Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

#HarryStyles #1D #Divergent #GameofThrones have nothing to do with this post

Note: I’m not going to identify by name any of the authors included in this post because it would bring attention to their name and publicity is what they seek. Therefore, I’m trying my best to avoid providing publicity for these activities with which I don’t agree.

Indies have a problem. Indie publishing is the wild west where might and cleverness succeed and the law-abiding, quietly thoughtful authors are being left to bleed out in the dust. There’s nothing that can stop it but I can’t help feeling dismayed.

A day or so ago, I received a cover reveal request for an author who had publicly proclaimed not even two weeks earlier she was quitting publishing due to extreme bullying. She had explained in her post that in her post that she was near starvation due to low sales and suicidal due to the terrible things bloggers and other authors have said about her books. The author enjoyed above 4-star review averages on goodreads and Amazon, and her books were ranked below 10,000 (which is a hell of a lot better than most authors).

As a result of her post, many bloggers and authors posted about her on Facebook and encouraged others to buy her books. Her book sales spiked, until she was close to the Kindle top 100 and was actually #1 in a few browse categories. And now, not two weeks later, she’s out seeking promotion for her books. When I inquired about her intent to quit, I was informed by her two-person personal assistant team that sales were separate from writing, whatever that means.

Just a day before that, I saw an international bestselling author, top in her genre, announce that a famous actor was being featured in her cover reveal. Based on her twitter stream, it was apparent that her readers thought that he was personally involved somehow, yet going to the page where this occurred showed him in a gif which was taken from a recent movie.  If I took a picture of this author from the internet and pasted it on a post here at Dear Author and said X author was featured in a new promotional event at the blog, I have no doubt this would be frowned upon.

Appropriation of celebrities is rampant among the indie author crowd. I’ve seen picture teasers by authors that include images of actors that they have voiced are inspiration for their male characters. I differentiate these from fan-made teasers because the fans shouldn’t be required to know what copyright is. But authors should, particularly when every other post some days is about pirates.

Then there’s the 1D fan fiction that was written on Wattpad and portrays Harry Styles as an emotionally abusive boyfriend and boywhore (he’s a teenager in the FF). Wattpad is trying to get this made into a movie and is touting it as the next Fifty Shades. Going to the Wattpad page leads you to picture after picture of Harry Styles in various poses next to quotes from the book.

Two of the above three examples violate the right of publicity. In California, the knowing use of a celebrity’s likeness without their consent for advertising purposes is a violation. California isn’t the only state with this law, but it was one of the first to enact it. There are at least nineteen states that have enacted this specific law.  Even beyond the statutes, celebrities (or anyone) can bring a suit against the author or publishing house for invasion of privacy or misappropriation of their image.

But why should they have to? Don’t authors believe in the integrity of intellectual property? Isn’t that important to them? I mean, it seems like it is.

Laws, it seems, are for suckers, if you look at what some indie authors are doing to sell books. I’ve seen countless illegal contests. The latest craze is to increase pre-orders so that the author’s upcoming book appears on the NYT list. Pre-order the book, show proof of the pre-order and be entered into a lottery to win. That’s right. These authors are running lotteries that are against the law.  And these aren’t small time authors. These are multiple-book bestselling authors (formerly indie) backed by major publishing houses.

Against the law? Yes. Requiring someone to purchase something in order to enter your contest is against the law. It turns a contest (sweepstakes) into a lottery.

Maybe you’d argue that these authors don’t know better, but with their million-dollar contracts, they could afford to hire a lawyer to not be afoul of the law. And frankly, ignorance of the law is no defense.

What really grinds my gears is that these authors are gaining advantages in unscrupulous ways, which adversely impacts those authors who try to not game the system through illegal contests, misappropriating celebrities’ likenesses, attempting to manipulate sales by claiming deep and serious psychological issues, and buying reviews and sales.

The cesspool of activities that authors, a lot of them indie, are engaged in to get ahead is really off-putting. I know that there isn’t anything that can really be done about it. Oh, complaints could be made to the FTC. Attorneys for celebrities could be contacted. But probably nothing would come of that. I know I don’t care to do it.

But I tell you that it’s pretty frustrating for me to see these things happen and then read endless claims about bullying, piracy, and bad reviews. The worst part is that it’s manipulative to readers, many of whom get caught up in illegal and unethical schemes without their consent or knowledge. And it makes the task of finding honestly marketed books a thousand times harder than it already is. We hear complaints about the quality of indie books all the time, but I think this is a lot worse.

In the courts of equity, there’s this rule called in pari delicto. I won’t go into a long dissertation about how this is a rule of equity, and all of the above would be heard in a court of law, but it’s a rule that I learned in law school that has always appealed to me. It’s called the Clean Hands Doctrine and essentially says that if your hands are dirty, then you can’t complain about the unclean things anyone else is doing.

Maybe we need to institute that in publishing. I won’t complain about these irritating and illegal activities, and authors can be quiet about reader behavior, starting with reader reviews, which are not now and are never going to be bullying, no matter how many times authors call it that.



Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. library addict
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 04:34:21

    authors can be quiet about reader behavior, starting with reader reviews, which are not now and are never going to be bullying, no matter how many times authors call it that.

    This. 1000 times this.

    I don’t like it when authors compare their characters to famous people (actors, sports stars, etc). While the author may find the person great looking, compelling, etc. doesn’t mean their readers do. So to have them post pictures on Twitter, Facebook, or their blogs make me resent this type of thing even more. Even if I like the book it still irks me.

    I don’t keep up with all of the drama so I have no idea who the authors are that you are talking about. I hope I don’t accidentally support them and this type of behavior by buying their book(s).

  2. Noelle
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 05:39:05

    A lot of bad behavior seems to be concentrated among self-published authors–I assume because they often do not have any sort of publishing professional to keep them in line–but the illegal giveaways pop up with authors of all varieties, even authors who otherwise do everything professionally. I assume it’s just because they don’t know. Surely I’m not the only person who had the contest mantra drilled into my head from the time I was a child. “No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited.” There was a reason I heard it for every cereal box contest I ever entered.

    I have wondered about “giveaways” that give extra points for reviews. I assume the person setting up the giveaway thinks the book will be bought in order to leave a review, but since there are other possibilities for leaving reviews other than purchase (borrowed book, fake review), is that enough for an alternate means of entry? Or does the person setting up the giveaway need to establish the alternate method of entry herself (i.e., No purchase necessary to earn these points. Feel free to write a fake five-star review, as long as it claims this book is the best one you’ve ever read and the hero is the hottest book boyfriend in publishing history)? I see the leave-a-review entry a lot and have always wondered.

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 06:27:21

    There are so many ways some authors push to get ahead. Saying a famous actor is an inspiration for a book is fine by me because it’s often the truth. Touting his picture all over the net and appropriating it, turning that image into something else is not.
    But it seems I’m in a minority. Honestly, it really feels that way.
    It’s the search for fame and fortune that is pushing these people to be accepted. At heart, don’t we all want that, or some of it? Accepting that is fine, but the way some people push for it makes me sick and turns me off big time. However big those authors are, however many lists they hit, I’m not going there.
    I want a writing career. I want to be here in ten years, and I want to write books people enjoy reading. When I say that in some places, I’m derided. I can show you the emails. Not that I will, because that’s unethical.
    The constant search for validation, and the “look at me!” mentality drives a lot of people. And a possibly misguided sense of righteousness. Traditional publishers know nothing because they rejected what was clearly a masterpiece. For the one time that’s true, there are probably thousands of times that it isn’t, but they quote that one time as if it’s the norm and not the exception.
    There are so many things going on it makes my head ache. An author will deride a publisher, and then sign a six figure deal with a rival the next week. There’s a lot of lying about sales, too. Paying for reviews, but a lot of that goes on very quietly. Getting friends and family to sock-puppet a book’s reviews is another one. Nobody talks about that one, btw. Not on the public lists, anyway. The only way you can tell is the huge amount of 5 star Amazon reviews saying basically the same thing, about a book you know is garbage. There’s lots of gaming, one-upmanship, and trying to fix Amazon’s algorithm. And there’s so much of it that there’s no policing all of it. It’s just impossible to keep track of everything.
    I’ll just write my way through it. If nobody buys any of my books ever again, at least I’ll have pleased one person.

