On Piracy

Up until quite recently, when I thought of pirates, I thought of pirates, with hooks for hands and mustachios and scurvy. Now that I’ve become an author, however, I’ve become acquainted with another form of piracy.

I know that piracy within the music industry  has existed for a very long time, but I was never a music pirate. First of all, I was never technologically savvy enough to really get into piracy. But I am also entirely, completely bourgeois, and the idea of doing anything called “piracy” repels me. I’ve never shoplifted; I’ve never stolen someone’s credit card; I’ve never walked off with someone’s jewelry or iPod.

That said, almost everyone else I’ve ever known has downloaded free music off the internet. They defend themselves with the following excuses: that big music studios won’t feel the loss, that artists like Britney Spears can afford to lose a few bucks, and that they will buy other songs or albums from the artist’s they really like. In other words, the pirated album is like a taste test and once they decide they like the artist, then they will pay for future works.

I never really thought much about the fact of my friend’s piracy or about their reasoning legitimating their actions until piracy became very real for me, as an author.

There is lots of talk about piracy within the book world, especially now with e-readers everywhere and downloadable copies of our books so very easy to make and to dispense. I knew piracy would be an issue for me and, indeed, almost as soon as my debut novel, Tempest Rising, was published there were copies available online.

Most of these sites are very anonymous and very . . . piratey. In other words, when I find my novel on one of these sites, I can imagine a bunch of pantalooned men sitting around hawking into spittoons and chortling as they scan copies of novels with one hand, while ravishing wenches with the other.

Then I found a site for fans of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It’s a pretty, pink site with links to authors websites and contests, along with reviews and lots of excited discussion of new series, or new books coming out, or old books recently discovered. In other words, it’s a pretty typical fan site for readers of my genre. Only with one difference: this website also offers our novels, free for download. The authors of this site even ask those who download a book to leave a comment, to let them know that “their work was appreciated.”

My first thought was, “Oh my God, how could you! You say you’re fans of our work and then you’d steal from us?” My second thought was, “Where is my downloadable form from Hachette’s legal department, so I can get their lawyers on this shit.” My third thought, after I’d filled out and sent the required forms, and cleaned my bedroom to cool off, was, “Okay, let’s say they are really fans of our genre, as they claim. That means they are not doing this piracy to hurt us. They don’t know what their actions mean.”

That’s why I’m writing this blog post: to let the sort of people who create or utilize such websites know what they’re really doing when they pirate one of my books.

The Assumptions

I imagine that when people pirate a book, or upload a book onto a pirate site, they are thinking some of the following things: that authors make the big bucks, that “big publishing companies” are untouchable, and that all they’re doing is taking a few bucks away from the fat cats. Maybe they think they’re even doing the publishing world a favor: that by offering our books for download, they’re increasing the size of our fan-pool; or cutting out some of the wheat from the chaff so that fans won’t waste money on authors who aren’t that great or that they don’t like, meaning they will have more money for authors they do enjoy; or trimming our salaries so we don’t become rock stars who pull rock star bullshit. Instead of going nuts, having babies, and shaving our heads, we’ll stay grounded and writing books, as we should be.

The Realities

First of all, publishing houses are not untouchable monoliths. DoubleDay, Simon & Schuster, and Random House all suffered huge losses over publishing’s “Black Tuesday,” with direct losses in terms of staff, budget, and, in some extreme cases, entire imprints. When a publishing company’s budget goes, that means they can’t pay their authors, they can’t buy new books, and they can’t offer new contracts to existing authors. When an editor is lost, that means fewer new books can be bought by that company over the following year. And when an imprint goes, that means that many of the series that imprint was sitting upon will be dead in the water, unless a particular series or author has such high sales number that a different publishing company will risk buying what amounts to a defunct brand.

Secondly, writers are not Britney Spears. We are not rock stars. We are not even folk singers. If I were to tell you what my advance was for my three novels, it would sound like a huge amount of money. You’d be all, “Holy shit!” Then I’d tell you that money would be doled out over two years, not one. Then I’d tell you that my agent gets (a well deserved) fifteen percent, and that the government then takes exactly one third of that money. Then I tell you that although my publishing company is actually very good about publicizing its authors, I am still responsible for my own conventions, travel, swag, contest materials, etcetera.

In other words, what sounds like a great big sum of money becomes, quite simply, a very small salary. I estimate that this year I cleared from my writing, after taxes and all the expenditures (conferences, swag, etc), about 25,000 dollars.

Yes, my author’s salary for the year 2009 was about $25,ooo. For around $25,000, I wrote three books. Which means I wrote rough drafts, then did edits (in one case, grueling edits), copy edits, and final pass edits. I wrote back copy and front copy, and acknowledgements and dedications. I maintained a website, I blogged, I did copious interviews, I ran contests, I travelled and spoke at whatever convention would have me. I Tweeted, and Facebooked, and paid for a launch party, swag, and postage for review copies and bookplates.

To be honest, I had no idea writing was going to be this much work. And, for all of this work, I made about $25,000 dollars.

In the meantime, however, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a day job that allows me to write. As a professor, I have another salary on top of my book money. But don’t get too excited: I work for a state university in Louisiana. Which means, for all intents and purposes, I’m a Louisianan civil servant, i.e., not rolling in the dough. But I do have a salary. And, more importantly, it’s with a job that gives me time to write and, more importantly, gives me health insurance.

This is why most writers aren’t full time authors: until you are very successful (and there are only a handful of writers in America with this sort of success) you don’t make a lot of money. For keep in mind that an advance is just that: an advance on royalties. So I won’t make another penny on my first three novels until I pay back my advance. And that is going to take a very, very long time, unless a miracle (HBO series) appears on the horizon. Meanwhile, authors don’t get insurance through their publishers. We are independent contractors, meaning we get taxed out of the wazoo and if we want to see a doctor or a dentist, we pay out of pocket.

In fact, for the most part, any full-time author that you know about who isn’t Stephen King, Anne Rice, Danielle Steele, or the like is either a) married to someone who makes a decent living b) independently wealthy or c) okay with living as a starving artist.

Why Pirating Hurts Readers

Let’s say you don’t give a hoot about what I just wrote. Let’s say, for instance, you’re all, “I don’t care that author’s children can’t see a doctor, they get to be an author! that’s recompense, enough!” or “Whatever, so an author lives in a garrett and shops at the Salvation Army, s/he could get a day job! Nicole has one!” or, “It’s just one book, and I’m strapped for cash right now. One book totally doesn’t make a difference! I’ll buy the next one!”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Let’s take the “It’s just one book,” “the company can afford it,” or “the author can afford it,” excuse.

Firstly, as a new writer, I’m judged not on my literary merit but on my sales. Every single reviewer in the country could say I was a genius; that I deserve the Nobel prize. My fans could name their babies after my characters and move, as one, to Maine to start a town called Rockabill where they will squabble over who gets to be Jane for the day. But if my numbers aren’t good enough, my publishing company won’t buy more Jane True books. And not only do I need to sell books, but I need to sell my first book. Because I’m releasing on an eight-month schedule, we’ll be negotiating for more books based almost entirely on the sale of Tempest Rising. So unless you want my series to end at number three, my first book has to sell.

