Saturday, November 27, 2021

Whose Words Are They? by Kait Carson

This is November. To most folks, that means Thanksgiving and the start of a hectic holiday season that doesn’t wind down until January. To writers it means NaNoWriMo. The National Novel Writing Month. Writers who participate challenge themselves to write fifty thousand words. They may not be good words, that’s not the point. The point is to get it on paper because you can’t edit a blank page. There is much to say for this philosophy. It’s successful, and many novels have been conceived in November.


In 2009 I took part in Nano, as it’s affectionally known, and I completed the word challenge. Diving Diva wasn’t the first book I’d written, but it was the first one I thought might be good enough to publish. Four years later, after extensive revision and a change of title to Death by Blue Water, Henery Press picked up the book, and I spent the next few days doing a happy dance. Thank you, Nano!


My Henery contract provided that all rights would revert to me after five years. The rights to Death by Blue Water reverted in 2019. Those to Death by Sunken Treasure contractually came home to mama two years later. Perfect timing. The pandemic that cost me my day job in July of 2020 opened the possibility of pursuing writing as a full-time job. How lucky was I to begin a full-time indie author career with two books “in the can.” By the time I finished setting Blue Water up for publication, I’d have the rights back to Sunken Treasure. Easy peasy.


I set my feet on the well-worn path of reviewing the books, omitting references to the traditional publisher and making necessary edits. The only major change was new covers for each book. I did not own the rights to the original artwork. Those rights stayed with the artist and/or publisher. Besides, I intended to continue the series. A new look helps create a new brand. Unfortunately, my artistic talent is limited to stick figures and turkeys drawn by tracing my own hand. I thank my lucky stars for Polly Iyer and her amazing talent. She prepared two outstanding covers for the existing books and a third for the now-in-edits Death Dive that -capture the atmosphere of the series.


Amazon provides basic formatting for e and paper books, but I wanted something a step above, and the opportunity to easily publish on platforms other than Amazon. A program named Vellum is and has been the gold standard, but it operates only on Apple products. I am a PC user. Fate intervened and last month Atticus was released. Atticus is the PC user’s answer to Vellum. Whew, saved by innovation! I have to master the program, but early indications are that it’s non-techy friendly. I typically know just enough about my software to be dangerous to myself. The support team has been great.


Do you sense a dark cloud looming on the horizon? I belong to the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime and receive their self-publishing forum emails. One of my fellow Guppies had recently submitted her book for publication to Amazon--a previously published book to which she had received a rights reversion. Amazon questioned the author’s right to publish the work and publication day was delayed while the author proved her ownership. A wrinkle I hadn’t anticipated. After all, no matter the publisher, traditional or self, the author holds the copyright to the words. The problem arises at the production end. Amazon cannot afford to be seen as a pirate platform. That’s both understandable, laudable, and something that I must resolve before I decide on a publication date.


Whose words are they? They are mine. Forged in NaNoWriMo and buffed to a high sheen through revisions and editing. Amazon does not question that. What may be in question is whether having written the words gives me the right of re-publication. Amazon’s response to my query email glossed over the question of the return of rights. It focused on the suggestion that I publish using KDP and offered information on the mechanics of self-publishing. I wrote again to confirm that Amazon understands my question is not one of mechanics but rights. An unexpected wrinkle in an otherwise smooth process.


Pray that you live in interesting times. The life of a writer is always exciting!


  1. Fingers crossed for you this process goes smoothly.

  2. Thanks for the info! It's very helpful to those thinking about self-publishing, especially if they have a previously published piece. Knowing what to anticipate means they can approach the project better prepared.

    And kudos to Amazon for being sensitive about pirating problems--it may be a pain in some ways, but it's good to know they are careful.

  3. Sorry for the headache, Kait. May the path forward be clear of hurdles.

  4. Definitely kudos to Amazon! My last communication with them led me to believe that I should be in the clear, but the final resolution rests with the final Amazon reviewer. Whew - Fingers crossed!

  5. Thanks, Molly. It's a headache, but I'm glad that Amazon are careful. They have also been very responsive. Generally within 24-hours.