  4. Carolyne
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 06:35:40

    As well as the main points brought up by the post, authors crossing between professional behaviour and fannish behaviour can simply be a turn off, making a book feel as clique-based and exclusionary as the many narrowly focussed fan circles that can form around a book or movie or show. Comparing the character to a famous person can be fun and funny…”casting” a book is something friends and I used to do way before we spent 99% of our time online. And, true, an author can do it without using Famous Actor’s image or implying any endorsement. But once the voice-of-authority author does this, it can ruin the experience for a reader who doesn’t find Famous Actor interesting/talented/attractive/non-repulsive.

    Case in point: recently I discovered, midway through a trilogy, an author’s multiple statements that she had based a major character on Famous Actor from a TV show extremely similar to her own story. Not only does that invite comparison to figure out just how much of the story is “homage” and how much is “fanfic with the serial numbers filed off,” I had to make a serious effort not to see and hear someone I find quite annoying whenever this character appeared. It changed my mental image of what was meant to be a suave, sexy antihero into a clone of the TV character, which in turn changed the book character into an unsexy, lesser copy, a character I couldn’t wait to see killed off (I was to be disappointed). Not everyone loves your latest crush, authors. I have so many irritated feels about this right now, I hardly know what to do with myself.

    I’m sure that this author succeeded in getting attention from one segment of fandom. She did nothing illegal. She posted no images. But this seems as unwise and unprofessional as begging for sympathy or crying about bullying.

  5. Noelle
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 07:02:11

    Also, the discussion about the use of celebrities reminds me of, about a year ago, when a friend emailed me because she’d found an image online she wanted to use for a book cover but couldn’t find the stock photo site to purchase the rights. I didn’t recognize the photo, but I took 10 seconds to drop it into a Google image search and found that it was a shot of Scarlett J. and another actor (who I can’t at the moment remember) from a Woody Allen film. I, of course, told her she couldn’t use the image under any circumstances. She didn’t. Then, a few months later, I happened to see a book on Amazon by an author I wasn’t familiar with that used the exact same photo as the cover. Scarlett J. and some other well-known actor from a Woody Allen film as a book cover! A book for sale on Amazon! When I checked a week later, the book had a different cover, so I don’t know if someone gave the author a kind piece of advice or if she got in trouble for it.

  6. Ros
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 07:21:49

    @Noelle: I *think* Courtney’s post suggests that it’s okay to have ‘leave a review’ as one possible way of entering PROVIDED that there are other ways of entering that do not require any kind of purchase. But IANAL and I would always err on the side of caution.

  7. Kimberly James
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 07:56:38

    What a timely post for me. My husband and I were talking about this very thing the other day, particularly, the use of celebrity photos that inspire characters. I will admit, I have been guilty of this. Call me stupid, but because I saw everyone else doing it, I assumed it was okay. Yeah, my kids have never been able to get away with that one.

    Thanks for clearing this up.

  8. Jane
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 08:55:19

    I think fancasting is a gray area. Saying you were inspired by X actor doesn’t strike me as appropriating. What I have seen which I think goes over the line is slapping the person’s image on a cover or on an author made pic teaser.

    I’m not even disturbed by the reposting of images saying “x is inspiring”. But that’s a far cry from saying “x is featured on my cover review.”

  9. Jane
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 08:57:19

    @Noelle – re the review in exchange for a contest I think that violates the Amazon review policy and I’ve heard that some people are having their reviews deleted for that reason. But I’m not sure if it transforms a sweepstakes into a lottery.

  10. Lisa J
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 09:05:22

    It’s things like this that make me glad I’m not on Facebook and Twitter and I can claim blissful ignorance. Luckily, I miss out on all the whining about “mean girls” and bad reviews. The author blogs I follow are thoughtful and professional and other than an occasional rant about piracy, fun and enjoyable to read without all the drama.

    The kind of behavior described is a sad commentary on what some people will do to be successful. But, as my grandma always said, “What goes around comes around.” Of course, that means these people will file a lawsuit to protect their rights while continuing to trample on others.

  11. Ros
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 09:06:40

    @Jane: Jane, do you have any thoughts on the use of Pinterest, especially with respect to images of celebrities?

  12. nearhere
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 09:16:14

    Authors signed to major publishing houses probably have to be a lot more careful with image appropriation because publishing houses are worried about lawsuits. I’m gonna guess that they are very careful not to be sued as they have a larger target on their back then some indie author on amazon. For indie authors it’s probably worth it to appropriate images as the likelihood of a large lawsuit is smaller – they have less $$ to sue for.

  13. Sunita
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 09:24:12

    @Ros: I’m not Jane, but from my IANAL (but fairly well read on copyright) perspective, Pinterest is a mess. Here is a good explication of the issues by a lawyer who specializes in the relevant areas.

    To the extent that authors who pin photos on Pinterest are acting in their authorly (and therefore commercial) capacities, they are more circumscribed from using fair use than the average Pinterest user.

  14. Kat Morrisey
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 09:54:05

    One thing I remember about law school is a prof saying that nobody but lawyers and judges care about the law until they get sued-or are arrested. And then it’s the whole “but I didn’t KNOW that texting while driving was against the law. I didn’t see any of the million road signs or TV ads! It’s not my fault I plowed into that minivan!” argument I’ve heard so many times, and in so many different variations for different crimes and torts, I want to puke. People seem fine with ignoring the law, until it hurts them and they want something done about it.

    I feel like some authors won’t care about the relevant law they’re breaking either until it hurts them in some way. They will just keep on keeping on, violating the laws regarding lotteries and contests, whining over bad reviews on their books, stealing the works of other authors, and accusing people of being bullies (including stalking those alleged bullies, or letting their fans do it for them.) because their feelings were hurt and someone criticized their book-baby. *rolls eyes*

    I know that’s a cynical, negative view, but I can’t help it. These issues bother me as a lawyer and as a teacher (I see plagiarism so many times in my class it’s painful); it also bothers me as a book reviewer (I don’t like being called a bully for a 2 or 3 star review; I just like to read and talk about books-why is it so wrong if I didn’t like a book?); and it really, REALLY bothers me as an author.

    Now, I might say “Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones inspired my character” (he didn’t, I’m just using him as an example here, LOL) or “I listened to this song while writing X love scene because it was so powerful” is so different than creating a trailer of images from SOA or some other TV show/movie/etc (without the show or actors’ permission) and promoting a book. Heck, even when I use a youtube video on my blog to share a song I’ve been listening to just because I like the song, I embed it only if there is an OFFICIAL video I can do this with (not a fan made vid of the song over random images).

    Maybe this makes me an idiot for following the “rules”. But I want those clean hands Jane is talking about. I want to know that what I’m doing is right, and fix it, if I’m doing something wrong. Some might call me a fool for that and say that I’m never going to make it on any of the important lists if I follow the rules, but I guess I’ll just have to be okay with that.

