Saturday, April 13, 2013

Making Cyber-Pirates Work for You

There is an old saying that goes, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." I think that can apply to piracy as well. Now, don't get me wrong, I believe the theft of intellectual property is morally reprehensible. However, I doubt that sites
Photo Credit Laura604
selling or sharing illegal copies of novels are that harmful to authors.

Sometimes the comparison is made to the music industry. File sharing and piracy, according to this theory have destroyed it. Yet, I don't see iTunes or Amazon music closing their doors. And services like Rhapsody, Pandora and Spotify operating legally and paying royalties to artists/producers are doing quite well. Indie bands, who used to be limited to playing small clubs within a few miles of their homes, can now have a world wide following.

If anything, the music industry is experiencing a renaissance.  A few music producers can no longer dictate the tastes for the entire country because, there is always an outlet for an artist, songwriter or band that offers something different and find an audience. Of course, this has weakened the power and cut into the profits of the major corporations.

Yet, while the big music producers have pioneered technology and have been aggressive about prosecuting music pirates, many indie bands have embraced the unauthorized sharing of their music as a form of advertising.

Explaining why Smashwords does not offer Digital Rights Management software, Mark Coker said, "We believe that obscurity is a bigger threat to authors than piracy." Neil Gaiman points out in a video that most people do not discover a favorite author by finding a book by him or her in a bookstore. They were usually lent a book by that author by a friend or they got it from a library. We know this and in neither of those cases, did the author sell that original book or earn any royalties on it (aside from the original sale). If done with a digital book, it might be legally called piracy (and with good reason because the technology makes possibly mass distribution which is unlikely with a friend lending a book).

Let me ask a question. How much would you pay to get a full page advertisment listing all your books complete with ordering instructions into the hands of someone who is interested in your subject or the genre of fiction that you write? Would that be worth 50 cents? A Dollar? Two dollars? How about free?

That's right, free! Think about it, once you get past the moral outrage (which is legitimate), and think about it logically, book piracy probably is not costing you much, if anything.

"Hold on!" you say, "They didn't pay for my book. Therefore, I lost a royalty." But think for a moment. How many people using a file sharing site or getting a copy of your book from a friend would have bought your book anyway? If they wanted to buy your book, they would have gone to Amazon or Barnes Noble or wherever first. Unless you are a "name" author, they downloaded your book because it looked interesting and might be interested in other books you have as well, if this one lived up to its promise.

So, you lose no money (they would not have bought that book anyway) and you introduce someone who is interested in your genre of writing to your work. It's like a 200 page ad delivered into their hands without you paying out a single penny.

Of course, to make this work, you have to do a few things.

First, you need a brand and not just a single book. Too many people get all caught up in one book. They write it, then they spend months either trying to sell it to a publisher or publishing it themselves. Then they spend months promoting and marketing it. During that time they don't even think about any other books. If all you have is one book, yes, you will lose from the pirates (if they even care to steal your work.) However, you are going to lose in the long run anyway. You can't build a career from one book. So, you need a number of books either already published or in the works.

Second, use that digital file to lead them to your other books in legitimate venues. For instance, on the title page, have a link to your author page on Amazon or Facebook. Include your email address or link to your website. In the back of the book include a list of all your other books with direct live links to your sales page on Amazon or BN or other vendor. Inside the book, if you make a reference to something that you cover at length in another book, set a link to that book. Now, if someone does steal your book and shares it (or even sells it on a website), they are just advertising your whole line of books for you.

Third, pirate yourself. You can take the teeth out of the piracy, but adding links in your books to a web page which promises to provide free downloads of stories, novellas, or complete novels from your line. People who download a book for free are likely to be interested in other free stuff.

So, putting your pirates to work for you can turn something irritating into something profitable.

No comments:

Post a Comment