Call me cocky for even weighing in on this issue (at your own peril). But, seriously, folks. It’s rare to run across something so epically wrong AND foolish and…ironically, cocky. As an author branding expert, I’d be remiss NOT to say something about Cockygate (though I seriously hate having to).
Yes, folks, it’s a real thing. A subject—cocky—we’ll touch on today (with gloves).
I’ve dedicated over ten years, three branding books and close to thirteen hundred blogs to help my fellow authors. Why? Because this job is brutal. We take crap from countless vectors.
For instance, even though our culture spends the lion’s share of their disposable income (and free time) consuming entertainment…apparently creating this entertainment is not a ‘real job.’
Writers are often paid last and the least (if at all) even in legacy publishing…which is why we need agents. Regardless of pedigree, most writers write for love not money (though we universally agree money is AWESOME).
Why I’m Cocky Enough to Care
I didn’t set out to become a branding expert or blogger, but I tend to have a crusader personality. Which is why my coauthor mocks me and calls me a Griffendork. And I’m cool with this because I know what it feels like to have the world against you and feel (or even actually BE) all alone.
When we step out to become novelists, it’s normal to get pushback. When I announced I was leaving sales to become a writer, my family made the natural assumption I was joining a cult.
Then didn’t talk to me for two years.
Writers deal with a lot of BS, so I’ve spent YEARS stepping into protect other authors from said BS (especially the newbies). Like a fluffy middle-aged superhero, with yoga pants covered in cat fur.
When one adds up the BS from Goodreads trolls, regular trolls, sockpuppets, algorithm scams, piracy, plagiarism, and ‘reviewers’ who fail to appreciate there might be an ACTUAL HUMAN WITH FEELINGS on the other side of the review, you know what you have?
Enough stress to turn Tommy Chong into a cutter.
Then there’s the rampant (and unrepentant exploitation) from MEGA MEDIA BRANDS all using the ‘Exposure Dollar Ponzi Scam’ to rake in millions using creatives as free labor and yeah….
I’ve had a full dance card.
Writers are incredibly brave. They willingly endure an incredible amount of cruelty and sacrifice time and their own money to do what? To entertain. To ideally make some stranger’s day just a bit better. That’s a hell of a noble goal.
And this is precisely why I’m so rabidly protective.
In fact, I am so protective of my fellow authors, I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and stop this author, explain to her how branding really works so I might have saved her from herself. This gal wrote and published seventeen novellas in two years. That’s a hell of a work ethic and there’s a lot about that to be admired.
It’s just the next part that puts me in a weird position.
While I do possess a modicum of compassion for this singular author, her ill-conceived and poorly thought out actions have done untold damage to countless others. Damage that will take months to even fully realize.
And, FYI, for anyone who thinks I’m mean? Calling out a dirtbag move, mocking what deserves mocking, and using a$$hattery as a cautionary tale is not ‘trolling.’
Kind of like when those Olympic swimmers in Brazil claimed to have been robbed and held at gunpoint? Only for us to find out they were piss drunk (literally) and vandalizing a store? And that the ‘evil men with guns’ were not robbers, rather security guards and police?
When the public openly denounced this behavior?
Anyone who threatens legal action to confiscate honestly earned royalties from innocent authors doesn’t get the victim card, any more than a drunk Olympian urinating all over a gas station then filing a false police report does.
What’s the Deal with Cocky?
Funny, I asked the same thing. In fairness, a lot of other bloggers have done a WAY better job explaining what’s come to be known as Cockygate (like Jami Gold’s Branding: The Right Way vs. The Wrong Way).
But I’ll give the Spark Notes of the scandal we never thought we’d see, let alone be discussing.
In a nutshell, indie author Faleena Hopkins trademarked the word ‘cocky.’ Yes, a word commonly used since the 16th century. A word very commonly used in the romance genre.
This might not have been a big deal, except the author then used her newfound power to threaten and bully fellow authors who’d used ‘Cocky’ in their titles.
I WISH I Were Joking
To make this worse (if it could be worse) Ms. Hopkins took it upon herself to personally e-mail her competition with her ‘reasonable’ demands and spell out the legal consequences for those who failed to comply.
Let’s take Jamila Jasper, for instance…whose book The Cockiest Cowboy to Have Ever Cocked I just bought on a) principle and b) to show actual-money-spending-support for the wronged Jamila Jasper and c) to express my gratitude for her sharing THIS with my other new hero Jenny Trout ,whose post on this entire cock-up is sheer GENIUS…
How benevolent! Makes me all misty-eyed. Wait, no…not seeing mist. Seeing more like…red?
To threaten to sue, forcibly take another author’s hard-earned royalties and also make said target PAY for being screwed…then follow it with how seriously you take your victim’s hard work?
What’s next? Car-jackers demanding gas-money in polite thank you cards? Hand-delivered by large ex-cons with tire-irons and a thing for breaking kneecaps?’