    And I’m sorry for the rant. This topic tends to get my blood pressure up. :)

  15. Laura K Curtis
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 10:05:58

    As both an author and a marketing professional, I find all of these kinds of tactics deplorable and depressing. (In fact, I just wrote a post about manipulative “guilt” marketing on my own blog. I don’t really think there’s anything those of us who don’t engage in this crap can do. I *do* think that even if the author who wrote the Style fan fiction didn’t know better, the people who run Wattpad should.

    Much of this is indicative of something that seems to me to be all-pervasive in society, in acts that are not always strictly illegal but they make me wince anyway: a lack of respect for others. Talking on your phone loudly in a restaurant shows a lack of respect. So does littering. So does copyright infringement. So does lying to readers about the state of your mental health.

    It’s manipulative, and I appreciate being told about who’s doing it so I can avoid supporting them.

  16. Ros
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 10:14:21

    @Sunita: Yeah, that was my sense. I do have a Pinterest account and use it very occasionally for craft projects and similar, but I always worry about using it. I try to stick to sites which have a PinIt button, so that they are giving permission to pin things. But I know a LOT of authors have Pinterest boards for their books and it strikes me that’s pretty similar to the kinds of issues Jane mentions in the post.

  17. AH@badassbookreviews
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 10:46:03

    As an avid reader, I tend to avoid authors who cause all sorts of nonsense about bullying, etc. I feel that if I purchase their books, I would then let them know that that behavior is OK. It’s not.
    I do enjoy casting books with my friends. It’s often fun to see what one person’s image of a character would look like vs my own idea. I can’t see an author marketing their book with celebrity images without permission. That just isn’t right.

    Thanks for a most informative post – and the great discussion below.

  18. Janine
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 11:02:30

    Great post, Jane.

    @Ros: This isn’t the same situation, but your question about Pinterest reminded me of author Roni Loren’s cautionary post to other authors, reposted here by her agent, about how she was sued for copyright infringement after using a copyrighted image.

  19. Lynne Connolly
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 11:15:58

    @Kat Morrisey: Yes, that. I’ve seen that happen a lot. “If you don’t do this you won’t get on the bestseller lists.” They’re usually right, as well, which is a real shame.

  20. Noelle
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 11:22:27

    Thank you, Ros and Jane, for the responses about the leave-a-review giveaways.

  21. Ros
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 11:51:27

    @Janine: Absolutely. I remembered that too, and have been surprised at how little effect her warning seems to have had.

  22. shiloh walker
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 11:58:20

    Agree x 100000.

    These authors are an insult. I bust my tail just to get a little decent honest PR. And barely anything works. And this crap happens…sometimes I wonder why I try.

    Maybe life …or legalities will catch up. I dunno.

    Personally, I think more attention should be shed on the unscrupulous activities.

  23. AH@badassbookreviews
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:17:48

    @shiloh walker: I think most of us do. I have a list of favorite authors and they are great when interacting with their fans. They would never think to do silly things like threaten to stop writing because of x reasons just to increase sales. Those are the authors I support. I gladly pre-order their books and telI my friends to try them out. I even ask my local library to purchase their books as well.

  24. Lori
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:28:54

    I consistently see authors on Pinterest posting pictures of celebrities as casting choices for their books and it makes me less interested in reading their books because I cast in my own head when reading. So if you want to tell me to imagine Tom Cruise when I’m reading your book… well, I probably won’t be interested in your book.

    I just read The Collector by Nora Roberts and a character was named Oliver Archer and it caused a real problem for me because Oliver is the first name of the Green Arrow and he’s an archer (doh) so every time I saw the name I thought of the television character and it jolted me.

    As an indie author, I’ve learned there’s almost no publicity I can do that won’t cost me money or pride to sell books and since I have little money but plenty of pride, I don’t bother. I’m still of the opinion that great writing will create word of mouth and all I can do is keep writing and keep improving and maybe someday I’ll achieve decent sales.

    On the other hand, I don’t write for sales and any writer crying in her soup that mean girls are forcing her into starvation isn’t someone I’ll ever support.

  25. Darlene Marshall
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:37:40

    What an important and thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing. The illegal lottery issue in particular gripes me because I know from my years in radio that rules on lotteries are strict. We’d have to set things up very carefully to avoid having our license yanked by the FCC because, as you said, you can’t have “pay to play” entries,

    The author who whined and threatened self-harm because her books didn’t sell…I can’t even respond to that, it’s so out there. Sadly, you can’t make this stuff up.

  26. Anna Richland
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:46:49

    @shiloh walker: and @AH@badassbookreviews:

    Exactly what you said.

    I can’t even imagine talking about my personal emotional challenges as a way to sell books – I think, what would my family think reading that? At least I’m not embarrassed to have parents of my kids’ friends see anything about me that I’ve done for PR. That’s sort of my touchstone – can I talk about this [PR thing or whatever I’m doing] with real, living people that I know? Or would people back slowly away?

    I’m extremely lucky out in Seattle to have so many fabulous writers who blaze wonderful PR trails without drama – from huge writers like Susan Mallery and her facebook example, to writers who are less well-known, but really good, like Rose Lerner and Susanna Fraser who have good, solid, professional web presences. It’s supportive to be around people who don’t engage in the celebrity appropriation, the bashing, drama, any of that stuff. I can see how if a writer’s circle is filled w/people who do that stuff, or is just on the internet, where people are crazier than they are in person, someone could lose their way.

    So maybe one of the solutions for writers who might be going off the deep end is MORE real in-person engagement with other writers – a little bit of reeling back b/c people just aren’t as crazy in person?

  27. Kim
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:50:07

    I think it’s interesting that you can almost tell what self publishing guru an author is following by the tweets he or she puts out there. It’s as if there are cliques and clans who follow the same practices and have been assured that these things are alright and we must do them to get our books noticed.

    I follow 2 self pubbed authors who are on opposite ends of the spectrum and find it interesting that the one who isn’t doing all that nonsense spends more time writing good books with professional editing and has put out 8 books, each one that I have adored. The other, although I really like her stories, has two books she talks/tweets/promotes at conferences endlessly and boy, do they need an editor. Badly. But when she started she latched on to a group that operated a certain way, so that’s the way she’s doing it.

    Maybe because I’ve been in marketing and advertising, I don’t want to put my books out there until I know they’re not going to torn apart for reasons other than somebody doesn’t like the story. I surely don’t want to be in the club that seems to be so unprofessional and almost on the edge of desperation just to make some list……maybe that’s why my books are still in my computer and not on Amazon? I wouldn’t have lasted a day in the wild west.

  28. P. J. Dean
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:51:04

    I think a lot of this behavior comes from the adoration of artifice in today’s society, pop culture world, whatever you want to call it. Can we say Kardashians? It touches everything. So many writers covet “making it big”, “getting my stuff on everyone’s Kindle” without having a shred of talent or very little. It’s all about the trappings. They seem to be working backwards. Get the attention first and then MAYBE learn how to write a decent book. Self publishing outlets have made it very easy to get those undone products out to the masses. Stuff that never should be seen in the light of day. I think this frenzy of below-the-belt marketing reflects the fact that these writers KNOW that they don’t have talent or the chops (or in the case of a known author, their well of inspiration is running dry) So what do they? Go gonzo in pushing their meager offerings by conducting dancing-on-the-edge of illegal promo and by manipulation of fans (dislike that word, fan short for fanatic) addicted to the current deliverer of that batch of feels. No matter how wack the work. ‘Cuz, hey, everybody is doing it. End of vent.

