24 December 2007

The reasons I loathe your average e-book pirate...

It's stupidity. It's idiocy. Most of all, it's the lies that the pirates tell themselves and others to try and justify what they are doing. These are comments taken from a pirate just today and forwarded to me by an author, who is still shaking her head.

Lie 1: Someone is making the big bucks. No one would be in this industry, if they weren't making big bucks.

The truth, though I'm certain I'm preaching to the choir, because anyone actually reading this already knows the truth. This is to make me feel better, I suppose...

Truth 1: e-Publishing is a GROWING concern. The fact is, the growth is what everyone is counting on. Few publishers/authors are making even minimum wage rates on e-books, thus far. Now, there are a few notable exceptions, but those are few and far between.

Writers write, because we LOVE to write. That doesn't mean we don't want to earn money at it. It means that we'd love to earn money doing something we love, but with the liars and thieves of the world out there, in full force, we have little chance of that. That's right. They are stealing from us. They are stealing food out of the mouths of our children, not that we can afford much on what we make in e-books...or most of us, even in print books.

Lie 2: The publishers and authors create our own hell by expecting to make $22 on books that take $4 to print.

Truth 2: These people are deluding themselves and lying to everyone. VERY few e-books sell for as much as $22. A few NY presses do, because they are setting the e-book price at just below hard-bound price. Most have learned to price e-books at or just below mass market prices. All of Mundania's e-books, for instance, even those just released in collector's-edition hard-bound volumes, priced at $50 and $90, sell at between $6 and $7 for the e-book version. The trade paperbacks usually sell for between $11 and $16, actually on the lower end of the spectrum for trade paperback books.

Out of that pittance of a price...and it is, the publisher is recouping costs of registering copyright (Mundania does that for the authors), purchasing ISBN numbers and the money paid to acquisitions readers, paying editors and cover artists, paying authors their little piece of the pie, marketing the books... Few indie/e publishers are walking out with anything, let alone a lot of money from the pie. But, there is hope for future returns. HOPE of more.

Add to that the cost of printing the books, if there are print versions. The average POD (print on demand-produced) trade book, what most indie/es are selling, has a printing cost alone of a little less than half the sell price of the book. Yes, even the collector's editions, since those are hand-packaged, to get the special features onboard.

Now, look at the distributors. No...I'll get back to distributors, since that's covered in lie 3.

Lie 3: It's "morally wrong" for you (the author or publisher) to make the purchasers/readers pay through the nose for the money the distributors are making off of the deal.

Truth 3: That's the reader's fault. Not ours. The authors and publishers in indie/e go out of our WAY to provide a way for readers to purchase books direct from the publisher and/or printer. What do we get for it? Complaints that the readers WANT to purchase the books from Amazon, from B&N, from Borders, from Fictionwise, from ARe... Not that I have anything against these sites. I love working with them, but we use them, because the readers want them.

Clue coming in. Those places take between 40 and 55% of sale price. Clue coming in. Many of their agreements say we cannot offer a lower-priced alternative elsewhere, even at our own site. That means...clue coming in...we have to price our site copies at the same price we sell them for at the resellers, and that price must be high enough to cover the cost of distribution, when we use it. Clue coming in, again. Many of those final-sale points use a middle man between us and them, which also takes a cut. Thank goodness most e-book resellers don't do this, though some do. You want the convenience of one-stop shopping, then you drive the price of everything up. Not our fault. It's the fault of those who demand one-stop shopping.

If these "fine, upstanding citizens" (tongue FIRMLY in cheek there, when talking about the liars and thieves) really want to make it "fair," take the big cut out of the picture. Start buying direct from the publishers and printers and cut out the middle men you rail against. You can't have it both ways.

Lie 4: The people pirating on the street can reproduce them for $2. Obviously, anyone can.

Truth 4: Produce WHAT for $2? A CD/DVD? I'll buy that they can. Want to know why? They have taken a finished product and simply copied it. I could do that for less than a dollar for CD and less than two for DVD, but I'd be doing it illegally to get it done for that price. If I did it legally, it would take me $5-$10 to do it.

That's an idiot's argument, because it completely disregards all of the costs put into the original that are ditched in the pirated copy. Of course, they can steal something for that price. Why? Not just because they cut out the middle man. No. Because, they cut out those who LEGALLY and MORALLY have the right to their cut...the author, the publisher, the cover artist (whose art is also being stolen and illegally reproduced), the editors... All being cheated.

If these people really think you can make a paper book for $2, they are obviously thinking of a VERY short mass market book, printed offset. You cannot print a POD book, for that price. You cannot have trade paper or better for that price. You cannot do it, even if you have your own printer, like The Espresso, because on top of the $3 for a 300-page book, you've got maintenance and recouping the cost of the machine. You cannot produce a paper book of any decent legnth and quality for the price these people say you can.

Lie 5: Since everyone knows it's immoral for people to charge so much for a book, anything I (the pirate) has to do to read the book, including piracy, is fine. It's just leveling the playing field.

Truth 5: Since the established list price for books has been set for decades, it's obviously not been thought to be immoral for all this time. And, NOTHING excuses breaking the law to get something you want but don't want to pay for. (Not need...want. It's not the lesser of two evils, where your child will die, if you don't steal to feed the tot.)

Any other lies these people tell themselves aside, they are breaking the law. Simply because they don't want to follow the law...it's inconvenient for them to...does not excuse them of the law and its consequences, but that's a whole new discussion.

Lie 6: I (the pirate) have a "right" to any books I want because of the freedom of information act.

Truth 6: Bull! The Freedom of Information Act has NOTHING to do with fiction books. If you're going to lie, at least lie with something believable. Read the law instead of pulling something out of your arse.

Oh, yeah... There is no believable excuse for pirating books. Unlike sharing a single copy with one friend, there is no advantage of helping an author build a name, when you mass produce the book illegally and share it or sell it. Simply put, it hurts everyone involved.

And, for the record... Authors and publishers protecting their intellectual property aren't being whiny and saying "poor me." They are pissed off, and with good reason! If I walked into the pirate's home and said, "I have proof that you've stolen $700 of my income. I'm going to take your high def TV in payment.", you'd better believe he'd be screaming his fool head off. Hey, buddy... TIT for TAT.


Emma Wildes said...

Go Brenna. Well put. This is a difficult battle but if the music industry is making progress, so can we. Stealing is just plain stealing, as you said.

Emma Wildes
#1 bestselling author at Fictionwise

Sheri said...

Very well put, Brenna.

Theft hurts everyone, even the thief. It drives up the cost to cover the loss, and can eventually cause a writer to simply stop writing. Which would be a great loss to all.

~:.*.:~~:.*.:~May the magic always brighten your world~:.*.:~~:.*.:~

Rowena Cherry said...

Very good, clear argument, Brenna.
Well said!

Rowena Cherry

2007 CAPA award nominee for Insufficient Mating Material

BrennaLyons said...

Thanks, ladies. It just amazes me that people try to justify breaking the law, just because they aren't holding something picked up and pocketed in a store. Theft is theft.

Intellectual property is still the property of the creator. The fact that we have to remind people of this is simply a sign of how little some people value intellectual pursuits, in general, it seems.