Know Your Rights: Online Sharing, Royalties, And Indie Publishing

Recently the music industry has been struggling around a growing problem in the age of the Internet: piracy and online sharing. Singer Taylor Swift chose to pull her music from many online sharing pools, while other artists such as Amanda Palmer practically welcome what others consider piracy–because hey, it’s free publicity. It’s an issue that many people feel torn about.

Twenty years ago, it was a lot simpler. Obviously it would be wrong to break into a store and steal a tape or CD of your favorite band. But if one of my friends had some music that I loved, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy, I would see no problem in borrowing it for a while to get a better feel for it. But where does this fit in with the Internet?

With the rise and popularity of e-books, this is an issue that independent authors need to take into account now more than ever. Your take on how available you want your books to be online can make a big difference when looking at publishing services to use and the treatment that different distributors will offer you. Do you want one of your short stories to be available for free? Or do you want to make maximum income from the hard work that you put into your novel?

First, you need to consider that yes, there is a difference in how online distributors will treat your book if you want to make it free and available everywhere. Some companies might not even allow you to publish an e-book through them if you’re going to do it through other venues as well. Others, such as Kindle Direct Publishing, will give special bonuses and promotions to books that are only available on the Kindle Store. When you’re looking for the best option to publishing an e-book, look for companies who will be willing to work with you to best get your novel out there. Make sure that you maintain the rights to your book and have control over the royalties (if you’re going to charge for it). If you want your book to be absolutely free and thus give you more publicity, take into account what effects releasing a story to the Public Domain might have on you. Do you really want to give everyone the right to use your story as stock text wherever they want? Or steal your characters to publish fan fiction elsewhere? There’s no definite right or wrong answer, but it is important to understand what it means.

Many publishers, like Kindle Direct, will allow you to set your own royalty. This can be a hard thing to decide for yourself, so a good thing to do would be to look around at e-book stores online and see what authors like you are charging for their books. If you charge too little, it might be a long time before you ever see a paycheck in the mail. If you charge too much, no one will want to buy it.

Above all, just do your homework. Keep as many of your rights as you can and try to get it to as many sets of eyes as possible. This is a shifting territory, and no one knows what big changes will happen next!

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