Readers – what if you saw a new release from an erotic romance author you like and purchased it, only to discover that author didn’t write it, and that what you bought was, in fact, erotica or even porn?
Authors – what if another person suddenly started publishing erotica under the same name as you, and mysteriously, their books kept being attached to your Goodreads author profile? What if a search of your name on book retailer sites started showing your books intermingled with the other author’s books, in a way that looked as if you had written them all?
I’m not quite sure where to start with what’s happened this week, so I’ll just plow right in. On Monday night I went to my Goodreads author profile to check one of my book links for an upcoming blog post, and I discovered that, since Aug 29 2016 (just over a week ago), there is a writer out there publishing erotica with the name Jennifer Lynne. That’s NOT me, and those are NOT books I want associated with my name or brand.
With the help of a Goodreads librarian I had the book removed from my author profile. Two days later another one was attached to my profile. I had it removed. Again.
On checking the various retailer sites, I discovered that a search for my books often brings up both of our books, intermingled. If I click one of her books, my books show as “other books by this author”, and vice versa. Not okay. I contacted both Amazon KDP and Smashwords as I was concerned that BOTH of our readerships would be confused about whose book they were actually buying at any given time. I wanted our two profiles untangled, so to speak, for everyone’s benefit. Smashwords offered to write to one of the retailers on my behalf and alert them to the issue (though they indicated this would be unlikely to effect change as the other party had not published through them). KDP’s response was to suggest I change my name.
What? After seven years as a published author, why should I have to change my name? Even if I do, what is to stop this happening again, with the new name? Does it mean there is literally no protection for an author who spends years building up a strong “brand” in a particular genre – in my case sexy and erotic romance? I’ve worked incredibly hard trying to demonstrate the difference between erotic romance and erotica or porn, and yes… there is a difference!
Bestselling author Sylvia Day explains it perfectly in this blog post. It’s an old post, but the definitions in my view are still relevant and clearly delineated.
Is it legal to use the same author name as someone else? I believe so. Is it legal to publish erotica? I believe so. Is it legal to publish porn? I have no idea, but even if it is, it isn’t okay when a newly published author’s books somehow start to appear on an already established author’s various profiles out there on the “net”. It isn’t okay when that newly published author’s books start to blur the established author’s “brand”.
Speaking in a more general sense and not specifically to my situation, does this mean anyone can come in and start “piggybacking” off someone else’s author brand by setting themselves up with the same name? If so, is there any protection for an author if that happens, bar the expensive route of first trademarking the name, and then taking the offender to court? The duo writing as Alexa Riley did that, and won. Here’s their post, and a copy of the court ruling, if you’re interested.
But… if you can’t afford to take that route, what do you do?
I’m devastated by what has happened. My first erotic romance title was published with Red Sage back in December 2009. Since then, I’ve had fifteen titles published (a mix of traditional and indie), and I like to believe I’ve started to establish myself as a romance author first and foremost – yes, I write super-hot, sometimes kinky sex – but all of my stories are either sexy romance or erotic romance (not erotica). All feature a romantic relationship and happy-ever-after or potential-for-happy-ever-after endings. I don’t want to be associated with book titles that are not mine, and that don’t reflect my brand of sexy/erotic romance.
To that end, I’ve included a complete list of my book titles on my website home page, and I also include the same list here: Jennifer Lynne Romance Books (PDF, 578 KB). I will update this list on my home page whenever I have a new book title – and of course all of my books are featured on my website, so if you’re ever unsure, please check there.
I encourage all of my readers to be aware that this situation can, and does, happen.
Equally, I encourage all writers to be aware and vigilant – our author names are our brand and our reputation.
Photo credit: © Vadimgozhda | Dreamstime.com – Young Woman Photo
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