  29. P. J. DEAN
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 12:56:40

    I think a lot of this behavior comes from the adoration of artifice in today’s society, pop culture world, whatever you want to call it. Can we say Kardashians? It touches everything. So many writers covet “making it big”, “getting my stuff on everyone’s Kindle” without having a shred of talent or very little. It’s all about the trappings. They seem to be working backwards. Get the attention first and then MAYBE learn how to write a decent book. Self publishing outlets have made it very easy to get those undone products out to the masses. Stuff that never should be seen in the light of day. I think this frenzy of below-the-belt marketing reflects the fact that these writers KNOW that they don’t have talent or the chops (or in the case of a known author, their well of inspiration is running dry) So what do they? Go gonzo in pushing their meager offerings by conducting dancing-on-the-edge of illegal promo and by manipulation of fans (dislike that word, fan short for fanatic) addicted to the current deliverer of that batch of feels. No matter how wack the work. ‘Cuz, hey, everybody is doing it.

  30. ktgrant
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 13:19:03

    The sad thing manipulation works, as well as many other unscrupulous ways to game the system. Because it’s so successful, I see a rise in this, which is depressing.

    But look at it this way, the more authors write blog posts saying they’re quitting writing because of bad reviews or so-called bullying with no real proof provided, people will catch on and turn away. You can only cry wolf so many times.

  31. Julia
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 15:08:58

    This post and the links Janine and Sunita posted have just given me more questions about what use is acceptable and what isn’t. Aren’t book covers copyrighted? What makes it ok to use them on sites like this one? What about people who do gif reviews? Lots of those are from presumably copyrighted TV material – where is it ok to use that?

    I don’t really follow any authors on social media at all, so I’m just going to go hide in my little hole and stay away from the drama. I feel like crazy marketing schemes like this don’t really reach me. I’ll just continue to let quality books speak for themselves.

  32. Sirius
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 15:20:39

    For some reason I am not really upset about authors doing lotteries, claiming celebrities are in their cover reveals, I mean I do get that it is illegal, do not get me wrong, and I wish they would not do all those things, but I am feeling resigned I guess? Thinking it will never stop? But the author who claimed to be suicidal from review “bullying” and sent you a cover reveal two weeks later (I remember reading about it, although funnily and thank goodness forgot her name) just got to me. Anything for a buck, eh? Just really anything – hey let’s make a mockery of a people who truly feel suicidal and who end up committing suicide. Sigh.

  33. Nix
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 15:21:24

    I’m rather bored of the sob stories. It may seem cynical, it may seem an awful thing to say, but as soon as an author complains of bullying, or says they’re quitting, I remember their names and refuse to read them. It’s getting a bit like X-Factor; it seems authors think the best sob story will win the sales war and I won’t de drawn. I abhor this type of marketing (let’s call a spade a spade, that is what it is) and hope that, with the increased publicity it’s getting on social media, this trend will die out. It seems that some authors seem to concentrate more on fast sales than putting out quality books.

    The people I feel for more and more in this whole situation is the everyday reader. They have no idea what goes on; they just look at the sales rankings on Amazon, maybe a few reviews, and then one-click. They have no idea that the book they may be buying maybe substandard rubbish with sock puppet reviews, repackaged fan-fic or even (as I’ve seen this week) plagiarised free short stories from a well known author, pubb’d using KDP. Some authors seem to think they are entitled to money for nothing and are quite happy to stomp all over their fans getting it.

    In regards to the use of celebrity images, it’s rife from both authors and bloggers, both of whom should know better. There was a lull when an author got sued for using an image for Man-Candy (was it Ronnie Loren…?) but that seems to have been forgotten. It’s going to be a costly mistake for someone in the near future and then people will start looking up copyright laws again!

  34. Courtney Milan
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 15:38:23

    For the record on review-asking:

    I think that most of the “get X points by doing Y things for entry into a giveaway” things are illegal lotteries. The FTC guidelines (here’s a consumer-oriented overview: require people who do not wish to buy (or otherwise provide valuable consideration) EQUAL chances of winning.

    Many of the things that those “get X entries!” require you to do constitute (in my mind) valuable consideration, even if they aren’t preorders (which are clearly a no). A review constitutes valuable consideration: Reviews, especially reviews from regular readers with real Amazon accounts, are valuable to authors. There is a market for them (unfortunately). The author receives value for them. This is not anything nominal.

    I think even asking people to follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook are potentially valuable consideration. It may not cost the giver money, but these are things that some people are willing to pay money for and that authors wish to have.

    If you ask someone to do something to enter a contest that you could otherwise buy on Fiverr, that’s consideration in my mind, and increasing someone’s chances of winning in exchange for them doing that thing is illegal.

    One of the reasons I stopped doing giveaways on other people’s blogs in general is that people started attaching stupid and illegal conditions to MY giveaways without asking for my consent or permission.

  35. Erin Satie
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 16:56:27

    I’m looking at my Pinterest page & trying to figure out what to do. Pinterest allows you to make secret boards public but not public boards secret, so when it comes to the inspiration boards I’ve already made, it seems like the only option would be to delete.

    But I don’t wanna (whine whine). So here’s a question. If I detach the board from my pen name and don’t link to it anywhere–if I try to scale it back to be just for personal use–would that still violate copyright?

  36. Lindsay
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 17:04:38

    I feel like this is the sort of thing I’ve seen again and again in different areas, though rarely so far-reaching — when I was younger it was in fanfiction and genre artists, later it was costuming and re-enactment, now it’s authors. I feel like it’s been going on for a long time but people have larger and larger audiences now as personal reach across the internet grows.

    While I think that there are always going to be people who do this kind of thing, it’s important to recognize the folks who don’t, to not get caught up in the drama and trainwreck factor of it all, but to still let people know that hey, it’s not cool. When it crosses lines into legality (and I mean, there have been plenty of above cases where people flat-out stole money or solicited “loans” that were never paid back) it’s even more important for people to be aware of it — I think the onus is on the authors to be more aware than the fans, but one unscrupulous author can affect a lot of fans, so honestly I think awareness is important for everyone.

    I’ve only once sent in pre-order proof of something, but that was for a personalized bookplate, and everyone got one. I wouldn’t dream of doing it to enter a lottery (or “giveaway”), but maybe that’s because I’m not as caught-up in the marketing frenzy that also includes street teams and such. There are authors I adore that I will talk up the books of to anyone who will listen, but that author has zero knowledge that I do so, and I’m not doing it for her acknowledgement — I’m doing it because I love the books and want to share them.

    I guess this baffles me the way the kboards stuff baffles me — zero talk about substance, everything is about the latest marketing spin or how to go viral.

    My partner is diving into a similar situation with apps — just releasing it into the wild, no matter how good it is, seems to have it languish in obscurity. He’s using people he knows professionally to talk about it who have a large reach, but if he didn’t know those people as friends then what would he do? With the recent noise over Flappy Bird and Threes, I can see the same things happening in a similar world.

  37. MM Justus
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 17:12:37

    So far as Pinterest goes, I just don’t put anything up on my boards that doesn’t belong to me — most of my photos are of places in my books that I’ve actually been to, that I actually took myself. And photos of my quilts [g].

    I do have a folder of my book covers, and I’m trying to start a folder of review links, not that I have a lot to put there.

    But I rarely get visitors there, and only one photo (of one of my quilts) has ever been repinned (no, spellcheck, not repined).