Secondly, most authors can’t afford to do this job. I read a lot of reviews of books where people talk about how “so and so is just churning them out nowadays, like she/he doesn’t even care about the quality of his/her work.” What readers don’t understand is that a lot of writers are on ridiculous publishing schedules not because they don’t care, or because they’re so eager to get that jacuzzi installed in their yacht, but because they have to eat. How many individuals (let alone families) do you know who could live off a $25,000 salary?  Especially when that salary gets eaten up by covering the family health insurance, dental insurance, etcetera? Most authors cannot make ends meet on their book salaries alone, meaning that a lot of authors have day jobs that, unlike mine, are real nine to fivers.

Keeping in mind that my professorial job was created to give me some (if limited) time to write, and that last year I worked pretty much all the time with my two jobs, I can’t begin to imagine how someone with a “real” day job could write a book. Let alone if they have a family on top of everything. It just couldn’t be feasible, long term, for anybody. People will either stop writing, or they’ll start writing to make deadlines rather than writing to tell a story. And who could blame them?

In the meantime, I wish I was a rock star. I wish I had minions who I paid out of my overflowing bank account, stuffed full of the riches I earned from my books. But that’s a pipe dream. I mostly do the writing because I love it and to cut off my characters, now, would be like amputating a limb. And yet, I also need to pay my bills. At the same time, my publishing company has to know they’re not sinking money into a wasted cause.

Which is why, as a debut novelist, literally every book counts and is counted. And each of those books will add up to whether I get to write more about Jane True and her friends. So when someone reads her story, without paying their $7.99, Jane loses a vote. One vote doesn’t seem like a lot, but a lot of single votes adds up to a lot of votes, period.

And every pirated copy of my book downloaded illegally means one less chance I get to publish anything after book three. So if you enjoy reading and want to read more books, especially more debut novels by new authors, please don’t pirate. Not just for our sake, as authors, but for your sake, as a reader. For piracy skews numbers: it means that the “big” names will get bigger while less money is spent on younger talents. It means that debut novels that you enjoyed won’t be followed up by a second or a third book in the series. And it means that more authors will take on too much work, just to make a decent living.

In other words, if you have any love for books, don’t be a pirate. Or just buy an eye patch and a parrot and pretend, at home. That’s far more exciting. After all, someone will have to be the wench . . . 😉

Posted by Nicole Peeler

Author, Professor, Lover, Fighter

90 thoughts on “On Piracy”

  1. Excellent post! As a retired attorney who worked to secure copyrights and trademarks during part of my career, I find any sort of intellectual property piracy reprehensbile! These folks need to walk the virtual plank.

  2. I totally agreee with you and have just a couple of comments. Authors need to work out ebook availability upfront and NOW with their publishers (You don't seem to have that problem). Be sure that their books are available in ebook format from day one. Just like music, most people will buy it if its available. Most eReaders won't buy a physical book and most, if not all of my eReader friends have multiple books that aren't yet available or weren't on release day. You know what comment I get? "I'll buy it when it comes out–my version looks like crap"

  3. Great points overall. Such a substantial topic.

    Question: in getting paid $25,000 for 3 books (so a little more than $6000 each), do you at all fear you're undervaluing your own time, effort, and energy. That's roughly a starting editorial assistant's salary, but probably a little less.

  4. Piracy is bad across all forms of medium, including written works, digital works (including games and mp3/videos) and although there really is no end to it, you should know that many people support the smaller independents who live off their works.

    Even when (as an example) an e-book was offered for free by an author, I sent a donation of $5.00.

    It is important to give recognition to those who pour their time and energy into their work.

    Keep up the work and the 'education' of the un-educated.


    San Jose, CA

  5. Amen, Qwill! 🙂

    Jesslyn: That's a good point! I know that Orbit always does simultaneous releases in ebook and print books, but they're also very tech savvy. You have a good point, in that to a certain extent not releasing in ebook right away is a "thin edge of the wedge" sort of temptation. It makes it easier to excuse the piracy in the pirate's mind.

    Will: I got paid much more for that, per book. That estimated 25,000 is just what I think I cleared THIS year in "salary." We don't get our advances in one big chunk, it gets spread out. The way mine spread out is basically over two years. Plus, if I ever do earn out, I'll make more money per book on royalties. Does that make sense? I'm not very good at money things, period, so my explanation was probably wonky.

    As far as feeing undervalued is concerned, no, I don't feel undervalued at all. I'm not really doing this for the money. First of all, as I said, I have a day job that pays the basics. Secondly, because I'm an academic, the one career ends up enhancing the other career, and vice versa. I'm more likely to get tenure at the school I'm at because of my books, so it's a career move for BOTH careers. And it's SO FUN being an author. So I'd really, really, really like to have the opportunity to write more books. But, again, if my sales figures suck, I won't get new contracts.

    But, as you can see from that paragraph, I'm not a "normal" author at all, because I'm a college professor. Most people couldn't say any of the things I've listed above. Even the part about it being cool to be an author: most people wouldn't be able to afford (either in time or money) to travel to conventions, etc, as I can because my day job likes me promoting my book and it helps pay for my travel. For a lot of people, no matter how cool it is to see their name in print, they probably can't afford to be a full time author. Which is sad, as we must be losing a lot of great talent to economic facts. 🙁

    Thanks, Bill! I appreciate it! 🙂

  6. @NicolePeeler *sigh* It appears that I'm now being accused of attacking libraries for saying that we don't make money off those either. bleh

  7. Likari: LOL I just use the major weapon of the bourgeoise: a strongly worded letter. 😉

  8. Zachary: I don't even know what that is! (New to this game)

    Heather: Yes, libraries are DEFINITELY the way to go if you want to "try" a new author, or just in general. Someone asked me how I felt about libraries, and I'm like "are you kidding?" If every library in the country bought a copy or two of my book, that's HUGE sales. So all authors are definitely all for libraries!

    Kat: LOL That's not what we're saying, at all. *hugs* Tell them to see above comment. 😉

  9. WOW, there are FREE books online! I had no idea. I knew about the free music because of the scandal and like you I would have no idea how to get free music or why I would want it. If I need a song iTunes is a buck. I do not have a ereader and do not like reading on screen (I do make exceptions for blog posts though).

    Like the free music why in the world would I be online looking for free books? There are libraries, swap sites, trade sites, garage sales, ARC's, craigs list, contests and hell, to be honest a paperback will not break anyone's bank even bought new. Books can also be bought used on half.com and eBay. The concept of stealing one is absolutely ridiculous.

    Piracy unfortunately has been around for some time though. Artists of all kinds have been dealing with it. Painters, tailors, designers, writers, photographers, copy writers… the list goes on and on. A designer myself I have had clients ask me to remove the proof symbol so they could take my designs elsewhere for printing. I have clients send photos with watermarks still on them, saying they have been using them for years. Whats the big deal, they just found them online.

