SUMMER SOLSTICE: FREE FANTASY E-BOOKS

18 06 2012

I’ve added Balislanka to the Summer Solstice Free Fantasy Book group’s offerings this month, featured at www.freefantasybook.com. At this writing, there are over 20 writers participating, many with multiple books! The offerings also cover a wide range of fantasy, from dark to humorous. . .

Balislanka will be free this month, from June 19 to June 22.





E-BOOK CHARITY AND CONSUMER PROTECTION

15 06 2012

Now’s as good a time as any to talk about the Scleroderma Research Foundation.

Some of you may remember how my Amazon page for Raingun once said: “Half of all e-book royalties of Raingun will go to the Scleroderma Research Foundation”. Or something to that effect.

As many of you know, scleroderma killed my brother-in-law, dearly loved by many, when he was still in his forties. I doubt an autopsy would have ruled it the “cause of death”. But it hampered the diagnosis and treatment of his other problems to such an extent, that if you had to pick a single “cause” of his untimely death, it would have been very reasonable to pick scleroderma.

Before promising half of Raingun’s e-book royalties to the SRF, I of course contacted the SRF (to make sure they had no problem with this). I spoke to some very nice, reasonable people who told me that they had no problem with it. They did caution me, however, not to imply that they had endorsed the story (or any other product). I saw how reasonable this position was, and was careful to avoid any such implication.

For awhile, the SRF and I were very happy about the whole thing. Then it came to my attention that my state’s Department of Consumer Protection doesn’t allow this. (And it’s more than just a departmental position — it’s a statute, CGS 21a-175.) The statute says that if anyone sells a product, and promises that a charity will benefit by them purchasing that product, then the seller is a “commercial co-venturer”. Depending on what state you’re in, the “commercial co-venturer” may have to register with the DCP, or have a written agreement with the charity in question. Of course, since the charity is signing an agreement, this implies that the charity approves of the product (even if they don’t exactly endorse it).

I wasn’t happy with this, but with hindsight, I can see why this law was passed. It prevents charlatans from falsely claiming that they’re giving a portion of their sales to charity, when they’re not. That’s their job.

A part of me wanted to respond: “Hey, this is just another case of the government sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. This law is completely unnecessary! The SRF is a nationwide organization, with a large staff. Their auditors are surely on the lookout for this kind of fraud all the time!” But while that’s arguably true, smaller charities may not have the same muscle to protect themselves and their good name.

So it comes down to this: should the government be checking up on people who sell stuff, while claiming that each purchase helps a charity? Just to make sure that the seller is telling the truth?

Yeah, I think they should be. So it’s not a case of runaway bureaucracy, at least in my opinion.

Anyway, I was out of compliance with state law.

So while I kept up the SRF donations, I began quietly removing the pledge from my book blurbs. I still mention the SRF on Raingun’s dedication page, because it’s a good organization people should know about, and I’d like to encourage SRF donations in general. I still like the SRF and will still donate to them, in undisclosed amounts out of my own savings. But because the act of publicly promising to give the SRF a portion of my e-book sales seems to run afoul of state law, I will stop doing it, at least until I learn that the situation has somehow changed.

I have informed the SRF of the situation. They could always decide to enter into a written agreement with me over this, but I’m not holding my breath. In addition to the possibility of an up-front fee, they would have to file significant paperwork. The trickle of donations I’ve raised for them so far just isn’t worth a lot of trouble.

The SRF has a mission: not to help my book, or make me feel good, but to find a cure. Evaluating my book, and writing up an appropriate agreement, is far from the most effective use of their limited time to further their mission. Whether or not they’d like to do it isn’t important, because they’re not a run-of-the-mill business, they are a charitable foundation. Their efforts are finite, so they have to focus their efforts where they’ll get the most results in fighting scleroderma.

And I don’t blame them. That’s their job.

Anyway, there are quite a few states with laws like this. To all other authors wishing to link their book sales to the raising of charitable donations: be warned. Before starting such a plan, don’t just contact the charity. Look up your state law and make sure you’re in compliance!