Edith Wharton once said, “What’s the use of making mysteries? It only makes people want to nose ‘em out.” Well, how right she is. I’ve encountered two mysteries within the past few days that leave me scratching my head. As the experiences may be of use to my fellow writers, I’ll share them.
The first mystery came in an email from a reader of my books. She wrote to say she’d managed to buy a copy of one of my children’s stories, “Under the Bridge and Beneath the Moon,” on Amazon. The story was published in 1988 in Children’s Digest, a publication that is out of print. I hold the copyright so I was curious to know how Amazon obtained the material and what it was doing with sales from downloads at $5.99 a pop. I wrote the company to say they had infringed on my copyright, and they agreed to remove the story from their list, offering the following explanation:
Amazon.com obtains the listing information and stock of the items from a number of sources. Items sold by Amazon.com directly typically come via our various wholesale media distributors with the understanding that these items are lawfully manufactured or obtained. In certain cases we receive items on a consignment basis from publishers and labels directly. In other cases detail pages for items not already listed on Amazon.com can be created by third party merchants.
I must agree with Wharton’s complaint about mysteries. Amazon’s explanation left me wanting to know more. What I did learn, however, is that a writer needs to be vigilant to prevent others from profiting from his or her labors.
The second mystery is a delightful one. It was an email from the wife of a fellow Portland author. She’d just returned from a visit to her 95 year-old mother-in-law who lives in an assisted living facility in Washington State. The wife wanted me to know she’d found the older woman reading a copy of my novel, Trompe l’Oeil. It had been on a bookshelf marked “Residents who want to share.” She was enjoying the story so much that when her daughter-in-law asked if she could borrow the novel, she was refused. Other residents were waiting to read the book her relative explained.
How Trompe l’Oeil landed on a bookshelf up north in an assisted living facility is a mystery. But I don’t care if it ever gets solved. My novel has found a home and appreciative readers. For a writer, it doesn’t get better than that.