Cease and Desist…
As entertaining as the history of Faber & Faber is, this is not what preoccupies me now. What I’ve spent the last several days doing is overhauling my website. Actually, websites would be more appropriate since I maintain two of them: one for my Indie bookshelf and one for my complete bookshelf. Remember, I’m a double Gemini. Under the influence of the Sign of the Twins, I’m always pulled in two directions. In this case I got it in head that I wanted to separate my trade books from my independently published books. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was looking long term: in ten years will I really want to be on the author visit circuit? Probably not. So, I thought that over the next few years I’d shift everything to my Indie site, emphasizing online sales over school visits and direct sales.
But that was then and this is now. Now, it’s turned into a headache. The reason it’s a headache is because I just found out that I’m not the only person who uses the online URL handle “Gyroscope Books.” And to add insult to injury, I found this out after receiving notice from the pro bono lawyer I was working with that my trademark application had been successfully processed. Yes, isn’t this always how it happens? You work and work and work and get all of your ducks in a row and before you know it the applecart is turned upside down at the last moment. And that’s precisely what happened. It turns out that in the ethersphere of the Internet there is another “Gyroscope Books,” but the user only uses it for her (I know it’s a female; believe me, I’ve looked into it) Facebook username and not for any other social media address.
Okay, stop. I think we’re all ears. But, for the record, could you pop open your web browser and do a search. Type “Gyroscope Books” into your search engine’s search box and tell us what do you find?
Sure. Since I use Google for my search engine, the first thing that pops up is a Google ad: “Shop for gyroscope books on Google” (and Google doesn’t mean shop for books on my website, or even the other party’s Facebook page; it means—literally—shop for books about gyroscopes listed on a variety of Google’s ad-sponsored sites). I am happy to report, however, that the first link listed after the Google banner ad is my website—Gyroscope Books. Yes, it’s at the top of the list—that’s good news. The next link is for James Scarborough’s book The Gyroscope Theory and Applications, offered for sale on Amazon. After that, there’s a link to a site that hosts general information about gyroscopes.
It’s the next link that disturbs me: Gyroscope Books – Facebook. I open the link only to find out that it’s run by someone like me: an independent author/publisher who’s just trying to get her work out (her work being “Sci-fi from a Christian Perspective”). The author is Julie Rollins and, yes, she uses Gyroscope Books as her handle, as do I. So, what should I do? Should I call up Brian, the pro bono lawyer, and have him send a threatening letter to her? Cease and desist, or my client will… What would any CEO worth his salt do in such a case? After all, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted me—not her—trademark status for Gyroscope Books (and it says so right on my website: I put the little ™ symbol right after the name).
Look, before you do anything, why don’t you do a little more research into Julie Rollins and her books.
You’re right, I should slow down, take a deep breath or two, and get some perspective—and figure out who the hell she is. So, I go online and look up every book that Julie Rollins has ever published. The first two books in Rollins’s Vadelah Chronicles (that’s the name of her Christian fantasy series) were published as physical books in 2005, but not by Gyroscope Books. The publisher’s name is Essence Books. Then, there is a seven-year hiatus; no books in physical or electronic form at all. In 2012, Rollins begins to release a book or two in the Vadelah Chronicles series almost every month. They’re in e-book format exclusively. She’s up to #15 right now: all e-books, all available on Amazon.
That’s why I didn’t run across Rollins’s Gyroscope Books imprint when I was doing my search. I was doing my search in 2010, during her publishing hiatus. Hence, I found no online entity using the handle Gyroscope Books. I was free and clear, or so I thought at the time. But not now: now there are two of us—Julie Rollins and me. So, I dial up Brian. “Brian, what should I do?” I yell into the phone after explaining my conundrum. For a young guy (junior partner and all that), he’s very judicious:
Brian: “First of all, take a deep breath or two.”
Me: “Okay, okay, I’ve heard that before.”
Brian: “Look, you’re both independent, self-published authors, right?”
Me: “Well, yes.”
Brian: “Moreover, your work doesn’t overlap, I mean not even in the slightest.”
Brian: “Now, if you were 25 years old and at the beginning of your career, I’d say Fight it! Lawyer up and fight it. But, you’re not 25. You’re 65 and most of your writing career is behind you.”
Me: “Hey, wait a minute…”
Brian: “Sorry, but in historical time, that’s just the reality. Isn’t it?”
Brian: “So, my advice to you is simple: ignore her and just carry on.”
Me: “Ignore her?”
Brian: “Yes, ignore her and carry on. Look, you could spend a lot of time and energy fighting this thing, but what would you achieve in the end? That’s what you need to ask yourself?”
Me: “Okay, okay, you’re right. Besides, what’s the harm in having two Gyroscope Books in the world anyway?”
Brian: “Now you’re talking sense.”
I hang up—with a new appreciation of Brian and his counsel—but what I’d really like to do is call up Julie and ask her how things are going: Are you selling any books? Are you happy with Amazon? Do you use other sites to advertise and sell your books? Has Facebook been a good vehicle for you? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is self-publishing rewarding, or is it a struggle filled with self-doubt like it is for me?
Of course, I don’t call her up (Brian told me not to). What I do is go online and sign up for an account at all of the major social media sites that I can think under the user name “gyroscope books.” It’s the 25-year-old in me that wants to fight, just not in a court of law. Julie Robbins might have a lock on Facebook, but I’ve got a lock on every other social media site in the universe.