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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Terrible, Mean, Rotten and One Good Thing

Generally I don't like to air dirty laundry--especially if it isn't mine, but I've been shaking my head for two days now from an assortment of tweets and blog posts I've read recently.

The biggest bone in my craw is piracy. If you haven't been affected, count yourself lucky. If you have, you know the feeling. It's nothing short of being gang-raped.

There's a YouTube video of Neil Gailman who claims piracy has helped him sell more books. He gives this calm, well-reasoned argument on how he tested this theory and how well it worked for him. 

To which I respond, BS, buddy. 

Piracy might be a boon for him, but I don't make millions off my work. He does. If people steal from him, it's a drop in the bucket. If they steal from me, it might be all the sales I might've made that month. 

So Neil, please don't excuse pirates across the board for all of us. That it nets you additional promotional outlets is a bonus for you, but it's a death knell for the 'little' author. 

Recently, a friend of mine found her book downloaded on ONE site, 974 times. Multiply that by the four bucks she was asking for that book and you get some idea of how much it hurts us.

It's a travesty that the general reading public can't even grasp because they think, well it's just one book. What can it hurt? 

PLEASE pay for our books. You can steal from Neil Gaiman all you want, but at least allow the rest of us to make a living.

Another angry tweet trash-talked boring bloggers and tweets that do promo. Side note: When I did some investigating, the leading accuser was just as guilty of promo overload. Kettle/Black

As for boring... Do you know what I do when I find a post or tweet boring? I ignore it. See how easy that is?

I don't worry if anyone else is boring. I concentrate on making my blog posts and promo tweets interesting. Or as my mother used to say, clean up your own mess before you complain about someone else's.

B&N is stiffing me. Please DON'T buy my books from Barnes & Nobles for a while. I've discovered that not only is B&N not recording sales for Chain of Souls, but they have yet to answer my repeated emails. I am thinking of pulling Chain of Souls from them.

If you bought this book from B&N, chances are, I'll never get paid for it. I'll post an update should they ever respond.

Just to sour the pot, publishers have been caught not paying their authors too. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with this business.

And finally one good thing. I checked my counter the other day and kept noticing a lot of hits from Romance University. Apparently, Eleanor Elliott, director of Digital Properties and Social Media for Harlequin/Carina mentioned me in her article about good branding. 

I try to keep my message clean--in other words I try not to muddy it up with too many ideas at once. Yes, I write many different subgenres, but I focused on the one thing that made them all the same. Which is how I came up with: Tales of OtherWorlds

By the way, it's an excellent article if you're interested in a marketing checklist.


Angelina Rain said...

I hate pirates. I haven’t had any of my books pirated (I’m too small of a name) but a few of my online-friend authors have suffered big time because of those pirates. Two of those authors claim that they could quit their day jobs and make a very good living off their royalties alone if their books weren’t pirated. They lose about $3000 a month all because of pirates. Even if you aren’t being pirated, when you know how much work goes into writing/editing/promoting a book, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see books being pirated.

I hope B&N isn’t cheating authors out of their royalties. However, I can see that being the case because I have yet to be paid by them. I’ve been getting my royalties from all third party sites where my books are being sold, except B&N.

Congrats on the article. I’m off to read it now.

Angela Brown said...

B&N is one of the last major book chains and the nook is still in a battle to the death with the Goliath, Kindle. So I hope they make things right with you.

I can't say anything about being pirated. However, I can certainly understand what you mean. I'm a bit surprised to hear of an author regaling praises upon piracy. I'm so used to authors sticking together on that subject. But like you said, let people go steal his books. He's apparently quite okay with it.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: A little voice kept telling me not to go with B&N. Now I'm sorry I didn't listen to it. They're not coming across as trustworthy.

Angela: More power to Gaiman if that's what he wants, but I'd prefer he didn't answer for the rest of us.

Dru said...

Good post.

Not a fan of book piracy at all.

Tracy Jo said...

