Mystery, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, horror & YA by "Cheryl Kaye Tardif" & romance by "Cherish D'Angelo". Cheryl is represented by Trident Media Group in NY.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A-hoy, matey! Should ebook pirates walk the plank or be set free?

This is my recent reply on JA Konrath's blog where piracy pros and cons are still being discussed. I am a bit concerned about new authors taking everything Joe says to heart without looking into the issue--illegal copyright theft and sharing. As much as I respect Joe for his marketing abilities, I am not sold on his argument that since we can't fight them we should embrace piracy and do nothing, turn a blind eye. I'm just not wired that way, and I'm not alone.

My comment:
I'm dropping by to give you all another update on the 4shared website that has illegally shared so many authors' works.
Mine were removed--as were many others--after 2-3 brief emails with 4shared. It wasn't time consuming and I didn't find it half the battle as when I was fighting for the rights of authors to keep their signature lines on Amazon book reviews, which we can do now although they had been deleting reviews by authors who had done such.
It's a small win, having your work deleted from pirate sites.

Do I think this solves the issue? Not at all. My work could end up right back on the site, but for now I'm satisfied. At least I took a stand against something that is legally wrong.

The word "copyright" and subsequent laws protecting our copyrights are there for a reason. When a pirate distributes an ebook, they are making illegal copies and conversions, sometimes even scanning a printed book. While there will always be people disobeying this law, it is in authors' best interests to not sit passively and allow this to happen.

Over the past week or so I've been contacted by a number of authors who were not happy to see their works pirated. I was also contacted by the agent of a very well-known bestselling author. She wasn't pleased to find her client's works on 4shared and she and the publishers involved are taking steps to have the works removed. 4shared has been fairly easy to work with on this matter.

As for Joe's belief that authors should sell ebooks for $1.99 to see better sales, that's not a guarantee. Not every author has the fan base or history of publishing with big publishers as Joe has had, and whether he wants to believe that makes a difference or not, it does. Having a series also helps in this situation; hook people with book #1 and they'll come back for more because they want to know what happens next to those characters. I KNOW that if I'd been published by a major or even mid-list traditional publisher, my work would have reached far more people than it did publishing with a small traditional publisher. It's a no-brainer.

That doesn't mean Joe hasn't worked hard. When I read about all his promotional strategies, I'm exhausted. :-) And good for him for being so pro-active on this. Many authors think it's up to the publisher to market their books. It's not.

Regarding ebook pricing: Pricing your ebooks at $1.99 does not guarantee you higher sales, and new authors really need to understand this. It's your fan base and marketing strategies (which includes pricing and much more) that will lead to high sales.

An author with a new release SHOULD market her books a bit higher to put value on it and also so that later, when the book has been out awhile, she can discount it to make it more attractive as a backlist or older title.

This doesn't mean she can't put it on sale every now and then, or give away some free copies--both great marketing strategies.

Anyone who's ever been in marketing & sales (that was my background prior to becoming a published author) of other products will know that new products hold better value. If you start with $1.99 ebooks, you don't have much room to go in discounting, especially since some retailers have minimum prices you have to charge (like Amazon).

Though I bowed out of this debate awhile ago, I'm still reading posts here, plus the many emails I've received privately from authors and (surprisingly) admitted "pirates". Though I appreciate their reasoning and can even understand why they do it, I can't condone it as others here have done. For anyone just weighing in on this debate, it is far better to investigate both sides of the piracy issue before making a decision. And trust me, if you aren't an author or if you haven't been pirated, you have no idea how it feels to have your work stolen and re-distributed. Pirates don't usually download a book they aren't interested in, and in that, authors have lost a potential sale. Period.

But I do agree with a couple of points my new pirate friends mentioned: ebooks need to be priced affordably (less than $5 seems to be the consensus, easily accessible to all ereader devices and easily uploaded. seems to understand these concepts and I believe they have the most versatility when it comes to formats. My books are all available through Smashwords. Plus, their coupons make it easy for me to discount my books for special sales.

By the way, Smashwords, Amazon on other retailers offer a LEGAL method for people to "distribute" authors' works. It's called affiliation. As an affiliate, you can advertise an author's works on your site/blog (which is very supportive) and then earn money on sales purchased via your affiliate link. Former pirates could then earn money to buy more books. I am more than happy to have others distribute my works this way--and we all win.

I'll leave you all to continue this debate. I've said what I need to say on this subject, as you can see on my own blogs about piracy.

I encourage authors to read everything they can on piracy. Don't take my word for it, or Joe's. We each have strong opinions on what's right and wrong. Make an informed decision based on more than a couple of authors' (or pirates) opinions.

Support Authors, Buy a Book! :-)
My other posts on piracy:

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling Canadian author


Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Here's an interesting study by game developers who dispelled the excuse that pirates take copyrighted material because the products are too expensive.

The Humble Indie Bundle Piracy Experiment

Crystal-Rain Love said...

