I Think I Know What’s Going On (In Regards to Jamie McGuire and Her Book Beautiful Disaster)

I made this post earlier today.  After reading through the discussion on the book’s product page on Amazon (here’s the link so you can read through it, too), I think I understand what is going on.

This is the copy the customers who bought Beautiful Disaster have reported getting from Amazon (you can read it on the thread I linked to above):

Hello from Amazon.com,

We want to let you know that the edition of Beautiful Disaster that you purchased is no longer available. You can order a new version that is now available here:

Beautiful Disaster

You can also request a refund on your original purchase by responding to this email. After the refund is issued, you will no longer be able to access this item.

Thank you,

The Kindle Team

Here’s what I gather from it, and if you take away something different or can shed more light on the thread, feel free.  I read through the thread a couple of times to understand what is happening (but I’m human and might be missing something).

Okay, so from the email I quoted above, it sounds like the self-published version of Beautiful Disaster is no longer available to read.  If I had bought this book when it was self-published, I would assume (from the way this email is worded) that I don’t have this on my Kindle anymore.  It sounds like if I were to turn my Kindle on and search for it, the book would be gone.  Since I didn’t buy Beautiful Disaster, I have no way of seeing whether or not this is true, but scrolling down the thread, it sounds like customers do still have access to the self-published version they bought.

So what I think is happening is that the average customer is thinking they have lost the self-published version and are being told the only way they will get the book back on their Kindle is to buy the new edition (provided by the publisher) at a higher price.  This has caused some upset from some of the customers on the thread (I linked to above).  I would be upset, too, if I bought a book at a low price and was told I needed to pay more to keep it on my Kindle.  BUT, this is not the case.  The people still have the original book.

I think Amazon is just letting people know a new version is available for purchase if they want it.  However, they are leaving key items out.  Not only do they fail to assure the customers that their book is still on the Kindle, but they aren’t telling the customers HOW they will get their refund and extra money to make up for the difference in cost for the new edition of this book.  They are making her pay for their “generous” offer.  The customers assume Amazon is paying for all of this (and I would, too, if I hadn’t read Jamie’s blog post).  Some of those customers are saying they won’t buy any more of her books because they think they’re being ripped off in having to pay more for the same book in order to keep it on their Kindles.  I can only imagine the emails she’s getting right now, and this isn’t even her fault.  But how many customers will take the time to find out the truth?

I still don’t like this tactic that Amazon is using, and I still think we should let others know what is going on here.  In my opinion, Jamie’s only crime (and it’s not even a “crime”) was giving her successful self-published book to a reputable publisher.   Amazon should send another mass email letting her past customers know that the original version they bought will still be available on their Kindles so they haven’t lost the book.  If Amazon wants to offer a refund and compensation to buy the new book or a credit if the customers opt to buy the new version, then fine.  But Amazon should be the one to pay it.  They’re the ones making the offer, not her.  And I see no need to bother the customers over a version that has nothing wrong with it.  Customers think they are getting ripped off, and this isn’t the case.

I feel horrible for Jamie and hope things work out in her favor.  In my opinion, she should be refunded the money Amazon’s been taken from her.

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25 thoughts on “I Think I Know What’s Going On (In Regards to Jamie McGuire and Her Book Beautiful Disaster)

  1. “In my opinion, she should be refunded the money Amazon’s been taken from her.”

    I think I’d disagree if what I’m hearing now is true. Apparently, in the self-published edition of Beautiful Disaster, Ms. McGuire quoted the lyrics to “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones in their entirety (I’ve seen a screenshot of the Kindle edition of the book on Jane from Dear Author’s twitter account), which is a violation of the Stones’ copyright. Assuming she didn’t get permission to quote them (and the Stones are notorious for keeping their intellectual property under hardcore lock and key and not letting any of it get used unless the person who wants to use it pays bukus of money), then she violated their intellectual property rights and their copyright. Likely, Amazon is taking steps to get that version off of the market because they (and Ms. McGuire) can be held legally liable for the unauthorized use. In this case, she’d be lucky if all that happened to her was Amazon taking the money back from her account. If she did indeed use the lyrics without permission, then she has zero recourse to get her money back. (Which, in the long run, she’ll get back via increased sales and exposure in her royalties from her publisher.)