    The internet is not a free for all. Some people are so painfully ignorant it is a travesty. AS artists all we can do is try our best to protect our work, protect others work and make a good example by not pirating ourselves. I will tell clients no, I will undoubtedly lose work doing so, but I will not condone using anyone's work without paying for it or getting permission.

    There is a caveman somewhere right now pumping his fist at his neighbor for stealing his bison glyph design.

  10. Okay, first I have to say that I've seen your name pop up around the internet but I never got a driving urge to read you (it's not personal, you know there are just so many books), UNTIL I read this blog post. This is one of the funniest, best-written, and most enjoyable posts I've read in quite awhile. If this is what you do with a blog post, sign me up for what you do with a novel! Definitely adding you to my Amazon to-buy list. And I also now feel compelled to follow you on Twitter.

    As far as the content of the post itself, I do agree with a lot of what you're saying, BUT… when you say that if you lose your contract there won't be anymore stories, it wouldn't have to end there. If you couldn't find another publisher to pick up the series, you could always self-publish. I realize that it's possible that you might prefer to spork out your eyeballs, not everybody is a freak like me and actually "likes" this stuff, but… just saying, you always have the power to get your stories into readers hands. And if someday your publisher did drop you (which I hope doesn't happen), you would be in an even better position to bring your work directly to your audience because you'd HAVE an audience. (You do have a newsletter right? And people know how to find you?) Once you have your customer (reader) plugged in directly with you, you don't actually "need" someone else to do these things for you.

    I realize most people prefer to have an outside publisher, and someone else to worry that the cover art looks right and the editing is stellar and all the rest of it,and for most people, it's the best way to go. Just saying… you got options. You've always got options, and you don't need permission to publish. And I am absolutely NOT trying to turn this into a trad pub vs. self-pub debate because it's a tired debate and they aren't even competing factions.


  11. Nicole, thanks. Yeah, I know how advances work; I'm a writer, too (and college professor, as well). When you cited that as what you made after work on three books, minus expenses, though . . . I realize one can't make that simple a statement–that it's a per book thing, but if we really wanted to analyze it we'd have to use revenue on ROI and all those sorts of financial measurements.

    It's interesting you're talking about two different things: not sales, but contract extension. You say you're not in it for the money, and I'm going to hazard that you make a decent enough wage from your academic position that you don't really need to supplement income. So it's not a matter of revenue for lost sales but rather this fear of your contract not getting renewed, of selling more books.

    So really it's your desire to publish with a traditional, commercial company that's at stake, in a way. You could publish other ways, or negotiate for a lower advance such that your publishing company makes a more immediate return on its investment, or . . .

    It's interesting the permutations this argument takes, and the reasons writers have for their individual positions.

    "AS artists all we can do is try our best to protect our work,"

    What's interesting is how many artists labor under the assumption that what is best for their work is for giant, corporate publishers to possess all rights to it.

  12. Robin: There are just SO many ways to recreate all types of media, nowadays that it's unbelievable. And I think you've raised a good point that technology has changed SO MUCH, so quickly, that I DO feel like a caveman, half the time.

    Zoe: Thanks! That's great. It's not an exhaustive post on piracy, obviously. And I think you raise an interesting idea in that obviously in the next decades ALL publishing is going to be changed, entirely. We're ALL trying to sort our new roles, both as writers AND as consumers. 🙂

    Will: You're totally right, it's a totally oversimplified statement. I'm not an accountant. 🙂 And while I don't need supplemental income, I do enjoy expensive handbags. As for publishing and all the various ways one can publish, I am definitely only addressing the one form that I am familiar with in my career. So you are right: this blog post could have been written in a thousand different ways to address a thousand different issues.

  13. This was an interesting and well-written post. However, I think that having free copies of your work on sites frequented by your fans may actually increase your sales. It's only "a vote against Jane" if, for any given reader:

    a) She would have definitely bought the book if she hadn't found it for free online.

    b) She doesn't get tired of reading on a monitor and, having been sold on the story as worth finishing, she decides to buy the book anyway.

    c) After (or while) reading the book for free, she doesn't end up talking (or blogging, or tweeting, etc.) about it to at least one person who ends up buying the book.

  14. HI Nicole,

    I posted about this as well today, but on a more personal level. My sister and I write together and write right now in small press. Because of the pirates we have decided that in the future, our books will not be available in e books until such time as the pirates have been thwarted. Unlike the authors published with NY publishing houses, we make even less on our books because we do not make an advance, and the pirates are killing small press just as quickly.

    We have the option to do this because of the small press thing so really its a double edged sword. Not everyone does, and the pirates are making publishing in general a hard thing. I hate seeing my own work being stolen, and I hate seeing our friends dealing with it as well. For those of you who care, you can check out my blog on my take:


    We can only hope that things will change in the future, but until a big deal author with a lot of bank (like Lars Ulrich from Metallica)starts making a big stink about this kinda thing, we are all forced to endure. It sucks, and there's not much we can do about it.


  15. The biggest mistake we make when it comes to pirates is to view the issue through our eyes instead of those of the pirates. Pirates don't think like law-abiding people. You can't reason with them. For a pirate, it's about beating the system. And, people who steal what they want, don't suddenly turn around and start buying what they want. Anyone who believes that isn’t delusional, they simply don’t understand how a criminal thinks.

    Anyone who steals believes in their very core that they have the ''right'' to steal it and that they are ''entitled'' to take it. The only way you can stop a thief is to penalize him or her in a way that it hurts them personally. Monetary punishment is one way. Jail is another.

    My books have all been pirated, some on the day they were released. I don’t now, nor will I ever consider anyone who steals my books as one of my fans or readers. They don't respect me or my work. They are thieves, just as surely had they broken into my home and had taken my money. I don't value them as potential readers, either, that's ridiculous logic, especially the excuse that they’re testing a new author. I have free reads for them to do that. Pirates and those who read pirated books are criminals. Plain and simple. Nothing more and nothing less.

  16. First, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed this post. One of the best anti-piracy posts I have seen in awhile.

    Second: E-books. Not having a simultaneous electronic release is not an excuse. I don’t buy hardbacks. They are heavy, hog space, and I don’t have that kind of money. So, I wait for a MMPB version. And that wait is very long. It’s very painful to walk into a bookstore and see a book I’ve really been wanting to read in hardback but not paperback. Several times. (I buy a lot of books.) Not only does it keep me behind the times, it’s like dangling grapes over a deep pool; except I could get it if I really wanted, but instead I must strain my pathetic willpower to the limit.

