Friday, March 18, 2011

Soapbox Moment

I will have to admit that I am a pretty easy-going person. I shrug off a lot of things and endeavor to keep things extremely light on my blog. There's no reason for the constant serious rants and lectures from me on the state of the publishing industry, readers, reviewers, or any such things that involve my line of work. However, there are times when you need to step back and take a serious look at the world around you.

During the past week, I've been reading a lot of other author blogs, encountering some excellent, informational posts that I would like to pass along to you. Agree or disagree, I'm just passing along some valuable information.

1. Piracy

This is just an ugly topic that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of every published author that has hit home with me too many times. I'm fully aware that my books are available on illegal download sites, making them available to the reader for free. I've sent lists to my publisher into to get cease and desist orders, and yet they still pop up. This is wrong, people! Both the posting of and the downloading of these books.

I think what hit me the hardest this week is a search that came up with my name in it. Someone had posted a question on the Internet asking where he/she can read my books for free.....

Maybe I'm over-reacting. Maybe this person simply needed to be reminded that they could go to practically any library and borrow my books for free and it's completely legal.

However, my gut tells me that since this person had posted the question on the Internet, he/she was not necessarily looking for directions to their local library, but a link to one of the illegal download site. This is wrong. If you're downloading books illegally, you're stealing income from the publisher and the author. You are risking potentially killing a series because not enough books have been sold despite its popularity on the illegal site. A publisher decided whether to keep or kill a series of books based on sales numbers. I may be at work, trying to create some art in the form of an escape for readers, but it's still a business in the end.

I understand when money is tight. I understand when you want to read some of your favorite authors, but there just isn't any money in your pocket. I've been there lots of times. Please, I beg you, please, go to your local library and borrow the book. You're supporting your favorite authors and the industry by doing that.

If you have any questions about piracy, about why it's so important that you don't illegally download books, please take a peek at this wonderful post by Jeaniene Frost on the topic.

2. Rating Books

While a different topic, it goes down to the same thing -- honesty. I am aware that sometimes people will rate books on the various site based on a book's cover, the price, the release date, and sometimes even the appearance of the author -- things that have absolutely nothing to do what is actually on the pages. It happens and there is nothing that I can't do about it. I've come to accept that. My one concern is when books are rated when it is absolutely impossible for them to have been read.

What should be an impossibility is actually happening on Goodreads. Burn the Night was listed on this community before I had received the copyedits. Shortly afterward star rankings appeared on the book. At that point, only myself and my editor had read the book -- no one else. I don't spend much time on this site, but be forewarned when you look at the rankings of these books as they might be artificially inflated or deflated.

For more information on what's happening with Goodreads, check out Lauren Dane's fabulous post regarding this ratings issue. For the most part, this is just a "reader beware" for users.

3. (For authors and aspiring authors) e-books are killing the publishing industry?

It's no secret that e-books have grown in popularity recently-- particularly following this Christmas season when everyone received new e-readers. People are afraid that it's going to mean the demise of the mass market paperback. I think that there was an amazing blog posting on Anna DeStefano that takes a look at the evolution of the publishing industry. I would definitely check it out.

Sorry to be so serious today, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts after watching blogs and twitter all week. I promise we will be back to our normal programing next week.


Carrie said...

I think a lot of people who pirate books are simply cautious about spending money on a book they're not sure they'll like. I wonder if posting the first few chapters of your books online before they're published would help with that? I know of a few other authors that do this, and it seems to be pretty popular.

As far as the Goodreads thing goes, I always put more stock in the actual reviews than the number of stars a book has. One person's idea of a five star book isn't necessarily the same as mine, anyways :)

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of ways to read a sample of a book before buying it without resorting to a piracy site.

1) Most authors will post a sample of a book (usually the first chapter) on their websites.

2) At Barnes and Noble you can download the free nook app and download a sample of any nook book for free (nook book = ebook). It's usually the first 10 pages or so.

3) Amazon has the "look inside" feature. Sometimes all you get is the copyright and title pages, but most times you'll get the first 5-10 pages of text.

Brenda Hyde said...

