The Holly Black merchandise Saga and what it revealed about bookish fan merchandise

I’m gonna kick this off by stating the obvious. Profiting off someone else’s intellectual property is illegal unless it falls under fair use. Now I’m not going to get into the complexities of what counts as fair use but it can mean a whole bunch of things. Fair use allows other people’s intellectual property to be used if its a parody, used to inform or educate and doesn’t take away profit from the original owner. Honestly there’s so much scope just read this article if you want it explaining for you.

Now that you’ve brushed up on intellectual property law it should be pretty clear that some bookish merchandise isn’t technically legal under certain circumstances unless the license to merchandise has been bought or permission has been given by the author.

So you’re probably wonder how the hell shops like mine even exist?

Well let me tell you and I think the Holly Black situation is a great example to explain this. Holly Black recently sold the license to merchandise based on her books to a small company called TopatoCo. She included in her statement that all unofficial merchandise will be stopped. Contrast this with Leigh Bardugo who did the exact same thing with her licensing but also stopped cease and desists being sent to small shop selling Grishaverse merchandise.

Confusing no? One author is like get off my property (which she is totally allowed to do btw that is not what I’m debating) and another is happy for people like me to continue as far she is allowed to say this.

And this is the problem. Many authors don’t get involved in licensing, they don’t sell merchandise and it’s usually only when their books get very big or made into a tv series that they may have a problem with small business owners. So small business have been allowed to exist and thrive and even if they aren’t selling the licensing to their merchandise they could easily tell us to stop but don’t.

So why not?

First of all I believe small business owners fill a void that authors and publishers have been unwilling to fill. I’m willing to bet 99% of bookish merchandise is not licensed and I’d bet good money that every book box is not asking permission from every author they include in their boxes either.

Authors have been known to comment on and share bookish merchandise and have never said a word. Is this because they lack the legal backing to stop every shop or because they just don’t care until they are looking to get into the merchandise game themselves?

I believe it’s the latter only because the book community is hugely respectful and shops like mine only exist because people love the authors works so much. So if authors as a whole did not like bookish merchandise I feel like they could say something and we would respect their wishes.

As with Holly Black as soon as she announced she wanted unlicensed merchandise stopped everyone started discounting and removing products to sale. No protest.

The arguments and drama only started when the alternative merchandise being offered was vastly more expensive and someone at TopatoCo started being rather rude to people commenting on their Instagram.

As a small shop owner myself I want to be fair and I want to be legal but there isn’t any simple or existing process to get the authors permission and licensing can be expensive. If I am working with a £1 per item profit margin and I have to pay even £50 for a license I’d have to sell 50 of one product to break even.

I’m not saying authors shouldn’t be allowed to profit from their work but I do wish there was an existing process for us small shop owners to be legitimatised without breaking bank.

Shop owners at the end of the day only exist because there’s a huge market that wasn’t being catered for and we do have a value. I’ve seen many people say they have been introduced to books through fan merchandise and that’s marketing they didn’t have to buy. They didn’t have to spend their money on merchandise or artists or supplies. We do all that and we do it because we love books and we love creating.

Maybe that’s my own naive outlook but I think we do have a value and I’d love to see in the future a way for authors and small shop owners to co-exist. Nobody wants to steal money from someone else and that’s not why I started selling.

YALC 2019 Day two: Looked like the Slytherins had a party last night

Saturday at YALC

I got to YALC at 8:30am laden down with my two illustrated editions of Harry Potter and Vicious by V.E Schwab. They weren’t making people queue in the rain this time so we all waited in the lobby. A girl came up to me I didn’t know who it turned out I knew from Instagram which was nice. Honestly everyone should be forced to wear a name badge with their usernames because I don’t know who anyone is.

The stampede up to the YALC floor wasn’t too bad but people were queuing for the Infinity Son drop and running and blocking the lifts. It was so bad the publisher was banned from doing it again and instead had to raffle the last 100 on the Sunday. There was also a huge queue to buy books from Hodder to get an ARC. I thought stupidly that people were only being given one ARC for buying two books. But no you could actually buy 4 books and get 2 or 6 and get given 3. Which I think is a bit greedy and doesn’t really give everyone an opportunity to get one.

I ended up seeing Tube Girl again and told her what happened on the tube. We had a good laugh and she said she probably looked like a stalker. I didn’t get her name which is annoying but I did see her around a lot that day.

Early in the morning I went to go get a virtual queue ticket cos I figured the Schwab queue would be crazy. The queue for the VQ tickets was super long and ironic. My friends and I ended up waiting an hour and going back when nobody was there. I got tickets for Jim Kay, V.E Schwab and Zen Cho.