Ms. Hopkins isn’t the first person to NOT ‘get’ how the whole trademark thing works. We can pay and apply to own the trademark on pretty much any word. If you want to own the word ‘snollygoster’ because it’s a super fun word that should be used more often and this word makes you (okay, me) laugh every…single…freaking…time?
Knock yourself out. You just kind of can’t do anything with it other than maybe brag you own the word snollygoster.
If memory serves me from when I applied for a trademark, you fill out a bunch of forms, wait ninety days and if no entity, person, organization raises a fuss and files to contest? TM granted!
In fact, one might imagine the aforementioned attorney name-dropped in the threatening letter could be rather miffed with how this Cocky TM has played out (though this is total supposition on my part).
One can hire an attorney to TM a word. Since attorneys like money, they go, ‘Um, okay. Cocky? Sure you don’t want to own snollygoster?’
Then they file the paperwork and make their money. Done.
Could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure this firm never anticipated anyone weaponizing the word ‘cocky.’ Or using their name and BRAND to do it. I have no way to know for sure. But logic dictates this firm didn’t consent to being the brute squad used to terrify honest hard-working writers into dismantling their livelihoods out of fear.
*makes weird ‘pondering’ face*
Never seen a law firm rufied.
Well, Cockygate is proving there is a first for everything.
Then since the Federal Trademark Office and Amazon have an act-first-then-sort-this-crap-out-later policy, they’ve also been rufied/weaponized. I can’t imagine the FTO or Amazon being very thrilled with being wielded to kill off competition for one author’s personal gain.
Oh to be a fly on the wall….
But I OWN ‘COCKY’, and here is my TRADEMARK!
Hmm, yeah owning the trademark for a word doesn’t mean as much as this author apparently hoped (mainly because there are no permanent legal teams in place defending every word in the dictionary against BS trademarking for profit).
See, if writers (or anyone else for that matter) could rampantly trademark common words then sue anyone who used the words they ‘owned’ and take their money by force? Publishing would pretty much implode.
Besides, if this sort of plan worked? Go big or go home! If making money by ‘owning’ words were a legit business plan, I’d totally TM all conjunctions…and y’all just lost ALL FUNCTION 😛 .
But I wouldn’t do that, namely because that would be a jerk move and also, one only has to war-game this out about three steps to see it wouldn’t ever work. To be certain though, I consulted MY attorney.
Hey, Mr. Eight, can I go TM all the conjunctions? Then sue anyone using compound sentences?
Mr. Magic Eight Ball Esq. gives pretty amazing legal advice.
But It’s NO BIG DEAL
This author, instead of backing off and apologizing, keeps insisting this is no big deal. Yes, but it IS. It is a VERY, VERY BIG DEAL for all authors (which is why I’m talking about this).
As an author who’s self-published two out of five books, myself, I was astonished that someone who’s self-published seventeen titles would claim these changes are no big deal.
Just get a new cover *hair flip*.
Seriously? Covers can run hundreds of dollars. The authors would need a cover for paperback AND e-book. Then you need whole new ISBNs (not cheap). You’d have to trash any inventory, swag, ads, promotions and pull and then pay to reproduce any audio books.
If this is a SERIES with ‘cocky’ the costs of Ms. Hopkin’s ‘minor’ changes just made ME want to cry…and I don’t even write romance.
And demanding these changes literally right before CONFERENCE SEASON?
*breathes in paper bag*
The ripple effect of Ms. Hopkins’ demands are way bigger than what little I just laid out. For the aerial view of the Cockygate devastation, go read Jenny Trout’s post for the full run-down of what Faleena keeps asserting is ‘no big deal.’
As a wise man once said,“You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
She keeps insisting no authors are being harmed, because retitling only takes ONE day.
*bangs head on table*
You know what else takes one day? Tanking a brand. Where’s a Hot Tub Time Machine when you need one?
Part of why I’ve worked my tail off to create author communities is so we can support each other, give advice, and even act as designated drivers…only for dumb@$$ ideas. Instead of taking away car keys, we lovingly mock our friend’s stupid plan until this friend wizens up.
Which is why I don’t own a full-sized trebuchet.
My writer friends all know me. Which means they also know I’m highly unlikely to use that power for good.
Being part of a group of fellow authors who care has benefits. They’ll do anything short of break the law (or break the law without getting caught) to save us from evil bright idea fairies. Educated, loving groups could’ve explained how it’s simple to protect a brand…without nuking it from orbit.
Beyond the Social Media Mess
Anyone who uses the FTO and Amazon to kneecap competition, has more than social media backlash to contend with. Authors guilty of nothing more than using an extremely common word in their romance titles are now embroiled in a legal nightmare, some possibly facing financial ruin.
Yep, that’s gonna come back to bite.
