So what makes this bakery so magic anyway? Copyright, that’s what.
As the Copyright Handbook says, “Copyright is the legal device that provides the creator of a work of art or literature, or a work that conveys information or idea, the right to control how the work is used.”
So what is so magic about that? All countries in the world have copyright protections in one form or another. As of the writing of this chapter, almost all countries in the world have signed onto one copyright convention or another, agreeing to the basic aspects of copyright protections.
In fact, here in the States, copyright protection was written into the Constitution right from the beginning, it is that important.
But what makes it magic? Actually just one phrase in that definition I gave you is the source of the magic.
“… the right to control how the work is used.”
Spoiled copyright is a concept that is flat hard to imagine now in this modern world of electronic shelves. As I said in the last chapter, that pie you have sitting there in your shop will never spoil.
Copyright never spoils.
And since we are using a pie as a metaphor for copyright, imagine baking a pie and it will taste just as good five years later as it did on the day you baked it.
Or seventy years later. Or a hundred years later if you live for another thirty years after the baking.
This idea that copyright never spoils is almost impossible for writers coming out of traditional publishing to wrap minds around. It took me some time I must admit.
Traditional publishing companies (for decades) used the produce model for books. They treated books like fruit. Not kidding.
The publishers would set a time the book would appear. Then the book would appear and within a set time the book would “spoil” in the eyes of the publisher and bookstores and be pulled and returned to the publisher for credit. For all intents and purposes, that book was dead.
Rotten fruit. Very few books survived that fate. Very very few.
The reality was that the copyright was just fine. It actually hadn’t spoiled. Just the publishers thought of it as dead.
And so did the authors.
And even if an author got the rights back from the company, chances are the book never saw the light of day again.
Writers who got books reverted still had the right to control the use of the book, sure, but the belief was that the copyright had spoiled and the book or story was done. Used up.
Then along comes this new world and electronic shelves with unlimited space. And suddenly all those dead and spoiled books took on a new life.
The magic of copyright never spoiling.
A book that only had only four weeks on the shelf twenty years ago now had a chance to find a new audience who weren’t even born the first time the book appeared.
My first novel came out in 1989. So basically anyone under 35 would not have read that book unless they found it in a used bookstore. Now that first novel is back out and earning me money for the first time in almost thirty years. And finding new readers who might enjoy it.
It is in this new world that the hard fact of a copyright never spoiling actually started to become a reality to many writers.
It also, after about six or seven years, started to dawn on the major publishers as well, which is why they now buy all rights for the entire life of a copyright. They now understand as well that copyright has value over long periods of time and won’t spoil. (They haven’t figured out what to do with the rights they are keeping, but they have figured out enough to keep them.)
The magic in the copyright-filled pie now rules. But like with any good magic, you have to know how to unleash the spell. I will get to that.
FIRST SALE AND ELECTRONIC LICENSE
Right now, before I go any farther here in chapter two, I had better get everyone on the same page with a few more basics.
Copyright is the protection of the expression. So when you sell a paper copy of the book, you transfer no copyright. Copyright can only be transferred by a written agreement. You are basically selling a block of paper. Nothing more.
That physical book, that pile of paper, exists and the new owner of the book can sell the block of paper itself. But they have no right to take any of the words from the book and use them.
None. They bought the paper, not the words on the paper.
This is called the First Sale Doctrine and it applies mostly only to paper books.
So in Magic Bakery terms, when a customer in the Magic Bakery buys a piece of your pie (paperback piece), the piece remains in the pie even though the customer gets to enjoy the taste of the pie and walk out of the store with a pile of paper. The piece never leaves the pie.
Magic. An ever-replunishing inventory. Wish I would have had that with my bookstore.
Now we have the new electronic books. So you have the slice of your pie called “Electronic Rights” up on Amazon.
Basically what you have done is rented from the big Amazon Mall some space to include your Magic Bakery inside their mall.
You also have your Magic Bakery in the Kobo Mall, the B&N Mall, and so on.
When a customer comes through your door and wants a piece of pie in electronic form, they can enjoy it, but they have bought nothing. They have licensed the right to read it only.
They can not trade or sell that electronic copy. They own nothing and in fact, you never sold them anything, you licensed to the reader the right to read the work.
Nothing more. First Sales does not apply to electronic copies.
So either selling paper copies to a reader or licensing electronic copy to a reader, your pie remains whole sitting in your Magic Bakery.
So over a month’s time you sell or license one hundred pieces of that pie. The pie has not changed or diminished or spoiled in any fashion.
Every store on the planet wishes for magic inventory like that. Only writers and artists and other copyright holders have it.
WHY ONLY A PIECE?
This is now where the real fun and magic starts to happen.
Why didn’t I say that a person buying the paper book didn’t buy the entire pie?
Because the entire pie is not just paperback rights. Or electronic licensing rights. Or audio rights.
Say you write a novel. The novel is the pie. The copyright is what you license from the pie, the pieces of the pie, basically.
Each area of the pie is a different right. One small slice is paperback rights, one small slice is hardback rights, one small slice is electronic, one small slice is audio, and on and on.
You never sell the entire pie.
Now going to traditional publishers, they want to buy the entire pie and put your magic in their store. And writers are doing that all the time, allowing their magic pie to leave their bakery.
Visualize it this way: Some person from New York publishing in a suit walks into your Magic Bakery and flops some small amount of money on the counter. You say sure and they take your magic pie and turn and leave your store, leaving that spot on the counter forever empty. FOREVER EMPTY. They walk your magic pie down the mall to their massive anchor store and put your pie in their magic bakery.
You have now sold inventory to a store that is competing with your store.
And you will never get that pie back.
In real world terms, this is “all rights for the life of the copyright” contracts. If you see that in your contract for anything, RUN!!
In coming chapters will be a ton more about this problem. And a lot more about how you can divide up the pie, make more money from each slice, and never lose control.
And remember, every story you finish, every novel, every article (including this Magic Bakery book I am writing right now here in front of you) is a new pie. Another product to have in my display cases and on my shelves when a customer comes through the door of my Magic Bakery.
And the larger the store you have, the more product you have, the more customers and the more money you make if you keep the floors swept, the glass on the display cases clean, and a smile on your face.
Frighteningly enough, it really does work that way.