You see the creature in that featured photo? Yeah. Don’t be her.
Over the last week I became aware of #Cockygate and I dipped my toe of interest in finding more out about what’s going on. To make a long story short, #Cockygate is a little bit of drama that’s come up in the romance genre part of the writing community, but every writer should really be concerned about it. Author Faleena Hopkins is what I can only assume is a sub-average author of romance. What I can only assume happened is, her books weren’t strong or unique enough and she had so much competition in the romance genre that she wanted a way to snipe her competition. She picked a word commonly found in romance, “Cocky” and decided to submit for a trademark after she made a series of books called the “Cocker Series.” After trademarking the word, she started going after other authors who had the word “Cocky” in their romance book titles. She demanded they either change the names of their books or be sued.
There’re a fair number of articles out there that go into more detail, but that’s the short of it. From the looks of it, she’s gone after a fair number of authors for using the word “Cocky” in the title of their book and there are a few things ridiculous about this to me.
One thing is you can’t copyright a title, so why on earth does she think she can copyright the use of a single word in a title? You can’t. I could write my own novel called the Lord of the Rings. I could write my own novel called any number of things with the same exact title and there wouldn’t be a copyright infringement. The worst thing would be competing with a well-known story that’s already in existence. When people search for the title, the other story will always come up first.
If you reach further into this story and read anything that Hopkins has said in response to this situation, she comes off as nothing short of cocky and self-righteous, even stating that the people who had their books removed from Amazon for using the word cocky in the title should be thankful to her for bringing attention to their unpopular books. In the email she sent out threatening authors to take down their books and change the title, she had the gall to say, “And another author thanked me so much for telling her to change the title.”
Look, I’m not a romance author, but I care about other writers and more importantly I care about freedom of speech. Hopkins has attempted to start a trend that in order to stop people from saying or using certain words, just submit a trademark claim on individual words and sue the crap out of them if they use it! Now that is some diabolical stuff. Nobody today has any right to own words created centuries ago. I’ll give it to you if you invent a word. But a common word that’s been circulating the language for centuries? Nah, man.
What Hopkins is doing here is trying to take out other authors who write the same types of stories as her, but rather than proving she’s a good writer and bringing people to her with her storytelling ability, she’s trying to censor the market. We all know how expensive it is to publish a book. Once a book hits the shelf, changing the title, cover, and all the merch isn’t easy or cheap. In a way, with this threat, she’s hoping to remove some books permanently because a lot of authors don’t have the funds to just change their titles across the board and they don’t have the money to fight a lawsuit. Hopkins is using the government to try and strangle other authors out–and this dirty tactic isn’t going unnoticed.
In researching #CockyGate, I already found another person trying to trademark any use of the word eternal in romance books and another person trying to trademark the use of rebellion in titles. These people are trying to buy tropes in a large market so they can kill off their competition since they just can’t compete.
Listen, if you have to play dirty tricks like this? You’re not in it for the art and you obviously don’t have any skill. You’re doing what you can to try and make it to the top of the stack. Unfortunately, most people don’t really applaud this sort of dictatorship or bullying. So even if your scam was somehow to work, you wouldn’t gain readers. You’re only making an enemy of the writing community and an enemy of the people who’d read your books otherwise. Readers aren’t stupid and they aren’t heartless. They’ll see what you’re doing and vow to never pick your book up again.
If only she put as much time in advertising her book as she has in trying to scheme her way to the top, maybe she would have gotten readers in a more honest fashion, but as it stands now? Any time someone looks up her name in the future, they won’t be greeted with her Cocker Brothers series. They’ll be greeted with article upon article of her trying to snuff out fellow romance writer and instead of picking up her book, they’ll turn away and look for someone with more integrity.
This is truly disgusting behavior and it should concern everyone in the writing community that there are people who call themselves authors trying to prevent other authors from writing for the sole purpose of making money. There’s nothing else behind this. Hopkins wanted more money; she couldn’t care less about telling a good story as long as she got all the attention from the thirsty readers looking for a dorky romantic comedy to smile to on a Sunday afternoon.
To other authors who think they might want to take the cocky route, I suggest writing a good book, become part of the community, befriend authors, don’t battle them. We can learn a lot from each other. Pulling stunts like Hopkins has will do nothing for you but ruin your career, isolate you, and make you a villain of the writing community.
Plus, if you have to rely on some trick like this to sell your book? Everyone knows you’re a shitty author and a shitty person.
Side note: in doing MORE research, turns out one of the trademarks Hopkins submitted (under the specific font) was with a font that specifically said you could not copyright under the front. Funny how she doesn’t have a problem literally using other people’s work and trying to stake claim for it even when they blatantly say don’t, huh?