This ‘Cocky’ plan also has awoken RWA to take legal action and protect innocents caught in the cocky cross-fire. I could almost hear the collective voices of romance authors crying, Release the Kraken!
*backs away slowly*
Making a Cocky Contribution
I find it vastly amusing that Switzerland has spent roughly thirty years and $6.5 billon for what? To build the Large Hadron Collider. The goal of the LHC? Possibly create a small black hole.
Just a teensy singularity.
CERN has long been searching for ‘The God Particle.’ They also longed to be the first to create a spot of infinite density here…on Earth. In a bizarre twist, more than a few misguided authors have already done this. One can look HERE, HERE, and DEFINITELY HERE.
Multiple black holes.
***No Hadron Collider required.
Granted, these authors didn’t create ‘The God Particle,’ only the slightly-less-sexy-and-yet-far-more-perplexing ‘I Think I’m God Particle.’ The bugger of all this, was how preventable all these incidents were.
Count the Cost
It really pains me this is even a discussion, but is what it is. I know, some discussions we never thought we’d need, like why teenagers shouldn’t eat Tide Pods.
Trust me, I was hesitant to even weigh in on this issue but crucial conversations are called crucial for a reason. Not all writers have been around since AoL was cool, and may be unaware that, in the social media age, branding has evolved. Sometimes it can feel like juggling nitroglycerine.
Or maybe just this post feels like that.
Suffice to say, there are a lot of ‘things’ we writers CAN do, just it’s wise to stop and ask if we should. Better still, ask other friends who are unafraid to lovingly call us an idiot. Writers, overall, are some of the most helpful, selfless, and supportive friends we can make.
Which might explain why we can go a tad psycho when one of our own crosses what should be an obvious LINE. You know, like setting a legal precedent that could collapse our entire industry faster than Kanye West’s fashion line.
My heart goes out to authors impacted by this…this….I don’t even know what to call it. If there’s any way I can help, I’d be happy to do what I can.
For those romance authors who’ve been cocky-blocked? We are on your side and rooting for you. You shall prevail!
What Are Your Thoughts?
Other than most common thoughts like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ ‘Is this for real?’ ‘Can people DO this?’ Though, you know? Feel free.
I do love hearing from you because it’s how I learn and grow as well.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go do something productive, like work on my comedic screenplay about a struggling male exotic dancer who ‘loses his shirt’ and determines to win back his fortunes by becoming a professional boxer.
And, of course, it’s called…COCKY.
I got sucked into cockygate because I am a romance writer and follow some of romanceladia.
My first thought was WTF. Who uses a word for branding and not their author name?
My second thought was this can’t be legal. If we can TM words, I couldn’t use the word “love, duke, or cowboy” ever again. Then it made me wonder how anyone, anywhere could ever communicate in written form again. Would it become like domain squatting? Or we’d all have to pay licensing fees to a slew of different people just to write a book?
I have deep sympathy for the authors whose hard work is being jeopardized because of this.
I will say, though, that this is a huge lesson in brand. How hard they are to build, and how easy they are to destroy.
“By Law the land must be built
And not by Wrong-Law ruined”
(Frostatings Law, – the very oldest written law in Norway)
Any brand has to be an innovation to be exclusive. “Cocky” is not, as said, an innovation, but a common word known since the 16th century. It all ends up as ‘reductio ad absurdam’. Samuel Pepys and John Milton (both writing in the mid 1600’s) will have to be sued!
*strides forward to ask Cockily*
“What’s SHM mean?”
A good article as always. I like how you glossed over the definition of trademark, which a lot of people have been beaning others over the head with, and just talked about the reason it is what it is.
It MEANS…Shaking Head Mine. Because this BS even has me going FTW?
Shaking Huge Margarita?
I didnt jump.on the trolling bandwagon..i just didnt believe it. It was car crash social media and just hope it get revoked..stupid stupid woman. Ps love your blog
I have no interest in trolling and don’t support it. But at the same time, we all can be impacted by this sort of a ploy. The person might not get away with it in the long-run. But in the meantime, MONTHS and YEARS of a crap sandwich fighting what we shouldn’t even need to fight. It’s sad all around.
I’d never heard of this author before now. I’m sorry I have now heard of her, but I have to admit, this review on Amazon was very good about her book on Caden:
1.0 out of 5 stars I set down with a cocktail and some poppycock snack to try and enjoy the book but what I find is some cockamamie …
May 5, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Not to sound cocky here, but this book is trash. I set down with a cocktail and some poppycock snack to try and enjoy the book but what I find is some cockamamie tale of a guy that thinks he is cock of the walk as he peacocks around when reality he is just some half cocked predictable character. I love a book that will coldcock you with a surprise twist. Unfortunately, this book falls flatter than a cockroach under foot. The pages of the book do however make good bedding for my cockatiel so it’s not a total loss.
The backlash is coming…
That is a brilliant review.