    Just my thoughts on the matter. :)

    • I haven’t read the book or seen the screenshot, so I had no idea that was in there. You’d think if that was the case, the publisher or Amazon would be disclosing this to her or have had something worked out ahead of time. This seems to be coming on all of the sudden (at least from where I sit). I could see that Amazon wouldn’t want to pay out in a case like that, and I can see if Amazon doesn’t want to be entangled with the song in the old version. But then what about Barnes and Noble, Apple, and every other place that sold Beautiful Disaster? Just how far could that go? Would all of those customers on the other stores be asked to get refunds, too? The potential for that makes my head spin.

      It sounds like an attorney might be required to settle everything.

      If I remember right, it’s okay to quote a line or two from a song, but you can’t do the whole thing. (It’s been a year since I read up on copyright laws and music.)

      I wonder if this means Amazon is going to search through KDP books to see if there are entire songs quoted in them now.

  2. From what I’ve read Jamie McGuire quoted an entire Rolling Stones song and it’s likely a lawsuit is in the works. Amazon is trying to minimize damage.

    • That’s possible. But then I would expect Barnes and Noble and every other store that sold her books to start doing the same thing. I don’t know how long this book has been out, but considering its success, why has it taken so long for Amazon to refund the book to the customers? You’d think this would have happened much sooner and that the old version wouldn’t be available at all. The customer service team at Amazon is assuring customers that they can keep the old version. If they’re worried about the damage, then why even make keeping the old version an option? It sounds like they could just erase it from all the Kindles and Kindle accounts, bill Jamie for the new version on all of them, and upload them automatically.

      I’m not a lawyer, so I have no idea what the proper course of action is.

  3. It’s easy — all Jamie has to do is secure the services of an arrogant attorney. Amazon will back off like magic!

  4. I’m confused why something like this hasn’t happened before. Though, now I’m seeing people mention the Rolling Stone song. Just sounds like a major mess.

    • I had no idea the Rolling Stone song even happened, and I agree it does sound like a mess. I don’t know enough about copyright and songs and to know if taking the old version off sale is enough to wipe out the issue. What I do know is that when my books were stolen and sold on Amazon, I never got the money the thief made but the books were removed from sale. So would the same line of thought apply here? Would Amazon removing the thief’s version from sale be enough to clear them of any harm? Or is it because the Rolling Stones is a well-known and wealthy band be enough to convince Amazon to actually do whatever they can to remove the old versions from the Kindles because simply not selling the old version of the books wouldn’t be enough?

  5. Gosh, which writer doesn’t know about copyright infringement?
    How could she possibly make such a gigantic mistake with Satisfaction?
    Whoever said it was a mess, is right. A humungous one. Wouldnt be surprised if her publisher drops her because of the mess :(

    • I agree. This is turning into a mess. I don’t think Jamie was aware of the copyright law with the music. I don’t know if that makes a difference or not with what’s happening, but I still feel bad for her. Ideally, someone would have notified her early on so she could have removed it before the book became a big hit. Then this wouldn’t even be an issue right now.

  6. Rolling stones is probably waiting till the movie comes out, and she makes a ton of dough before they go after her.
    What would you do if you were rolling stones?

    • If I knew the author made an honest mistake (in the fact that she didn’t realize she was violating copyright), I would ask her to remove the song from her book or (if she wanted to keep the whole thing in there) ask for proper credit and a certain amount of proceeds from each sale she made.

      I’d give the person the chance to make things right before suing them. If the author failed to comply with my wishes, that’s the time when I’d seek an attorney. That’s what I did when my books were stolen. I didn’t know who did it (so I couldn’t go to the person directly). I had to go to Amazon first and try to resolve the issue. When Amazon didn’t with one book (they did with seven but not the eighth), then I went to a copyright lawyer and had the lawyer contact them on my behalf. Had Amazon not complied at that point, I would have gone further into it. (Amazon did comply once the lawyer contacted them.)

