I’m going to be open and honest to start off: I have illegally downloaded music in the past.
I’ve pirated plenty of films too. Books? A few, yeah. I guess my excuse is that during my teen years, I belonged to an age-group where digital content sharing was just, well, both formality and normality. Receiving music files over MSN Messenger was just the way I grew my music collection, before spreading it to other willing recipients like some sort of beautifully sounding infection.
I don’t pirate so much any more. Spotify provides me with an affordable, and more importantly, easy way to discover new bands and artists. Services like Netflix, while far from perfect, are a step in the right direction for cinema and TV. For books, the Kindle Store is usually good value enough for me to buy a book or two each month.
That said, I don’t see book piracy as something authors should rally against. If anything, we should embrace it.
The Anti-Piracy argument
I can’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve seen an author getting precious or insulted upon finding their book on a piracy website. ‘They’re not entitled to my book because they haven’t paid for it!’ they cry. ‘Burn them! Tie them to a stake and throw rocks at them!’
It’s a fair point: us authors put all sorts of blood, sweat and spilt coffee into our work. Why should someone simply take what we have to offer? I mean, how can anyone ever hope to make an honest living with the shadow of piracy looming over?
Sure, it’s a fair point, like I said. Fair, but slightly idiotic.
Warning: if you’re a radical anti-pirate, you probably won’t like what you’re about to read. I don’t really care. The following content is for forward thinkers. Join us, if you dare.
Seriously? Why is piracy a good thing?
It’s not a good thing. I never said that. But trying to combat it is like trying to stop rain hitting the ground — it’s here and it’s here to stay, so instead of trying to fight it, we should try to embrace it.
Wait — embrace book piracy?! Seriously?
I want to share a little hypothetical situation, so bear with me. A friend sends you an mp3 file of a new band. You quite like the sound of the track, so you download their album. You stick it on repeat for weeks to the point where even your computer speakers are getting fed up of hearing the same old thing. The band tour: you and your friend buy a ticket and go see them live. You grab a t-shirt, perhaps even a physical copy of the album.
If it wasn’t for that one file your friend sent you, you probably would never have discovered the band.
Why should book piracy be treated any differently? Say your book is included in one of those ‘1000+ FREE EBOOKS!’ pirate packs which goes around the torrent sites. Is that really a sale lost? Is it bollocks. You’re telling me that one illegal downloader is seriously going to head over to the Kindle Store after noticing your book is missing, and buy it? Of course they won’t. They’ll just download another pack of 1,000 free books. Your name will remain irrelevant to them.
But let’s say, just on the off-chance, that the pirate reader really engages with and enjoys your book. They might take a note of your name and check out some of your other works. Sure — they might just download them for free again, but how is that any different to a single downloader picking up your book on a KDP Select free day? Food for thought.
A Reader Gained, Not a Sale Lost
This notion that book piracy amounts to lost sales is absurd. Sure — maybe that is the case with the top ten selling authors on the planet, but they are making enough cash from their books that book piracy is irrelevant anyway.
To new authors, I don’t think book piracy is as big a problem as some like to make out. Again, remember the band analogy: maybe that book pirate will stumble upon your work by accident and decide to buy it on the complete off-chance. I doubt it.
Kick up a fuss if you want; it’s generally what people do where book piracy is concerned. Personally, I think it’s about time we stopped moaning about book piracy and started to actually do something about it. Ever thought about throwing a note to pirates in there? Ask them to donate $1 to your PayPal if they really love the book, or something? They probably won’t, but it’s still a reader gained and not a sale lost.
If you’re not yet selling enough books to make a living and yet piracy is your biggest concern, then look in the mirror and question your motives. Are you really concerned about piracy? Or are you just so desperate for overnight financial success that you need something to blame?
Keep writing good fiction and the rewards will come. Seriously.
The Weekend Book Marketing Makeover
Those brilliant people over at Duolit have a little gift for you all that they’d like me to share — it’s called The Weekend Book Marketing Makeover. It pretty much does what it says on the tin: offers tips on balancing marketing with writing and finding the confidence to self-promote. I’ve read through it and found some fantastic tips.
Oh, and did I tell you it’s completely free?
Just head over to this link. All Duolit ask in return is for you to share the book on Facebook or Twitter.
I’m still grafting away on the rewrites of my second novel. I’m actually enjoying this rewrite a lot more than my one for What We Saw, so hopefully that’s a good thing. I’ll have more news on release dates and things when they are available, but for now, summer is looking likely.
First draft of book three is progressing nicely too. Considering my target was to get two novels out in 2013, I’m confident that I can not only meet that but exceed it. Watch this space for novella news over the coming weeks and months…
What are your thoughts on book piracy? A sale lost or a reader gained? Have you ever illegally downloaded anything? If so, how has it changed your buying habits?
Image courtesy of Earl – What I Saw 2.0 via Flickr
I wonder how prominent book piracy is compared to music and movies…I don’t feel like people are going to go out of their way to steal my first release and if they do I think I’ll survive.
Exactly, Tyler. Maybe worry about piracy when we’re selling tens of thousands a day while thousands are stealing. Until then, one pirate download every once in a blue moon isn’t hurting anybody.
I don’t really see a difference in someone pirating my books and my giving away hundreds for free through KDP Select. It’s all about gaining readers. I have to admit feeling a bit of a thrill when I found one of my books for download on a website a couple of years ago, but that’s just me. 🙂
I’m guilty of feeling the thrill too, Will. There’s definitely something exciting about it in a weird sort of way!
I wish my books were being pirated…okay, maybe wish is a strong word. I agree with you though, it’s not really a problem. It’s easy exposure and free marketing–and that’s *if* that pirate notices your book among the thousands.
Another morsel for thought: at the current royalty rate through Kindle/Kobo/What Have You, and the relatively low price of Indie ebooks, how much are you actually losing? Then take into account your overhead in producing thye book in the first place. It’s lower for Indie Writers–pirating movies is a bigger deal because production companies spend millions of dollars they need to recoup before they begin to see profit. I recoup my overhead with a few hundred sales. Stealing a dollar from me isn’t so much of a deal in that respect…and like you say, readers gained.
You’re right, James — it’s good free marketing if noticed, but it’s certainly not a sale lost even if not noticed. It’s just… well, stasis.
I agree regarding the differences with the film/music industries, too. Seeing as we essentially cut out the middle-man, we don’t have to worry too much about lost profits in comparison to studios and production companies. It’ll be interesting to see if and how book piracy develops over the years.
Not that I’m condoning it or anything, but it’s wrong to assume it’s irrelevant. Digital piracy is a major part of this century, so it’s intriguing to discuss and debate it.
I can accept the argument, but what your blog didn’t mention so far was that Amazon will remove your book from programs like KDP Select if your book is pirated..have you heard of Amazon doing things like this? It certainly was news to me!
Is that so? If that has happened to you first hand then I’d contact Amazon as it is an error on their part. I no longer use Select, but I wasn’t aware of any changes in terms and conditions.
Hope you get that sorted out.