Love love love ?
As I’ve got no romance books published and thus have no skin in the game (until you get that conjunction injunction), I’m mostly *facepalming*, with a large helping of, “Oh, honey!”
I don’t think it’s malicious, just very misguided and that she should have listened to advice from people in the industry.
I hope this blows over and that she ceases with her cease-and-desist orders. Soon.
RWA’s success at getting Amazon to pause on de-listing the effected writers gives me hope.
DAMN, I so wish I thought of Conjunction Injunction. #Genius *bows to your cleverness*
@Morgan H. grab the semicolon.
@McGrathSh calls dibs on the dash.
When I first found out about it, I thought it was a joke because I couldn’t imagine an author doing this. When I realized it was real, I was scared for the future of indie publishing. I’ve since calmed down. I don’t think Faleena Hopkins realized the stuff she was going through is common in this business. That’s why author groups are so important. It’s very important to know we’re not alone.
Can I have the word “the” trademarked? Maybe “in” and “of”? You can have “and”, I’ll take “but”.
LOL. Honestly, whoever-she-is has just (hopefully) bombed her own career. Does she really want to go to court and LOSE because Amazon and Goodreads, etc don’t support her? I didn’t think you could brand/trademark titles. My first book is the same title as a different one, and I’ve seen several called “All That Glitters.” What about all the people who have used cocky (or a form thereof) before she trademarked her little word? Does that mean Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, Jayne Anne Krentz, etc., have to redo all their books? I’d like to see that happen!
As one of the characters in my historical says, “She’s got feathers for brains, that one does.” Interesting topic. Thanks.
When I first heard of this, I laughed. I couldn’t believe it. It’s unfortunate because all of her hard work has just been erased by this one egregious act or acts because there are multiple authors. She’s just shown the world her true colors and they’re not very bright.
Every time I hear about this I shake my head. She spit in the eye of a very helpful community and doesn’t understand why people reacted the way they did.
I know there are a couple lawyers now involved with the trademark dispute and I heard a rumor Penguin had turned the matter over to their legal team as well.
(makes notes to never ever ever buy or even borrow a Faleena whats-her-name book)
I don’t write romance. Actually, I sort of gave up on reading it last year, too, so I got no dog in this particular fight.
But I am disgusted.
Problem is, they don’t jump on this, some other writer in OUR genre could get a similar bright idea. Best to stop this EARLY.
This was brilliant! I loved it; laughed out loud and thought, “Where have you been all my writing career?” Your use of words and puns alone makes me want to go back and get a second MA – or something – so I can be as clever and quick-witted as you are. Well, they don’t give MAs in that, so I’m just lost. I decided to subscribe to your blog instead. People who know me (other writers who have my back, don’t you know?) can tell you my inbox is sacred real estate – like the Vatican – so you getting in was like a scene out of National Treasure. You earned it. Can’t wait to hear more of your words and thoughts – and conjunctions (since you can use them freely).
I actually used “snollygoster” in the third book of my historical mystery series, LOL. Hoping no one trademarks it now…gee, thanks a lot, Kristen. 😉
Better hurry up, you probably get a good price from Ms. Cocky’s attorney!
I was trying to explain this whole mess to my 15-year-old son yesterday. I got about one sentence in when he interrupted me.
“Mum. You can’t trademark a single word.”
The whole thing would be hilarious if it wasn’t affecting people who have done nothing wrong.
You can trademark a single word : Kleenex, Apple, Microsoft, Delta, Bantam, Avon, Heinz. A trade mark shows the source of the product. It identifies the producer, manufacturer, carrier publisher, or originator.
In fairness those aren’t words, they’re proper noun and names of a product, property, companies, etc. Words in common usage we can TM, but not that it will get far.
Kristen, you are forever my favourite “fluffy middle-aged superhero” and the world needs more like you.
Author Avengers Assemble!!!!!
More puns in the comments please. Or is that too cocky of me?
Cockytail recipes! 100% Everclear, 20 ounces in a bottle, inserted rag then light on fire! We used to call that a Molotov Cocktail but maybe…Cocky Cocktails for when you just want to see the world BURN.
Writer Beware blood covered this today in some detail and it turns out basically your son is right. Even trademarked words if used in the ordinary normal English language use of said word, gives the suing person not a leg to stand on cocked up or otherwise.
Another author had a very interesting blog post on how, in all likelihood, this situation came about because Faleena Hopkins has no tribe. Even yours truly – being a loner and possibly even a bit shifty – has a tribe. And that tribe keeps me from going off the rails with stupid shoot-myself-in-the-foot ideas. They keep up my spirits when I JUST CAN’T WRITE. And the information pouring in from all the sources…just wow.