  38. Harper Kingsley
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 17:37:24

    I have a Wattpad account, but I don’t go on there a whole lot. It’s kind of a hassle to upload stuff (AO3 has spoiled me!) but I would never think to put fanfic up there. Yet 900% of the stories seem to be One Direction fanfic. How is that even legal? I mean, Wattpad is in someway making money from people using their platform and those authors talk about self-pubbing their stories, and I am just boggled. Plus, if you remove all the 1D references, most of those stories are nonsensical crap.

    I see authors tying their stories to celebrities — actual pictures! *gasp* — and I wonder how they’re not in jail. Not literal jail, but like fandom jail where there’s a big C&D letter, big $$$ fines, and a public apology about “did not have permission to use [name redacted]’s likeness or image in my story. [Name redacted] has in no way supported my product and has expressed the wish that my future endeavors all fail miserably.”

    People wonder why Disney cracked down on that preschool using the images of Mickey and Donald on their playground wall. Now we know. Give someone an inch … and they use Scarlett J’s picture on the cover of their book.

  39. Sarah
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 18:06:33

    So then why are you using Divergent in your title then?

    Let’s not forget that not everyone who uses celebrities is using it for an advertisement purpose.

  40. shiloh
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 18:09:40

    I think there are ways to use pinterest fairly…or I wouldn’t. I repin from sites like IMDB, or where I’ve expressly obtained ok. I asked one modeling site, follow photographers, etc. I never repin lcs that don’t link to a site (ie user uploaded unless the user clearly owns the image) … Makes it slower but if you want to use the site fairly, it is possible.

  41. Harper Kingsley
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 19:25:14

    @Sarah: It’s one thing to be a fan and enjoy something as a fan. It’s another thing to be an author and make the bold statement “My book is endorsed by [some celebrity].” And when you’re using a celebrity’s likeness in conjunction with something you’re selling … it can get pretty ugly. I’ve heard of people being sued back to the Stone Age (like, they’re literally left with nothing but rocks and debt).

    Plus, as a fan, it annoys me when someone tags stuff falsely. When I’m looking for Spike/Xander, I’m going to be mad when I get someone’s story that was “inspired by a Spike/Xander thing I read.” I feel cheated and lied to in some way. My feelings are very delicate :P Plus I get really loud in my anger and write big rants in my fandom LJ.

  42. Evangeline
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 19:39:31

    @Sarah: I’d like to think that the hashtags were deliberately used to attract the notice of the very people who aren’t Dear Author regulars (i.e. WattPad users, fandoms, et al) and who are likely the main culprits behind the gist of this post.

  43. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 19:55:23

    I kinda took those hashtags as very much tongue in cheek jibes myself. Not particularly subtle pokes, but well, the less than savory crap some authors pull in the name of ‘marketing’ lately, they aren’t particularly subtle, either. Slapping an unauthorized actor pic into a cover reveal and leading a reader to believe that actor actually has some connection to the book? Using mental health and suicidal ideation as a marketing ploy?

    All Jane did was a hashtag a couple of things to highlight some of the utter gall some people, IMO.

  44. Kaetrin
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 20:27:42

    @Julia: I don’t know about gifs but as far as book covers go, it’s fine to use a book cover if you’re writing a review of the book. It’s fair use/fair commentary.

    Also, where the book is provided for review by the author/publisher, very often the cover image is provided as well – so explicit permission is given.

  45. IndieWriter
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 22:14:05

    Oh I’ve seen plenty of this stuff from trad pubbed authors. Including manipulative melt downs. As well as trading on gossip to garner attention.

    They even screw up the legalities of contests.

    And I would love to know about how publishers keep their authors on the straight and narrow. Last I heard publishers do nothing for authors beyond publishing and distributing the books, but now they are savvy enough to keep their authors from breaking the law? What? Seriously? When they can’t even properly market their books anymore? When _I_ can out market them?

    This is quite the bunch of elitist poppycock y’all have assembled here.

    Thanks for the reminder as to why I shouldn’t read here.

  46. hapax
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 22:20:03

    @Julia: IANAL, but at the library where I work, we have been instructed NOT to use book covers even in our inhouse publicity (e.g., booklists, posters) without permission.

    We also PAY for the rights to feature the book covers in our online catalog.

    So, no, I’m willing to bet that “It’s not copyright violation because I’m advertising the book” is an excuse.

    I don’t know if review sites also pay for the rights to feature book covers, or if it’s been determined to fall under Fair Use.

    But if *I* were running a review blog, I wouldn’t risk it.

  47. hapax
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 22:28:38

    Arggh. “Is NOT an excuse.” I done type real good.


    it’s fine to use a book cover if you’re writing a review of the book. It’s fair use/fair commentary.

    Are you sure about this? I’ve heard this repeated many times, but as I said, our legal advisor said “Nope.”

    Excerpts of the text are certainly fair use, but the cover image is in a different copyright status — unless of course you’re reviewing the cover itself.

    I don’t think it’s ever been tested in court. Maybe our lawyer just suffers from an excess of caution. But I would be wary…

  48. Jane
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 22:36:06

    The use of thumbnail images is fair use in my opinion based on the Perfect 10 ruling which was cited with approval by the 2nd circuit. I feel fine about the use of the images of book covers here and will continue to use them.

  49. Harper Kingsley
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 22:36:29

    @hapax: Ooh, I thought as long as the book cover image was 400 pixels wide or less and of low resolution it was okay to use them under fair use in reference to the work. Maybe I’m confusing things I learned on Wikipedia?

  50. Julia
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 23:20:44

    @Jane & @hapax & @Kaetrin: Cool, interesting to know! Thanks for answering that for me :)

  51. Kaetrin
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 02:30:56

    @hapax: I have no problem using cover images for book reviews and posts which reference particular books in specific ways (for example, when I talk about tropes I like, I might post images of books which feature those tropes at my personal blog). And I don’t pay for them.

    When it comes to review books, we are given explicit permission to use the image but in any event, it fits within fair use and review/commentary (Australian).

    What’s not okay is to use a book cover image for other reasons. For instance, it would not be fair use to use a few book covers as promotion for the new tablet I’m selling (I’d need explicit permission for that) or if I had a… cocktail making blog and posts images of book covers that drove me to drink.

    But if it’s about the book, then it’s fine. If it were really a problem, we’d have all known about it by now.

    I am not a lawyer either, but after Roni Loren’s experience referenced above, many of us specifically queried the status of book covers and asked about it.

    ETA: I’m comfortable with what I do but I obviously can’t speak for your library Hapax. I don’t use pictures (other than book covers) apart from images I’ve taken myself or appropriately accredited Creative Commons photographs.

  52. Ros
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 05:33:08

    @shiloh: Does IMDB have a PinIt button? I’m just wondering on what basis you’ve determined that it’s fair to pin from it and ‘sites like it’.

  53. Cathy Clamp
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 06:56:12

    While I’m a visual writer, in that I do look for photos of people to populate my books, I don’t think it’s appropriate to inflict that thought process on my readers. I don’t want the reader to imagine that person/celebrity (because some characters might be ordinary people I saw in a news photo or in a gallery/museum photo). I want them to remember my [i]character[/i] as a real person who might resemble someone by description, but isn’t them.

    As for the whole marketing ploy of “buy my book because I was cyber-bullied”, I’m more likely to have two emotional responses that are not condusive to buying books: 1) I am likely to doubt the bullying ever happened: and 2) I’m likely to think the author themselves is the bully. To me, trying to cause a sympathetic response in me by a tragic tale to cause me to open my wallet is a form of bullying. And I won’t be bullied. But that’s just me.