    So I have no sympathy for e-reader users who use a later ERD as an excuse to pirate. Suck it up. ;(

    Third: Zoe, yes, a writer could self-publish if they lost their publisher. But it takes time, and money, and effort. Selling your book is like taking on a whole other job. If you think writers bitch about their day jobs, just imagine the (absolutely justified) tantrums they’d be throwing if they self-published. It’s certainly an option for some people, but it is neither practical for many, nor an excuse for pirating. There are always “options”. You _can_ do more with less. But a lot of people forget the key phrase there: do more. For most authors, that’s just not going to work.

    Will, while it’s true that Nicole may not need the supplemental income, that doesn’t shrink the issue down simply to “contract extension”, even for her. (Her points apply quite well to many other authors who _do_ require the supplemental income). Or simply a desire to publish with a traditional publisher.

    Per your last point, the assumption that many artists make is that they deserve compensation for their work, just like any other person. Publishers provide that compensation, and more. (Of course it’s a trade-off, but so is everything else.) The issue of rights is separate from the issue of piracy for the most part.

  17. Er, you have friends who pirate Britney songs? But I thought Peeler was cool?! Personally, I think such pirates should be sent to the gallows. But not for the crime of illegally downloading digital content, obviously. Such techo savvy people should be punished for wasting precious bandwidth.

    Go you,

    Signed, Captain Bandwidth.

  18. Michael: Thanks for posting, I appreciate your input. That said, I think those excuses for piracy break down pretty quickly. I have bought books I didn't really enjoy, and so I don't buy more books by that author. But stealing their first work doesn't seem to me to be the way to "test" someone out. Plus, a lot of authors, like me, have first chapters up and you can read SO MANY positive and negative of reviews of my book on different websites. If you're not sure whether to read someone, I think the proper thing to do (and yes, I am so bourgeoise I use words like "proper" 🙂 if you're not sure whether to read someone is to wait until the reviews come out. And as far as review copies, I sent out 20, myself, to interested internet reviewers, and far more were sent out by Orbit. Contacting debut authors, as a book reviewer, often yields quick results. And I can't see someone who pirated a copy telling their friends, "It was awesome! I pirated it, but you should go buy it!" I hope they DO do that, but somehow I think they're more like my friends who download illegal music: "Do you like it? I'll give it to you! I got it for free!"

    Stella: Thanks for posting! I think the attitude of a lot of people is that piracy "only" hurts the big, Da Man Inc., industries. But I know from friends who publish erotica that it's KILLING big sectors of the e-book industry. 🙁 So thanks for posting and sharing your story.

    Sally: Good point. I know I'm mostly preaching to the choir. But if one person reads this and thinks . . .

    Atsiko: I could not have said any of this better, myself. Thank you so much for posting. I just taught my night class and I am brain dead, so I was so happy to read your eloquent response. I would have mumbled something about "sleep" and "chocolate." 🙂 Seriously, thank you.

    Dirty Wizard Hunter: Who in the name of all that is holy told you I was "cool"? They were lying. But don't tell me you don't sometimes, late at night, put on Toxic, some ripped up mesh thigh highs, and a blonde wig and do a little shimmy shimmy shake . . . *looks around* Right guys? Right? Ummmmmmm . . .

  19. Hi Nicole,

    While I do agree with a lot of what you've said, there is some argument for free distribution. Don't get me wrong, I like and read free ebooks, but I believe that the distribution of such should only be handled by the author in that case. And generally, if I like the book, I buy it in paperback (or hardcover, for a certain level of awesome), because I like having hardcopy. A good portion of the time, if I hadn't read the free copy, I wouldn't have bought the book.

    Eric Flint wrote this essay when Baen books kicked off their "Free Library" about 10 years ago (he quickly became an "insta-buy" author when I read some of the books he posted there) :

    I found this post linked from a similar blog post by Cherie Priest, whose was in turn linked from John Scalzi's blog, just to let you know who's giving you shout-outs 🙂

  20. Nicole,

    I have to say WOW! You have really opened my eyes. I hate to admit it but I am kind of living in my own little bubble here, I think. I do book forums and blogging along with twitter. But I don't go looking to download free books or music. I didn't even know those sites were out there. I am one who goes out and purchases the good old fashioned bound books.

    I have to agree with you. I could never download anything. And as they always say… nothing is free. Everything comes at a cost. So what is your cost? I rather buy my book at selling price than get in trouble with the law.

    Thank you and I hope lots have learned!

  21. There is in fact some argument for free distribution. Limited distribution. By the holder of the copyright. Which is what Eric Flint was proposing. And that article is several years old. Authors have in fact responded to this with a great deal more in the way of sample chapters, and short stories posted online, and, in some cases, a limited selection of full novels available online. Not new releases, though., which account for a very large minority of pirating, if not the majority. If you look at the “e-reader” excuse, they are pirating this material soon after release, not snagging the first novel in a series which has already put five or nine books on the market. Free distribution makes sense to an extent, in the form of loss-leaders, such as those put out for Amazon Kindle and other e-readers, or the Baen Free Library (which I have used once, to read Elizabeth Moon’s “The Deed of Paksenarrion” which I did not then proceed to buy, although I have been on the lookout for other material by Moon, since I enjoyed the freebie so much).

    I should mention however, that the majority of Baen’s offerings are several years old at the time of uploading, and that many(most) are not from well-known authors–which was Flint's whole point, publicizing these authors with free material. Chris Dolley’s “Resonance” went up in the middle of July last year. It was already three years old. Further, Dolley is a relatively unknown author, his book having scored 18 reviews on Amazon. Another example is Mark Stiegler’s “Earthweb (c)1999, was only posted in December of 2008, which also garnered 18 reviews on Amazon. The BFL doesn’t appear to have helped all that much, but considering the likely sales numbers, it couldn’t have hurt the books much either. The vast majority of pirated material is new and well-known at the time it is pirated, such as Dan Brown’s books, or J.K. Rowling’s, or John Grisham's, or Stephen King's or Nora Roberts'. The books in the Baen Free Library are unlikely to be popular victims of piracy, and the number of pirates who are aware of the service is probably very small. The people who are reading pirated books in large numbers are not likely to begin buying work from any author they read, no matter who puts the material up, legitimate source or not.

  22. …Ouch. Seriously, *ouch*. i can’t believe people do that, or are naive enough to think that way when it comes to books. Seriously, they haven’t heard of libraries? Who at least buy a couple of copies.

    I’m fortunate enough to be in a country where we have a really brilliant ad-supported/subscription streaming service for music (spotify) so I can trial and listen to albums before (if ever) buying them. I admit to having downloaded two films in my time, mostly due to the frustration of the period between cinema and getting my mitts on the dvd. Tv’s caught up to streaming/per view so I can watch current programs when I want, legally, and not have to pay any more than the licence fee. But I buy all my books.

  23. I remember when I was trying to buy the audio book for Scalzi's Old Man's War, I did a google search and got several torrent sites where it was free, and one where I'd have to pay. Obviously, I went and paid for it (and I don't have a ton of dough, but I wanted that book, that was a choice I made, and it was worth it) but it really opened my eyes.