Indie authorship is the complete opposite of the picture I had of writers when I was growing up, y’know, back in the Jurassic age. Back then there was fierce rivalry and secrecy and suspicion and even submarining your rival when they least expected it. Or even when they most expected it. It was brutal. It was terrifying. But it’s not my reality as an independent author. Indies are actually very helpful and supportive of each other. Because it’s too hard to do it alone. And you risk nuking yourself from orbit.
Despite all of her supreme a$$hattery, I do kinda feel bad for her that her arrogance or whatever prevented her from finding a tribe that could have educated her about this industry before something like this happened. And now … I doubt any tribe will accept her.
I dunno. I am a pretty forgiving person. If she came out, apologized, vowed to make as much right as possible, we writers don’t have long memories (namely because of sleep deprivation from the plot bunnies). Just the offender has to take the step to admit wrongdoing and not just keep digging in.
If she took the mea culpa, I wouldn’t turn her away. We all do dumb stuff that seems smart at the time. Then add in stress and we make it worse because we aren’t THINKING. If we weren’t thinking in the beginning, once the CA-CA hits the fan? We are REALLY not thinking. Been there. None of us is above a bright idea fairy gone very badly, or at least I know I am not. So she’d at least be able to email me.
And yes maybe she didn’t have a tribe but we also have to have a tribe of the right people. I’ve seen writers surround themselves with shady know-it-alls and nothing good comes of that. But, this too shall pass and anyone who is honestly sorry is never beneath me reaching out a hand. Not that I wouldn’t give her a rash of hell for ages to come… 😛 . Yet in the digital world crap gets WAY too out of hand. Sure, people need a pop on the snoot for being an @$$hat, not their hands lopped off.
But that’s me…the Griffendork softie 🙂 .
I think the issue would be: can she put aside her ego and attitude to even get to the apology-and-humility stage? From what I’ve seen so far, probably not. But happily, I’ve been wrong before, so here’s hoping.
But, I <3 your Griffendork Softiness Ms. Kristen! It's just one of the things that makes you the bestest!
PS: After this, I'm thinkin' I might just TM a ",". That way, I get paid every single time someone, pauses…*tee hee*
Sharon, I read that blog post too. It was a thoughtful consideration of root causes – not defending the cockygate author, but trying to determine how she got to this. The no tribe aspect makes SO much sense.
I just self-published for the first time with a contemporary romance project that for almost two years i worked on with a group of author friends. As we were publishing the first book in our connected series, we came across a series that was just like ours. Like, so much the same. The covers were even similar, and worse, this series had USA Today Bestselling Authors – well known names and we were nobodies! But guess what? We went back to the goals for our project – we were not trying to hit a list, but for 2 of us wanted to explore self pub with support (our group series) and experiment with Amazon keywords, ads, build newsletters etc. It was by total coincidence that our series and this series were started around the same time. Why get mad? I actually know some of these “competition” authors via twitter. It’s actually a branding OPPORTUNITY. Like this series? Come try ours! We haven’t broached that yet, but we could. We can learn from each other.
She’s so massively out of line both from a legal and a human pov.
I reckon the funniest thing is the Guardian reported on it and got her name WRONG! bwahaha….
they called her fameela… forever preserved in the page url
that’s karma; right there.
An excellent post as always. Unfortunately, this is the result of poor education, both this author and the lawyer involved, even if the lawyer only “rubber stamped” the TM. Did they even look at what they were doing? Or they were only rubbing their hands together?
As a former lawyer, this type of empowering is so wrong. It makes me ashamed and sullies the reputation of the good lawyers who do the right thing. A good lawyer would have THOUGHT and LOOKED.
My thoughts are with all writers affected. I’m numb for them.
When I first saw this happening, I couldn’t believe it. To do something like that…try to take a whole word as your own and say no one else can use it in their title? Arrogant beyond belief! How dare she?
And then to write to other authors and threaten them? I can’t imagine. That takes brass coconuts. Can you imagine getting an email like that and being frightened you will be sued? I don’t feel one bit sorry for her.
It may sound harsh, but what she did was mean and narcissistic as hell. I hope she doesn’t sell another book…ever. I can’t imagine being so nasty to other authors.
*blushing* Thanks for the link! 🙂 *fangirl Kermit-flail squeeing, accidentally knocks self out, hits floor…*
My bestie and PA, Trish, put together a blog post listing a bunch of the books impacted for people to go support:
Also, there’s a part 2 to this: some asshat is trying to trademark “rebellion.” Kevin Knuepper’s got it on his Twitter feed. (He’s the attorney helping fight this.)
Pretty sure Disney will have a problem with that (Star Wars franchise).
Think I need to write “The Cocky Rebellion.” LOL
Kristen, thanks for the article. I’ve been impressed by the amount of publicity this woman has received since Cockygate has come out. It wasn’t until today that I did some research on her trademark.
My opinion on this is I think there might be a hidden agenda on the part of Ms. Hopkins to do away with someone who has the same name on their book as she does. And it has nothing to do with trademark.
