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CockyGate Update: It’s Over! Settlement Reached in Lawsuit!

roostercockygateToday, it was just announced on Twitter that the lawsuit between Faleena Hopkins and the Cocktales Anthology group of authors (Cocky Collective), Jennifer Watson, Tara Crescent, and Kevin Kneupper have been dropped and the trademark enforcement surrendered. Yes, all of this fight ended up in court, with Faleena Hopkins suing a large group of defendants, and it was announced today it is over!

View the tweet announcement here!

But why let this get this out of hand? I’ve read a lot on both sides of the issue. Everyone was fighting for what they thought was right. Faleena Hopkins was fighting to preserve her brand and the group of other Indie authors, were fighting to preserve their right to use the word “Cocky”. I’m not surprised it all ended up in the courts, because that’s how things can get when you’re doing business. I guess, that is something to keep in mind while being an Indie or self-published author. Research what you are doing. Believe in yourself, and fight for what you believe in.

Whether this is a good win or bad loss? I think it really deserves a look at the overall picture. I’ve seen this written up as a lot of “romance writers” having a cat fight. I’ve seen it demeaned into something of silly importance. But as it has been going on, it was pretty obvious how it could be applied to all genres, copywriting of words and series names to the benefit of the trademark holder. I think looking at the big picture was the best way to approach it, and belittling the significance has been the work of people that don’t understand the romance industry or how Indie publishing works. It was an easy way to take a blow at both.

Now that it is settled and dying down, I’m taking away that self-publishing has to be looked at as a business. Things can get ugly and real fast. Caution and research is always the best road to take in my opinion. Maybe people will look back at this time of history as the early days of the internet and how things were establishing. We’ll be able to say, we were there making history.

-Lynda

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#Cockygate: The Internet has Gone Crazy Over an Author Trying to TM a Word

roostercockygateAfter watching the hoopla over “Cockygate” the last few days, I have decided to blog about it, mostly for posterity sake. After all, I think this is the pioneer age of self-publishing, and there are some weird, crazy things happening that can get the global hive mind of the internet into a frenzy. Whether you’re a romance author or not, many people in publishing, authors, self-publishers(Indies) and writing groups have gotten involved. All behind the back drop of one author deciding to trademark her series name and protect her brand, most likely because of the making of an upcoming movie. What has happened is probably beyond what she or anyone else could imagine. Mass craziness in social media and writing message boards.

What Happened:
So, basically an author named Faleena Hopkins has registered the word “Cocky” because it relates to a family of characters she’s created and the name of her book series. She registered it with a trademark in a certain font, and now is going around threatening to sue all the authors that have the word “Cocky” appear in their title and telling them to change their titles. She sends a letter to the authors saying she can sue and take the money they’ve earned from their book.

Here’s a link to the letter she has been sending out in Tech Dirt’s Article:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180507/11303539791/romance-novelist-secures-trademark-word-cocky-begins-beating-other-novelists-over-head-with-it.shtml
So, authors with the word “cocky” had their books pulled from Amazon, because she reported their books as a violation of her TM. So, several authors either changed their titles and their covers to comply with her demands, or stood up to her and called on the RWA organization to help. To let you know, RWA or Romantic Writers of America is a writers group that helps romance writers with the business of doing writing. I am a member of my local chapter, and can’t say enough praises and help this organization does for writers. You must be a member if you write romance. But, I digress.

Here are tags to look on Twitter to follow along with the current scuttle on what is going on too: #cockygate #cocky #byefaleena #freecocky

Here’s an article about this from a few days ago in regards to the trademark legalese: http://legalinspiration.com/?p=503

I’ve also noticed RWA has tweeted that they are aware and asking for other authors to report to them that are affected. They have since helped the authors that have reported it to get their books back on Amazon.
Tweet from RWA: https://twitter.com/romancewriters/status/993883786931777536

The implications are clear. If authors start trademarking words and suing other authors for their use, it could be VERY messy. Imagine an author trademarking “aliens” or “starship” and suing sci-fi authors. I also do know one of the authors that got this email and lost two of her books, Tara Crescent. She’s been a part of some of my erotica/erotic romance deals that I do monthly. She lost two books entitled “Cocky Doctors” and “Cocky Firefighters”. They have since been reinstated on Amazon.

