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Fun with Literary Lawsuits

May 18, 2013

One way to take the fun out of writing is to put a lot of your own money into it.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problem with writing about legal stuff is that it’s boring.  I was planning to go to law school once, but when I worked at the law school library as an undergrad, I saw lots of really tired, bored students who could barely find a copy of the Federal Register when the volumes were already in proper numerical order (because of me). 

Even though legal stuff is boring, it’s often really important.  Boring stuff is usually really important.  It’s why people who handle important stuff get paid lots of money; it’s so boring that the rest of us don’t want to deal with it. 

There are several boring legal issues in the literary world right now.  The United States Justice Department is suing Apple for collusion on ebook prices with publishing companies (who have already settled).  Publishing companies and authors are suing each other for the rights to make electronic versions of books from decades ago.  And now self-published authors are jumping into legal battles by suing a self-publishing company for (allegedly) not doing what they were supposed to do (read here for a little more information). 

There are going to be a lot of boring details in this lawsuit.  What was the publishing company supposed to do?  What did they NOT do that they were supposed to do?  What’s the proof that the publishing company didn’t do what they were supposed to do?  

The company getting sued is Author’s Solutions.  Any company that that has the word solution in the title is probably going to cause a lot of problems (don’t sue me, I’m just kidding around!).  I don’t trust a company that has Solutions in its name, just like I don’t trust a company that starts off with AAA just to be first in listings.  Maybe I’d trust a company that starts with ZZZ, but I’d probably want some references first. 

Since I’m a writer, my impulse is to root for the author plaintiffs.  I can see how a self-publishing company (especially one with the word Solutions in its name) would be unethical and offer service after service to milk as much money from authors as possible.  However, I also know that writers (but not all) can sometimes be whiney and blame others for their lack of success.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough facts to know which way to lean. 

When I was younger, that wouldn’t have mattered.  I would have chosen a side, defended it, doubled down if necessary, and impugned the character of anybody who disagreed with me.  However, I’ve learned that NOT having an opinion for a while actually makes life easier. 

My advice for this (just as it is for MOST political/legal issues) is to not have an opinion for six months, then come back and see what’s going on. 


A tough issue for any self-publishing author is how much (if any) money to spend. We writers might complain about how traditional publishing companies suck (because they won’t accept our books), but at least these companies invest their own money so that authors don’t have to.  I’ve never invested a bunch of my own money on my writing, but I imagine that it takes some of the fun out of writing, especially if the self-published book isn’t successful. 

If I were a self-published author who had spent hundreds (or maybe thousands) of dollars and wasn’t happy with the services I paid for, I’d be angry too.  I don’t want to be angry when I write.  Anger sometimes can help me accomplish certain tasks (I can fold laundry like origami when I’m angry), but writing isn’t one of them.  Since I don’t want writing to become a source of anger for me, I probably won’t spend a lot of money on self-publishing. 


Seriously, I originally meant to write an insightful piece about literary lawsuits, but it was just too boring.  I guess I ramble when I’m bored.

  1. ….and, thankfully you don’t ramble too long when you’re bored….


    The world of self-publishing has been interesting to watch evolve … and, yes, there have been some companies that take advantage of writers… but, the big book publishers have done the same… many authors, when they first start out, are so pleased to be published that they sign away all rights, and get just a little money. The thing with self-publishing, though… like you alluded to … is that people like to blame others for their lack of success. Not all self-published books will be successful, just as all books published by the big publishing house won’t be successful. Of the thousands published every year, only a handful achieve success. The problem with self-published books is that there is no screening process (i.e. agent, editor, etc.) to tell someone that their book is really bad. Traditional publishing didn’t always publish great books, but, they kept the really awful ones from being published. Now, in this digital age, any one, if they’re willing to spend a few bucks, can be published — even the worst writers on the planet can now be ‘in print.’

    Makes for an interesting future … and, probably more lawsuits.

    I wonder if we, as consumers, can sue authors of really, really bad self-published books?

  2. Great advise about making decisions! I keep a note handy that reminds me to come to my own conclusions, by implication this requires research and thought.

    • Thank you. Research is easier than it used to be, putting thought into something still takes time for me, but I’d have a heck of a time remembering to keep a note handy (and a pen with me too). Maybe I’ll try that and see if I can remember.

  3. Actually just thinking about this stuff usually makes me not really want to write. Then I ramble about it for a while and decide that I am happier when I do write than I am when I don’t. Still not sure whether I’ll be happier when that first publishing deal comes through or when I finally decide to self-publish so that I can sell my e-book to five people. I’ll probably just get screwed over regardless. And then I’ll keep writing.

  4. I find so much entertainment in your writing! In glad you didn’t go with the boring version of this!

    • Thank you for the compliment! I’m really glad you didn’t find this boring. I’m also glad i didn’t spend a lot of time on the Federal Register site researching precedent for the Authors Solution lawsuit. Yeesh, that would have made for a boring post.

  5. From what I’ve heard, Author Solutions has a terrible reputation. I sympathize with the authors and I hope that justice prevails, but in this age, you should do a lot of research before giving a company a lot of money to publish your book.

    • At least today, self-publishing authors CAN do research before forking out a bunch of money to somebody like Author Solutions. 20 years ago, research like that would have been nearly impossible. Of course, self-publishing was nearly impossible too. Ugh. I really don’t want to spend my own money.

      • Yeah, self-publishing a long time ago wasn’t much of an option without printing them yourself and then driving around to fairs, trying to sell them. E-books are a God-send for the self-publisher.

  6. Judy permalink

    I love the folding your “laundry like origami” when you’re angry remark. I could picture it. Thanks for the big laugh.

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