Why my suspicions?
First, there is a trademark for the word “Cocky” in Stylized Form. Stylized form is basically a word having a particular stylized appearance. Nowhere in the trademark is the stylized form described. So how can anyone be sure what they use is against this trademark?
Second, the attorney she mentions (Morris Yorn entertainment law firm) isn’t the attorney of record on the trademark. It’s Jonathan K. Pollack who is with Beldock, Levine, & Hoffman. BTW, Morris Yorn is not an individual – Kevin Morris and Kevin Yorn are just two of about 8 attorneys in the firm of Morris, Yorn, Barnes, Levine, Krintzman, etc. etc. etc. (http://morrisyorn.com/).
Maybe I’m missing something here. My gut feeling is telling me there is something far more sinister going on than someone claiming to have a trademark. But then again, I do write mystery and suspense so my mind automatically goes in that direction.
If you’re interested, here is the trademark information: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4807:q4vxp6.2.4
Faleena Hopkins is a failed screenwriter, failed actress and failed movie producer, originally out of Los Angeles, who relocated to NYC and took up romance writing (her biggest acting credit is a documentary called “Boobs”). This is, unfortunately, the way Hollywood plays the game. She couldn’t sell her screenplays, so she instead wrote 17 romance novels (which is actually pretty cool) to build a fan base, and now, she is in the process of self-producing, filming, and also starring in an independent movie based off one of those romance novels … due to be released in 2018.
There are two kinds of movies that cost dirt-cheap to film thanks to advances in film equipment … horror … and romance…. and both genres have avid fan bases.
Her plan is actually quite brilliant. She figured she’d be the next “50 Shades of Grey” romance novel / movie franchise and wanted to protect her “brand.” Problem is … she suffers from the same snotty attitude that ALL of Hollywood has for ANY American who isn’t part of that coastal elite … she figured she could just run roughshod over her competing “just” indie authors and we’d take it.
As Kristen said … she under-estimated our “tribe.”
Just…this. Sums it up. But E.L.James was brilliant enough to have her tribe launch her career. She simply wrote her thing and let the fans do the rest. She didn’t try and manufacture celebrity. Ms. Hopkins, like many, wanted the shortcut. Instead of creating fame, she ended up with infamy. Not a very good business move.
The tragedy is, had she taken the OPPOSITE track, it would have possibly been brilliant. Had it been ME, I would have reached out to every author with ‘Cocky’ in the title to do something TOGETHER. It would have been fun, creative, and generated goodwill among peers and fans. She could have increased her brand and fan base exponentially.
It’s kinda sad … I also write screenplays (more to force myself to stick to a plot rather than any hopes of ever getting one made) … Hollywood is at the point where tradi-pub was before the indie revolution, so what she did to be able to write her “own” stories/movies is brilliant. She positioned herself to be a major disruptor. Unfortunately, she brought that old-school Hollywood contempt and arrogance with her. Contempt of the “little guy” will get you that. It’s a cautionary tale.
The screenwriting angle reminds me of a scandal last year in YA where a book by a total unknown made #1 NYT Children’s Besteseller. By unknown I don’t mean debut, but no one in the book community – bloggers, agents, editors, no one knew who this author was. To get a print book to sell #1 NYT takes a lot of publicity and effort. She and her crew gamed the system by ordering bulk orders of her own book from NYT-reporting bookstores, a trick that apparently the big pubs do to inflate sales of celebrity memoirs and the like. She got caught. Her whole deal was to have a bestselling book to then produce a movie in which she would star. The NYT pulled her book from #1.
The TM does show the specific styling of the word on the cover. It’s a lowercase, hand-written sort of font. (I’m no typographer, so that’s the best way I can describe it!)
As an aspiring unpublished author in a number of genres I think its appalling – but at the same time very heartening to see others willing to stand up for those on the rung below them (and not pull the ladder up). Also someone in app/game publishing is trying to trademark (wordmark) ‘rebellion’ which may affect authors in a similar way that cockygate has.
I could see the nuclear bomb from Texas, it was EPIC!
I too wondered why the heck someone would slit their own throat in public that way and think everyone would just say “hey, that’s ok, you win.” It wasn’t until I saw the YouTube explanation she put up (almost 2 hours of “I’m right, I’m sad, you’re all picking on me, I have lawyers, I’m not afraid of you, quit bullying me (yeah, she said that…bully calling bully a bully). I listened to about half of it and had to bail or watch my brains leak out my nose. That’s not good for a computer.
I’ve stayed up on it because I can research and if I could help folks out, that’s great. From the difference in copyright vs trademark (oh, yeah, different) to looking up the rules for trademarking and doing my best geek-to-human translation (I used to be a technical writer) to help folks understand why this IS a big deal.
