Walking the Plank

Today, I am a pirate, Arrr! where’s my cutlass?

You may be laughing (which was my intent), but I actually feel pretty badly about it. I accidentally bought two pirated books. I wasn’t on a pirate site, I was on Amazon. I saw two Heinlein titles on sale, and I pounced on them as I’m trying to gather all of them in ebook as well as paper. I’ve bought quite a few from Baen, including the Expanded Universe (which, sadly, I’ve learned is no longer available through Baen) but these two I didn’t have yet.

Fast forward a few days, I was writing up my weekly review, and griping about all the horrible typos in the Heinleins, and how I ought to have waited and seen if they were available from Baen. I went over to Amazon to grab links so people could avoid them (the covers are distinctive) and I discovered they weren’t there any longer. Digging around in my order history, I found them, and that’s when I realized I had bought counterfeit Heinleins.

heinlein counterfeits

There are a couple of clues, here. I didn’t gig to the covers at first, because often re-issues of old books get absolutely dreadful covers. These are at least paying homage to the science fiction content. When a book is re-issued, the publisher relies simply on the author’s reputation to make sales. And I am sure these two made sales. They made $5 just off me. The other clue is the sold by: Amazon Digital Services. This is the way Amazon sorts out self-published work, and had I looked for this before hitting buy, I would have known. But Alas, this buyer didn’t beware, and one-clicked her way to reading happiness, and now she feels guilty.

As my First Reader and I were talking about it in the wake of my discovery, he pointed out that they had been taken down. But what, he asked, would happen to the monies the books made? I have no idea. Best I can figure, Amazon keeps it. I’m morally certain the pirate has their account shut down, frozen, and until/unless they prove they own the properties (books) they were selling, they don’t get access. I know this because it happened to an author I know (who did own the books, and was able to prove it, but it took a while). Now, the pirate isn’t going to be able to prove anything, they were stealing. So what then? I somehow don’t think I’ll be getting a refund. Nor do I think Amazon will track the rightful owners down (Baen owns Farnham’s Freehold right now, I believe) and disburse the money to them.

Most of the pirate sites I have encountered, in the course of keeping track of my titles and sending DCMA takedown notices, seem to be located in Russia, or at least that’s where their IPs are. I’m sure there are other countries where it would be impractical for IP rights to be enforced. With this seller on Amazon, who knows? I don’t think it was a terribly intelligent way to make money, as this is Amazon, and they do actually pay attention to copyright, unlike the more notorious pirate sites. I sometimes wonder if the rise of subscription book services, like Kindle Unlimited and Oyster, will reduce piracy sites. I know that my return rate on Amazon dropped to almost nothing when I put my short works (and currently, two novels) in the KU. On the other hand, by not having the second in a series in KU, I recently saw a return on that title, which would be someone liking the first, and then reading the second for free… sigh. Some people.

As for me, I’ve been burnt and will be a more cautious book shopper in the future. Next time I see a good deal on a popular author’s book, I’m going to scroll down a bit and see the listed publisher. I’m not going to lose any sleep over this one, but it does make me wonder if a more clever counterfeiter is out there, and what they might be up to. I know an author named Rachel Ann Nunes fell victim to a clever one, and had a very difficult time prosecuting the case against her plagiarist. Another scandal blew up way back in 2013 (feels weird to say that) around so-called authors who were taking advantage of fanfiction sites.

Sad Puppies 3

I’m including this here, but I strongly encourage you to consider not only going over to Brad Torgerson’s blog and reading the whole thing, but also to vote for the Hugos. We’ll be talking about this more here at Mad Genius Club in the upcoming months, as if you don’t remember from last year… However, last year the Sad Puppies campaign was responsible for the highest voter participation in the Hugos, ever. For an analysis of what happened last year, look at Larry Correia’s blog, here.

Keep in mind something, because no matter how much you hear it, this isn’t about politics. This is about making the Hugo more relevant to the greater fandom, as Brad discusses below, and it’s about keeping the Hugo great. It would be truly sad to lose the award of once-greatness into the morass of thinly-disguised revenge porn and poorly written (but socially relevant! To… someone, I’m assuming at least the author, although then again, marketing being what it is…) books that have turned the Hugo award on the cover from must-buy to ew, putting this down now. So let’s work on finding some really great books to nominate, and gathering interested voters who care. I’m an example of someone who didn’t vote for years, and last year, I finally did it. I’ll do it again this year. They say if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. So I pay my money, and I talk about the awards, because a shocking number of people just don’t know about them.