    How easy it would have been to steal it! and if I didn't care about broke writers not making their rent or if I justified it with the big biz rationalization, I'd would've clicked the torrent site option. I was shocked at how readily available this book was to take! It was like, click here for the free one, click here for the one you pay.

    I mean, I was ready to buy, and suddenly I was offered a free option. Clearly all pirate downloads don't represent lost sales, but a portion of them do, and that hurts authors plain and simple.

  24. Or, I should add, if I didn't understand the issues around piracy, I might have clicked that torrent. I think a lot of people just don't understand. That's why this post is great. Jim Hines had a good one some time ago, too!

  25. I think more people understand than you'd think. "Torrent" is practically a synonym for "pirated" among anyone who knows anything about the web.

    Although I would agree that there are some people out there who don't know, they're less likely to be the sort of people who would look for a digital audiobook anyway. And if they don't already have a torrent program, they're not likely to get one just to get the audiobook.

  26. I download from tvtorrents and demonoid daily. In fact, I'm downloading America Idol S9E4 and The Book of Eli (cam) at this very moment. But I'm not in the states, not being threatened by my service provider (flipping to bird to Big Brother). I've never downloaded a book though. I'm just not into ebooks. Hey, there's a great used bookstore up in Itaewon in Seoul. They have a wonderful SFF section. I fought damn hard to get Scalzi and Stross on the shelves. Hmm, maybe it's time for some Peeler lovin' in Seoul. PS If Apple comes out with this "Tablet" thingy, then I might consider hopping aboard the ebook express to Deadend. Until then, I like the smell and touch of a good book.

  27. Since I've changed from physical books to e-books I've been tempted to illegally download a book more than once. Not because of the money, but because of the availability.

    As Austrian I don't have legal access to many e-books (kindle and otherwise). They throw me in with British language rights, despite being living in a German speaking country. Over amazon.de I can get access to physical US and UK books without a problem, but not to e-books. It's a nuisance.

  28. Great article and explanation. I do limit my pirating to parrots and wenches the way God intended it. I do think that most people believe that its only hurting the corporations, and never really put a face to it. Corporations are mean, greedy items, and not people with kids and bills.

    Do you get any reports from used book stores or resell shops? I was wondering as all the talk of piracy started, if they were a problem.

  29. Heather, corporations may be like that(I’m lookin’ at you, TorStar), but most individual publishers are not. Publishing is not a high-profit business, compared to something like consumer electronics. People should be careful rushing to judgement. So pirating books has a much more powerful effect on the publisher than people think. So, yes, it’s important that people remember authors need food, too, but they also need to realize that the amount of money going into the physical production of a book is not the majority of the cost; that cost is paying the people who provide the content and editing. Not only does it not “cost nothing” to produce a digital version as opposed to the lovable dead-tree version, the different in production costs is much smaller than these pirates want people to think.

  30. Since I asked this question of Cherie Priest (after she blogged about it, but this was after I read your link on the League of Reluctant Adults), I thought it would be a good question for you, too.

    e-Readers and their books often come with DRM, which is the bane of electronic formats, in my (working for those socialists, the library, and seeing what kind of blasphemous product our vendors provide us with) opinion.

    There is probably a significant portion of the pirate population that will do such things because they object on principle or practice to the presence of DRM stopping them from doing with the electronic copy what they would do with the physical one. I think that hurts even library lending, when your choice of eReader or portable audio player dictates what kinds of materials you can check out from the library.

    Not that you have any control over whether your digital stuff has DRM on it or not, and what kind of DRM it has, but what do you personally think DRM does for your sales to piracy ratio?

  31. Awesome comments, everyone, thanks for reading and having questions. That said, a lot of these I can't answer. The closest thing I know about DRM, Silver Adept, is Run DMC. 😉

    In a nutshell, I know very little about anything. But I know enough to totally agree that obviously digital technology is changing the way we do, and should, publish. There will have to be changes in the way we think about intellectual property rights, in the way we publish and protect our art, etc. I have no doubt there are HUGE changes on the horizons. What I am saying is that in the meantime, piracy hurts the consumer as much as it hurts the artist. Until new laws are in effect, and everything gets sorted out, we have the system that we have. And I get it that some of you are leading the digital revolution. To be honest (and not that I don't love you), but I'm not necessarily addressing you. I am addressing the people at the pink site who claim to love our books so much and claim to want to see LOTS more books just like ours. Those guys? Shooting themselves in their little tootsies. So yes, things will change. Yes, things probably SHOULD change. Yes, the system is ridiculously flawed. We're all adjusting. But in the meantime, if people want more debut writers publishing the mass market paperbacks they know and love, piracy hurts all of us.

    ALSO, as my roommate (and friend and all around much more commonsensical person) reminded me, I forgot to add that I was basically paid 2/3 of my advance THIS year. So next year? I won't be making that much money. So if someone way less mathematically challenged than I am did the math, they'd probably have factored that in.

    But I don't add so good. 😉

  32. DRM is a mixed bag. On the one hand, allowing certain things you can do with a dead tree to be done with an e-book allows for you to do many things you couldn’t do with a dead tree. On the other, it’s rather inconvenient. I admit to not being an expert on e-reader DRM. I know Kindle has some odd features, such as download limits (which blows when you upgrade once every two years), but I don’t know the more basic issues. I think it should probably get the axe, but I’m not sure if it contributes significantly to piracy.

  33. How do you feel about Cory Doctorow's argument that the author's real enemy is obscurity, not piracy, and that piracy may actually help sales by getting the work seen by more people who may never have picked up and paid for a copy otherwise, and who, if they like it, sometimes go on to buy a proper copy after all.

  34. Angie: I really, really, really hope that happens. And I'm sure it does, sometimes. Everything happens. That said, most of the friends I know who illegally download music have stopped buying anything. Their attitude is, "Dude, you can get that for free!" They make fun of me for being old fashioned and buying my music.

    Furthermore, my whole point is that the people who tell themselves, "I'm just going to sample the first. If I like it I'll buy the second," might not get that chance. If a debut novelist's numbers are terrible, and they only have a one-book deal, they might not get to write a second book in that series.

    Finally, there are other, none-piratey, ways to combat obscurity that also allow readers a sample. My blogging voice is very similar, in a lot of ways, to my fiction voice. I have the first chapter of my novel on this site, while Hachette has the first THREE chapters on their site. There are libraries, which we love. You can buy copies on resale for peanuts at second-hand shops. You can borrow the book from a friend. While these things are "free," they are limited. Your friend isn't going to loan out her copy of TR to 5,000 people; that second-hand book isn't going to make it's way through 5,000 transactions; the library not only bought a copy, but will buy more than one as demand increases and copies wear out.

    I wish my friends did what Cory Doctorow suggested. I wished they said, "Wow, I like this, I'm going to buy it!" Instead, they say, "I'm so glad I found this for free, I wonder when the next CD will come out. Then I'll download that one for free, too!" In my own experience, my friends who pirate pretty much always pirate. They even express some pretty extreme irritation for works they can't find available on pirate sites, like the artist is being such a dick for not letting his work be stolen. And my friends aren't criminal-types, they're professionals, academics, etc. They just take it for granted that, nowadays, they should get stuff for free.