    As an author, I’d rather my readers think of me as emotionally stable and able to withstand the occasional negativity online so that I can produce my next book. :)

  54. Pete Morin
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 07:18:33

    How about the internationally known author of erotica and vampire fiction who picked a fight with Amazon top reviewers then used the “attacks” on her to fuel a petition campaign to remove anonymity? Clever!

    And for all the publicity she got, the petition still can’t get to 10k signatures.

    The best thing to come out of that was the revelation that her editor-fan who started the petition was discovered to have one-starred a competitor’s book – pseudonymously.

  55. coribo25
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 07:51:47

    On the subject of cover use, Goodreads took content (covers and blurbs) from the internet, sometimes without the originator’s permission since readers could upload, used it to build a valuable asset, then sold that asset on to amazon for a large sum.

    I’m happy for anyone to use my covers and blurbs, excerpts etc. for the purpose of review and free book discussion. Bit trickier when my content is being used to built a saleable asset. Had goodreads been a book, I assume they’d have asked permission or bought licenses for the covers used in the book. Being a website, seems they could do what they liked with them and profit from them at will. The one time I asked for a very old cover to be taken down, I was told if it existed, they had the right to display it.

    Would be interested to hear from the legal folk here where goodreads stood with that sale.

  56. Lynnd
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 09:54:24

    Along with the “clean hands” doctrine, my other favourite is that “ignorance of the law is no defence.” I expect that at some point, authors who are appropriating a celebrity’s (or movie/tv show’s) images and “brand” will start being sued by that celebrity or the creator of the show, particularly as those author’s start making money and having assets that can be seized to enforce a judgment. That will be interesting as most of the traditional publishing houses are part of the media conglomerates who own the traditional publishers. I can’t wait to hear the howls of outrage among the indie community when that happens. Will those authors who are sued then claim over against the “gurus” who have advised them to do this stuff? I don’t practice law in this area, but it will be interesting to see the claims when they start coming.

    As for an author who says that he/she’s going to quit writing or commit suicide in order to generate more sales, what is she going to do the next time his/her sales tank because that Chicken Little tactic will only work so often before people catch on that they are just being manipulated. The only way, IMO, to build a good solid career of any kind is to work your ass off and produce the best product you can. Otherwise, you’re just going to be a flash in the pan – here today and gone tomorrow.

  57. Lynnd
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 09:56:09

    Ack, I meant to say that most of the creators/owners of the movies/tv shows are owned by the same media conglomerates that own the traditional publishers.

    Off to have more caffeine.

  58. hapax
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 10:05:37

    @Jane: Thanks for that citation! I will pass it onto our lawyer and see what he says; I would *love* to be able to put cover images on our booklists.

  59. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 11:23:25

    @Ros: Ros, I look for the promo & publicity pics that have been placed on it. It’s not a user-run site, to my knowledge, so the images that go up on it, it would seem to my way of thinking, are placed there with permission. Now here’s where I realize I’m going to have change how I do things…Pinterest has gone and changed/updated things…AGAIN, and it’s not really thumbnails anymore that they use, but full on images-even if they do link back to the source, so that’s more of issue and takes it in a gray area I try to avoid. Sigh. I’m going to have redo a lot of my boards or delete.

    But it is still possible to use the site and be safe. It takes more time. It depends on whether you want to invest it. I follow photographers and pin images they’ve taken-I specifically look for THEIR images, and only pin theirs-if they have boards labeled inspiration, etc? I unfollow those so I’m not accidentally repinning troublesome images. One of my favorite photographers, Trey Ratliff gave me to the okay to repin any of his pics, and he said it was fine. This was before pinterest got huge, and he wasn’t on it at the time. Then he ended up on it and is now one of the biggest photographers on the site. He knows how it works and if he’s pinning his pics, then he is aware of how the site is going to be used.

    I asked the okay from a modeling site to repin pics from their site-as long as the pic links back to their site, they said it was fine. Then they ended up using the site. Most of those end up being my character inspiration pics. Magazines who have pinterest boards and post their images, etc-Cosmo, that sort of thing. It’s possible to use it legally, but it does take more time…which is why I’m not as active as I use to be, but when I need images in my head, that’s what I do. I need the visuals and the storyboards are helpful.

    I do have geek boards I follow that stem from memes,etc, but those, one would think, be okay under fair use laws… they tend to be a few stills from a movie, they aren’t done for profit, they center around the movie(s) and they are done basically for the love of the movie(book, genre, etc).

    Of course, I’m no lawyer, but I make the effort to stay within the boundaries.

  60. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 11:24:32

    @Ros: oh, but re: IMDB, they are not one of the sites that chose to opt out, though, either.

  61. Castiron
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:01:25

    @hapax: It’s certainly the assumption at the press I work for (and at every press that I’m familiar with) that it’s fair use to use a book’s cover image for promoting that specific book, and reviews are definitely covered under that.

  62. Ros
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:32:12

    @Shiloh Walker: Thanks, Shiloh. I really appreciate the effort you’ve taken to do it legitimately and ask for permission. That’s an interesting point re IMDB photos being put up by actual PR people. I’m still not completely convinced that makes it okay to pin from there, but it’s tough to know until (if ever) it gets tested in court.

  63. S. J. Pajonas
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:53:54

    I know exactly who you’re talking about in the first example and I find it really horrifying that that author blatantly used their audience to boost sales and sales rank. I called scam right away and I only wish others had as well.

    This kind of nonsense with piracy and appropriation of famous actors has to stop too. I see “book trailers” all the time on Wattpad where the Wattpad member uses real movies cut together to make a trailer then states in the YouTube comments “I’m not meaning to violate anyone’s copyrights.” But you just did! And you acknowledged you did! Unbelievable.

  64. Jane
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 08:28:19

    I don’t actually mind fancasting or even the “god, this is an amazing picture of David Gandy” or even the use of gifs (which I definitely think could fall under fair use). It’s the explicit use of celebrity photos as a form of endorsement that I object to. Photos and images are very difficult to navigate. Often you can’t even find the originator of a photo to ask permission for use. That sucks.

    Tumblr, Pinterest involve repinning and none of that has been tried in court. I know Buzzfeed has been sued a couple of times for infringement but I think they’ve settled out of court. So Tumblr, Pinterest, and even Facebook/Twitter for reposting (versus modifying it) is something that is definitely gray and by gray I don’t mean “illegal and just not taken up by the courts” but gray in the sense of “I have no idea whether it is illegal.”

  65. Lynn M
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 10:24:23

    What blows me away is that so many books and movies (all of them, even?!) have a disclaimer saying “Any resemblance to real people living or dead is purely coincidental” as a legal way to distance an original piece of fiction from the possibility of law suit by those that could claim they were unwilling co-opted in any way. So why in the heck is there any chance at all that some POS fanfic about Harry Styles could ever be considered to be made into a movie? There is no secret at all that that character is based on HS. I simply don’t understand this. It’s one thing for a small-time indie author or fanfic writer to cry ignorance of copyright law, but entirely another thing for a major movie studio to ignore the blatant truth.

    And why don’t more actors take action against authors who coopt their images and/or personaes illegal? I’m sure they don’t have the time or energy for legal battles, and from the more cynical perspective, they ARE getting PR from such fanfic/image-stealing. But if I were an actor who found out that some writer had my picture plastered all over some really bad writing, I’d be all over that.

    I console myself with the knowledge that these unethical people will get their 15 minutes of fame and then disappear into obscurity again because they simply don’t have the talent for the long haul.

  66. Alicia Renee Kline
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 19:30:09

    Before I self-published my first book, I wondered about some of the same things. It seems like it’s quite popular to create a soundtrack for one’a book and actually post audio files of it to your site or blog. To me, that just seemed inherently wrong.

