We modern authors can magically publicize our work—worldwide—within seconds. It's a fairy tale world. But also, in a second, we can lose control.
In this new kingdom of electronic postings, one wrong keystroke can cast the evil spell of what my attorney considers copyright violation. Just such an error led to the global posting of my first novel, Hook & Jill, shortly before its publication in hardcover. Let me tell you, dear readers, the tale.
Numerous document posting sites are available online. That's a “good-witch thing.” Posting our press kits saves time, paper, and postage. When my publicist made Hook & Jill's first six chapters accessible to booksellers on an invitation-only site, it was cheap and simple. Posting was the ruby slipper—the fairy dust—that would make my manuscript fly.
Soon all the royal booksellers in the land would sample my work and proclaim Hook & Jill (an adult retelling of Peter Pan) the great American, well, in this case, British/American, novel. The noblest “grown-up” fairy tale since Wicked was winging its way to success! No flying monkeys necessary.
Then reality set in, and my new Never-Neverland became a nightmare.
A few days passed before I found time to rise from my spinning wheel and check the posting site. I gazed into the crystal ball of my computer screen. There, in the magic mirror of cyberspace, I discovered that, instead of the preliminary chapters of Hook & Jill, my entire manuscript materialized.
Our intention had been to tantalize, not to satiate our booksellers. But my publicist inadvertently uploaded the wrong document—not the carefully edited segment I'd sent her but the work-in-progress file from my book's interior designer.
Now, little ones, Sir James Barrie is the author of the original myth of Peter Pan, upon which my novel is based. Once Sir James won his baronetcy, he might have afforded to offer up a tale for free. He was not an unknown author seeking to sell his first story for glory and a few magic beans. His genius was acknowledged, and he could throw it to the populace with profligacy, like Stephen King's more recent largesse via Internet.
Not so this Cinderella. The fairy godmother has yet to visit me, and I need cash for my pumpkins, thank you very much. (“Sir” James? Mr. “King?” I'm just a “Jones.”)
I summoned my publicist. She waved her magic wand and instantly banished the posting. A sigh of relief, an apology from my publicist, and the spell was broken, the bad witch dead.
But, O evil day, like my story, the happy ending was only a fairy tale.
A few weeks later, I Googled Hook & Jill. The identical posting appeared. Only this time it was available not to the kings and queens of booksellerdom but to the public. To the entire world! From beginning to end, Hook & Jill lay revealed. My very first book offered itself up for printing, forwarding... even twittering. “Post” traumatic stress, literally.
But that site had been decreed to be restricted, exclusively for invited viewers. Further, I knew the posting was removed. What errant knight had freed it from its dungeon?
It was the Internet Igor of dead and dying postings, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant: the Google crawl. Alack and alas, Google's indiscriminate crawlers had resurrected my private posting in a public cache. Once again, the enchanted story I labored over for five task-laden years was prepped for downloading—every magic word of it, including the acknowledgments and my gratitude to Sir James Barrie. (He published Peter and Wendy in 1911. He used a pen and paper. He never fought this dragon.)
At long last, it came to pass that the posting company, which shall remain nameless, heeded the tale my attorney-wizard spun and got Google to remove the spell. Hook & Jill was released August 1. And I hope it lives happily ever after... on my reader's bookshelves.
So, good night, my children. And if you dare to venture into the forest primeval of Internet postings, I jest not. Gird thyself.