Just when you thought you’d seen it all, the ability of some people to make absolute cocks of themselves surprises you once again.
I spent a nice weekend by the seaside, and it was only when I came back that I found out about #cockygate. (There’s an excellent summing up of the goings-on right there.) Over the years, though my sphere has always been more erotica than romance, I’ve met or at least been in contact with a lot of authors. More recently, I’ve met a lot more self-published authors, given the way the industry has changed. Most of them have been lovely – straightforward to work with, enjoyable company in the flesh, full of interesting ideas, and generally supportive of other authors, willing to co-promote, share useful information and all the rest of it.
But there have been one or two individuals who were absolute nightmares. Quite often, they had some peculiar ideas about the law, particularly with regard to copyright and plagiarism. These were the people who, in response to a call for fiction submissions, would send word-salady letters, the gist of which was usually: how could they be sure that we, as publishers or editors, would not steal their Incredibly Original and Special Idea and pass it off as our own work? Curiously, the more anxious these people claimed to be about protecting their writing, the more derivative and bog-standard the stories would be when we actually got to see them.
Anyone who knows anything about fiction publishing knows it’s harder than ever to stand out and gain attention, of course. It’s possible that the idea of getting her name out there was what originally motivated Faleena Hopkins to trademark the word ‘cocky’ and then try to intimidate other authors into removing it from their book titles with what seem to be fairly dubious legal threats. Unfortunately it has already backfired quite badly on her: the romance author and reader communities are in absolute uproar and silly Faleena’s made herself quite the hate figure.
At first, the whole story seemed like an entertaining diversion, though it’s a pity it’s just the sort of thing that reinforces the view held by a lot of people outside the romance scene that it’s a lot of silly women squawking and bitchfighting about their silly books. Where it has got nastier, though, is with the wretched Hopkins reporting other people’s books to Amazon, for copyright or trademark infringement, and getting them pulled, because Amazon, once again, has been content to show authors that they are the least important people on the whole site; interchangeable and replacable – if an author’s work is reported for anything, the Zon will generally just pull it, and not display much interest in reinstating the work even if the author is willing to make changes.
Some authors have been pro-active – one of the first to get a nasty letter was Jamila Jasper, an author of “naughtier than ever cowboy alpha-male interracial romance” which sounds fun. Someone else, with a response-to-news-stories speed to rival Dr Chuck Tingle, came up with this gem. Apparently there are plans for a book called Cocky McCockyface or something similar, as well. It really doesn’t pay to piss off writers to this extent. They will be eloquent as well as impassioned in their takedowns, and you will be laughed at for a very long time…