Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Arrhhh, me hearties!
blogged about it in bygone times at NYUS, but hey - it hasn't gone away! so I thought we could revisit.
All my books are out in ebook formats, and in many cases, that's their only exposure. That means, in essence, they're just a file - you know, like the pdf file of an instruction booklet, or a sheet of notes students share from a lesson, or even a favourite recipe. Eminently easy to prepare, copy and email wherever and to whomever you like. That's the blessed joy of modern technology, right?
Apart from the content, of course. That's far less easy or swift to prepare! If it's yours to do with as you like, that's fine. If it's someone else's... then there are rights to consider. Like any commodity, there should be fair exchange of value. An author puts a hell of a lot of time, effort and imagination into their product, and the fair value for offering that to the world should always be considered. We don't just write "book" 60,000 times and call it a novel *heh*. And, to be honest, most of our books are already sold at way below minimum wage, if you calculate the Book Maths i.e. hours spent plotting and writing + hairs pulled out + coffee drunk vs. actual retail selling $.
So what happened this week, Clare? you ask. I'm not talking about the reasonable matter of sharing an ebook with a book club friend, or receiving a free copy as a prize, gift, or in request for a review.
It was a rather unfortunate incident of a reader/blogger receiving an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of a brand new book, in return for a featured, honest review - and then it turning up on a book piracy site before the book had even been published. In other words, the source copy could only have come from the ARC. *sigh*. The facts are still being investigated, but we've all felt a sense of betrayal, and all the more so for it being close to home. The author feels the rug has pulled out from under her feet, our promotional agencies are distressed because they work closely with trustworthy and supportive review sites, and genuine readers are angry that another reader has made a mockery of the relationship with a favourite author. To say nothing of the loss of income to the author.
I've been pirated since I first published - and still am - and have lost the energy to post takedown notices every time. Luckily, my publisher is more tireless in chasing pirates. And there are all kinds of arguments not to sweat the small stuff on piracy - that the pirating readers wouldn't have bought the book in the first place, that the pirated copy doesn't really represent lost sales.
But when it's perpetrated on a copy that hasn't even been paid for in the first place? Even more upsetting.
Many authors are now suggesting security measures for handing out ARCs, if any authors do this direct. For example (and with a grateful nod to a fellow author Chris McHart whose newsletter covered this topic recently):
- know your reviewer. Ask them what and where they've reviewed, including their link at Amazon. If they're genuine, they'll appreciate a proper relationship with you.
- use a site like Instafreebie to issue copies. These are then individually watermarked so you can maybe trace a source document.
- reward those reviewers and readers who are consistently trustworthy and professional. Better to have 20 reliable reviewers than 50 dodgy ones!
Apologies, this post had ended up much longer than expected. I must feel strongly about it *hohoYeahYouBetIdo*.