  35. Thanks for a fascinating insight, Nicole. I've shared it to Facebook. Congratulations on your advance! I know of many publishing houses that only pay $1,000 to $3,000 in advances, depending on the genre.

    Also, for an author who has to buy her own advertising, enter contests (fees usually $50 or higher), buy copies of her novel to send in to contests (usually 5 copies is the minimum, and they have to be autographed), ditto for review copies, and maintain a website and a newsletter and a special email address for publication (so that if pirates spam bomb you as a punishment for daring to complain about piracy you are not completely wiped out) and for printing postcards and flyers and posters, and conference-going… you can easily spend $30,000 or more a year, just on expenses.

  36. I too shared this link on facebook. This was very cogently and clearly expressed, and I have run into this strange sense of entitlement in some readers myself…. I want to read it, and that justifies me stealing it. Not only that, if I was a real writer, it wouldn't be about money, it would be about writing the story. Well, yes, writers must write — but must they pay to publish, so other people can read it? No.

    Thank you, I've shared it on Facebook, too. Thanks, Rowena?

  37. I hope Cory is right, too, and that people do get things. I will say that I was a much bigger advocate to buy Little Brother having been able to read the whole thing beforehand, and the library did buy multiple copies for many of our branch locations, so in this case, I think he's got a point.

    For debut authors, though, that's not as easy a thing to swing, and so I can understand a reluctance to release their material for free, willingly or otherwise.

    Atsiko, I can only guess, as the plural of anecdote is not data, but from the amount of complaints I get about the obtuseness of using DRM'd material, as well as the restrictions and hoops it requires for you to do just about anything, there are a lot of people who could be pirates because it's easier and more convenient to get a clean copy of a work than to have to fight for one's right to use material purchased as one wishes, or aren't getting on the digital bandwagon for much the same reasons.

    Dead tree copies are still a good way of going about things. Too bad authors also don't get control over where their price points are, either. I'm betting a lot of new authors could get readership they wouldn't otherwise have if their books were released at a lower price than established authors who can command a slightly higher price point from their base.

  38. Nicole, I'm going to point out something it seems like you've missed: pirating music and pirating books are not the same thing. When I buy a CD the first thing I do is rip it to my computer, and then I generally toss the CD itself because I have no use for the physical copy. When you pirate music you skip the intermediate step because (most people) have no use for the physical object holding the music.

    OTOH, there's a difference between the physical copy of a book and the data included therein. Most of the people I know (some of who do pirate books), have houses that are filled to the brim with books because the physical presence of a book, the weight of a book is something that isn't just incidental to the reading of it. It seems to me that people who download books are more likely to buy a physical copy, because the physical object of a book is actively useful in a way that the physical object of a CD isn't.

  39. Rowena: You have a very good point. Advances are ALL across the board (and high advances are not always a good thing as they take longer to earn out). So many (most) debut authors make a lot less on an advance than I did. That's a very important point, thanks, as is what you have to say about how expensive it is to promote our books. Thanks!

    Ragini: Absolutely! 🙂

    Silver Adept: Orbit does offer a lot of books for very cheap downloads, to get people to buy the rest of the series. Again, though, like you're insinuating, that's a decision on the part of the publisher, made for the benefit of themselves and the author. It's not just yanked out of their control by pirates. 🙂

    Linds: I'm not saying that downloading books or music and pirating books or music are always the same thing. I download from iTunes all the time; that's not piracy. Downloading something from a pirate site is piracy. As for your preferring books, I do too! I like having them and holding them and I'm not worried about dropping them in the bath as much as I would something electronic.

  40. As someone who has struggled, off and on, with finishing not just one, but 3 different books……it was a very eye opening piece. I will continue to battle my way through, but at you stated, with a "real nine to five" it's not easy……. and thank you for casting a more accurate light on the industry.

    S.R. Michels

  41. I've bought some e-books, pirated a few (fewer than bought), and there are two factors that lead me to pirating:

    1. almost all of the ones I pirate are of books I already own in dead-tree format; I just want to be able to tote them around conveniently. In that sense I feel like I already own the book (rationalization, I know); it feels akin to copying a record to tape. Er, I mean, ripping a CD to mp3. (I'm dating myself….).

    2. it seems to me that most e-books are vastly over-priced, for a product that has very little manufacturing overhead. Unless I'm truly hot for a new book, I wait for the price-drop that (sometimes) coincides with the paperback release to come out before buying it, and even then I grumble about it. A couple of times I've been able to find & download a title before buying it, but because I do value paying the author her due, I buy it later when the price drops. (I suppose this parallel is checking the hardback book out of the library while waiting to buy the paperback.) I might feel differently about the higher profit margin implied in the (to me) inflated price if I thought more money was flowing to the author thereby, but from all I've heard, most authors get the same (or less) $ per book whether it's paper or electronic.

  42. Hey atsiko (hope I spelled that right), I just saw your comment to me. You're preaching to the choir. I know how hard it is to self-publish. I'm an indie author. (Though at the same time it's the most rewarding thing I've ever done, so I'm not complaining about it.)

    I also wasn't justifying piracy. Piracy sucks. My point was simply that should a publisher ever drop you and you already have an established readership you can self-publish.

    And self-publishing fiction is arguably easier (or so I'm told) for those who have a built-in readership already.

    And no, SP isn't right for every author or even most authors, though at the same time, the major issue with SP is building audience. Or, just not wanting to do all the things inherent in self-publishing.

    It's not terribly difficult if you're willing to educate yourself and do the work, to end up with great cover art, good interior layout, and good editing. And if you've already been published and built an audience it's clear you know you can write. The last boundary there is audience. Not saying a midlist author who gets dropped and self-publishes is going to get rich and famous, but at the same time, if they've been keeping their readers plugged in, through a newsletter and blog, then they have the means to reach out to that audience and keep selling their work.

    And if it's not really about the money ultimately to that author (or even if it is), once you have a fan, that person will be your fan no matter who your publisher is.

  43. Zoe, don’t misunderstand. This is a discussion on piracy, not self-publishing. I responded to your comment in a way that was relevant to the discussion and was in no way preaching to you about self-publishing. For the purposes of this blog post, I don’t care about self-publishing one way or the other.

    Dane- Yes, e-books don’t cost a great deal to create and copy. But what you are paying for is more than just the material cost of the book. Sellers need to make their cut, and so do publishers. Then the author and the agent need to be able to get some money. Say a give e-book took a year to write. The author sold the rights for a $5000 dollar advance. The author has now made a profit of $4,250. For a year of work. Now say the e-book sells for $10 a copy. Say it sells $10,000 copies. The bookseller less than the usual discount because they don’t have to hold the copy or invest in copies that might not sell. Let’s say they get 25% off the list price of $10. That means the publisher is making about $7.50 a book. The author gets a royalty of say, 25%. (Yes authors have gotten more, but for the sake of argument…) That’s $1.88 a copy sold. Having sold 10000 copies, they make $18,800. But, you subtract out the $5000 for their advance. They have now made a total of $13,800 for that book. (I’m ignoring the royalty schedule here for convenience.) That’s a pretty low salary.