  7. I am a lawyer who knows something about copyright law. It’s always dangerous to give an opinion without knowing all the facts, and all we have here is conjecture. Still, with the understanding that I am not providing legal advice, here is some information on what MIGHT be going on.

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires service providers to remove infringing material once they become aware of it. The DMCA does not apply to brick and mortar stores but could apply to Amazon, especially where it provides the technology to create the infringing material. Under the DMCA, the service provider is required to remove the infringing material once it becomes aware of it, which doesn’t usually happen until the copyright owner complains. It does sound like Amazon’s “refund” offer is going farther than what the DMCA requires, but I can understand Amazon’s concern. Lawsuits are expensive, so if the Rolling Stones have an aggressive enforcement policy and are known for filing lawsuits, Amazon could lose even if it wins. Amazon may be trying to avoid that result.

    I also looked at the CreateSpace services agreement, and it contains a standard representations and warranties clause, where the author represents to CreateSpace that she has not infringed any copyrights. Most agreements have this language.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel sorry for the author if she made an unintentional mistake, but IF the facts are as conjectured in this thread, it isn’t fair to demonize Amazon. Maybe we can criticize the people who wrote the sloppily written e-mails, though.

    • I made it clear that I don’t have a full grasp of the situation. I wasn’t suggesting that I knew for sure what is going on. I have appreciated everyone who commented because there were topics brought up in here that I think has been good for me (and maybe other authors) to think about. We do have to consider what might happen if we sign over our rights to a publisher. This might be a warning to be very careful and make sure that the contract says everything you want it to say. (I’m not suggesting there was something shady in McGuire’s contract. I’m saying that it’s wise to beware of what might pop up in a contract in case we’re offered one.) It’s a good wake up call to think about what you can or can’t put into a book in regards to copyright and trademark issues (such as song lyrics). It’s also a good point to consider the possibility that at some point Amazon or some other place might decide to charge us for something we didn’t expect. I think that authors have a right to consider the “what ifs” so they can be as prepared as possible.

      I don’t think we will ever know the exact story of what’s happening. In any situation, people are going to look at the same thing with a different perspective. But sometimes it’s good to bring up questions and express concerns if they pop up. I’ve had a lot questions and concerns today, and having done additional research, I still have a lot of questions and concerns. As a self-published author, this stuff has the potential to impact me in some way. I think it’s important to have an exchange of ideas and opinions.

  8. I agree with you, Ruth. I didnt find your blog about Jamie M in any way opinionated or found that you were attacking Amazon. Your sympathy for another author was refreshing. :)

    In fact, I am grateful that you brought up such a subject. It scared the bejeebez out of me re copyright infringement.
    So many times as an author, you think no one will notice if you pinch a few lyrics. Now we know what might happen :) Scary.

    Keep rolling! Eve Rabi

    • Thank you. I really appreciate that. :D I just keep thinking, “What if it happened to me?”

      I’m also scared about the copyright thing. I never would have thought the song would be an issue. Now I’m sorting through what I can find online about what else I should avoid putting in my books. Maybe it’s good to get shaken up once in a while. I have learned so much in one day and will be a better writer for it.

      Thanks again, Eve Rabi. I am grateful you understood where I was coming from. :D

  9. My question in this whole fiasco is this:

    Are there any other changes in the Atria version? I used to work for several of the “big six” as a freelance editor, and I worked on quite a few self-published manuscripts. We had to do a complete developmental overhaul on most of them.

    Recently, a lot of publishers are just looking for a quick, easy way to boost sales so they publish successful self-published authors without even doing a second line edit, regardless of the poor grammar and punctuation.