It was funny as before I went to YALC I really wanted to buy Zen Cho’s book but I didn’t have the first one in hardback and I like my editions to match. I was telling Emily who found some on eBay so we both ended up buying Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen and getting The True Queen signed together.

Me and Emily are definitely a bad influence on each other as we also ended up spending £20 on prints with Steph later on from Diana Dworak’s stand. I got myself an amazing Manon Blackbeak print and Mia from Nevernight print which I couldn’t resist tweeting to Jay Kristoff in case he was missing from his wall (he wasn’t). After that I went off to get my book signed by V.E Schwab. This is when I witnessed some pretty poor behaviour by an event organiser/volunteer.

A girl in front of me was trying to get in the queue but she didn’t have a virtual queue ticket. The guy told her you can’t queue without one and she should’ve got it in the morning. But Schwab started signing at 11am so it’s not unreasonable this girl hasn’t arrived at YALC before then. She was kicked out of the queue and didn’t get her book signed as far as I’m aware. It was never clear that a virtual queue ticket was mandatory and I only went and got one that morning because I knew she was a hugely popular author.

It wouldn’t be YALC if you didn’t spot some famous people (besides the authors of course). Throughout the weekend I saw Jason Momoa walk by alot and Alfie Allen with his dog who definitely chuckled when Emily yelled and pointed “Look it’s Alfie Allen’s dog”. Later one in the day I went down to Comic Con with Sammy to get her book signed by Tom Felton and we met Vicky from whatvickyread while we were down there.  Sammy’s friend Abby and I weren’t meant to stay in the queue right up to the signing desk but nobody stopped us so we kind of met Tom Felton too and I tried to sneak a picture which is DEFINITELY not allowed. I have to say Tom Felton didn’t look his best (hungover for sure) and at one point awkwardly stopped to pick a new song before signing Sammy’s book.

Back at YALC Sammy and I were trying to get her friend Abby a copy of Into the Crooked Place but by this time people had clocked onto the fact bats were being hidden and it was mayhem. As soon as one of the staff left to hide them they were followed and the bat was grabbed as they put it down. Luckily Abby did manage to grab one later when more were hidden again

My final signing of the day was Jim Kay who was LOVELY and very tired as apparently he was moving house. His table was right on the end of the green room where the door was so a fair few famous actors kept walking behind him and he joked he was missing it and I laughed because Zachary Quinto was talking to someone about 2 metres away.

I popped down to Comic Con again after that to have a look around and visited the Cake in a Jar stand where I bought Peel the Force their banoffee flavoured one.

Sammy, Emily, Abby and I decided to go to WestFields for dinner and afterwards I decided I wasn’t going to attend YALC for the Sunday as I’d done and seen everything I wanted to. I was so exhausted that night I fell asleep and woke up at 2am with no idea what happened.

Compared to last year YALC has definitely improved. Publishers and book boxes have definitely upped their game on what they have to offer and I felt like everyone had a fair shot. I think having virtual queues for everything was a great idea IF everyone had known about it and I preferred the way the signing area was set up compared to last year when queues were cut in half by stands.

I am actually thinking of exhibiting myself so maybe you will see my stand full of my metalmarks next year!

YALC 2019 Day One: It’s not YALC without a Jason Momoa sighting.

First off my journey to YALC 2019 started with me deciding not to even go. I caught a train on the Thursday night and it was cut short and was only taking me to Doncaster. I was then told I could travel to Sheffield and then St Pancras but my sister sent me a screenshot that they were all cancelled.

Cue meltdown and me getting off the train halfway to Doncaster and waiting on a platform for half an hour for my boyfriend to pick me up. My boyfriend and hero offered to drive me down to London himself but by the time he got to me and down to London and back it would’ve been 2am. He had work at 8am.

So he took me to Pizza Hut and we planned a cute weekend and I accepted not going.

Until the next morning when I saw the trains were running normally. The biggest reasons I didn’t want to travel on the Friday was getting stuck at some random station all day and having my suitcase on me all day. I decided missing out because of a suitcase was childish. I dived out of bed, got dressed and woke my boyfriend up to tell him I was going.

We raced to the bus stop and missed the bus to the train station, but instead of accepting all the signs from the universe I shouldn’t be at YALC this weekend my boyfriend drove me to nearest train station. On the train down I noticed there was already some controversy brewing at YALC. Everyone was forced to queue in the rain and they were let in one by one. Meaning some people got to all the freebies while others were still stuck on the queue #drama.

