Saturday, 3 September 2011

Pirates, Piracy and Stealing Our Books!

Those scarf-wearing, hooked hand, scallywags of the sea, shouting obscenities in a west country accent and drinking too much are as loveable today as... well probably more loveable today than at any other time in history. Glorified tales of piracy and romantic rogues create the illusion that theft, upon a boat at least, is acceptable. Of course now pirates tend to hijack rich yacht owners with machine guns and I think we'd all agree they're taking the jolly out of the roger there.

Then there's the cyber pirates, less eye patch and more double thick glasses (okay that's a bit mean, but I never gave the illusion that I was nice). Having a geeky younger brother I was obviously aware of the evil creatures who stay at home in their bedrooms and steal money off U2 by illegally downloading their tracks. Media corporations, not unlike the East India Trading Company back in ye old days, are basically being bent over a barrel by eight-year-old nerds and maybe this might teach them that over pricing and manipulating the industry isn't going to be acceptable when you are dealing with the generation of "I want it, so I'll have it."

It never bothered me that people illegally download songs and DVD's, not when those losing out are so wealthy they can afford to jet fly their hats across continents. Then I published my work and piracy seems like a dirty word (and when you're advertising a book about pirates it really makes marketing difficult).

So apparently people download copies of your book illegally. What a surprise! And as I write books about pirates it would be pretty hypocritical if I condemned these Word.Doc theives. As far as I'm concerned I'd rather people read my books for free than not read them at all. There's more to life than money, etc, etc. But I appreciate this is a big issue for a lot of indie writers.

I've heard rumours of illegal sites that have drastically cut indie writers' sales and even of sites that make illegal profits from our work. There is nothing we as writers can do except pull our hair out and scream loudly at anyone who will listen. The annoying thing for me is I am desperate for feedback on my work, I want to know if I have any talent for this literacy game and piracy robs me of the interaction I can have with my readers.

So what's an honest trader to do? Amazon will not let me put my book on for free so I have published on Smashwords as well. Here the reader can set the price, give me feedback and scold me for any paragraph they didn't like. The formatting rules initially put me off Smashwords, but once I got my head around them I found the site really easy to use. I think that if I let my readers set the price I might be less affected by piracy than a lot of writers - you can get it for free if you want - or you can praise my creativity with pennies and pounds (or cents and dollars). Obviously I won't be making millions anytime soon, but that never bothered Van Gogh (or maybe it did and that's why he cut his ear off).

What I would say though, is if you are going to pirate a book think about who you're stealing from. A lot of indie writers are juggling jobs as well as writing and are doing their best to keep afloat in this grim and dreary financial climate. When you steal, and it is stealing, you're making a very big difference in an indie writer's career. Indie writing and self-publishing has the potential to change the stifled world of literature for both readers, writers and publishers, do you really want to stop that? Or would you like the I'm a celebrity so I can get published situation to continue, forcing talented indie writers to remain undiscovered?

You can buy my book for £0.86 on Amazon UK, $1.39 on Amazon US or you can set the price at Smashwords (links to the right will guide you), but if you insist on pirating my book, or in fact any indie writer's book I ask two things of you:


1. You give the author feedback and/or a review helping them to advertise their work to people who will buy it.
2. You look the part and wear an eye patch

If you do pay me for my work I whole heartedly thank you, if you read it for free I also thank you and if you make money from my work without my permission I will hunt you down and make an example of you, you scurvy dog.

Current sales 13 (1 from Smashwords within a day of publishing - if you haven't published here might be worth your while fellow wordsmiths).

[ps I think Captain Huwzo's latest image really suits this post]

2 comments:

SBJones said...

Piracy is a hot topic. Personally, anyone who pirates a book in my opinion, would not have bought it in the first place. Therefor there is no sale missed, and if they liked the book, they might tell someone who would buy the book. In the end, you still gained word of mouth and lost nothing.

I do draw the line if they take your work and sell it. They make money and you don't is entirely different in my opinion.

I could go on forever, but its a mute point in the end anyway. The nature of the digital world.

L E Fitzpatrick said...

Totally agree SB. Given that I would never pirate a book (in fact if it was available I would buy the hardcopy of every ebook I really liked as well as paying for the download) I hope there are enough of us out there that this won't become a problem.