    Silver- They don’t pull prices out of thin air. A lower price means lower profit for everyone, and in an industry where profits are already pretty low.

  44. atsiko,

    I never said you were preaching to me, I was not defensive in my reply to you. I am not in any way insecure about SPing. Yes I realize the topic wasn't self-publishing, but IMO the topic of the original post at root isn't really about piracy either, it's about the effects of it for the author, in particular the possibility of losing a contract. I was not, nor am I now, trying to get into any type of "debate" on the issue of self-publishing.

    Yes, I recognize that often I see the SP angle in many things but that's just because that's the angle I'm coming from. So when someone says: "Oh noes, I could lose my contract and then couldn't write stories anymore" my reaction is… "yes you can… you could always SP." It's not meant to start a debate or hijack or derail, just to comment and say something to the author. No one else has to jump into it if they don't want to.

    Again, not trying to start an argument or a debate. I replied to one portion of Nicole's post. You replied to my mention of SP, I replied back to you. These things happen. Conversations tend to be organic and not always stick to one rigid subject matter.

  45. Gotta love the internet. 🙂

    I didn't mean to imply you were being defensive, Zoe. It's just that the conversation was veering more into the advantages and disadvantges, and I wanted to stay more on track.

    You're perfectly correct that dropped authors could go the self-publishing route.

  46. Your article has been a BIG eye opener. I have to admit that I have read many books I got online. In my mind it was not pirating. I honestly did not think about of it that way. It was more like when you borrow a book from a library or from a friend. I have never downloaded songs for free because I knew that was wrong, but books- that's what they are for, to share them.Right?. Well, now I know different.

    See, I barely discovered the UF and Paranormal Genre. I did not even know there was one or that books in this genre were good. I used to think that most books written after the 1940's were not worth reading. Boy was I wrong. WHen I did discover the genre I devoured them like Jelly beans. Sometimes I did not know which books or authors to read next, so somehow in my research I found websites where you could download the books for free. I sampled authors and if I liked them I bought the books and complete series. Hardcover, full price if necessary just to find out what happened next. So in my opinion, this websites actually helped me discover authors I would never even considered before. Many first time authors, like Ms. Harper from the Nice Girls series.I have all of her books now and like them so much, I have shared them with my sisters and friends. THey in turn like the series so much that they have pre-ordered from Amazon or borders the next book. So in my personal case I feel like these sites have helped instead of hindered the ability of authors to make money.

    I do not use the sites as much, because to me electronic books are not the way to go. I want to carry mine around, turn the pages and get that smell. After your article I will definately not even try to download books for free. I want new authors, I want new stories.Even if I have to give up my MOchas to afford the book.

  47. Stephen: It is hard! Good luck! I wish I could say it gets easier, but I'm starting to learn that the pressures never fade; they just increase as things get bigger and less and less within your own control. But it's worth all the frustrations! Keep writing and keep reaching for your goals!

    Dane: I don't know what to tell you. Again, I think the system for a lot of digital publication is probably flawed and will need to be overhauled as systems, reading habits, and technology change. And that's great you wish we got more money, as authors, from digital publishing. Unfortunately, when you pirate, we get no money and, as importantly for you, no "credit" for your sale in terms of our sales numbers. So that next book in the series might not be available at all, paid for or pirated, because we were never contracted to write it.

    Alana: I love the idea of Anti-Yarr! LOL

    Atsiko and Zoe Winters: Awww, group hug . . . come on, then. 😉

    Jade: That's great, Jade! I mean, not great that you pirated without knowing it OR that you might have to give up mochas (they're full of empty calories anyway . . . I'd stick to whisky). But I can absolutely understand your circumstances. Like I said, I never really thought about this issue, myself. And I think you're a good example of why piracy needs to be cracked down upon, at the source. You were doing it for all the "right" reasons, not knowing the books were stolen in the first place. But you were doing it because you wanted to know what to buy. That said, most authors have really good ways to "test drive" their product, and libraries are also a great place to try out a new series for free. But I can understand how, if the opportunity is presented to you by a pretty pink site like the one I found where the books are presented as legitimately "free," you'd look no further and hit the "download" button. So I'm really glad you found this post and read it and do please share it around. 🙂 And I'm also glad you found UF! I'm an english prof, and the classics are GREAT. But what's wrong with a little paranormal romp every now and again? I think it's good for the soul. Thanks for posting!

  48. Atsiko: It's really bad that profits are down for everyone, and that lack of profit is driving prices up and people away from buying books. I have no solutions there. The way things are going now can't be helping, though.

  49. E-publishing needs to change its model drastically, be it books, music or anything else.

    Given the average price of a book, or an album/CD, and knowing as most of the populace does, that over 80% of the cover price does not in fact go to the writer/musician/talent involved, people are left with the following options:

    1) Buy it retail, and risk hating the item in question, and considering it a 'waste of money'

    2) Buying it online, for the same cost, hating it and now really considering it a waste of money due to a lack of an actual material item.

    3) Pirating, which to the end user in the immediacy of the moment, is a win/win situation. If the CD/Book is bad, they didn't lose anything, if it's good then they have the opportunity to now purchase the item and show their support.

    I am sorry that your social circle is hellbent on never paying for anything, but to tar and feather every single person who has ever downloaded any form of artwork just because your friends don't show their financial support is quite frankly just wrong.

    I've moved more times than I can remember, leaving behind books, cd collections and other heavy objects each time.

    By the logical argument of the 'anti-pirate', each time I move, I should find the time and the spare cash to repurchase everything I have ever owned.

    Which helps your sales more, me finding a digital copy of the first chapters/volume of your story to share with new people to encourage them to actually go out and buy it, or me personally buying your book three or more times?

    Is it fair of the publishers to charge me $8 every couple of days just so that I can fill my shelves with things I read once and then ignore for five years or more due to a constantly voracious reading habit and the ability to recall 90% of a work after reading it a single time?

    Given that the average sci-fi, fantasy, etc. author is usually attempting to tell their story over multiple volumes, and most of these books come out, at best, once every 6 months, personally, that is what kills your 'vote' in my wallet.

    I read too often, and too much, to justify spending $24+ on a story that if I simply ignore it until it is available as a complete set, or omnibus edition can be purchased for half that price tag, consumed in a couple of days and thrown to the side.

    That said, I'm not advocating piracy, I'm merely attempting to voice the devil's advocate.

    I'd rather purchase your book, directly from your website, for $4, and know that three of those dollars goes directly to your bank balance, than spend $8 on something that I may not enjoy, and on top of that, be aware that you've seen maybe $0.20 of that $8.