I finally got to YALC at 12 and I met up with my bookstagram besties Emily and Sammy. Sammy had bought me The Dragon Republic and the Priory of the Orange Tree print that Illumicrate were selling because we didn’t think I was going to make it. I thought I would need to pay her back but she let me keep them as a birthday present! I then went round and entered all the raffles with Sammy for Darkdawn, Kingdom of Souls (not for me I was giving it to a friend as I was lucky enough to get one already) and the stack Illumicrate was giving away everyday.

I ended up buying two pins from Fable and Black at the Illumicrate stand – one for Vicious and another for Priory of the Orange Tree. Illumicrate were doing a lucky dip with every purchase as well as entry into two raffles one for the day and one for the weekend where they would email the winner. The girl before me in the lucky dip pulled out a white disk and got to choose from two sets of coasters and a set of cards from the ACOTAR special edition box. I commented to Sammy that I would 100% choose the cards and I remember the girl in front picked the coasters. Then it came to my turn with the lucky dip and what do you know I pulled out another white disk and got to choose the cards as my prize.

I also visited one stand (forgot the publisher) who were giving away an ARC with every purchase and I just missed out on Midnight Beauties (Steph who was with us picked up the last one) and I got Wild Savage Stars instead.

Later on in the day Sammy and I happened to walk by the Hot key Books stand just as one of the women was telling a girl that to get an ARC you had to find a “rubber something”. I told Sammy this then as we walked forward Sammy spotted rubber bats on the big tables in the events area. She grabbed one and then pointed one out to me behind a sign. We had found these bats before they had even announced on twitter that you had to find them to get an arc. So at 2 we went back and claimed our copies of Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo.

I didn’t have any books for authors that were signing that day but I did stand with Sammy in one queue and got talking to this girl behind us. Turned out she was staying in Loughton and I was staying in South Woodford (On the same tube line) and she said “oh well maybe I’ll see you on the train back” and at the time I laughed but I knew I was leaving early to see my friend so I definitely wouldn’t see her.

One thing you should know about YALC as it’s super common to see celebrities from the London Film and Comic Con because the Green Room they all chill in is on our floor. So instances of Jason Momoa walking by saying Good Morning are not uncommon which is pretty cool. I did most of my celeb sighting on Saturday however when we discovered the entrance to the Green Room. More on that in my next blog post.

I left YALC at 3pm to have dinner with my friend at Westfield in Shepherds Bush. When we got the tube about 4 hours later I remembered what the girl had said and I told my friend. Less than ten seconds later THAT same girl from YALC got onto the tube and sat down next to my friend. I don’t think I’m telling this story right but it was hilarious at the time and a pretty freaky coincidence.

Spoiler Mini Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

WARNING: Please be aware this book is the sequel to The Poppy War so if you haven’t read that one DON’T read this review or the synopsis below.

Synopsis:

Rin is on the run…

Haunted by the atrocity she committed to save her people, addicted to opium, and driven by the murderous commands of Phoenix, the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power.

Rin’s only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold her homeland, Nikan, to her enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. She throws herself into his war.

After all, making war is all she knows how to do…

Mini Review:

My biggest problem with the last book was Altan and Rin’s weird obsession with him.

So I won’t lie this book still had far too much of Altan in it with Rin grieving for him and basically becoming him. BUT we finally progress away from Altan after about 200 pages and that’s when the book gets much more interesting.

I loved the potential romance between Rin and Nezha that started to develop and Kitay and Venka got to take on more central roles which I preferred to the Cike.

As for the story I was hooked and I love how everything gets flipped on it’s head and there aren’t any easy solutions. This book does political intrigue and war spectacularly well and I can’t wait to see how Rin’s story will end.

I really don’t have the right words do this fantastic series justice on how morally gray, complex and fascinating it is. It’s a must read if you love adult fantasy with a touch of dark humour and amazing world building.

Rating: 4 stars

TREATING MY SHELF: My most recent bookmail

I love reading lists like this because I am incredibly nosy and I love living vicariously through others so I thought I would do my own. These past few months I’ve been incredibly lucky with books from publishers and glutted myself on shiny, new books that I literally don’t have any space for. The only way these books will be getting a home is if I finally cave and by myself one of those swanky reading carts I’ve been seeing all over bookstagram..

My haul will be split into book mail from publishers, books I traded for and book mail I spend far too much money on. Also just a heads up a lot of the arcs I got I’ve put the cover of the final version. This is just because there’s never pictures of ARCs unless you take them yourself (which I haven’t) up first…

Book mail my bank did not thank me for:

The Caraval Series by Stephanie Garber

I’ve never read this series. In fact I was once gifted an ARC of Legendary after a job interview at Hachette that I gave away to a friend. A year later here I am dropping about £80 on the entire series because I really wanted the Waterstones sprayed edges version of Finale and I saw a girl selling the first two books.

