So if you've been following anything in Romancelandia online in the past two weeks, you will have surely heard about "Cocky Gate", the trademark scandal that while hilarious on the surface reflects deeper questions about trademark laws in the United States and the future of romance as a genre.
The makings of #CockyGate happened long before I received the "Cease & Desist" letter that would spiral this scandal in the romance industry into the spotlight.
Here's the letter I received. I shared this screenshot on Twitter after hearing allegations from fellow authors that Faleena Hopkins claimed she was being "bullied" by authors after sending kind and respectful letters to them. Here's the exact text of the kind and respectful letter that I received:
This response blew up on Twitter and I received an outpouring of support from fellow authors and requests to buy my offending title: Cocky Cowboy.
However, due to the nature of the Cease & Desist email, I decided to err on the side of caution and unpublish my book Cocky Cowboy to avoid further action by Ms Hopkins.
This act was later portrayed as an attempt to be nefarious on my part but that was never my intention. In fact, despite being upset, I did agree to comply with Ms Hopkins request and was sure to request that she never contact me again:
In my haste, I made a slight error in this email and I actually had the idea in January 2017 and definitive plans to publish in March 2018 by the middle of the summer in 2017.
After my screenshot blew up on Twitter, authors and readers alike requested permission to buy my title, Cocky Cowboy. However, I am very cautious about possible Amazon terms of service violations so I knew I had to get the book up there under a different name.
This is how "The Cockiest Cowboy To Have Ever Cocked" came to be:
You can find this title here on Amazon if you're interested: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B9MCHW7
This is identical in every way to my previous release except for the title and cover. It's an interracial romance story set in the Midwestern United States that has a little bit of a mystery element to the story. It's not your stereotypical bad boy romance in any way and as a Black author, my story centers around an African American woman.
My response to this controversy was not born out of spite but rather my belief that every negative situation has a positive side to it. Yes, it hurt to have to spend extra money on the cover, it hurt to no longer sell copies of my paperback book and of course, it hurt to see my hard work compromised because of someone else's accusations and to have me portrayed as nothing more than a copycat -- which I am not!
It's exceedingly common in this industry to have similar titles to other authors. One of my close friends in the writing world and I both published a book entitled "Father By Choice" for example and we both laughed it off. My title had come long after hers but I had completely forgotten. I had even promoted her book back then! She was another interracial romance author who didn't take it personally because this is so NORMAL. (By the way, my version of the book was recently published on audiobook and you can find it on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.)
For most of us, a brand is more than a title and it's certainly more than a common word. At the end of the day, I bear no hard feelings towards anyone involved with this, but I do want to share my side of the story as I've done and I want to express my gratitude towards everyone in the indie community and in the romance reader community. Your support has done me a world of good in keeping me motivated and inspired to keep writing and to trust that I can connect with others.
It hurts to be attacked and it hurts to have your integrity questioned but at the end of the day, I chose to make lemonade out of those lemons (just like Beyoncé taught me!)
Here are some of the things said about me online from an author who I had never encountered before receiving the email first posted on this blog:
(Disclaimer: I haven't actually read these slam posts until today while making this post because I am not interested in their content. I did get someone to pick some funny parts for my book description for the relaunch, but until now I never read them in full.)
I also want to share some great articles on the entire situation that give a holistic perspective on what happened. My story is important, but what's more important is how the rest of the romance community has banded together to share the truth and to support authors that have been affected.
Here are some articles that summarize the situation:
Here's the author page to one of the author authors affected, Tara Crescent:
I would like to thank all the journalists who reached out to me with such grace and politeness about the situation. I greatly appreciate the way you've handled the situation and your kindness when reaching out to me. Thank you so much.
Here was my final Facebook post response to the subject which summarizes my final position on the situation:
Thank you for reading through this and I hope you have a wonderful day. You can find me on social media on these social networks if you're interested in reading more of my work or staying in touch:
🎥 YouTube: http://bit.ly/2CdKJUM
📸 Instagram: www.instagram.com/bwwmjamila
🐦 Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamilajasper
👍 Facebook: www.facebook.com/bwwmjamila