Note: I haven’t been able to keep up here much lately because the launch of The Blood Mage is quickly approaching, but I hope to catch up with all you lovelies soon! In the meantime, enjoy a somewhat humorous story with a happy ending and a serious message.
A couple of days ago, my very enthusiastic mom posted a message on her Facebook page and tagged me in it. The message informed me she had obtained a free copy of my upcoming novel The Blood Mage.
She was excited, because she’s been dying to read the second book in my series. I was mortified because I had no idea how this had come to pass.
The thing is, the only people who have copies of my second book are reviewers. I sent out ARCs to book bloggers, bookstagrammers, booktubers, vloggers, etc. last weekend. Buuuut I sent out digital copies, meaning pirating is a thing that could easily happen. I trust 99% of reviewers to do the right thing with an ARC and not reproduce or redistribute it, but I was worried I’d made a bad call when I saw this.
My frantic, rambling thoughts went something like this: Holy shit, someone has pirated my book and put it on some website for people to download before it’s out. But how could this happen? I’m not famous
enough for someone to pirate my book. Does this mean I’m a little bit famous now? Should I be honored? Alarmed? Oh. My. God. If someone with an ARC is responsible that means there is an uncorrected proof floating out there somewhere on the interwebs.
Seriously. My immediate concerns were not of a financial nature. I was mostly just concerned about readers getting their hands on something that wasn’t the best possible version. The Blood Mage isn’t even back from the copy editor yet. It was hard for me to to send ARCs out at all because I knew they were not final. It makes me cringe to think anyone is reading something that isn’t 100% as good as it could be (which is why I never reread my published works because as my writing evolves, the standard of “as good as it could be” shifts).
The only reason I finally DID manage to send ARCs out was because I talked to some book bloggers who convinced me y’all know what to expect when it comes to ARCs and even though it might twist my gut a little to send something not at its peak, I understand the economic advantages of doing so. Still, it was difficult, so to think someone had put an uncorrected proof out there for anyone to read at any time for ever and ever was horrifying.
Shortly after my mom posted this most of terrible of things, my brother sent me a text message demanding to know how our mother had obtained a book he, too, has been excited to read. I started to panic. Rapid fire messages were sent to my mom demanding to know who, what, when, where, and how she’d gotten this alleged book. I was halfway through drafting the DMCA Take Down Notice I’d need for when I figured out what website would dare host such a thing, when my mom informed me she’d obtained the “book” from a website called Instafreebie.com.
For those who don’t know, Instafreebie is a website where authors (most usually self-published authors) can upload their books or excerpts of their books to distribute for no cost to readers. I’ve used it in the past for running promotions and currently you can obtain an excerpt of The Blood Mage right here. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that excerpt has been my pinned tweet for awhile.
My mom, bless her, thought she’d somehow downloaded the entire book but after inspection, realized what she had, was, in fact, only said excerpt. Crisis averted.
But this whole event got me to thinking: What does it mean to pirate a book?
I mean, book sharing is a definite thing in the book community. There are libraries, obviously, and you can exchange books on your Kindle, and you can trade books with friends. These are activities that are usually encouraged by authors, right? Plus, authors in general, but especially self-published authors, give their books away for free all the time. So what’s the big deal?
I’m being 100% serious when I tell you I legitimately asked myself this question yesterday. Mainly because I knew if I ranted on Twitter someone else would ask it eventually so I’d better have an answer. But I digress.
Okay. So what’s the big deal? Well… first of all, it’s stealing and that’s super uncool. If I decide to give my book away it’s a gift. If you decide to pirate it, it’s stealing. Pretty simple.
Right, but pirated or obtained through legitimate means, I still end up with a free copy so does the distinction really matter?
Well, as Lukas, one of the main characters in my new book (which I hope you will BUY) says, “Distinctions always matter.” But more than that, this particular distinction is about timing.
Promotions are run with timing in mind. Books aren’t given away for free or low cost whenever or wherever, forever. There are windows to create buzz or just to show appreciation. But they’re short. They’re short because people are mostly impatient. It’s why we’re not all taking the grocery stores for everything they’re worth like the savvy folks on Extreme Couponing. Most people don’t want to wait. Promotions are run banking on this fact.
Authors run promotions hoping some people will download their books for free and like them enough to talk about them to their friends, family, internet acquaintances, etc. and those people will eagerly buy the book at full price. Or, if they have a series, they hope they can give the first book away for free and people will enjoy it enough to continue the series. Simple. But if the book is pirated (the horrifying unproofed ARC issue aside), then it’s available for free all the time and the author loses out on the whole point behind targeted promotions and timing.
Key point here: The author loses out. Look, I grew up in the time of Napster (I’m dating myself, aren’t I? Youngins’, here’s a Wikipedia article), so I know the allure of free stuff and the counter-culture argument behind screwing “the man”. I get it. But when you pirate the work of an artist, you’re not only hurting the big corporations, you’re also hurting the little guy (read: the artist). You’re actually hurting them the most because they’re less likely to be able to absorb the hit when compared to a big publishing house or a record company or in the case of indie artists, many simply don’t make enough sales to afford to lose any.
And honestly, if you are into art, then you should support artists the same as you support anyone else. By buying their product.
In conclusion: Support artists. Don’t steal their things.