The Stolen Story

Do you like mysteries?

I like to add a bit of mystery to most everything I write. It’s an essential element in most stories and can bring great satisfaction as the puzzle resolves itself over the course of the story. But sometimes life hands you a mystery that you cannot really resolve.

Case in point is my short story, The Spirit of Caledonia. I wrote it a while back and then released it for free on iTunes and eventually Smashwords.com.  Then it made its way onto Barnes & Noble and also Kobo. Since it was only 12 pages and since Amazon doesn’t normally let you charge less than 99 cents for your work, I didn’t think I would release it there until I could but it in an anthology or find some other means to offer it. But some enterprising entity apparently had other ideas. On March 5th, I happened to notice that the story showed up when I did a search on my name. Not only was it listed under my name, but it had my cover and, when I clicked Amazon’s “search inside” feature, it listed the text from the Smashwords edition. And it was listed it for $2.99, no less!

I initially assumed that Smashwords, which acts as a distributor other stores, must have put it there even though I had been under the impression that they did not publish on Amazon. I contacted them and they confirmed that, in fact, they did not put their works on Amazon and had not done so in this case.

So I then called Amazon’s author central and they were puzzled as well as to how it got there. After some digging around, they put me in touch with Amazon legal. I contacted them and asked them to remove the title since I held the rights and, after sending them some information to verify who I was, they removed it about two days later.

Thinking that I might as well put it up on Amazon anyway, just to avoid a repeat of this incident, I then contacted Amazon and asked them to publish the book. Unlike with my other works, I was contacted back and asked to verify that I was the author of the work (which was perfectly understandable given what had just happened) and then, after more documents were exchanged, they finally accepted the story and it is now available in their store.

So that is the strange story of how The Spirit of Caledonia came to be published on Amazon. But the mystery still remains: who stole my story? And why? I can only assume that, since Smashwords publishes overseas where copyright is less of a factor in people’s thinking that someone decided to pick it up and list it from there. As to why? Well, I suppose the obvious answer is that they must have thought to make a little free cash. I don’t know if they actually sold any copies, but I don’t see how they thought they would really get anyone to buy a 12 page short story for $2.99.

I’d like to think, however, in my heart of hearts, that this theft is a sort of backhanded praise. I mean, perhaps they were so taken by the story or impressed by the cover that they said to themselves, “man, someone ought to sell this on Amazon, they could make a fortune!”

I know. Not likely. But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Even thieves can appreciate a good story, can’t they?

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