Always Read ToS, & Use What You Already Have.

Back in January, I posted a warning on facebook about terms of service on apps.
This was in response to my investigations of an author marketing app that was recommended to me. I have recently witnessed many authors promoting and recommending the same app on their blogs, guiding many more people to it.

Before you use such an app, read the terms of service. These are linked from the bottom right of the facebook page for any app you install.

In relation to the one I was recommended, I paid special attention to the part that reads:
You grant to ********** the unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual fully-paid and royalty-free right and license to host, use, copy, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, resell, sublicense, display, perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, modify, make derivative works from, retitle, reformat, translate, archive, store, cache or otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content to which you have contributed, for any purpose whatsoever, in any and all formats; on or through any and all media, software, formula or medium now known or hereafter known; and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed and to advertise, market and promote same.

There is no justification for the rights grabs in there. Sure, if things are being displayed, then they need some things in the terms (a right to display and distribute via their app for example) but irrevocable? Sell? Modify? Retitle? Make derivative works from? Unnecessary and unacceptable. This app’s creators encourage you to upload sample chapters or short stories using their service. Anything you upload is covered by that onerous clause. You would be surrendering these rights to them for no recompense.

You may then find difficulties getting published as a result, but worse you could lose the right to defend your own IP at a later date should they enact that clause for their own financial benefit. For example, you have a soldier race called the flarglethwop in a short story or sample you uploaded. This company is then involved in a TV show featuring a soldier race called the flarglethwop. You have no claim to sue on the property, and have lost a lucrative opportunity because you surrendered those rights to the company that developed an obscure facebook app.

You may decide this is no big deal for you, in which case have at it. Use the app, which does function as advertised. Perhaps you have no intention of seeking publisher representation, perhaps you intend to post nothing more than titles and links, but regardless of how you use any app or service, you should ensure you are fully aware of all ramifications of your use.

This is true of all author supports and services, which are a growing industry online. They all have terms attached to your use, and some of them are less than honest, and less than ideal. Sadly, some are making grabs at your content with possible devastating consequence for those sucked into their scams.

This is why I post this blog entry. Many do not read the things that they should, they trust the world to play fair. It often doesn’t. Always read the fine print before you use anything. Always research your other, less onerous options. There are usually ways of achieving the same without putting your intellectual property at risk.

As for the features of the various author apps, similar page features can be achieved using Facebook’s own existing Notes feature.
For an example, see my list of books on my Facebook page HERE.
That page is accessed from a tab on my author page. To make one, you simply create a new note. Add the notes app to your tabs by selecting the + on the top right of an unused tab on your author page.

You should see a list of installed apps, including Notes (which is a default facebook app). Select it, and your most recent note becomes the thumbnail in the tab. Ensure your most recent note is one with the title you want displayed there. This requires some planning when you create your notes, but it is not difficult. Once the tab is there, click on it to get to the notes page. At the top, you will find “Write a Note”

You can make text bold, italic etc using icons at the top of your note editing page, and even insert multiple images using the uploader at the bottom. The tricky bit is placing the images in your post, which you do by placing a tag (listed next to a thumbnail at the bottom of your note while you are still editing it) at the place in the note you wish the image to display. You will see on my example that I have a thumb for each book cover. The indented text for book blurbs on my example is done using the quotation button from the icons at the top of the note editor.

By doing this, you are not limited to the entries allowed by an app. If you want tour dates, write them in. If you want those tour dates as a separate entry on its own page, make a separate note. Just ensure however many notes you put in, make sure the most recent is the one you want to be used for the thumbnail in your page tabs. The note system is fairly simple, and largely undervalued by users of facebook. There are no scary terms of service, your notes are a part of the existing face book tools at your disposal.

Use what you have to the fullest, before you surrender your rights.