I loved your comments on his blog. Sadly, people who participate in illegal filesharing will always claim it doesn't hurt anyone. They really don't care if it does. They just want their free stuff.
The few authors I've heard of who don't mind piracy are the ones making a lot of money. Of course they don't care. They're just like the CEO's raking in the big bucks and not giving a damn about the peons beneath them.
Honestly, if I had about four or five books out in a series and my publisher approved of it, I'd probably offer free downloads of the first book. Just the first book. That would be great advertising, and by then I would have already earned-out my advance. The problem is, that's never good enough. People want it all for free.
And for the record, most authors who say piracy doesn't hurt are the same ones who don't have an advance to earn out before they start making money, or have already earned it out.
It's always going to be a sensitive subject and those who object to it are always going to be ridiculed, but if you've put your time and energy into creating a piece of work, you deserve to be compensated for it. Period.
I'm a mother of three who spent the past eight months unemployed. To say it hurts me when someone pirates my book instead of buying it is an understatement.Not that the people doing it care.

Marilynn Byerly said...

Another "Amen, Sister!" back at you. Good for you for speaking up against Konrath and his pirate fanboys.

What I've learned over the last few years talking to and about pirates is that most of the pirate rhetoric is nonsense.

Although pirates always blame the victim for their crime, they steal books that are ridiculously cheap as well as expensive, books with and without security DRM, etc., etc.

They steal because they can for their own pathetic reasons to make themselves feel better about their own failings. Most are bullies and sad children, whatever their ages.

And wrong is wrong despite what Konrath and others are saying. I can't think of a major religion which doesn't have some form of "Thou shalt not steal" as an important commandment. How hard is that to understand?

I've been doing some surfing on various pro sites, and the sad thing is Konrath is getting all kinds of coverage, and those of us blogging and commenting on other blogs are being ignored. I hope that improves when the holiday is over, but it wouldn't surprise me if it doesn't.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Crystal-Rain, thank you for your comments and your support for authors against piracy.

I agree totally. Authors making a lot of money, as Joe reports he is, won't feel a loss of five hundred potential ebook sales, whereas those of us who need that $500 to help pay a mortgage or buy groceries will. It seems he's forgotten who helped him get where he is today--his major publishers, bookstores and his loyal fans, not pirates.

He's only proving that people will take something for free when offered. And we all know that already. He can't prove that piracy doesn't affect his sales.

As I said to someone today, "if I offered you a Tim Horton's coffee for free in one hand and a Tim Horton's coffee for $1.99, which would you want?" It's such a no-brainer. People take what they can get for free.

Pirates take books, then they go right back to the pirate site for more books. Then they tell their friends where to go to get illegal copies. And they tell two friends, and so on... (I know this from the music piracy days and from my own experiences with people pirating music.)

It would be good if there were more posts from authors, publishers, bookstores etc standing up against piracy and explaining their views. So feel free to quote me from my blogs on piracy if you decide to write about it. All I ask is that you attribute me by name and add a live link to my blog.


Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Hi Marilynn,

Thank you for dropping by my blog and sharing your thoughts on piracy and how it affects you as an author.

I agree totally. Theft is theft. There are copyright laws in place for a reason. Pirates and Joe can justify it all they want to, but file-sharing is wrong if the copyright doesn't belong to the sharer.

As for their argument about pricing. There are thousands of free ebooks available legally. And thousands more priced under $3. Pirates go to file-sharing sites because they know they can get something for nothing, not because they plan to sample a work for free then buy the authors' other works later. Let's not kid ourselves.

As for Joe's "experiment", a control group is needed for the study to be deemed worthy in any way. All he'll prove is that he can sell his books. We already know that.

Guess what? I've sold some books because of this debate. Some people have bought my books because they like that I took a stand against piracy. What this proves is that controversy sells, and anyone with a sales/marketing/business background knows this is true. I suspect that's what Joe is counting on right now too.

And for the record, I had planned to buy a JA Konrath novel as I've admired some of his marketing techniques and his novels are just what I like to read. However, I won't buy a book from him now. I'll look for it on a file-sharing site and it won't be illegal since he's okay with it and has given his blessing to the pirates. He has now just lost a bunch of sales from me. Though he would argue that I wasn't planning on buying them anyway, that is simply not the truth. In fact, I had planned to buy his first 2 books in the series this payday...tomorrow. But not now. And I won't bother buying the rest; I'll get them from the free site because he's okay with that. And if I like his books enough to recommend them to my friends, I'll give them the link of where they can get the books for free. And I sure won't donate money to him. I'll keep my donations for Hope Mission and the other charities I support, since he's not a charity.

Yeah, the money he would have made if I'd bought all his ebooks won't hurt him. But I'm just one person. How many others will do this?

One last point, there is a lot of confusion over authors/publishers giving away free books (something I'm all for because it's a calculated loss with promotion potential)versus illegal copying and sharing of copyrighted works (something I'm against because it's theft and a loss without promotion potential). The two are different issues. With Joe's "experiment", he's firmly in the author giving away his books realm. Since he's allowing the sharing of his files, we can't consider them pirated anymore. They're just being shared on a site that has a majority of other pirated works.

If all a writer wants is to be read (and many do), then give away every copy and allow pirate sites to download your work. If you're a new author or one with a small fanbase and smaller sales and you want to make and maintain a steady income, you'll want to encourage sales.

Thank you again, Marilynn.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author

Support Authors, Buy a Book!

Rowena Cherry said...

Well said, Cheryl.

It is important to remember that when an author gives away a free read from her website or as a prize to a reader in a contest, she is giving away a read not her copyright.

In Joe's case, he appears to be encouraging anyone who wishes to do so to reproduce and distribute that particular collection of short stories.

His experiment may result in some damage to his copyright for that work. Time will tell.