I’m not sure where to start. Being concise and knowing what information should come when is not my strength. But I thought it would be best to address the situation with my ex co-author and the gofundme legal drive in more detail.
Firstly, I really cannot thank everyone who has donated thus far. I cannot believe how quickly you all have responded to help support me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.
As the gofundme has stated (beautifully and well put by my lovely friend Sadie, whom I cannot thank enough for the support and encouragement), I recently learned that a book I’d published with a coauthor in 2019 was being “reworked” and republished under a new pen name. I was not informed and did not give consent to this. This person has a history of abuse, deception and racism within the bookish community. With the hopes of protecting my intellectual property, I chose to reach out to a lawyer recommended by another author. He very kindly walked me through the legal tangle of having co-written a work and what it means when two people have copyright to a work (particularly when there is no pre-existing coauthoring legal agreement, which BTW if you are gonna cowrite, you should always have. Tough lesson learned). He explained my options to me carefully, without charging me for any of it.
What I came to learn is that having copyright means I can legally do what I want with the story. I can create derivative work, rework, republish in that form. This is not plagiarism as I had thought it was. However, if a portion of the derivative or reworked story/work contains any shared work, whoever republishes it is required, legally, to share a portion of any proceeds that come from that sale.
So for example, if it is determined that 80% of the work is similar to the original, then I would be owed 40% of proceeds. The whole “how that’s determined” thing is more complex; I can explain if anyone has questions, but my situation never got to that point.
When I first spoke up about what was happening with the Shadows You Left/Cagematched situation I did say that I did not want money out of the situation. I honestly just didn’t want that work out in the world anymore. That story was very personal for a lot of reasons. Initially I did not contact my ex co-author about the publication of this book when I discovered what was happening. I did not want to engage in any conversation with a person who had been immensely detrimental to my mental health, whose influence in my life previously had caused me incredible amounts of distress. To be honest, I also just knew that a conversation would have gone nowhere.
After I posted about the book on twitter, I was contacted by the author. We exchanged a series of emails. Yes, the book was pulled from Amazon. Yet said author did choose to try to use an indie pub site (Gumroad) to publish without telling me. To make a long story short, they eventually stated that they would shelve the book, but that their lawyers had advised them that they could not promise to never release, rerelease, rework etc in the future. Throughout the course of these emails I was consistently reminded that ex co-author had lawyers at the ready (somehow, these lawyers never appeared? Huh).
I was very torn at this time about what I should do regarding legal representation. Not only was the retainer expensive but there was no way to really know how much it would cost in the end. If I chose to move forward with legal action, I had to pay a retainer of $200 which would go toward billable hours. Other than that, the lawyer could only guestimate how long everything might take to work through. I really had to weigh what I could afford here.
And then the Jupiter Wyse situation happened. That honestly was the last straw for me. I had worked throughout these situations, even when I spoke up, to be as professional as I could be. But at that point I realized that this person *would never stop*. It didn’t seem like there was a limit to the ways in which they would hurt, manipulate, and abuse other people in the bookish community,
I honestly was just so tired of watching someone try to manipulate me. The emails I received when the other author and I were discussing what would happen with Cagematched were full of old gaslighting and manipulating tactics that would have worked on Jude of three years ago. But I am not that person any more. And I refuse, REFUSE to be that person again.
I really didn’t want money was never the point for me. However, legally, all I was really entitled to here was a portion of royalties. Refusing to be bullied, manipulated, and used was the point. I hired my lawyer knowing up front I’d be out a few hundred dollars. My husband and I spoke at length about the value of my own mental health vs money etc.
What I didn’t expect—I have no idea why because I really should have—was how my ex coauthor would drag out what could have been a simple process. Refusing to disclose honestly the number of books sold. Arguing with my lawyer over semantics. Just a constant stream of back and forth emails. What this all meant was that the end cost was WAY past what could have been expected.
At the end of the day, my ex coauthor agreed to pay me 40% of “supposed” sales (there was a whole KU cancellation issue which caused them an inability to see how many were presold?). I walked away with 7$ and an acknowledgement of a C&D. A promise to give me a portion of proceeds should I ever find out that this story was being reused (see the language there?). At that point, short of really going into more expensive and complex legal work, with my lawyer, we agreed that the acknowledgment of the C&D was a positive and perhaps the best I could hope for at this point.
To be clear, I don’t feel like I lost anything. It’s not a perfect outcome but it was definitely a statement.
This coauthor has consistently threatened other people with legal action. Reminded people who tried to stand up to them that they have a legal team at the ready. Used particularly manipulative language that works to make a victim question the reality of the situation. The choice to go forward with a lawyer, in large part, was motivated by a strong desire to send a message: you cannot do this in this community. Because of the co-written book I actually had cause and reason to make this a legal issue.
Asking for help paying for these legal fees has been so incredibly difficult; both because it’s just hard for me to ask for help, but because I never asked anyone to get involved in this fight with me and now I am. I am so moved by the response and support you have all provided. I know this is probably of little comfort to the people who have been hurt by this person but please know: I went into this with all of you in mind. I feel so much for everyone who has been hurt, by the wake of negativity and toxicity a single person has managed to set off in our community.
Thank you all for holding my hand and making this such a supportive and caring place. A million thanks to Annie and Sadie for being my sword and shield. I ❤ you all to the moon and back.