Now that I’ve got access to write freely on this blog (thanks Rivka!) I thought I’d raise a topic that has come to my attention a couple of times over the last few months, but which has exploded onto my radar this morning in the worst kind of way.
Ebook piracy. We all know it happens. We all hear the headlines when a well-known author goes off on one and withdraws all their ebooks from the market. There have been many discussions over the usefulness of Digital Rights Management. A lot of people are of the impression that ebook piracy is a victimless crime. They’re wrong.
Back on the 1st May this year I googled for the book, looking to see if any new reviews had gone up on any blogs. I was horrified to discover that the second to sixth pages of the google search results came back as pirate sites offering free downloads of my book. Dozens of them, illegally providing my work to people. I was furious, but soon calmed down. I rationalised to myself that very few people would be downloading from these sites. After looking at a couple of them and getting porn popups all over my screen, I thought that few people would take the risk of downloading from such sites. I know that a lot of them are merely fronts for credit and debit card details phishing sites. This was my response, posted to my author page on Facebook:
“I spent a lot of time thinking last night about piracy. I came to the conclusion that I have to try and not get upset about it because there’s nothing I can do. Letting it get to me doesn’t help anything. The truth is, there are an awful lot of you who are good, kind, funny, sweet, sometimes naughty, but always honest people. Your amazing messages and funny reviews have made this last month one of the best of my life. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds or thousands of illegal downloads there are, the downloads that count are the ones that brought you all to me, and those have made the journey TOTALLY worthwhile. Being in the bestseller list is amazing, but it’s equally as valuable to me as waking up in the morning to messages from America, Australia and all around the world. Whether I’m at #1 or #1 million, I have (what I consider to be) more than a hundred new friends, and there ain’t a pirate in the world that can take that away from me. I just thought it was important to tell you that.”
At the time, and to a certain extent still now, those were genuine feelings. Publishing has been an amazing journey for me and I’ve made new friends and been utterly humbled by the depth of feeling that Obsession: Darkness Falls inspired. It’s been my dream for years to write full time and for a brief, glorious moment it looked like it might one day become reality.
Fast forward just over three weeks and, while the sentiment of that day is still true, I’ve been slapped in the face this morning by just how damaging this has been to my figures.
On the 9th of May an illegal copy of ODF was uploaded to a site that actually had a counter on it, showing how many downloads and reads there are. When I first saw it this morning, there had been 796 illegal downloads of ODF. In the time I have been writing this blog post, that has increased to 801. Let me put that in perspective for you:
It’s almost double the number of legal downloads from Amazon in the same time period.
It represents a loss of earnings to me of approximately £1465 which, for the record, is more than I take home per month from my day job. Think about that. With that kind of additional income, the dream of writing full time would be a reality.
ODF has been hovering around #8000 in the overall download charts. That number of additional downloads would have taken it into the top 100 bestsellers, giving it the opportunity to be seen by a MUCH wider audience than the amazing core of readers I have.
And these figures are from just ONE site. Imagine it multiplied across the dozens of others and suddenly you start to get a picture of just how damaging piracy is to authors.
And you know what? It’s not about the money. Sure, I’d love to give up my job and write full time. It’s not even about the principle, however angry I get that the book I spent many emotional months working on is just being given away. It’s about how damaging it is to the career of any new writer starting out – they’re literally having their exposure stolen from them. The higher you are in the charts, the more people see your book. The more thefts there are, the lower you ride and the fewer people notice you. Pirates are killing your career before it’s even started. That’s what has sent me into a ranty rage this morning.
It’s not just me. There are dozens, possibly hundreds or even thousands of authors out there that have had their careers ‘stolen’ from them.
I know that in many ways this post is pointless. There will always be pirates and unscrupulous people that download from them. One author having a rant isn’t going to change much. But if you are one of those people that downloads illegal ebooks and happens to be reading this, I urge you to think a little harder next time, before you download that book. Think about the people you are damaging. Piracy is NOT a victimless crime. Imagine how you’d feel if it was you. Listen to your conscience.