Note: This post is not directed at the general readership of e-books; the people who purchase or otherwise acquire e-books through legitimate channels; or websites which promote and offer authors’ work honestly and openly. This entire article is aimed at e-book pirate sites, consumers and the people who collaborate to keep them in business. This post contains language some people might find offensive. If you are not described in the foregoing sentence, I’m not talking to you, so please to chill. If you DO find your behavior meets these criteria and you find yourself all up in your feels about it, scroll down to the very end for a special, personal message from me to you.
Yesterday, while looking up reviews of my books I could excerpt for promotional use, I stumbled across something which threw me into a full-on tailspin…followed immediately by the sort of rage which coats everything one looks at in a red haze.
A certain website, which I won’t be linking to, thanks, had copies of Dead Means Dead up for free. According to the statistics from the website, almost 3,000 people had downloaded Dead Means Dead.
First and most obvious problem: This book is no longer associated with Noble Romance Publishing, LLC in any way. Noble folded in 2013, and my rights were reverted under a gag order prohibiting me from speaking about the company in any way until 2016. Well, it’s two years PAST that…so anyone from Noble who wants to get up in my grille can take a number and form a conga line to kiss my ass. I paid my dues and kept my mouth shut.
Second: As above, I am the sole owner of the rights to Dead Means Dead.
Third: I DO NOT have the rights to that cover, which was created by Fiona Jayde for Noble Romance Publishing.
Fourth: I never authorized this site to distribute my work, and certainly not for free!
Everything which follows is extrapolation based on the download figures from this site. They may or may not be accurate. My calculations below also lean heavily on “round numbers” to establish a baseline, so they could be off by as much as half an order of magnitude. Regardless, we’re not talking chump change when we look at the big picture.
So, let’s do some math.
Dead Means Dead has been downloaded 2,952 times on this site. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use the Smashwords payout system for these calculations. So I’m going to set the cover price at $2.99, making my cut $2.24.
2,952 times $2.24 equals $6,612.48 in lost revenue.
That’s off ONE book. On ONE site. These are not “theoretical” damages. These are actual, calculable losses I have incurred because of some fuckwad with a website registered in Cyprus who felt they had some divine fucking right to steal and give away my work.
Now, let’s say all 21 books in my backlist, including all the works with Noble Romance Publishing and Changeling Press which are no longer in print or available through Smashwords in modified form, are included on this site. Think Eat My Shorts! for this one. (I have no evidence this is, in fact the case. However, for argument’s sake, I’m going to proceed with it.) We’re also going to assume that every reader who liked Dead Means Dead sought out every other book by me they could get a hand on, and were able to do so through this one site. This seems reasonable, because in my experience very few readers like an author’s work and don’t go back for more of it.
$6,612.48 times 21 equals $138,862.08.
That’s off ONE SITE.
Now, let’s say there are TWENTY sites out there which have a similar format. Twenty is likely a LOW number, if we’re being honest. I’m not even counting torrent and open pirate sites. These calculations also assume that if you download a file, you’re getting a legitimate book and not some horrific malware that will render your computer or e-book reader so much useless slag. And, hey, if you DO get such malware on your machine because you downloaded illegal files and got exactly what was coming to you:
Fuck you very much and serves you right.
Don’t be a dick and dick things don’t happen to you. Funny how that works, innit?
20 times $6,612.48 times 21 equals $2,777,421.60.
Now, I grant you, this is pretty high-end. The reality of my losses are probably around 1/3 to 1/2 of that $2.777M. That’s still
$925,747.20 to $1,388,620.80 in lost revenue.
I recently did some calculations to try to figure out what I would need to make from my work over the past eight years to make what is considered a living wage as the sole breadwinner for House Unicron. For purposes of this exercise, I considered the following factors:
- I live in Washington County, Oregon.
- Neither of my girls is bringing in any income and I am the sole breadwinner. (Untrue, but that is the ideal position I’m looking for. Something catastrophic happens and I can step in and say, “I got this” without any diminution in quality of life for anyone concerned.)
- The House comprises three adults and two children. For purposes of these calculations, I used the two adults/three children calculation in the wage calculator above, or $32.86 to account for X-factor and occasional recreational activities.
- All calculations are in 2018 dollars and ignore inflation and changes in my living circumstances and locales from the beginning of my professional writing career in 2010 to present.
$32.86 times 2080 working hrs per year times 8 years equals $546,790.40.
So, I would actually have made 41%, 61% or 80% MORE if each of those books had been actually purchased through legitimate channels, working from lowest likely loss to highest possible, than I would have at a “living wage” job.
Now figure there are probably 10,000 authors out there who are losing money in the same way. If their losses are anything like my own, assuming just the LOW-END losses I detailed above, the number runs to
or right between the Gross Domestic Products of China and Japan! Numbers are fun, kiddies!
