The last month has thrown quite a few nasty surprises my way. First off, I had my desktop computer die, and being lazy and careless, I failed to have some of my more recent files backed up. Thankfully, I was able to retrieve those files from the hard drive yesterday, but it ended up costing me about a hundred dollars in hardware and software. Now that the files are recovered, I will finally be able to resume work on the Forbidden Anthology, though there are other issues that make me reluctant to proceed.
This past week threw something even more troubling my way. I received a notice from Amazon, saying that they had received a communication from a Kenneth Romine of the "Veterans of Foreign Wars" organization, saying that the Martinus Publishing book “VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars” violated their "trademark" in some way. Amazon instantly removed the title, stating that they do not involve themselves in "third party disputes.”
That alone was a shock, but a few hours later I received yet another notice from Amazon, saying that Martinus Publishing had published a "pornographic work," (which title they did not identify) and then they immediately suspended my entire KDP account.
I was quick to fire off a response to Amazon on both matters. Shortly after writing them, I received a letter from Amazon saying they had "accidentally" accused me of publishing porn, and that my account was no longer suspended. However, the VFW issue was apparently no mistake, and they doubled down saying they wouldn't get involved in the "third party dispute" and wouldn’t let the title back online until I provide documentation proving I have the legal rights to publish the work as is (what documentation they have refused to specify), or until Mr. Romine rescinds his complaint.
The only thing I can consider being a problem is the cover lettering. If the Veterans of Foreign Wars owns the "VFW" letters as a trademark, I can understand the legal issues, though I had always assumed that the title of this book was protected as fair use. I offered to alter the cover to remove the VFW lettering on the book's cover, but Amazon refused to consider it. They now say the title will remain blocked until the “dispute is resolved by all parties concerned,” which could entail a costly legal battle with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which I have no money to fight. It’s kind of ridiculous that an anthology written to honor veterans, many of the stories having been written by actual veterans, would be shut down by an organization set up to also help veterans. It doesn’t make any sense.
I have been going over everything in my head for the last few days, trying to decide what the best course of action would be. VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars hasn’t sold anything in the last six months, and in its entire run it only just about broke even, so there’s no real profit to be made at this point in keeping the title in-print. Though, I find it upsetting that it has to end this way.
To be honest, I’ve felt like giving up this publishing business altogether. It’s been hard the last couple of years, and this latest nonsense is just leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t want to stop, but so often it feels like I’m trapped, tied down by the weight of being an editor. I don’t have the time to write my own material anymore, and I don’t seem to be helping the writers I care about. Most of the collections I release don’t sell enough to make back their publishing cost, so how does that help anyone?
I still feel obligated to release Forbidden, though I am not sure where I’ll be going from there. Part of me wants to gear up for another Alternate History anthology, as those are the only things that seem to make Martinus Publishing money, yet that isn’t where my heart is. It would be just another job, which takes the fun out of it all. I want to be a writer again. I don’t know if I can truly do that if I am busy editing other people’s stuff.
At the very least, I think I’ll need a break. I need a reset on my writing life. I don’t want to shut down Martinus Publishing, though it may be some time before I’m ready to release another multi-author anthology. I have stories of my own that need to be told, characters I’ve missed for too many years. It's time I revisited them, and maybe made some new ones.