The Empire of Dust Series by Anna Smith Spark

This series has been on my radar for a while but when I saw the final book in the trilogy was coming out I knew I just had to pick these up. I’ve been wanting to read more Adult Fantasy as it’s definitely my preferred genre and since Anna Smith Spark is known as the “Queen of Grimdark” I just couldn’t say no. I debated getting them in paperback to make it cheaper but I went for hardback in the end which I am so glad about as they are STUNNING. In my defence I did use a £10 book voucher towards the purchase AND by lucky coincidence I am attending VoyagerCon in August and will be able to get them signed too.

Ashen Torment Series by Den Patrick

These were honestly just complete cover buys and I wanted to get the beautiful hardbacks before they weren’t available anymore.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition by J.K Rowling. Illustrated by Jim Kay

This purchase was for YALC as Jim Kay will be there and I really want to get as many signed as possible. It will be a bit of a pain getting them down to London but having looked at the authors attending YALC I don’t have many books I want to get signed anyway.

My book trades:

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Courting Darkness by Robin Lafevers

I traded this for the Storm Crow arc that was in the Fairyloot box (Can’t remember which month). I’ve still got the Grave Mercy series to read first but I kept seeing this book everywhere and I really wanted to get a copy so I’m very happy with this trade.

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The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty 

I traded my copy of Damsel for the Illumicrate ARC of The City of Brass. This is another adult fantasy series I’ve been wanted to check out and the author will be at VoyagerCon so fingers crossed I can read it before then. I know I will probably be hugely regretting not investing in the beautiful hardbacks as they released though.

Bookmail from lovely publishers:

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass and The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

Illusion of Thieves is about a ragtag crew with forbidden magic who must pull off an elaborate heist and stop a civil war, in a fantasy world where being a sorcerer is a death sentence. The Nightjar is a contemporary fantasy about another London, a hidden magical world with birds that guard human souls and a dangerous faction intent on the annihilation of magic users.

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The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

Look out for my full mini review in a few weeks but The Bone Garden is a dark fantasy fable that I am very excited to read.

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Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

There’s been a huge amount of hype for this book so I jumped at the chance to ask for a copy from Harper360ya and I was so happy when it turned up. Serpent and Dove is the first book in a duology and is tale of witchcraft and forbidden love. I actually got 40 pages into reading this before I put it aside for to buddy read the ARC below.

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The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve had the paperback of The Poppy War for a while now and I hadn’t actually read it when I saw The Dragon Republic was available to request on Twitter. So I took my shot and actually got told by the publisher I wasn’t getting one but then it turned up anyway?! So to avoid being that girl I quickly read The Poppy War and dived straight into this. Look out for my mini review soon but I LOVE THIS SERIES.

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Kingdom of Souls: The Last Witchdoctor by Rena Barron

I genuinely don’t know what I did to deserve an ARC of Kingdom of Souls. I requested ages ago on Twitter but never heard anything so I was 99% positive I wasn’t getting one. I cannot wait to read this and I’m fully intending to start reading this after The Bone Garden.

and that’s a wrap!

I’ve been extremely lucky and I’m not actually sure how I haven’t got bankrupt yet.

 

 

Spoiler Mini Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Synopsis:

“When Rin aced the Keju – the test to find the most talented students in the Empire – it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who had hoped to get rich by marrying her off; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free from a life of servitude. That she got into Sinegard – the most elite military school in Nikan – was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Fighting the prejudice of rival classmates, Rin discovers that she possesses a lethal, unearthly power – an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of psychoactive substances and a seemingly insane teacher, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive – and that mastering these powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most people calmly go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away…”

Mini Review:

I love the history and lore in The Poppy War. I was given just enough information to feel like I knew the world without it being too encyclopaedic.

I was fascinated with all the mythology and I wasn’t expecting the dark humour which definitely made me rate this book higher.

The only issue I have is I don’t think this book did enough to get to its ending for me.

I could understand Venka, Altan and even Kitay wanting burning revenge. All Rin had to do was hear about the atrocities other people witnessed and experienced first hand.

It very much felt like a Daenerys Targaryen situation where plot took precedence over character development. The author wanted Rin to become this destructive force of nature so she did. That and the pacing made me drop a star.

Rating: 4/5 stars

What nobody could tell me about book blogging: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

This post has probably been done loads before but I wanted to offer my perspective.

When I started my bookstagram I was a student and had plenty of free time. My account grew pretty quickly in a year as I had loads of time to take photos and I was posting twice a day. Now my time is EXTREMELY limited I am really feeling the pressure and I have become much more aware of negative behaviours that I adopted and how using social media everyday can have a big impact on your life.