974 times. That is awful and makes me sad. I agree: Clean up your own mess before complaining about someone else. There are a lot of negative people out there, people that forget to stop and look in the mirror. Great post Maria!

LD Masterson said...

Do you think it would help if Nook owners started an e-mail campaign telling B&N we're all going to dump our Nooks and buy Kindles unless they start playing fair with authors?

We'd need to give particulars ro be effective so authors would have to be willing to join in.

I'll also go picket my local B&N for you if you think it will help.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: You've always been a big supporter of authors. On behalf of them, I thank you.

Tracy Jo: Your blog is particularly positive and uplifting despite the crummy hand you were dealt. If only more people followed your lead.

Linda: What you suggest would require enormous cooperation and evidence to make this work.

I am bowled over by your offer. But I feel strongly that B&N wouldn't care who picketed them or what evidence we provided. From what I've been reading, they've got bigger problems and author royalties are low on their list of priorities.

What makes me sad about this is that I was willing to trust them and now it seems that trust is misplaced.

Thank you so much for your support.

Renee Miller said...

Gaiman needs to get a grip. Perhaps if he looked at how much $$ he actually loses due to piracy, compared to what he actually makes, it might not look like such a great marketing tool. Ugh.

As for the promo tweets, I make no secret of how I feel about authors that are all promo, all the time with little to no interaction. However to trash them? Meh. Why not just "unfollow" them? End of annoyance. We have to promote, it's what we venture into the black hole that is Twitter to do. If someone doesn't like it, watch the door on the way out.

Thanks for sharing about B&N. I think it's important for authors to know when others have problems like this. First, it helps them avoid the same problems, and second, perhaps they're having the same issues. Knowing they're not alone might force them to take action.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: This is one reason I brought up B&N. I was willing to concede that maybe I just fell between the cracks. But if others notice this, there might be more to the story than what we see at the surface.

Ref: Gaiman
I am disappointed in him. Judging by his clothes and homes, he's obviously not hurting too much. How nice for him.

Krista D. Ball said...

/begin rant

I'm in the tech world, so I understand where Gaiman is coming from. I don't worry about piracy. Now, when I come across a friend's book who is being pirated, you bet my ass I report it. But, for myself? Nah.

Piracy does represent some loss of income, but it does not equate actual sales (i.e. the concept of 1000 downloads = 1000 loss sales is incorrect). For example, I pirate some of the stuff I already own. Yes, you read that right: I pirate what I own. When I ask around my tech friends (I just asked at work while typing this), they said the same thing. About the only thing we all have that's pirated is stuff that isn't available or not available in a format people want.

There are people who will never buy anything. Those are the people who made "mix tapes" back in the day, copying their friends' music on cassettes. It's easier now. Or, perhaps it's just easier to see and track.

Still, I can see why it's upsetting. No one wants their work stolen.

I've heard of authors giving up writing because of piracy and it just seems like an extreme reaction. Americans aren't compensated for books taken out of the library (Canadians are...sorta...long story to explain), nor are they compensated for used books.

It's perfectly fine to get angry at pirates and educate readers about theft. In fact, perhaps educating people is the best thing we can all do. I think I'll go make a Facebook post about it...

/end rant

re: the Twitter "buy my books" -- I really don't mind a few of these. I don't. It's when they are constant. There are a couple of people I followed that would do them 4-6 times a day. Every day. Without end. It was generally the only thing I ever saw from them!

A few of us have been doing #failedmarketingslogans where we joke around about reasons people should buy our books. Those have upset a number of people, because I'm saying things like "buy my books because I want to dye my hair this weekend." It's just that I'm tired of the guilt "buy my books": buy my books so that I can afford surgery, buy my books so that I don't lose my house, buy my books because I'm pregnant...I'm sick of it. I have no compassion left. I'm compassioned out.

/end second rant

You know what? I'm just going to go get a latte and bailey's and just settle the hell down :P

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: While true, pirated books might not represent actual loss of sales, it is nonetheless theft.

I don't have any problem sharing books. I want people to share my books in the hopes the new reader will buy my back list.