So, it’s hard for me to understand why someone would want to go out and hurt other authors like this. Especially, since it was amazing to see how wonderful the Romance and Indie community have really helped the authors that have been sent these emails and asked to change their titles or get sued. RWA helped reinstate the books that were taken down by Amazon. Many of the books were just pulled down and that is part of the reason why the panic happened, because the Zon tends to just pull or close accounts and then review each case individually. So, that is possibly why there was such a mass panic among the authors.

Cockygate is spilling into the other areas of the media now too. I’m guessing because the title is catchy and the implication on trying to copyright a word as a Trademark. Maybe Faleena Hopkins didn’t intend this to happen, and I know there have been huge amounts of negativity swung at her. She’s taken down her Facebook page and maybe soon her Twitter account may come down. It will definitely affect her career and who she can do business with in the future probably all due to trying to protect her perceived brand. She seems to still be saying she was just trying to help her readers buy the proper books. We’ll have to see how this all goes. There is already a filing against the Trademark patent by Kevin Kneupper that happens to be a lawyer and author.

This can all be a lesson for future self-publishing authors. You need to really look into something before you do it, because actions can have far reaching consequences in this day and age.

UPDATE: 5/23/18

As of 5/14/18, it is noted on the TM website in the application for “Cocky” has a “Cancelation pending” notice.

So, there seems to be a trend for copycat TM’ing authors trying to get a hold of “Revolution” and “forever”. I’m not sure if this is for the publicity now, since Faleena Hopkins has gotten so much attention for what she did. But the author that TM’ed the word “forever”, Heidi McLaughlin, is claiming it was her agent or someone impersonating her, and is retracting the application.

Plus, an app has now been programed to help authors keep tabs on what words are being copyrighted and trademarked. It’s called CockyBot, and can help an author stay on top of things before receiving a take down notice.

So, the drama continues to unfold. I’ll keep adding more information as it happens. 😉

-Lynda

Update: June 7, 2018

Lawyers have gotten involved now. According to a letter and post on RWA’s website blog, 

**(You may have to be a RWA member to get onto the site)

May 16 was the date that RWA sent a DEMAND LETTER to Faleena Hopkins to retract trademark infringement claims and future claims on behalf of RWA and Tara Crescent. Also, the letter asked to send documents to Amazon to retract the infringement, and to send proof of these actions of retraction,  and to apologize. They are also filing to challenge the trademark.

May 25, Faleena Hopkins fired back with a Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining order against Tara Crescent, Kevin Kneupper, and Jennifer Watson in regards to publishing, selling, promoting and distributing, “Cocktales, the Cockiest Anthology”. Lawyers from RWA had to defend Tara Crescent at the TRO hearing to defend her right to keep her books published. The Temp. Restraining Order was denied.

RWA is funding Tara Crescent’s fees to fight in court! On June 1, Preliminary Injunction was denied in the New York court. But the fight continues on!

Stay tuned for updates. This can affect all authors in all genres. There is a run of people going to the trademark office now to file for different words and series names. On Twitter, you can follow the bot at: @cockybot.

UPDATE July 3, 2018: It looks like #CockyGate is over. Tara Crescent and Faleena Hopkins have settled in New York court. Faleena agreed to back down and Tara is changing the word “Cocky” into a different font. It seems both sides are backing down and compromising and that has to be at least something of a good outcome. Here is a Daily Mail article that explains the recent events taking mostly Faleena’s side. 

I’m still looking for more on this. However, it looks like Faleena is trying to spin this in her favor, and calling others bullies. It just seems to me she didn’t understand the laws of trademark usage and tried to enforce something she really didn’t understand well. But that is just my opinion.

Lesson from all of this and what Cocky Gate might be remembered for: if you are an author, really talk to a lawyer or some professional that might know what they are doing. Because the repercussions can be real and costly. Saying you didn’t know isn’t an excuse. But it is possible, this just all blew up with out her meaning to. But then, on the other side, she could have handled it better in her letters in the first place.

Like I said, hopefully the entire author community will take this as a grain of salt in the learning process. Let’s just all try to keep it professional in the end.

 

 

Promotions, Facebook, Affiliate Links Affecting Author Accounts With Closure

I usually don’t blog about the business of self-publishing. But there are some times when things happen in the self-pub industry that start to affect many of us, it could affect you if you are a self-published author. If you’re a reader, it’s good to know what authors go through to bring you their stories. It is a thankless job sometimes, with little monetary reward but meager royalities and the adoration of readers. (Yes, I adore you all. I live for your comments and reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. And yes, I do read them. Thank you for all the praise over the last year.)

So, please forgive me while I go onto a soapbox for awhile and talk about something that has been happening in relation to book promotion. Some of you have been very grateful for the cross-author promotions I’ve been doing for the last several months with other erotica authors. I did it mostly to find a better way to promote books without paying the large fees to promotional sites that send out newsletters and emails with deals and free ebooks. I figured I could join together with other authors, and do the same thing with our own email lists. And our followers and readers have LOVED IT! In fact, I’ve picked up a few deals myself from my fellow authors. So, I know it’s been a win-win for us all.

Jump to what is going on this month, June 2016. There is a new fear on the wind from the Zon (Amazon) lately. They are cracking down on a TOS rule that is part of their affiliates program about using massive mailing lists with affiliate links in their website. I’m going by what other bloggers have said since I haven’t had an affiliate program since Amazon pulled the program in California due to laws passed to collect sales tax from Amazon in this state. With websites anchored here, Amazon would have had to pay sales tax, and they cut loose all the websites with addresses in this state. They’ve done this in other states too. So, I haven’t had any affiliate links tied to my website for several years. So, again, any references to TOS is taken from other websites.

Here is a listing of some of the websites that have been listing their stories of how their accounts have been nuked, or canceled, due to many reasons:

  1. Some are for large amounts of clicks suddenly( The theory is that it’s a click farm picking prawnie authors to help hide the fact they are a click farm.) http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2016/06/dangers-for-prawny-authors/
  2. closure and reinstatement story,   https://pjbayliss.com/2016/06/06/steal-my-books-please/
  3. sharing your link with all the metadata tags/tracking tags(So, just take your pasted link to your ASIN), https://pjbayliss.com/2016/06/06/steal-my-books-please/
  4. Identity Fraud connection to closed account: https://darrienia.com/2016/06/18/authors-beware-a-new-danger-for-ku-authors/
  5. Pixel of Ink Shut Down Thread: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,237670.0.html
  6. More on ebook promoting websites shutting: http://the-digital-reader.com/2016/06/15/amazon-brings-the-hammer-down-on-discount-ebook-sites/

Here’s the thread on Kboards.com’s Writer’s Cafe that drew my attention to this topic:

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,237687.0.html

The speculation of what exactly is going on is this long thread above. It’s one of several things mentioned going on. But I have to say, while this happens, the Zon on a purging spree, it’s good to steer clear of the situation. Several things I’ve been doing with my cross-author promo ring clear:

1)  It’s unclear whether it is promo sites, Facebook KU groups or click farms distracting their trails causing the accounts to be taken down. But as usual, steering clear of the Zon’s efforts to purge is always wise.

2) The recent closing of Pixel of Ink because of violation of affliate program clicks with their mailing list/website shows kind of the way the Zon is going right now. So, I’m really happy that I’ve been leading this new trend of promotion for authors where we utilize our own blog and email lists to share sale deals with readers and followers. After all, giving real people great deals is what we want in the end. Real sales from real readers that will want to come back for more deals.

3) Future cross-author promos: going to avoid additional mention of titles with paid promotional websites.

4) Some authors have larger lists than others. It is a bigger benefit if you’re a small prawn joining with a big prawn. But it is good to have content and deals whether you have a large or small mailing list. It gives content and deals to your followers. I’ve gotten such positive feedback in comments about how my followers really like the other deals from other authors. I mean, you can only post so much about yourself and how to write. Readers do appreciate other topics, and reading deals is right up their alley. So, with my 220 mailing list, 32 followers on my blog, and 1500 on Facebook, it is my humble numbers that I share with you all. Adding all the authors in the promo together, we get a pretty big pool of readers/followers that we promote to. We are joining together in this sharing with each other. Authors helping authors.

So, I’m happy that this way of promoting, cross-promo with other authors using our blogs and mailing lists, might be the way of the future of promoting if the big promo sites get taken down. The ways of them getting money from affliate clicks might be their demise now that the Zon is cracking down in that part of the TOS. They are most likely going to go subscription, and how many people will join and shell out another fee for something they’ve gotten for free all this time.

Maybe all these account closures is a temporary cliche going on because of the current Amazon purge. Legitimate authors getting swept up in the new Amazon war on scammers happens. It’s just horrible that the legit authors get destroyed in this process. If you’ve all joined me in this experiment of cross-author promo, thank you. We’ve been doing other promos than the promo sites lately, so that may help. It also might put us in the middle of internet promotional and publishing history. The days of large promotional sites might be waning, with authors choosing to do cross-promotion instead of hefting out hundreds of dollars to a promo site.
Who knew the big promo sites were violating TOS to get money? With the threat of their account being shut down, authors are going to choose to ban together to promote more together than rely on high-priced promotion sites with huge mailing lists. (I’ve always thought creating your own list makes more sense anyway. The saying is you just need 1,000 superfans to be a best selling author.)
I’ll update when I find out more, but for now, it may take some time to figure out what is really happening. Some are figuring to ignore KU all together, but some of us that do make legitimate money, writing real stories, aren’t running quite yet. Mostly avoiding what might be triggers, Facebook ads, the Affiliates Program(which I can’t do since I live in California. Some states have been banned by Amazon for this program due to sales tax laws passed in the state), possible Fiverr or other author promo sites, and just sticking to author cross-promos. All we can do is wait and see.
Until further notice,
-Lynda
UPDATE: The person that lost their account on Amazon has had it reinstated.  She is also leaving Kindle Unlimited/Select. She received a form letter from Amazon letting her know that she needed to avoid third party promotional sites that gave guarantees.

I concluded that even with a form letter, it still seems to point to this, a third party promotional site. Otherwords, they would have sent her another form letter. And it also seems to go along with what Amazon is purging right now, third party sites using the affiliate codes in their emails which is against their TOS. Sometimes you have to read between the lines, even with a form letter. 😉

 

 

 

Release Date Set for Rockin’ Him Harder: March 5

COVER-2-FINAL1000 (2)I’ve completed the next erotica short in the Hot Groupies series. It’s called “Rockin’ Him Harder” and comes out on March 5. I have to say, it’s been fun writing about Michelle’s adventures as she becomes a groupie. She’s learning the ropes in this second installment, and wants to become the best groupie she can be. Of course, that’s going to take some hands on practice, and Brandon is ready to help. It all becomes a giant study group session when Shelly, and newly met groupie Tia, join in.

Pre-order is set up and ready to go. If you pre-order, on March 5, your copy will automatically download to your Kindle device. It is going to be signed up for Kindle Unlimited as well. So, again, everything is exclusive to Amazon right now.

Thanks for all of the support. Share the news from this post and comment.  I’d appreciate it.

The next installment, Rockin’ Him Fierce, should be ready in two-three weeks. Until then, rock on!

Erotica Cover Dilemma

I’ve got a cover dilemma. I’m relatively new at writing erotica. So, I’m a little stumped at which cover to use. I’ve got two now for my Hot Groupie series, and I’m getting mixed feedback on this. So, I thought, I’d put the discussion forth to the masses. Which cover would get you to buy my erotica short? Or at least look at the blurb? Any comments will be welcomed. I’m trying to figure out which direction to go cover designer wise before I order more covers done. Thank you for your input.

Here are the choices:

Cover B

Cover A

Cover A

Cover B