In this age of audio, electronic, web-ready and paper books, how do authors control their work?
The most direct answer is this: The one who controls the master file that makes a book manifest controls the book.
So what in the heck does that mean?
Let’s start with a familiar example to help explain this important concept. All books-on-paper are now printed from digital files (PDFs) that function just like the digital files you have on your computer. Chances are that you’re using word processing software of some sort to write your book. When you do that, you are creating a digital file that makes your book manifest (real).
This is an important concept in copyright law as well.
As long as your work is on your computer and your computer alone, there’s no question about control. It’s yours. You control it.
But what happens if you take that word processing document and send it to a self-publishing company such as iUniverse so that they can turn it into a “real book”?
If you go this route (and we sincerely hope you do not), you will send a sizable check to iUniverse for their work, and they will create a PDF of your book’s interior and a PDF of its cover.
Let’s be clear about this—if you choose this path to publishing, you will be paying a company to make your Word doc into a hold-it-in-your-hands book-on-paper. So the digital file that gets used to print your book should be yours to control, right? In other words, you’ve paid for this work so the result should be controlled by you. Right?
Nope. Not even close.
Every self-publishing company touts the fact that authors who use them always own the rights to their work. Theoretically, that’s true (in most cases). What you don’t own are the digital master files—that you’ve paid for—that are used to make copies of your book.
So what if you’re unhappy with sales on the iUniverse website and want to print your book somewhere else? iUniverse will give you those files—for an additional fee—IF IF IF your contract allows for that.
Or you could be stuck…forever.
This is standard procedure in the self-publishing industry—you pay to create your work but you don’t really own the results.
There’s gotta be a better way, right?