To that end, SAD PUPPIES has basic objectives:

1) Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion. Think we’re just a crazy minority of right-wingers out to destroy science fiction? You’d be wrong. For instance, we’d love to see Eric Flint on the Hugo Best Novel short list. Eric is not only a popular author who does the genre credit with his work, he’s a card-carrying Trotskyite. A man who (unlike most slacktivist internet liberals these days) was willing to put his ass on the line for what he believed — back when identifying as a “red” was physically dangerous business in this country.

2) Encourage people who are SF/F consumers (but not “fandom” according to Worldcon) to participate in the nomination and selection of works. To include gamer fans, tie-in fans, movie and comic fans, and everyone else who might want to have a say in deciding who gets selected for “science fiction’s most prestigious award.” But maybe they’ve not gotten the word? Maybe they’ve just been having fun, and the Hugos have simply sailed beneath their notice year after year? “Fandom” seems to think this is a feature of the Hugos: the fewer who vote, the “better” they are. I say it’s a flaw. Bring on the BIG fans. The ones who keep the SF/F pump primed with dollars and enthusiasm every year! SF/F survives and thrives because they put their money where their excitement is. So SAD PUPPIES tries to encourage them to also put their money (and their votes) where the Hugos are.


  1. Minor nit, I strongly suspect that the Heinlein estate owns all of Robert’s published works, at least those not still held by the original publishers. Baen has current publishing rights to Farnham’s Freehold, the details of which I’m sure are buried in some contract legalese, but which specify exactly what Baen can and cannot do with the material, ie edit, change covers, etc.

    1. I’m not sure, either. I know Baen is selling Farnham’s Freehold online, but it’s all cloudy about who owns what rights, and frankly, as a reader, it’s not something i need to worry about usually. I was rather dismayed to discover the books I’d bought were not what they should have been, but on the other hand?

      1. Meh. As far as I’m concerned, those works should be just a couple of years from entering the Public Domain, anyway.

        It’s too bad our elected representatives don’t feel likewise.

      2. Understand your concern. Offered my comment more from a writer’s perspective. You should always have ownership of intellectual property near the forefront, particularly when dealing with the tradpub crowd. As I recall Sarah had a devil of a time getting her rights back on some of her earlier works.

  2. Another nit. Sad Puppies is not about keeping the Hugo great. It is about making the Hugo great again.

  3. I expect that Amazon will account for the revenue to the estate or Barn, depending on what Baen’s license reads.

  4. This piracy of indie writers bugs the heck out of me as a reader. The primary benefit the internet has provided to me and other disabled people is to put an inexhaustible library of good writing at our finger tips. It’s also made plagiarism easier to hide. If I read the story correctly, Rachel Ann Nunes only found out her work was plagiarized because the perpetrator happened to send an ARC to one of her reviewers. Now, in that case, she may not have actually lost any revenue from lost sales because the twit who took her work was selling to an entirely different audience; but she has lost revenue because her writing output dropped to nothing, due to the stress. She’s had legal fees on top of that; indie writers don’t have a team of litigators on retainer.
    I’m aggravated, because currently it’s awfully easy for a stupid, mean, no-talent person to bug somebody who is quietly being productive and writing things for people like me to read. I guess it’s just another facet of the truth that it’s easier to destroy than to create.

  5. Isn’t it just amazing the trouble people will go through to make a dishonest buck?

    I knew a whole bunch of those people when I was younger. if you ever want to hear stories of stupidity and avarice, just ask.


  6. I just posted my review of Pam’s Exiles and Gods to Amazon (Evil female witches kill males, and MORE!), and even though my plan is to rotate MGC authors, I have to read the next book in her series, Too much of a cliff-hanger; I’m engaged!

  7. The last time I paid any attention to the Hugos was when the Science Fiction Book Club published an omnibus edition of about a decade’s worth back in the 70s. Having won an award generally means nothing to me in terms of how enjoyable a book will turn out to be.

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