Challenge,  Guest Blog

Kris On The Findaway Scam…

A Guest Post…

A few weeks or so back, Kris did a post on her patreon page about what happened with Findaway and writers. I linked to it, but now she gave me permission to put it here to help writers understand another level of business.

The Fallacy of the Findaway “Victory”

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I do not know how to start this piece without using insulting language. I have literally deleted five first paragraphs which use the words “ignorant,” “stupid,” “dumb,” and certain swear words that should not be attached to people and organizations.

I can’t write this without using one of those words. Insert the one that offends you the least. But here it is: the average writer and average writers’ organization are so ignorant about business that they have no idea what just happened with Findaway.

For those of you who don’t know the story, in February, Findaway Voices released a new terms of service that will go into effect this month. It was the notification that users needed to have by law so that they would know what had changed. And believe me, a lot changed.

I wrote a post about it here. Read it to catch up.

Writers saw the changes and went up in arms about everything that Findaway asked for. So within hours, Findaway backtracked and released a new terms of service that, in theory, addressed all of the writers’ concerns.

Writers declared victory on social media. They did a happy dance all over their accounts. They kept their books on Findaway, because that was what Findaway wanted. The Authors Guild, never the smartest organization in the room, wrote this:

We appreciate Spotify’s responsiveness to our concerns and those of the author community. We will continue to review the terms and any future updates to ensure that they do not encroach on authors’ rights, and look forward to continuing a productive dialogue with Spotify.

If you actually read the new TOS, including the parts that the Authors Guild quotes in their “we approve and we won” post, you’ll see that the new terms are still objectionable. They’re just not as objectionable as the first TOS offered that day.

The final TOS, though, is much, much, much worse than the TOS writers initially agreed to when they agreed to be part of Findaway.

And therefore, the lawyers at Findaway have won the actual victory and are probably giggling (still) into their celebratory beers.

Here’s how it works, folks.

If writers and writers organizations understood anything about negotiation, they would realize they were part of a bait and switch that lawyers do all the time. In fact, lawyers are trained to do this for their clients.

First, you ask for everything, including the firstborn child and maybe all the children, as well as the stuff that’s objectionable but not as easy to understand.

Then you wait for the expected outcry.

When the outcry comes, you say, Oh, we didn’t mean to ask for children. Our mistake. Here, we’ll fix it.

Then they release their new terms in which references to children are gone, and the language that seems objectionable gets toned down.

The other party, so shocked by being told they’re going to have to give up their children to stay in this organization, say, oh, thank heavens, this TOS is just fine.

They compare the revised TOS to the horrid TOS, instead of comparing the revised TOS to the TOS that the clients initially agreed to.

It’s smoke and mirrors, and it worked beautifully.

There was a tell in Findaway’s gambit. They released the revised TOS within hours. Nope. Had this been a real mistake and these corporate attorneys truly misunderstood what they were asking for, they would have taken days if not weeks to revise the TOS.

The lawyers don’t make the decisions. They draft the TOS, and then the execs give their opinions, usually in writing. Then the changes go back to the lawyers, and the lawyers draft another TOS, which has to go to the execs, who then work it over, and finally, finally, someone will agree to something.

But not within hours.

This “capitulation” was planned. And since it was planned, the question you have to ask is what are they going to gain from this new TOS? If you read it with a jaundiced eye, you’ll see it.

There is so much wiggle room in their new language that they can still use your work to train AI models. They can change their permission structure so that you might give them permission to use those derivative rights or produce an AI audiobook without even realizing it. All it would take are a few words added or removed from their TOS.

So instead of getting a new TOS, which was what happened this time, you’ll get an email saying, we’re changing our TOS. Here’s your notice. We’re adding three words to clause 5, paragraph 2. You’ll glance at the three words which might seem random: like “grant” and “exclusive” and not look at the language of the new paragraph at all.

How many times have you done that, after all?

Michael Lucas wrote a wonderful short post on this in regards to Findway. I suggest you read it.

So, writers, you did not “win” a victory over Findaway. You lost. Big time.

And not only did writers lose, but they’re bragging about the loss as if it were a great big victory.

That’s so sad.

Which is why I had trouble writing that first paragraph. Let me reiterate what I always tell writers and what only a handful of smart ones listen to.

Learn business. For your own sake. Learn how to negotiate. Take some law school classes in copyright and negotiation.

Otherwise big companies like this one will screw you, and you won’t realize what happened until they make money off your bestselling property, and you won’t be able to stop them. Because you were too wrapped up in being an artist to bother to learn what keeps an artist in money.

And that’s learning how to do business.



  • C.E. Petit

    There’s an important vocabulary lesson for all writers here. It’s actually quite easy to pronounce — and usually with better pronunciation than computer-generated reading.


    Authors capable of thinking hard enough to generate an idiot plot should be able to say that. And that’s particularly appropriate here because the authors’ collective behavior here is below the level of the idiot plot. This isn’t even as sophisticated a con as three-card monte or “additional dealer profit” line on a car purchase. The authors who took the “second offer” were relieved because when they were mugged this time, it was just a couple of thugs threatening to hit them instead of waving a gun in their faces, and declared victory because all they lost was their wallets.

    Under almost all circumstances, the right approach when someone makes a bad-faith offer, and especially when that bad-faith offer relates to modifying an existing agreement, is to walk away — because if the other side is willing to go beyond being a jerk during negotiation (and a “change in terms of service” is, under the Uniform Commercial Code and the various laws of every state, merely a negotiation even when the contract reserves the right to change the terms), what makes you think they won’t go beyond being a jerk on actually complying with the contract? The “Canada-US imported copy” scam of a quarter of a century ago perpetrated by a certain commercial publisher of Dean’s acquaintance is a mild example that was predictable from the details of the initial offers.

    (BTW, your revised-away first five paragraphs have nothing on mine, Dean. I was trained by the very best: Senior NCOs.)

    • dwsmith


      Yup! And thank you!

      And C.E., most writers these days would have no memory of “territories” like those old days. Everyone now sells world wide outside of the scams of traditional publishing (except for the Select people who love shooting themselves in their long term career.)

  • Sheila

    The vast majority of people I see wanting to be writers aren’t those who have studied writing for years (decades), who have put in the work, often published the usual way with a recognized publisher, or with magazines. No, they’ve seens something about “easy passive income from kindle”, think being a writer requires no work or effort, and simply won’t bother to read anything at all about how any of this works, including self publishing. They get taken by scammers and expect others to figure it out. They upload stuff that’s mostly unreadable, and that’s being kind. They get caught up in the low/no content scheme, and can’t figure out why they can’t sell stationery printed at POD places.

    I think what’s happened with Findaway is a gross abuse, but it’s not likely it will be stopped, and people will continue to sign up with them and then complain when they are abused. I personally feel like I’ll never do audio versions of my work, and likely not a lot of print. It’s partially because my brain can’t concentrate long enough any more to keep all the stuff you rightly say I need to learn. And partly because I just don’t want to do more than ebooks. 😀 Yeah, I’m crazy. I’ll admit it. LOL