    I do mention a real band in books one and two of my series. I’d done a bit of research to know that a band name typically isn’t copyrighted material. I didn’t include song titles or lyrics, just that my characters enjoyed listening to their music. I wanted to write a companion post on my blog as to why I chose this band. Before I wrote the post and hit upload on my novel, I contacted them first and got their permission. Yes, they’re a smaller band, but better safe than sorry. Plus I now have a wonderful memory of them getting back to me and including a smiley face in their response. If I wouldn’t have heard back from them, I would have made up a band name and the post idea would have been axed.

    The same goes when I want to link to someone else’s blog. I ask them first. It’s not worth the risk of getting labeled as an unethical indie author. Besides, a lot of people are flattered and will say yes anyway.

  67. Alicia Renee Kline
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 19:38:46

    @Alicia Renee Kline: I really meant “in one’s book”. See what happens when you are long winded while typing on an iPhone? And yes, I even go back and edit my comments.

  68. Heather Lovatt
    May 02, 2014 @ 13:17:14


    Hi. What’s this about kboards? I tried it a few times and I dunno, something doesn’t feel right. This is Kindleboards, the forum, you are talking about? For starters, I thought it was some kind of independent collection of conversation/feedback on Kindle and yet, I dunno; I feel like it’s ‘shades of Kindle is the only way and they couldn’t possibly be doing anything wrong.’ Or something like that. Hm.

    Hope that makes sense.


  69. Heather Lovatt
    May 02, 2014 @ 13:35:10

    @Harper Kingsley:

    I’ve been on Wattpad for a good while. From what I know, fanfiction is allowed. This is a feedback/fanbase building site, not a paid publishing site so, “not for commercial use” is how it reads here, on Wattpad. I know of a lot of bookcovers where people swipe images. It’s okay here, supposedly as it not for commercial (read: paid) use.

    I grant you, there are a lot of users who don’t like fanfic as popular as, like in my days on deviantart and the high numbers of anime posters, the ‘traditional’ users didn’t like them either. 1D rules! What are you gonna do? *grin*

    I’ve only heard, from this blog, here, about ‘publishing’ deals to do with a fanfic. I plan to look into that.

    I grant you, fanfics, they really do get reader numbers on Wattpad. We’re dealing with a lot of 13 year old emo girls. *grin* But Wattpad (so far) is not in the business of publishing. They deal with a company called Sourcebooks, for one, who have offered users (with high reader scores, of course) deals to publish or distribute their books, the same way any publisher could come along and do. But not ON Wattpad. It’s free.

    I still believe Wattpad makes a lot of money on advertising. Just one idea. I’m still figuring them out.

    I don’t do fanfic. But I regularly read one user on AO3 and I love the format of that website. I’ll check this Styles story out.

  70. Heather Lovatt
    May 02, 2014 @ 13:57:55

    @Pete Morin:

    I was looking at the issue of ‘bully groups’ on Amazon before I heard of Anne Rice. I can, unfortunately vouch for her not completely reasonable approach to this, but something for your consideration: there ARE bully groups on places like Amazon.

    And it worries me that some of them do it for a lark (because they live beneath that flag of anonymity and do not write themselves, usually, to boot! so there’s no tit-for-tat potential) and they criticize the writer in place of leaving negative criticism about a book. That’s NOT what reviews are for.

    You wanna leave a review that says: I hate this book. That’s cool. You say things like: this writer is a convicted felon and he rapes small children. Ah no. Not cool.

    This has always been what bullies do. Anywhere. And they often go after people who seem unable to cope with this behaviour.

    I assume Amazon condones some of this because it all feeds into the “total ranking algorithm” (it’s just a number; no words need be added), which starts looking rather stupid, to me, as a way to rate a writer. I am only starting to look at algorithms and buying behaviour on Amazon and if you want one real good reason for some of these other ‘look at me’ behaviours, take a look at that process.

    But I agree on the Anne Rice thang. I signed the petition on that based on other people’s experiences on Amazon (these people are not famous like Anne Rice) with bullies and the use of anonymity as a way to badger people that, in many cases, the bully hasn’t even read their book.

    I worry every time this subject comes up because there ARE people leaving Amazon due to this indiscriminant bullying. And it, moreso, worries me, that Amazon is often slow to respond. Why is that?

  71. Diane
    May 03, 2014 @ 13:22:58

    I’m sure you have a link to a review that says something like what you are claiming, since Amazon, as you say, doesn’t delete them. I’m referring to this:

    “You say things like: this writer is a convicted felon and he rapes small children. Ah no. Not cool.”

    Because, I haven’t seen any reviews like that. And, if it does happen, it must be a very rare occurrence. So, because a very small minority of people are trolls, everyone should be forced to give up there privacy, even if it could lead to them being harassed?

  72. Diane
    May 03, 2014 @ 13:24:22

    Ugh. Their, not “there”.

  73. Heather Lovatt
    May 03, 2014 @ 15:41:37


    Hi, Diane…

    All Amazon would need to do is RESPOND to any writer who is having a bullying issue. He sets up shop on a website like Amazon, his business and his personal welfare should be respected. This particular person, who says he has been defamed, at an earlier time, attempted to get help from Amazon and they denied it was really even a problem.

    Anonymity has its uses on the internet. But not when it reduces the chances for you, as a writer to be discovered and your books or other creativity bought. I am not talking about a neighbour saying, “I hate this book”; I am talking about people who have no attachment to the outcome of what they do. I believe that is the definition of a sociopath.

    Even on Wattpad, you can DELETE any user response on your account. And you can hit ‘ignore’ on any user and that user can no longer interact with you. And Wattpad is a free website while Amazon is in it to make money. Do I see a problem there? Yes.

    Again, I wonder: what is Amazon’s agenda on this?

    Thanks for your reply

  74. Jane
    May 03, 2014 @ 16:26:18

    @Heather Lovatt: Amazon’s agenda is to ensure that the reviews are helpful to consumers. To assume that Amazon has any other motive behind its decision making other than “sell more” is contrary to any available information about Amazon from its inception.

    Anne Rice’s crusade and those that are agreeing with her are caught up in this alternative paradigm where there are hordes of individuals seeking to bring down authors when in fact there is no actual evidence. While there are occasional times in which some personal animus that comes through the vast reviews on Amazon are not the result of “gangster bullying.”

    These problems Rice and others of her ilk allude to come with no concrete evidence. They are chasing ephemeral monsters here which is why Amazon is not taking corrective action.

  75. MaryK
    May 03, 2014 @ 16:34:27

    @Heather Lovatt: “This particular person, who says he has been defamed, at an earlier time, attempted to get help from Amazon and they denied it was really even a problem.”

    If nothing was done about it, the defamation should still be there on Amazon, right? But you can’t point it out. It’s all very vague.

    We as readers – the people who write reviews – the people with the money – should also have our businesses and personal welfare respected. Why should we sacrifice our privacy for the prosperity of writers? No.

    What you should really be worried about is readers – the buyers with the money – leaving Amazon.

  76. Harper Kingsley
    May 03, 2014 @ 19:46:30


    The problem with Amazon reviews is all the people paying to have good reviews. Seriously, that’s a gig people sell on Fiverr. “For five dollars I will give your book a good review on Amazon.” In that sense, yes, reviewers are screwing up the system — at the behest of some shady authors. (John Locke, I presume?) All those fake reviews mess up the analytics — authors buying good reviews for themselves, authors asking their followers to give their competition bad reviews, readers trying to do their favorite author a gangland-style “favor” — I wish people would cut it out. I’m sick of my “Because you bought this book …” recs being so crappy.