But WHOLESALE downloads is ethically wrong. There's a big difference between a handful of people downloading your title from their friends and 974 people downloading it from one of potential hundreds of online sites.

If this one site gave away her book 974 times, how many other sites are doing it?

This is my living. It is not unreasonable nor extreme to want to walk away and do something where you won't get stiffed every time you offer something for sale. I write for compensation. Piracy as a form of marketing only works for huge name authors--if that.

Krista D. Ball said...

I agree. It's theft.

Then again, with all of the free books out there, I continue to meet people who honestly think ebooks are supposed to be free. They think piratebay is just another site offering free sales for periods of time. They see Amazon filled with free books (and not understanding the difference between classics vs author offered as free vs pirated).

In the end, I think education serves more of a tool. My largest problem is that a lot of the education out there right now on piracy uses the 1 download = 1 loss sale, which has been established several times as not correct.

As for why I pirate stuff I own? It's simple. It's only available in one format and I want another one. I buy in the format available and pirate the one I want. Or, it came with DRM. I buy the DRM version and I pirate the stripped version because I'm too lazy to do it myself. Then, I can put it on my devices as I see fit.

But, I don't think that's the group you're aiming your post at (though plenty do aim at this group, too, or assume that this group is tiny).

Maria Zannini said...

That's the bottom line. People think ALL information should be free. There's an air of entitlement that permeates all sectors of society. The onset of the internet has made it rampant.

Renee Miller and Carlos Cortes wrote a compendium of writing information called Writer's Companion. At the end of the book they posed several potential futures, one of which is where at some point we might be paying for information on the web.

Unless we are subsidized by an advertiser or patron, I can see this becoming a reality. When that day happens, there will be pirates stealing that information too.

People steal my blog posts for crying out loud. Nothing is sacred.

Writer's Companion:

Krista D. Ball said...

That's the downside of the internet. The people who thought information should be free are on Facebook now. Before, most didn't know how to use DOS to copy a game, for example, so they didn't. Now, they just need to use the internet.

There are days I think a pay-per-use internet might not be so bad...

Renee Miller said...

I wasn't going to rant, but I disagree with your reasoning, Krista. Piracy, whether it's books, music, videos or games, is a huge problem and saying that we just pirate this or that because of whatever reason is what makes it seem okay to many others. What makes your logic more valid than someone else's? Why is it okay in one situation but not another? It's this picking of straws that pisses me off. I write content for my blog and for sites that pay me. It's taken all the time. I don't even bother to look anymore because it just sends me to a place that's best not visited. There isn't enough booze on the planet to make that place tolerable.

There is no excuse for stealing. Period. To put it in another light, you buy decaf coffee at the store. You get it home and realize, shit you're tired and you have to be up working for hours yet. Off you go back to the store. They won't return the decaf coffee because you bought it out of the clearance bin. Damn. Well, you paid for the coffee, right? Why not just make the exchange? They're getting one can for another. So you go and put the decaf back, scoop a can of the good stuff and tuck it into the giant bag you keep trying to call a purse and walk out of the store. You didn't steal it technically, because you put the decaf which was paid for, back on the shelf.

Problem is, the good stuff costs more to produce and to package (for whatever reason), so while you did pay for the decaf, you just cost the store, the manufacturer, and eventually the customer an extra $3.

Is that okay? Hell no it isn't.

This mentality of "it's not offered in the format I want in my area, so I'll just take Joe's or Lucy's. They paid for it, no big deal. The libraries give this shit away every day." is what will make websites a pay-per-use service and it doesn't need to be that way. Sadly, it's the only way that content providers will be able to see compensation for their work if piracy continues to increase as it is.

Just because it's there to take, doesn't mean it should be taken.

Krista D. Ball said...

Your analogy doesn't work. Coffee is allowed to use in all of your coffee machines in your house. Ebooks don't work like that. There are some that only allow me to put it on one device at a time. No thanks. I'll just strip that DRM off and put it on my devices, thanks. I paid for it. I'm going to use it the way I want.