Amazon took down books on the WORD of another author and a cocked-up piece of paper, not by researching, talking to their legal department, or even trying to figure out what would be best. They’re not innocent in this either. And, they also started removing any review post that had the word “cocky” in it. Thank goodness RWA was able to convince them that this wasn’t necessary and they should wait until all the legalities were settled. They put back the books, I don’t know about the reviews.
Feleena owes each author she harmed retribution, the loss of income for the days she had them offline with this fiasco. An apology is great but it doesn’t keep the lights on.
I just wish she had checked with someone before she lobbed the bovine-guano-hand-grenade into the oscillation device and ruined everything with the explosion.
(oh, and if you can trademark the conjunctions, I will go granular (thank you CERN for the example) and I will trade mark a,s,e,i,m, and n. Try spelling and without it. 😀 )
That poor deluded fool. One wonders what kind of a fist Faleena will make of her next career, since ‘author’ is likely not going to be working out for her.
In a pre-emptive bid to become the complete opposite of Faleena (yes! I pulled a reverse-Faleena before I knew there was a Faleena!), I published my first novel under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. My fellow creators are free to reuse and rework it, as long as they attribute and share – because sharing makes the culture go round.
I actually just saw on Twitter that an intellectual property firm called Leason Ellis is going to take the case on a pro bono basis to protect any author who was hurt by this.
Good people stick together.
I had never heard of this author before Cockygate and chances are I never would have. Therefore, my first reaction was, this is a publicity stunt. Because now her name is everywhere, or at least everywhere writers are. And on the heels of that thought came the old phrase, “All publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name correctly.” I was also reminded of the stunt another author pulled a couple of years ago right before the Super Bowl which featured Ron Gronkowski and had “Gronk” as part of the title. No, I’m not going to go look it up. It sold a lot of copies at the time or did well enough in Amazon’s algorithims to make it a top seller. While the Cocky situation is…odd? weird? stupid? it is also getting everyone to talk about THIS author. Though I do not admire the method, it’s sickly brilliant. No clue what her ultimate goal was, but if it was 15 minutes of fame, I think she succeeded.
Yeah some publicity stunts go well. I thought the same. But in romance? Yeah…. No she nuked herself. Sure everyone now knows her name, but it’s a negative brand. Kind of like how everyone knew the name Food Lion after an expose showed them forcing workers to rinse old/border of bad and slightly rotted meat in bleach and still selling it. They imploded. Not all publicity is good publicity. What is it ASSOCIATED with?
And now it seems this stunt is ‘inspiring’ other trademark applications, as we feared it would. Apparently someone is now trying to TM “rebellion” in a bunch of fields, including every genre known to book publishing. Sigh.
Once again, thank you Kristen for keeping it real. There is so much to learn in this writing and publishing industry, and every time I read one of your posts, I realize I still have so much yet to learn. I appreciate you giving us ‘heads-up’ about issues that I haven’t even thought of yet, like bad book reviews.
It’s so helpful to have someone who has already walked the path that I’m now on, someone who knows what to do and what NOT to do, and is willing to share that with all of us who don’t know better yet.
As a member of the baby-boomer generation, all this social media, internet presence, author-branding, and platform building is like learning Greek, but I’m slowly getting it – organically- one step at a time. I just need to get my old brain to think and react in this new world of instant connection, and the ‘look-at-me!’ mentality that I apparently need to be okay with. As are most writers of my age, I’m a bit of an introvert. Throwing myself into the middle of a crowded room and screaming; “Hey everybody- look at me!” is such a foreign a concept and completely out of my comfort zone, and I’ve had to digest the process in little bites at a time. But my biggest obstacle right now is me. I can’t seem to get out of my own way and follow the steps I need to take.
It’s fear – bottom line.
Thanks for being there for us, all your bits of wisdom, and keeping us laughing at ourselves. We need to be a bit crazy in an insane world.
Good article and I love your wit. A word about guys with guns who turn out to be cops or security guards. Cops are not always the good guys. Headlines crop up too frequently with stories about cops who rape and kill.
Especially in Brazil. But that wasn’t exactly what happened with the swimmers. The tanked any merch wanting to used them on their brand by making themselves pariahs.
I’m part of the romance community, but for my own mental well being, I have only skimmed this drama – only so much mental energy to expend, here. Knowing the romance community, I am not at all surprised to see the level of determination to protect our own. I just saw on twitter someone tracked down the creator of the font the cockygate author tried to trademark. The guy is on vacation but expressed in a tweet he did not give permission to copyright his font and doing so violates the use of the font.
I can list off about 10 romance authors I know who are also past or current attorneys. Had the cockygate author spent any time in the community, so much of this could have been avoided.
Well there’s some thoughts that come to mind here. And the very first one is the 10x Rule book. The part about attention. This all seems a little more intentional than I think anyone suspects.