    From what I read of the self-published version of Beautiful Disaster, I assumed Atria would have wanted to edit the book (but that’s just my opinion). I don’t know if this was the case, but if it was, as a consumer, I wouldn’t want to have to purchase the book a second time just to read the edited version, and I probably would request a refund. My reasoning is that I feel any work published on Amazon should be the very best quality, and I don’t think it’s fair to a reader for the author re-publish and say, “Hey, I’m published by a legit publisher now so buy this version too because it’s so much better!” If in fact it’s the same exact book, then why would a reader buy it again anyway?

    • From what I heard, the changes involved the font and the change to the Rolling Stones’ song (they removed most of it). I haven’t read the self-published version or the new one, so I don’t know. I do agree, though, that if the publisher did change it significantly, then the refund should be issued. I haven’t signed a book with a publisher, but I would assume that if the publisher wanted the author to pay the refund, then that would be specified in the contract (but I don’t know for sure).

      I also agree that some self-published authors are publishing their books when they shouldn’t be. They’re looking for a way to make money with little effort and don’t care for the quality of their writing. This is a disservice.

      And I agree that it’s not fair to the reader when the author asks the reader to buy the new version of the same book. Authors should strive for excellence with everything they write.

  10. So interesting Ruth Ann. I got one of these emails yesterday (I’ve bought the book, but haven’t read it yet) and wasn’t really sure how to take it. Thanks for the post – now I’m really curious as to how this will shake out.

    Cheers,
    Maia

  11. Everyone keeps talking about the copyright infringement side, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest that’s the problem. Just conjecture. I did read the book, but I got it from Smashwords because it was available there and I always go with Smashwords. :)

    Ruth, your post makes the most sense to me. It sounds like someone just sent out an email, possibly at someone’s request, and that email was worded really poorly! It’s encouraging people to get a refund. It’s strange that they’re allowing that though since isn’t their policy that you can only return it in seven days? It’s been off the market for a while now, so I don’t see why Amazon would have to make amends now especially if they’re concerned about copyrights since it’s highly doubtful that any of the people for the Rolling Stones even had access to a copy of the self-published version, and the print version has been fixed. But if someone asked Amazon to send out an email pointing people to the newer edition, then I could see why they might jump on it. After all, don’t self-pubbers have to ask Amazon to push out new editions to Kindles because even after you update the file in the store, readers who already purchased can only download the older version? This is sort of like that, but with two different copies of the same book. So instead of being able to push out a new file, they had to direct people to the other copy of the book.

    • I don’t think the copyright infringement is even an issue. If it was, I would expect every book seller who sold the self-published edition to be trying to replace the self-published edition. It doesn’t make sense it’d just be Amazon. I also think the publisher would have made sure any kinks are removed before taking the rights of the book. Granted, I’m not an expert on all of this, but it doesn’t seem like the copyright thing is the real issue here.

      I still think this all boils down to a poorly worded email, especially in light of Amazon’s second email assuring people that the old version is still on their Kindles. I can see Amazon sending out the email about the new version of the book based on someone asking them, too. Yes, we would have to ask Amazon to let everyone know a new version of our book is available to past customers. So it makes sense that this would be the same case here, and because the email was worded poorly, it confused a lot of people.

      Thanks for chiming in! I hadn’t even considered the angle that someone prompted Amazon to send the emails out.

  12. I got the email from Amazon about the book as well, I have purchased and read the book. However this morning I had another email from Amazon stating that the previous email was sent out incorrectly and that the version of the book I had was fine and that I didn’t need to re-purchase it. I had planned to re-purchase the book if necessary because I enjoyed the book. I do not know why this happened but I do find it questionable that the first email came out followed by the second one. Though I did check and the book was still on my IPad and Kindle.

  13. To everyone,

    I want to thank everyone who commented. I hate to shut down blog comments, but I spent three hours tonight replying to them. I feel it’s only fair to answer comments that come in when I do a post on this blog. I was answering comments for about three hours last night, too. I can’t keep up this pace. LOL I’m going to have to shut off comments. I do appreciate all the comments so I can get back to writing. I’ve learned so much from this post. Thank you.

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