Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Please Don't Steal My Books

Like most authors, I have a Google alert set to inform me when someone mentions my name online. I use it to keep track of reviews and generally assuage my vanity. Recently, however, I had to shut it down. Not because my books or blog had become so wildly popular that the tsunami of praise was washing me under or anything so awesome, but because I got sick of deleting all the notifications that came from my books being added to torrent sites.

I don't normally jump on internet bandwagons (I dislike crowds), but when Chuck Wendig, a hoopy frood of an author who always knows where his towel is, got on Twitter to declare this #dontpiratemybookday, the timing was simply too perfect for me to ignore. You have to understand, I'm thirty years old. I was in late high school and early college during the heyday of Napster. I get piracy, I really do, especially when DRM or other corporate shenanigans make it easier to torrent something than to buy it legally.

Hell, I don't even have that much of a moral problem with stealing, I'm the lady behind Eli Monpress, remember? I don't think people who download things off the internet for free are evil or immoral or even criminals. I do, however, think they're unintentionally doing great harm to the people whose art they enjoy.

You see, authors are entirely dependent on sales numbers. I'm traditionally published, which means the lion's share of my income comes from advances, money paid to me by the publisher in advance of publication. But here's the kicker: if my sales numbers aren't good, I won't get another advance, because no publisher will buy a book from an author who can't produce good numbers.

I can't blame them. Why should a publisher risk money on me if I don't sell? It makes no business sense, and contrary to the very odd belief that all authorship should be done purely for love of the medium, editors and authors and art directors have to eat just like everyone else. And here in lies my biggest problem with piracy. It's not that you're stealing my book, you're stealing my SALE, and thus, stealing my future.

I've wanted to be an author ever since I can remember. I fought and clawed and wrote my heart out for four years before I made it, but even after I got my book contract, there was no rest. It doesn't matter how good my books are, if I can't pull good sales numbers, I can't keep writing. My great dream of being a full time professional author that has been the driving force of my entire life is completely dependent on how many books I sell, and every time someone steals my book instead of buying it is a chip in my foundation.

For the record, I'm actually a big fan of a free and open internet. I agree with most of what comes out of Cory Doctorow's mouth, I support net neutrality, I chip in my $5 to Wikipedia every time they put up their annoying banner, etc. I love my open internet and I never hesitate to write congress when they try to fence it in. But under the current publishing model, my entire future is dependent on getting people to pay money for my work, and when someone torrents my book, that future I fought so hard for erodes just a little.

Maybe it won't be this way forever. Maybe in the future we'll work out a system where piracy doesn't hurt authors so horribly out of proportion to the minor offense of downloading a book. For foreseeable future now, though, illegally downloading a book is just about the worst thing you can do to an author.  It's not a minor crime for us, it's a shot to everything we've worked our butts off for. Most of us don't even begrudge you the money, but the sale? That extra number in the column that lets publishers justify paying us for our work? That matters. That matters a lot.

So please, don't steal my books. Don't steal anyone's books. If a book is too expensive, wait a bit and prices will come down (and on that note, the omnibus of my first three novels is only $2.99 right now, just sayin'!). Hell, I would rather you buy someone else's $0.99 book than steal mine, or anyone else's.

So if you're ever tempted to torrent that bestseller they're trying to charge $13 an ebook for (ROBBERY!), or if you hear someone bragging that they got all of a series online for free, please remember this post. I'm all about sticking it to the man, but we're not him. We're just folks like you trying to make a living doing what we love. Not stealing is great karma, too, so help a sister out and spread the word.

We might not be able to stop piracy, but if we can change a few people's minds, we'll have done good, and that's enough for me.

- Rachel

19 comments:

Lynn Rainey said...

Yes and I am not an author. I'm sorry that people are stealing from you and from everyone else. I know many pirates and they just do not get why you should not do it. They say "Well the artist, studio, author, etc has already made their money on the item. This is just extra." No no it is not! But I am just preaching to the choir. Love you by the way and I can't wait to read whatever wonderful book you write next.

Jenna Bird said...

I will certainly be sharing your post. Out of curiosity - do you know if you get more money from an ebook sale or a physical copy sale? I know that, in general, a sale is a sale - but your paperback omnibus is just under $12 right now and that's a perfect price point for 3 books for me! However, if you are going to net a bigger advantage personally from the ebook...

the superhero princess said...

Agreed! Thievery should be kept in stories. We want you to be able to keep writing! :)

Laura Stephenson said...

I didn't know pirating books was a big thing. What I know as being a big thing is pirating games with stupid DRM and movies that aren't on Netflix (and you're too poor to buy them). Who me? No...