No, I really think she’s just the sort of person who believes she knows everything and is narcissistic. There are things that make for good publicity stunts, but crimes of moral turpitude (lying, stealing) NO. Wynona Ryder cratered her career for DECADES by shoplifting. She still has no real career. Not what she’d have had otherwise. Anything that might threaten the 2% in a real way? Just expect to be crushed.
An ‘accidentally’ released sex tape doesn’t threaten big money. Exposing a body part by ‘mistake’ etc. Going to rehab. Moving porn stars into your home and power drinking (Sheen). Those made big press and boosted the brands because not NEGATIVE as much as SENSATIONAL.
There IS a difference and even trying to be SENSATIONAl can blow up in one’s face, so always a risk.
But some acts make BIG press but destroy a brand. Mel Gibson and the anti- Semitic drunken ranting, Rob Lowe sleeping with underage girl, Ryder and shoplifting, etc.
I’m going to trademark all the vowels. Then let’s see you suckers write a book… 😉
You can’t demand an author change their title if it was published BEFORE the date a Trademark was registered. That is legitimate prior use. Otherwise con artists would have long since attacked words that had been successfully used in high-visibility situations for years, simply by registering the trademark then issuing take down notices. e.g. Think I’ll register ‘Kristen Lamb’ then demand you stop using it.
Wait, that won’t work Jonathan, Kristen has prior use. 🙂
I am overwhelmed by the urge to write “Cocky McCockington Cocker goes Cocky on Cocketta McPosse in a Most Cocky Manner” by Faleeni Hoppingmad
LOL. Do eeet!
I will confess to not being well versed in Trademark Law, but I wonder why everyone whose last name is McDonald, isn’t being sued to change it. Also, does the TM of the word ‘cocky’ only apply to her titles, or does this mean it cannot be used in the story as well? I’m a little confused how one can TM a single word. A brand, I understand. I’m struggling to understand how a single word in a title would be considered a ‘brand.’ All I know is I love the humor, and education, and point made in your article. At the same time, I feel I must go through my unreleased romance novel and take out any usage of cocky. My heart goes out to the author who has been targeted in this wild scheme.
Darn it, Kristen! Now I’ll be singing “Conjunction junction what’s your function” for the next two days!
Didn’t something close to this happen with another author not long ago? I heard something about someone suing Cassandra Clare because she uses Shadowhunters in her books and the other author said she had trademarked dark hunters. This whole thing is just too stupid. Like you said, if people could own words and sue when they are used, there wouldn’t be any words left, just a few wealthy people that beat the rest of us to the trademark commission or board or whatever it is.
And you are so right about covers. They are expensive, and it is way too much trouble to change a title or pen name. I had a problem with another author using my name to write erotic while I was writing for children. I was afraid my readers might get confused (and some did ask me why I was writing erotica and clean books at the same time). I changed the name on my books and had to get new ISBNs, covers, you name it.
Oh hai. Sorry it took me *looks at watch* four years to get back to the comments here, but I got lost wandering around the secret blogger passageways between the conservatory and kitchen.
I see you are still bringing it as fun as ever. This situation that is actually a real thing that is happening reminds me of that tunnel Andy Dufresne climbed through to escape Shawshank *SPOILERS* What a loser.
But if you would’ve got TM for all of conjunction junction, dear Kristen, I was going to make my play for the articles. Alas, good thing we’ve averted that monosyllabic showdown.
Okay, gotta run. I hear they’re serving brandy in the study. Now where is that secret door…
I started seeing the reports of this idiot author, who corrupts that word, and then saw the earlier mentioned video, which triggered the kind of threats to the screen that make me remember my mom, soap and something about my mouth…
And then, I read this brilliant blog while watching Jake Tapper interview Kellyann Conway…and something clicked. I just need DNA samples to confirm my theory!
There have always been crud-heads who live on the evil side of their personalities, but recent society changes seem to have opened the floodgates to those who live by the intent to do harm. I don’t believe this woman was stupid or didn’t mean to harm others. I believe her actions were well-thought out and her intent was to create a problem, and then profit from it — no matter what or who it destroyed.
Now…what can we all intentionally do to shut this *author* down? Our intent obviously being to stop the madness, not destroy her life and writing career, since she’s done that herself.
Thanks for choosing to address this mess, Kristen. The mind spins at which tact to take, and I appreciate the direction you chose.
Love your ideas, as always, Kristen.
Thanks for being such a great ambassador.
Lizzi from NZ
Must not be a very smart ‘writer’ if she thinks she can have total ownership of one word and then be enough of a cocky jackass to try and sue people that use the word. Instead of fighting city hall she’s fighting the world?
How about kids in school could they use the word when writing their little stores?
How about cocks in the farmyard would she try to have them renamed male chickens or living feather dusters?
At what point do people say enough?
As my late grandfather would say:
If it smells like shit.
Looks like shit
By golly it is shit!
Excuse my language.