Allowing readers to use your copyright protected work to create their own creative expressions offers an opportunity for independent writers.
he internet is a vast and uncontrollable place where copyright is not always respected. The music and movie industry have noticed this long ago, but ever more often the book industry seems to face similar challenges. Famous authors such as JK Rowling protect their literary efforts in court, taking on over-enthusiastic fan fiction writers who use their novels as background for new stories. For now, usually they win the battles, but as with the music industry it’s an uphill fight, a war that will probably be lost.
Where the infringement of creative rights is a threat for the few established authors, it offers an opportunity for independent writers who struggle to find an audience.
The gaming industry has understood this benefit long ago. Already decades ago they added modules to games that allowed gamers to create their own levels and own storylines to an existing game. When the internet boomed, users started sharing these extras online, building a name for themselves thanks to a copyright protected product. Instead of harming the original, this added to it and increased their sales. A game such as LittleBigPlanet is largely based on the concept of allowing others to create instead of only use.
Authors should reach the same understanding. When you allow (and even encourage) your readers to do more than read your book and engage them in creating additional content, your sales will increase. One happy reader who uses your protagonist to shoot a short YouTube movie, does not only spread the word about your work for free, but also reaches an audience that will not be reached by only the written word.
When you then thank this happy reader and show interest in his or her derivative work, he or she might become an advocate of your work to an even bigger audience.
Of course, a writer should take care not to give away the original copyright. It’s in nobody’s interest when a dodgy publisher prints your book in the thousands with somebody else’s name on the cover. The gaming industry doesn’t allow that either.
Fortunately, the well-respected Creative Commons system allows you to waive just enough rights for others to be creative with your work, without doing harm to your interests. There is a range of licenses to choose from, each with their own possibilities and limitations. A modern writer will choose wisely and allow the infringement of some creative rights for the benefit of all.
To allow readers to use your work is the first part of grasping the opportunity to sell your work to a bigger audience. The second part is to encourage your readers to make use of their freedom. Here you need to be creative. The internet knows many websites where users gather to discuss books and share their own derivative work. You have to find his or her niche on these websites and encourage the users to build upon your work.
To create a community that works with your work, a writer has to reward those who took time to make something. Sometimes simple thanks is enough, but a writer can also offer free copies of the original work to the creator of the best derivative work.
Independent writers need to change their approach towards copyright to be successful.
Change your attitude from defending your creative rights to rewarding controlled rights infringement and readers will reward you.
Jess Moleman published his novel A Comet Appears under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. This license allows readers to do almost anything with the original. Reactions so far have included a reader-made playlist to go with the book and a fictional blog based on the protagonist.