I hear you on all three things-- I usually don't rant either because others do it so much better, like Jeaniene. I really don't get people and the piracy thing-- why they don't see it's stealing is beyond me, plus they can go to the LIBRARY- unless they've taken books from there and not given them back, so they can't check out any others. Sigh. I'm sure some have done that too. It's very sad and frustrating.

I heard about the thing on Good Reads, and I'm mystified as to why they would do this to authors. What's the point? I also don't get why Good Reads doesn't put a stop to it. Grrrrrr...

Ebooks won't kill publishing-- people will always read, and buy books, regardless of the format.

Roxanne Skelly said...

Ugh, piracy is a hard one...
I've unfortunately had to work in the computer anti-piracy industry for what, like 15 years now. After lots of tylenol and a fair amount of drinking, I've discovered the following:

There really isn't an automated computer-type way of fighting piracy. Pirates always find a way around it.

Legal action works somewhat.

The RIAA's tendency for suing people for $200k+ of damages for a handful of songs isn't deterring anyone, and is driving people away from music publishers who support the RIAA.

The best way I've seen in deterring piracy is the method used by iTunes. Specifically,
* Make the songs affordable ($1.)
* Make it easy to buy them (one click buy)
* Let them sample a portion of the songs.
* iTunes gift certificates. Give people money that only works to buy songs, and they'll use it.

Video game companies have also started offering
pre-purchase of various games at a discount, or pre-purchase gets one swag or additions to the game.

I'd love to see the book publishing industry do similar things.

Hey Amazon, $8 for a kindle book? Seriously, the distribution cost is nothing, as opposed to a printed book. You can give your authors more money, and still sell the book for less for a higher profit margin than paper books.

Making the first portion of the book available electronically is smart.

One click buy on author websites would also be a big plus.

Allow people to pre-purchase at a discount, or pre-purchase to get a signed copy and a bookmark, or whatever.

Convince iTunes to start carrying books.

That won't solve piracy, but it'll get more people to actually pay for the books.

There's a long way to go, but people want books. If they don't pay for them, then writers will need to do something other than write to make ends meet, and books will go away. Ultimately, they'll still pay for them.

Traci (aka the Bookbabe) said...

Thank you so much for pointing out that people CAN get books for free - and legally - by visiting their local library! And yes, my particular system carries your titles, thanks to yours truly sitting on the Collection Development committee. lol! Everyone bitches all the time about paying taxes, yet they seem to forget that, occasionally, those taxes provide them with something they really enjoy - such as the library.

For those who feel it's perfectly OK to pirate a copy of a book (or a song, or a movie, or any other medium), I have to ask them this: Do you really hate the artist that much? Do you wish this person to suffer? Because that is exactly what happens when you take this thing he/she has worked on for so long, so seriously, with such passion, and "get it for free". Do you tell your friends how much you like this artist? Do you then tell them that you got the work "for free"? You know what's wrong with this picture? Your semantics. Because you did not get it "for free". YOU STOLE IT. Plain and simple. That makes you a thief, plain and simple.

Hope you're proud of yourself. What would your mother say?????

End of rant :-)

Steven said...

On March 1st of this year Technolog over on ran a story about a Danish survey which found that 70% of respondents thought that piracy was "socially acceptable" to at least some degree while only 30% thought that piracy was completely unacceptable.

70 percent!

I was appalled by this as I fall firmly in that 30% who consider it completely unacceptable. When I buy a book I actually enjoy the thought that a portion of that money is going to the author. It's not only a way of saying thank you for the hours of entertainment the author has given me, I also think of it as a kind of bribe to write more books for me to enjoy. After all, more sales equals more books!

Love your favorite authors, don't steal from them!

Anonymous said...

You talk about the libraries as the answer to the piracy.

All right. But try to have such a scenario in your mind for a moment:

Your book is not yet translated or released in the country the person who pirates it and wants to read it lives in. Therefore, no library has it. And the person cannot afford the buy from a foreign country, Internet or not.

They just want to read the book they cannot get any other way (that, of course, assumes they have access to the Internet in some way).