Don’t worry this post isn’t going to just focus on the negative, I want to highlight the good parts about book blogging too and please remember this post is filled with my honest and frank opinions that you may or may not agree with.

Here’s what nobody told me about book blogging both good and bad:

Social media stats are important

Social media by design is very competitive because everything is quantified. You are literally told in numerous different ways how many people like you, how many peopled like your posts even how many people said Happy Birthday to you. In social media world this literally all ads up to how many care about your existence and how many don’t or at least it can feel that way.

Everyone says book blogging isn’t about the likes BUT everyone gets down about lack of engagement and losing followers just as much as they get excited and celebrate hitting X amount of followers. Your social media stats can make you feel great or like crap and this can be hard to deal with everyday.

Social media stats matter in book blogging, the bigger your account the more likely you will receive arcs from publishers, be chosen as a rep for book boxes and get all the fun perks of a huge following that you see other accounts get on a DAILY basis.

I’m not going to tell you what to do with this information but it’s just a harsh truth of book blogging that you will care about how big your accounts are and you will feel pressured and sad when you don’t grow as fast as your friends or you start losing engagement because you couldn’t post for a while.

The FOMO is real

You will see people get amazing proof copies and special edition books and book boxes everyday and eventually you will want to be part of that. My bank account has taken a SERIOUS hit since I started book blogging and my advice is this:

Try not to get sucked in.

I am saying this as both a past rep for book boxes and someone who sells book merch. Merchandise and beautiful covers are GREAT but your bank account won’t think so try and limit yourself. Don’t think you need loads of book merchandise to be a book blogger because you don’t and DON’T think it will increase your following/engagement.

I’ve drastically cut down on the book boxes I buy this year because I find myself with drawers of stuff I’ve bought and no where to put it and honestly most of it is random stuff I don’t need. I have lip balms and hot chocolates and face masks and iron-on patches and tea towels that I am never going to use.

Don’t try and keep up with the accounts who are getting it for free. Try to be really discerning and focus on merchandise for books YOU LOVE.

ARCS are great but..

Don’t convince yourself you’re going to read them all and keep requesting more. You won’t. I don’t now. This relates to the FOMO because when I see a beautiful exciting new release available I want it too. But then it arrives and it sits on my shelf and I start feeling pressured because I KNOW I don’t have time to read them all but it doesn’t stop me from requesting more?

It’s vicious cycle and can be addictive to be recognised and rewarded for all your hard work with an ARC but if you feel like you have too many it’s time to re-evaluate.

I feel very lucky I made the friends I did

For a long time I felt very lonely book blogging. It felt like nobody really wanted to have a real conversation, comments were made just so I would return the favour. People only followed me so I would follow them. This changed last year when I was invited to a group chat and ended up meeting a few of the girls on there at YALC later that year. At YALC me and two of the girls really hit off and have spoken and met up in London since.

I think you do eventually manage to make friends but in the beginning it feels like you are sliding into people’s DMs and being like “Hey wanna be friends?”.

Location is everything

I am a book blogger in the UK and I know I am extremely PRIVILEGED to have access to the publishers, arcs, and amazing bookshops like Waterstones and Goldsboro that we have here. But even in the UK there is an extremely limited amount of ARCs to go around compared to the USA and when the majority of bloggers are American you start to notice.

Also I may live in the UK but most of the fantastic blogger events and signings happen in London during the week. I am a 4 hour train ride away from London and can’t exactly hop down that after getting home from work at 18:30. They friends I made on bookstagram can see each other once a month while I can manage about every 3-4 months. It’s hard not to feel left out.

You will definitely feel limited and frustrated by your geographical location.

The algorithm is god

I would love to be one of those accounts who can post once a week and get thousands of people liking and commenting but I’m just not that popular. So I have to post once a day  or run the risk of disappearing altogether and that is a tremendous amount of pressure when like I said I’m out of the house for at least 12 hours everyday.

I often resort to re-posting old pictures. It sucks but it’s far better than the alternative and I can’t always make myself come home and spend half an hour taking one photo.

The only thing you can do is stop caring and focus more on your mental and physical health instead.

Meeting and speaking to authors you love is the best

I have tweeted at Jay Kristoff quite a few times now and when he’s responded or laughed at my bad jokes and I think this is unique to the publishing world. Writers take the time to speak to us, like our posts, share our artwork, appreciate our designs and laugh at our bad jokes.

Book blogging gives you the opportunity to speak to the people you admire most and crack banter with them. That makes it totally worth it.