’ – as I refer to him, he’s a shy guy – and he was enthusiastic and supportive.
To this day a lot of people don’t know that I have this side; I’m friendly with some of my mom’s friends and I know many of them wouldn’t approve, but also a lot of people look askance at erotic fiction and I have nothing to prove to anyone, so I just write when I can, which unfortunately isn’t as often as I would like.
Because of this and other factors, I’m not totally ‘in the game’. My website isn’t splashy (although I am hoping to make it nicer – I just don’t really have the time to learn HTML and customize it as I would like), I don’t belong to a reading circle or buddy groups, I don’t have friends who are authors, I don’t run a newsletter (yet… I feel bad that people already get so much email and don’t want them to feel spammed by me, to be honest), I don’t have a dedicated fan group who rush to put up good reviews when I release a book, or any of the things I’ve learned other writers do to try to inflate the presence of books. When I signed with Vasko, at their suggestion I used a promotional service and I have done some marketing with Books Go Social and a few other sites. Four years ago, during Emerald City Comic Con, Mr. Man kindly delivered some promo fliers for me to them, to be stuffed into swag bags, as I was driving back from Texas with my mom’s stuff and wouldn’t make it in time to deliver them. Unfortunately they stuffed the fliers – full colour, I’d spent several hundred dollars on having them printed – in the bag folded in half, printed side in, despite the bags being full sized. Such are the woes of an Indie author trying to do creative self-promo.
But on the whole I’ve been fortunate – VERY fortunate. Every month I have over a hundred free downloads and sales each – which I have read is terrific for an Indie author – and I am grateful for the patience and support of the readers who have found me and those who have reached out. But I don’t know how to go about pushing things to the next level, if you catch my meaning. I’ve actually had some great months a few times, where I think things are on the cusp of breaking well for me but inevitably it recedes to the status quo, which is still great compared to a lot of other Indie authors but prevents me from making this my primary occupation.
I don’t want a Street Team so that when I publish I have a bunch of five-star reviews that aren’t genuine. I don’t want to game the system, as some people do in order to try to get top billing, movie deals, or a bunch of people downloading books based on hype that isn’t real. This writing thing has been a learning process, and I know I have only scratched the surface of what goes on. I would love some steady success so I don’t have to worry about other types of work, but I think integrity is important; that was drilled into me at a young age and hasn’t left me.
But crazy things happen, and sometimes I am late to learn about them (see the aforementioned ‘not totally in the game’ comment). Last year there was controversy about “Handbook for Mortals“, and more recently, the craziness just a month ago over Faleena Hopkins trying to extend her word-mark to cover the word ‘cocky’ in the entire erotica/romance verse, and force other authors to change works.
Mr. Man has some patents for software development, some of which he shares with other developers; I understand that when you are developing something that is ground breaking or unique and clever, you (or in his case the company he worked for), wants to ensure they benefit from the effort and time spent to bring the idea to fruition. I certainly don’t want anyone building on the worlds I’ve created, unless they have my express permission (and as of now, no one does). I have spent hundreds of hours building the mythology and world in The Void Chronicles series and have a huge emotional investment in it, besides the obvious time one. I GET protecting your intellectual property (IP).
But a word? If it’s a logo like Coca-Cola (used as an example in the linked article above), which is a word-mark (like a trademark but has a unique style and font), okay. It’s associated with a product, you don’t want people piggybacking on that. But what Hopkins has done goes beyond the pale, and I think the Trademark Office erred gravely in granting that to her; due diligence should be performed to ensure there isn’t something that invalidates that trademark and apparently it is a font she PURCHASED that was widely available, other books were published before hers with the word cocky. If that’s not crazy and shocking, I don’t know what is! When I read about it, I thought: Is this what romance/erotica has become? That we are cordoning off territory, pissing on a fire hydrant as it were? Jostling other writers out of the way in our blood-lust to get to the top?
Books are consumables! Sure there are a finite number of books that a person is going to read in their life and in that sense yes, there is some competition, but romance readers are voracious! They don’t just read one book, they read HUNDREDS. There is no need for this dirty mud-flinging, vagina blocking bullshit that Hopkins has indulged in. It makes me shake my head and wonder about the rabbit hole, and how much deeper I might want to dive in. It simply beggars belief that we’re seeing this kind of stuff.
What did Hopkins think was going to happen here? That since she would have ‘the force of the law’ with her, she could flip the bird to everyone else, do whatever she wanted and know that since she has success (which means resources), people couldn’t/wouldn’t challenge her and her readers would remain loyal to her, even if they were also fans of an author who Hopkins had targeted? This kind of naked arrogance galls me, and the desire to use some perceived power as a cudgel to swing about and lord over people is just repulsive, especially people who have personally done her no wrong except have the temerity to use a word she has in the title of her books.
Courtney Milan Twitter summary on #cockygate
Legal Inspiration has more info. (Apparently Hopkins filed multiple Trademark requests)
Jamila Jasper an author affected by this nonsense