  50. Widespread file sharing and music piracy wrecked an industry and hurt a lot of the "little people" who made their money working in the music industry.

    I saw this happen at the molecular level as my brother-in-law (an extremely talented musician – http://rexpaulmusic.com/) works as a session musician for Sony in Nashville. You've heard him on the radio, I guarantee it, but he doesn't get huge royalties for his work.

    Yet, when file sharing became a major issue that caused tremendous fallout in the music industry, he was directly affected by music piracy due to there being a lot less work because studios weren't gambling on smaller projects and less "bankable" musicians anymore.

    And that's how the music industry parallels the publishing industry; when publishers begin to lose major market share to new media, AND they lose revenues to piracy at the same time, it's going to be the less known, new, and undiscovered artists who suffer.

    Folks, the writer only sees about 10% to 15% of every book sold – a pittance when you think about it. When you pirate their work, you aren't helping them at all. Instead, you're just further diluting and diminishing the already meager sum they receive for their work.

    Bottom line is, don't pirate an author's work. They deserve better than that from their readers.

  51. re: royalties

    I just wanted to point out that authors published with e-publishers often make 30-50% royalties, with the average seeming to be 35-40%.

    Because of this, I try to purchase more books from small e-publishing houses whenever possible because the authors make more money and, frankly, the books are often a lot cheaper than the big presses.

  52. Nicole, thanks for the discussion, Missy. (That's Mainiac talk, there) I attended a discussion by Jim Swain a few weeks ago on what he sees as the future of e-publishing, and decided to put my own novel on Amazon within the next few months. I began working on it in 1972, but the realities of both military and intelligence careers kept me from finalizing it until retirement. (Good thing it's historical fiction, Eh?) Anyway, a mate down in Aussie has already fired me a shrill "you must be bloody barmy… there's pirates out there" which did instill a bit of fear. My first reaction was; even piracy would get the story out. At 177K words, it stands little chance of paper publication. Swain recommends low pricing at the $2.99 to $3.99 level, arguing that even if people are disappointed, they won't feel taken to the cleaners. My brother, ever the CPA, argues that I should price it around $5.99, the cost of a Starbucks. Now I can add your experience to the equation; i.e., that even were it to become immensely popular as a pirated version, I would still lack the readership evidence needed to convince a publisher to print any follow-up novels that fell within the genre range.

    Hmmm. Food for thought.

  53. All good points but what about in a situation like mine where I happily bought the first 2 books (at over double the US price by the way, as I live in Middle East) and now can't get my hands on the third as for some reason none of the bookstores stock it? And I don't have a credit card to order a copy so than option is out too.

  54. Because of your article I've subscribed to a book club and will take browsing in the local bookstores more for enjoyment and less to find the best "deals".

    As to marie-claire's dilemma of not having the ability to buy the third book I believe her (and everyones) ability to consider this as a logical matter says more about their (our) willingness to cut corners than be a part of economic improvement and empowerment.

  55. Is it true that once the books are bought by the bookstore that's considered a sale for an author?

    If that's the case, we should just shoplift from the large chain bookstores, stick it to the man.

  56. Marie-Claire, The third book didn't come out until Jan. 3, 2011. So that's why you couldn't find it yet, I hope you can now 🙂

  57. Found this article through my wife, who's an author. Well written article, but one assumption you make that is not accurate is that a pirated book = a lost sale.

    Don't misunderstand, I'm not condoning piracy…but it's a part of any industry where the product is available digitally and there's very little you or I can do about it.

    I empathize with your point, but at the same time, it's not a fair statement to say every time someone downloads your book, you've lost a sale.

    In other digital industries (specifically the music industry) studies have shown that piracy can and has helped the originator of the content, though nothing like this has been looked at for books, and I imagine it's probably a bit different due to the medium.

  58. My two cents…apologies. Lets start with that I consider myself an artist. I vary mediums from cake to paint to words, music and fabric…etc I found your article here while looking for piratey pictures to use as a screensaver during my son's pirate birthday party this weekend… FYI, I totally "pirated" your piratey clip art! *GASP!* Ok, now that we are all over the shock lets get to the point. I am of the opinion, you must first understand, that a capitalist society is inherently sick. If you are already lost I suggest reviewing highschool social studies, or looking up altruism… I think that human kind could have a much healthier society if we were just a little less greedy. To me it seems like if one is to make art of any kind it should be for the sake of the art. In my experience art made for profit usually sucks. Art is something that causes emotion in others, I believe this should mean it comes from the heart, and soul, if you will. When someone is writing, drawing or creating in anyway to try and pay the bills, that's not art to me. Articles like this make me feel sad, I start to think that the rest of the world will never see what is so plain to me. If we could all just share with each other openly, share our art, our food, our love and compassion…truly, that would be a world without "piracy".

    Be the change

    Fight the system

    Don't worry, be happy


  59. Sooo…. I know this is an old post, but I feel compelled to comment.

    I pirated your books. Yep, I did. I also *loved* them. They now sit proudly on my bookshelf, along with about 400 others.

    First, let me say *thank you* for writing. I am an aspiring writer (with 2 novels first-drafted but slogging through editing is a chore). I understand some of the pain. Being that I haven't published more than a couple short stories so far, I don't quite have the same perspective, but I'm getting there.

    So, why pirate? Because I'm a starving artist, of course! But I buy when I can. On to the real problem – social issues… The real problem is that buying things, just about *anything*, triggers a pain response in most people (seriously!). People would rather have it for free. Isn't that obvious?

    The fact is that the world is changing distribution patterns again. Back in the day, before about 125 years ago and the age of recorded media, artists had to have patrons. In the age of recorded media those patrons became publishers. Those publishers are more worried about making money than the artistic value of things. However, with pirating become more common – because digital media makes getting your hands on someone's work so darn easy – patronage is making a comeback. It seems like a crappy way to do things, but actually works quite well. I suggest you check out http://www.kickstarter.com/ if you do ever lose your publisher. Many people would probably be willing to *front* some money to get that next book . I would. Worth a try.

    The point of this wandering, rambling, somewhat incoherent post is this: Pirating, much like speeding, is wrong but also a fact of life. Good people do it because it is *so* justifiable. However, there are alternatives for someone who is reasonably well established such as yourself. Projects like Kickstarter offer you a way to get things off the ground. It's good stuff.

    As far as income goes, that problem is as much the publisher as the reader. While pirating *does* hurt the writer's income, there is a good argument for it as advertising, as well as an argument that 1 download does not equal 1 lost sale (or even 1 lost sale opportunity). Publishers, however, have many things they do that screw the author. For example, paying out your 'advance' over two years. That's shitty. Worse, they bundle the sales of all three books together so that even if one book sells *ridiculously* well, you still have to pay off the advance for all three books before you see any royalties. Doesn't seem like much, but it screws the author by passing to them a larger portion of the risk and significantly delaying their payday for each book. There are *tons* of these little tricks they use. Every publishing firm, whether for print or other media, uses them. Artists are in a very bad way right now, truth be told.

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