    The whole “reviewers are bullies” thing seems like complete bull to me. Yes, there are some jerks out there that focus their reviews solely on the author instead of the books they’re supposed to be reviewing, but just flag them as inappropriate and move on with your day. Do not respond to them. Do not feed the trolls.

    Seriously, Amazon is surprisingly awesome to the people that deal with them. They want authors to sell lots of books through them and they want readers to buy lots of books from them. All the drama people put into things is not that great for marketing share. There is no big conspiracy where Amazon (Big Brother) is focused on bringing down the self-published author … we’re their bread and butter.

    And about Anne Rice … dude, she’s had issues with her readers for forever. I used to be a fan, but that was a long time ago and about a dozen books back. She hates fandom, she disrespects the fans that don’t kowtow to her, and I’m done with her. Most of the people that signed her petition did it because she’s a Big Name, pure and simple.

    Taking away peoples’ anonymity on the Internet would ruin the Internet and stifle creativity. It’s not going to happen. And if Bizarro World took over the real world and stealth-mode was deactivated for all users of Amazon … no one would use Amazon. Think about it, who’s going to be the first person to write a review for flavored lube?

    “It tastes delicious, but unfortunately it made my husband’s junk swell three sizes and we had to go to the hospital. No thank you, Delicious Brand Lubrication Jelly.” – Signed, Annabeth Waterson from Derfville, Indiana.

    Not gonna happen, bro.

  77. MrsJoseph
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:18:37

    @Heather Lovatt: Heather. Links, please. Because without proof of this so-called bullying that Amazon “won’t delete” then I’m filing your comment with the rest of the urban fantasies.

    I have not seen a single author get bullied. I have seen author’s harass and bully readers. So, unless we’re talking about leveling the playing field and removing pen-names – take that Anne Rice BS and shove it with the rest of the authors who can’t control themselves when someone doesn’t like their “poor book baby.”

  78. Pete Morin
    May 05, 2014 @ 18:46:38

    @Heather Lovatt: Heather, sounds to me like you’re believing things that you’ve read second or third hand, which is bound to lead you astray.

  79. Iola
    May 05, 2014 @ 19:36:04

    “Requiring someone to purchase something in order to enter your contest is against the law. It turns a contest (sweepstakes) into a lottery.”

    What about a Rafflecopter contest where entrants aren’t *required* to purchase books … but receive additional entries if they do? In the one I’ve just seen, entrants can earn a possible 18 points by following and retweeting … and 40 points by purchasing four books. Sure, the books are only 99c each, but that’s not the point.

  80. Iola
    May 05, 2014 @ 19:56:45

    On cover images … I’m an Amazon affiliate, mostly so I can use their images. It certainly doesn’t earn me real money – I earned 15 cents last month.

    My (extremely limited technical) understanding is that I place a white box on my site, and then use some magic (html code) to allow Amazon to put the cover image I request inside that box. Thus the image is from Amazon, who have permission to use book cover images as a tool to (wait for it) sell books.

  81. Iola
    May 05, 2014 @ 19:59:20


    And the link Courtney Milan provided answers the question in the first line:
    “It’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or increase your odds of winning.”

    Thanks, Courtney. Looking forward to hearing you at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in August!

  82. Heather Lovatt
    May 06, 2014 @ 12:39:56

    Sorry, I’m not here to waste time proving things to you. The fact that just about the only replies I’ve received are to this, tells me something.

    To the extent of your knowledge, you are correct.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

  83. Heather Lovatt
    May 06, 2014 @ 13:43:00


    You’re the second person to say this: There are no bullies on Amazon; yet if a REAL reviewer gave their real name (and I’m only talking about people who give reviews of books on Amazon), they’d be hassled by bullies. Hm. I’m confused.

    And you do reviews, do you? Where? May I see?

    Thanks for the reply.

    Heather Lovatt

  84. MrsJoseph
    May 06, 2014 @ 15:55:49

    @Heather Lovatt: Exactly as I thought.

    Why am I not surprised?

  85. Heather Lovatt
    May 06, 2014 @ 16:15:37


    To the EXTENT of your knowledge, you are correct. Which translates to: you see what you wish to see in the world. Sorry, can’t help you.

    My condolences about your friend.

  86. Sirius
    May 06, 2014 @ 16:19:30

    @Heather Lovatt: You are not here to *waste time proving things to us*. That means that your argument has no credibility with me. Do you even realize how painful it was for me (and I am guessing for any member of legal profession) to read this sentence?

  87. MrsJoseph
    May 06, 2014 @ 16:31:53

    @Heather Lovatt: Then you have no bullying to complain about. You are trying to argue for a lack of privacy based on no evidence. Sorry.

    If you know so much about all the ‘bad bullying’…then you wouldn’t keep coming back to say “I’m not giving that to YOU.” You’d just post links and prove us wrong. Without links, on the internet…that means you’re trolling. Or you’re repeating a story of a story of a story.

    But thank you for your condolences regarding my friend. That is kind of you.

  88. Heather
    May 06, 2014 @ 17:31:00


    Why should I spend time showing you something that you could just as easily find for yourself; that is, if you were really interested, which, (odds are), I sense you are not. You think I’m some kind of troll myself, as I do not share your worldview. End of conversation when that happens. *looks at you*

    I know what _I’m_ experiencing. And it’s currently putting me off using Amazon.

    I truly hope none of you get caught being hassled, really I do, as It’s not a very fair way to be on the internet. Living in fear of feedback.

    Self-knowledge is there for you to have.

    I keep tripping over it these kinds of people on Amazon. Tripping over them and having to listen to their stories and the fallout from the
    other ones affected by it.

    Why? Because I take the time to listen and read replies. All of them. Hm.

    For this particular person, who I found on someone’s REPLIES on a blog, I listened to two youtube audios for this person and read his Amazon account where he relayed this information. No one is helping him. And that is what worries me. It could be any one of us. Not fair.

    These kinds of people aren’t being helped. I don’t know why. And then they give up. Because no one takes the time to listen.

    This ISN’T about me, you see. Not about me.

    Simple. Sorry. To the extent of your knowledge, you are correct.

    (Hm. How many seconds between spam?)

  89. Jane
    May 06, 2014 @ 17:40:09

    @Heather: Herein lies the problem, Heather. We here at Dear Author have seen and documented multiple instances of authors harassing readers on Amazon, Goodreads, on Twitter, and other social media platforms. We’ve seen authors like Victoria Laurie decide to write in a reviewer into her book describing her as “transvestite prostitute with a piss poor attitude and a bad case of V.D.”

    Or DeborahAnne MacGillivrey who called up on her author friends to “vote down a bitch” and then started trying to find information about that Amazon reviewer on the internet.

    This has happened repeatedly. Recently there were negative reviews left on Mud Vein, a book I thought was poorly plotted, self indulgent, and lacking in believability. Her fans blasted all the negative reviews. One of them said that the a reader needed to take an IQ test before reading.

    An agent called a goodreads reviewer a bitch on Twitter. There are several instances of authors haranguing readers on Goodreads.

    So when you come here and say that there are authors being hounded and we ask for evidence and you provide none, then why should we believe you. We haven’t seen it but we have seen the authors and their people attacking readers all day long.

  90. MaryK
    May 06, 2014 @ 21:24:37

    @Heather Lovatt: I’m not a reviewer. I’m a reader who uses reviews and spends money at Amazon. I don’t appreciate it when authors try to stifle the reviews I use as a tool to help me buy books or when they act like they’re entitled to my money.

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