I’ll be back after I have a shot and a beer.
…aaaaaand welcome back!
The “Well, But Actually…”
Some of the excuses I and other authors/artists in general get handed for this behavior are astounding in their entitlement and hubris. These are all “reasons” I’ve personally been given or seen/heard with my own eyes. @Forexposure_txt on Twitter is a particularly brutal/hilarious collection of people who pop shit similar to the excuses below. If you have a strong stomach and a sense of humor, it’s worth taking a look.
- “But I really, really LURVE (book/author), but it’s not available in my country through legal channels!” Sucks to be you.
- “But I’m giving you EXPOSURE!” Try paying your light bill, your grocery bill or the IRS with “exposure.” I’m sure they’ll thoroughly enjoy discussing the moral and ethical ramifications of PAY FOR YOUR FUCKING SHIT with you while they wait for the police to arrive.
- “But I don’t have money because [insert lengthy sob story I’d have a lot more sympathy for if I wasn’t worrying about my own bills getting paid because pirates].” I feel for you, but when I’m broke, I don’t buy things. That’s how this works.
- “Authors are just greedy.” Um. No. We work for a living and expect to EARN a living from our work, just like you do.
- “I just want to read it…I didn’t really want to, you know, like, BUY it!” ARE YOU FUCKING HIGH?!?!?!
- “Information wants to be free.” Then you create the information and you can set it free all you like.
Yes, some people really, actually think this way. Honestly, TOO many people.
Here’s the thing: They would rise up en masse and raise unholy hell if someone told them their work was to be valued the same way they value art, including writing. There would be a revolution, complete with guillotines and rich people running like their heels were on fire and their asses were catching, if the average worker was treated the same as artists.
Now for the REALLY baffling part:
Some authors and artists actually DEFEND this crap. Take this jewel from this morning, by one Elliot Morreau, on Twitter:
This can come off as a little ungrateful…To be fair, with success, comes piracy, and you can view it as a negative, or understand that piracy is a platform that does have benefits. Sure a portion of your audience has downloaded it illegally, but in turn, that could lead to…
This encapsulates EVERY bullshit argument I’ve heard from artists about why we can’t beat ’em, so we might as well join ’em. Coming from an author, it’s especially baffling. As you might guess, I had an opinion about this, and was quite quick about stating my opinion in return.
Unless you can show ME a tangible benefit to ME from having my work stolen, NO. If that makes me ungrateful, I don’t give a solitary, shiny, sugar-frosted fiddler’s fuck.
Obviously, I come down firmly on the side of this argument which says “piracy is theft.” But this leads me to another one of my favorite “But, but, but!” bullshit “gotcha!” arguments.
- “But you give your books away for free to stimulate reviews and sales.”
Yup. I do.
The difference is, I made that choice of my own free will. I know where that book went. I know where to expect a review from some little time down the line. I have CONTROL over how much of my anticipated profit I’m giving away.
When a pirate just helps themselves to my work, that choice is taken from me in every dimension. It’s a violation of my consent, of my right to profit from my intellectual property which came about from the results of my work, and it has real-world consequences. It’s no less of a violation than if someone walked into my house and helped themselves to everything in my fridge, everything I’ve worked long and hard to earn over the years…because they felt like they needed it more than I did and so they should have it, without the hassle and fuss of actually compensating me for it. And then I lose sales. I lose market share. I lose profitability from my work.
My entire livelihood is placed at risk.
If a reader is too busted broke to afford my books, I’m glad to discuss giving them a coupon to bring the price point down to something they can afford or just giving them over in exchange for a fair and honest review. That’s fine and I have ZERO problem with that.
What IS NOT fine is looking for reviews of my work…and finding them on sites where I make no profit and will likely never know about them unless I actively go looking.
Then, when I DO find such sites, I have to:
- Stop what I’m doing.
- Download the work to find out if it’s legit or a malware fake. (More often the latter.)
- Reset and clean my computer to get rid of any viruses and nasties I might have picked up.
- Research, compose and create a DMCA takedown request.
- Interact with the party who answers (almost invariably never the actual site owner, because they spend the money to hide themselves and their contact information from people they fuck in the ass with no lube)
This can take anywhere from 2-6 hours PER SITE. After I’m done with that, do you think I feel like writing? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! So, that’s me shut down for at least the rest of the day. Yesterday, I sent SIX DMCAs. And after this blog post, which is all about piracy and why and how it hurts authors, I promise you I’m not going to have the spoons to write anything else today either.
So, thank you, pirates.
Thank you for the lost time. The lost productivity. The lost money. The lost incentive and drive to produce more work because you decided it was good enough to steal, but NOT good enough to actually buy.
And by the way…
With all my most fervent sincerities, feel free to go find yourself a nice, big saguaro cactus and sodomize yourself with it VIGOROUSLY.
In other words: