June 01, 2010

Steal, er, Share Joe Konrath's Ebook: Is it Piracy or Sharing?

Joe Konrath, author of Cherry Bomb and the Jack Daniels series, is running an experiment. His claim: piracy or what he prefers to call file sharing, can increase sales.

So he is experimenting, saying his Kindle sales will not suffer as a result of his collection of Jack Daniels stories being given away free. You can read his claims and download the collection here.

Author Marilynn Byerly and other authors call the whole thing a fallacy as Joe may not suffer, but small press, ebook and indie authors and presses will suffer having their works put all over the web for free.

I'm still figuring out this piracy-file sharing - free thing. If you're lucky to have a number of books already published or are a writing machine, that cushion is larger. If you already have a name, yes, it makes sense that you will feel the hurt of free vs. sold books less.

People will do what they do. There's no stopping it. But it's like legalizing drugs - do you do it because "everyone" wants it? Is it a good idea? Aren't there still always those who do get hurt?

Yes, thieves will take what they want and won't pay anyway, no matter what. Entitlement seems to be the byword today (just ask all those jailed execs who still think they were the ones wronged and didn't do a anything illegal).

But... maybe that old saying still holds true: why buy the cow when the milk is free? Maybe the real key here is Joe is crazy - like a fox. Yes free works for him - he stirs the pot and gets all the free publicity he could ask for. Hmm...

* * What's your opinion?


  1. I don't get why so many authors get worked up about piracy.

    Those who pirate and never buy would never have bought your work to begin with. Never. One pirated item does not equal one lost sale.

    Then there are plenty of people (myself included) that pirate because we're sick to death of purchasing things that suck. Books, movies, video games, music. I'm tired of it. So, I pirate it first to see if it's any good. If I hate it, I don't buy it and I avoid that author, etc again. If I like it, I'll buy it and will (in the case of authors) find other things by them.

    Case in point. I am really picky about my fantasy. Someone recommended Jim Butcher. I downloaded his first book because I wasn't sure. I loved it. I bought his next 13 books. Piracy did not hurt this man.

    I've seen small-list authors freaking out on Twitter and their blogs about piracy. Ever make a mix cassette tape of Poison and G&R songs for your friends when you were 15? Yeah, that's piracy. Ever give a book to a friend? That's file sharing. Only ever read books/ebooks from the library? Yeah, that's file sharing (**In Canada, Canadian authors get a small amount of royalties to help offset what was lost for library use. Authors just need to register). I could go on.

    Want to stop e-piracy? Then simply put, produce a great product and consistently that is priced low enough that the effort to find a pirated copy just isn't worth the effort.

    For me, it's a non-issue.

  2. As Krista wrote, those who pirate books will continue to do so. Whenever a new protection pops up, they'll find a way to crack it.

    For Joe, it is part promo and attention, creating a buzz for his books and it's one smart and different way to do it. Out of the box is one way writer's need to look at their marketing legwork.

  3. People are stealing? Not news. They are stealing books? Awesome! That means they're reading those books and talking about them. So I pay for it with one of my ebooks, it costs a lot more for a blog tour, I think.

    If someone steals my books, I'm grateful. Pass 'em around, see if you like 'em, come back for more. Love what Krista said about pricing them low. An inexpensive ebook will lure me any day. I might miss some good writers, but they can't be that smart if they don't price for most of America. It's simple marketing; you're only as good as the sale.

    Konrath is a genius. I want to read his books now.

    Word on the street is the hottest items for theives are ereaders. Man, I'm in the right business at the right time!

  4. Very interesting blogpost. I am very curious to see what the results are. Until I saw Krista's response, I would have said that I am against piracy. If it turns out, however, that people will buy more material from authors from whom they have pirated, maybe it won't turn out to be a bad thing. It remains to be seen if this is the case, however--especially if the people are pirating not to examine but to avoid paying any money at all.

  5. Piracy is a mixed issue. Those who pirate and sell, and those who do it excessively (like one woman I heard of who uploaded 3000+ books to a pirate, and then had the nerve to complain to the publisher that the book had been tagged with her name and IP) need to be punished.

    But lending an e-book to a friend just isn't that much. And the argument that you might try something to see if you like it and then go out and buy it makes a lot of sense.

    So-called piracy when the darn manufacturers keep changing formats isn't really (I have a bunch of old LP's that I paid for but no working turntable - why shouldn't I download an MP3 of any of those tracks?).

    I strongly favor being able to download pretty much anything that the manufacturer has allowed to go out of print - if he won't sell it to me, the heck with him!

    And if the author thinks it will benefit him to give away copies, well, that's his privilege.

  6. Interesting hearing everyone's take on things...Yes Jim 3000+ books is excessive and completley wrong! A few is not the big deal; it's numbers like that. Who can agree with that?

    As for albums, Lp's are big and turntables are popular again. Check out Track 1 Vintage Stereo in Antioch, IL (tho they are too delicate to ship.) http://trackonevintagestereo.com

  7. The Candid Canine made a really excellent point:

    If you're lucky to have a number of books already published or are a writing machine, that cushion is larger.

    Krista spoke to the other side of the Catch 22 of piracy for an author who is a debut author with only one or two books.

    You say "Write More, Write Faster, Write Better Quality, Write Consistently, Sell Cheap..." then we'll buy it if we like what we read for free.

    Have you ever wondered why first books are often the best, and why many authors' later books in a series aren't quite as satisfying?

    It's often because they are being pushed to write faster, and they don't have the time to focus on the quality of what they write.

    Piracy will probably increase the pressure on authors and publishers, and quality will deteriorate.

    Books won't be edited to save time and money. Mistakes will slip by.

    It's a vicious cycle, and the people most hurt by it are the midlist authors who are not (yet) writing machines, and who need to sell enough of their first book to convince their editors to offer them a second contract and a third contract.

    It's no good vowing that you'll buy a new author's next book, if she never gets the next book published.
    At least libraries pay for the one copy they lend, and if a lot of patrons borrow their only copy, they buy more copies.


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