Care and Feeding of Authors: The Waterbed is Leaking…

Okay, not a literal waterbed, but the cushion that suppors authors is bleeding out.

I’m actually taking about piracy. In the book world, piracy doesn’t look like Captain Jack Sparrow, it looks more like this:

(photo via Pixabay) 

With the advent of digital books came a huge upswing in book piracy…because it’s now much easier to get hold of the books in the first place.

It’s a fairly prevalent problem, though. I’ve stood there while someone offered my husband a file with 900 books in it...they’re free! I’ve talked with young people who think all digital tech should be free. There are reddits that specialize in piracy links. I’ve seen my own books pop up on one pirate website after another. In fact, it happens SO often that I no longer bother with reporting it.

(Read an article that talks about this at The Creative Penn: “Why Authors Shouldn’t Worry About Piracy”)

The article above basically says that people who steal books wouldn’t have bought your book anyway. I actually think this is mostly true.

People who pirate books don’t usually think of this as theft. They think they’re just working around the system, like someone who gets an on-line coupon before buying something.

I used to be in retail, and one problem we had was the occasional smash and grab. Someone would bash through a store window, grab all the clothing they could (in our store it was usually Tommy Hilfiger), and then run. Later, that stuff would show up at a nearby flea market…which was essentially fencing stolen goods.

Most people can recognize that I’m talking about stolen goods, there.

Most people realize that if someone is making knock off copies of those Tommy Hilfiger shirts and selling those, it’s illegal. (We call that the black market goods, fakes, forgeries.)

We see both of those in the book world. Not just books handed out free, but also copies–some of which are really suspect–being sold. Yesterday I ran across a site that is SELLING a bundle of 11 of my books for under $10.

Most people who buy like that know that they’re getting a rip off. They know it’s a cheat, and they don’t really care, just like that fake Louis Vuitton bag or that ‘Romex’ watch.

Again, they may never have willingly purchased that book through normal channels.

So writers are just supposed to be happy that people are reading their stuff, right?

It’s amazing, though, how much money the author sees slipping away. Especially for big name authors…I’ve seen calculations of how many thousands of dollars Author X has lost in royalties because Book Y was pirated.

(This is especially bad when an author has a book pirated -before- it comes out. People who’ve been waiting anxiously will pick up the pirated copy instead of waiting two more weeks. There’s a really weird idea floating around out there that the readers make the author and therefore, the author ‘owes’ that book to the readers. Uh…no.)

But that’s not the biggest problem that we have with piracy.

My biggest problem with piracy is that it’s disheartening. It’s growing, and authors wonder if there’s a day coming where no one will pay for anything they write.

Every time we see a pirate site, we’re told to go report it to our publishers. We do that, a take down is sent, and the site drops our books. And then, a week later, another site pops up, which is likely just the same people using a different name.

People playing whack-a-mole game at carnival–Deposit Photos

 

Basically, it’s like that. We can spend all our time whacking moles as they pop up, likely get infected my malware along the way, and endure an annoying amount of stress…and THAT KEEPS US FROM WRITING.

But if we don’t do so, then we’re not protecting ourselves, right? And we therefore have no right to complain about piracy, right?

(This is victim-blaming, if you don’t recognize it.)

The real problem for the writer–the thing that may make them want to quit writing–is constantly seeing this over and over and over until it wears them down. Until they begin to believe that No one is willing to PAY for my writing. 

So they quit.

It happens. Writers are sometimes fragile creatures, barely managing to get stuff out there as it is. And knowing that for your year’s (or longer) worth of work, you’re losing a good portion of your likely income because people who claim they love your work won’t pay for it…that stings.

(See earlier post about how little authors are paid in the first place.)

So if you can, support your author. If you can’t afford the book, ask your public library to carry it, and they’ll support your author. If you want to get that book a week before the publication date…wait.

Be polite, not a pirate.

Addendum: Most writers give away tons of their stuff free already. We send it to people for reviews, for promotions, newsletters, etc.  I am mailing out 5 copies of The Golden City today (prizes on Goodreads). We do that in the hope that those readers will spread goodwill.  Generally, since we control that, we don’t mind it.

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