I have bought all your books, and intend to do so in the future. Just keep writing them!

Rachel Aaron said...

Aww, thanks guys!

And to answer your question, Jenna, I actually make a lot more off ebooks (25% royalty vs. 7% for print). Ebooks are better for everyone, really. Publisher makes more, author makes more, and there's no wasted books if unsold copies get remaindered. Hooray ebooks!

Really, thank you all so so SO much for the support. It really does mean the world to me!

- R

Casey L. Clark said...

Rest assured... I shall always by your ebooks, 25% is a big difference! I had no idea!

I'm sorry this happened to you (and to all authors, really.) This was a well written post.

very classy. :)

Samantha Veerasamy said...

Brilliant post and I totally agree! Shall be sharing!

bookishdragon said...

You are an evil evil woman. There may be an Enslavement going on here. I already own the print omnibus, and because you told me about it's fabulous price, I now also have the ebook for my nook. (And the novella you did too). Sigh, evil woman tempting me to multi-format-edness...

Tina Radcliffe said...

We're buying and then giving away two copies of your book in Seekerville today!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Sorry. Brain fart. www.seekerville.blogspot.com

PhD student said...

What about online libraries? You pay a subscription for the library but you get ebooks for free - are they legal? (I asked an author and she said they are, but this post makes me wonder again)

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Anonymous said...

Rachel, don't bother to worry about people pirating your books. People who use torrents are not likely to buy in the first place. See torrents more as a way to put your name and ideas in front of more people.

Jonathan said...

I don't steal books. Period. Writers have a hard enough time as it is.

By the way, is the sale for the omnibus edition over? I see the kindle price as over $10. It may be because I'm in Europe.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so i may get shouted down for this but:
I admit, i sometimes pirate a book.

BUT...i only do that to get an idea if an author is for me or not. What do i mean? I have no bookstore near me that has the selection of fantasy i want, so the only way for me to inform myself is the internet. I'd prefer to go to the author's page or to the page of the publisher to download, legally, a sizeable excerpt (not only 20 pages or something...i need more...let's say half a book). But, most of the time, those websites don't have enough sample-material. So i turn to the infamous sites we all know. And yes, i pirate the whole damn book.
Again, there's a BUT - If i like what i read, i go out and buy the book in print (I am not into all those fancy e-readers...at least not yet).

So you see, you do not lose any income on me. Because if i do not like the book, i will delete it (and i wouldn't have bought it in a bookstore either...because there i also would have read quite a bit into the book before buying) and never think of it again. But if i like it, i go out and buy it...so income for you.

What i am trying to say - the possibility to pirate a book is the only way for me to sample a book in advance. As long as publishers and/or authors do not acknowledge that there are people who want to be able to read a sizeable sample before buying, i have to go to the internet-pirates. So in this instance, you make money thanks to those pirates.

You might even get more sales out of this...because if i like something, i advertise it to my friends etc. . So the pirate that seemed to steal from you might as well be a pirate who makes you a lot of money. Just saying.

And those folks who download a book and never read it, or read it just because it was free...well, those are no lost income either...because they never intended to buy the book anyway.

And just to be clear:
I don't want to excuse piracy. I know it can have negative impacts. But it gets exaggerated, imo. A lot of the online discussions is negative-only. And that is just as wrong. There are positive side-effects to it.

Best,
An avid fantasy reader

P.S.: As a slight tangent (not trying to troll here, honestly curious) :
How do you view people who lend out their books? Because this is kind of a lost sale for you as well. It's kind of piracy-light...and now we go into shades of grey territory, right?!
What about second-hand bookstores? Or libraries?

Anonymous said...

When is the next Eli Monpress book?

Anonymous said...

As a reader and a writer...I buy as well as pirate. This is my criteria for pirating--is the ebook version priced as high, or sometimes higher than the even a paperbook? If so, that really ticks me off. Also, if I already have the print copy, I don't think I should have to buy it again in ebook format, so I don't.

Kiki-Chan said...

Hello. When i was newly out of college i was unemployed for almost a year, and there were no public libraries near me. The TOR books free online library saved my life. They offer first books in a series or an authors early work. They gained in me a loyal reader and buyer once i had a job.
I do not copy illegally. It is a matter of honor to me. But i think authors profit from giving free samples by gaining a wider audience.
Right now i ama working on a novel.If it ever sees the light of day i plan on emulating Mr. Doctorow.
Please excuse my stilted and terrible writing. My cell phone keeps trying to write in spanish. Best of luck!

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