Then again, I suppose I can just stop buying those authors all together.

I've pretty much stopped buying authors who refuse to offer their books anywhere other than Amazon. It's too much of a hassle converting their files (which never works right for me) or searching for appropriate formats, or emailing the author and then spending hours explaining to the author that, no, kindle format isn't readable on every device and, no, I don't want to buy a kindle, and no, I don't want to read their book on my PC, and yes, I just want to know if you have it in another format.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee, Krista:

Ref: coffee and ebooks
Which is why Smashwords exists. Smash isn't perfect, but at least I can read it on whatever format I want.

After the way B&N treated me, I'm not likely to distribute through them again.

I think I may give up writing and sell eggs.

Krista D. Ball said...

And since this is just going to devolve into a Krista is a pirate, omgz! Zomg! soon enough, let me again explain that I believe in paying for anything I download. There is one book that I pirated that I do not own because it's out of print and not available in ebook (though, I read it might get re-released, so let's see).

Amongst my peer, I represent what piracy is. We download stuff that we already own. Or, we download it waiting for it to arrive. We are tech folks who don't want to be told that they can use an ebook in one place but not another.

I know there are people out there who never pay for anything they pirate. I don't support that at all. Let's repeat that: I don't support downloading a movie, a song, a book without ever giving any money to support that creator. I also believe most of the people who are pirating and never buying stuff aren't doing it out of poverty. In general, those too poor to afford book don't own Kindles or smartphones.

So, let's get back to the issue that Renee was upset about. If I said I strip the DRM off myself at home, would that have been less offensive? When, in actual fact, that is also considered theft by publishers and in some countries. Yet, pirating it or stripping the DRM is still the same action - when it's something I paid for.

But, again, I don't like Maria is arguing about that. She's upset that people are trolling looking for free books...when the books aren't actually free. Really, there's no need to troll for pirated books. There's so many legit free books out there that a person need not ever buy another book again. So, I don't buy the poverty/can't afford excuse (many libraries also offer free loans on ebooks now, too).

In actual fact, I think Maria and I agree on the core issue: piracy is theft. We differ on what piracy actually is and the extent it affects authors (or other creators).

Krista D. Ball said...

Maria - I love Smashwords for that very reason. Since the bulk of my books are small presses, I always look there first.

Publishers who DRM are my only obstacle right now. But, I generally still buy hardcover from them, so it's not as bad.

Now, if only I can get it through self-publishers that they need to post somewhere other than Amazon...But those people I just email and yell at :p

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: My thinking is that stripping DRM is like asking the pharmacist to change out the child-proof medicine caps to regular caps so I can open the darn bottle.

I don't see it as piracy unless it's done with the intent of redistributing the content to others.

I really didn't understand DRM in the beginning. I can see why it's used, though I think it does little to impede true pirates.

You are correct in your assumption that my main beef is with those who redistribute content wholesale.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I hate thieves of all kinds, and it bugs me when pirates don't count themselves among them. They should take a good look at who they're hurting.

Krista D. Ball said...

Maria - I like the cap analogy! I've bought the drugs. I just want to be able to get into them and pop them whenever I have a headache.

(ok, that was another bad example...can you give me something that won't lead to this?? ;) )

Like I said, if I see a friend being pirated, I definitely report to their publisher. Also, if I'm in the mood, sometimes I also report them to their host site, just an addition kick in the teeth.

It's easier for information to be given away now than before. Most people didn't know how to use a BBS (how many of you even know what I'm talking about?), let alone transfer information that way. Today, it just takes a search engine.

It's like when I buy a movie and I can't skip through the part that tells me why pirating movies is wrong. It's preaching to the choir.

As artists, I think the best we can do is educate people. That's also the flip side of the internet. People can get to know authors. It's harder to steal from someone who you know.

jackie b central texas said...

I am only going to comment on the (1 good thing) congratulations Maria, someone took your work and thought it was worthy of passing on in a positive manner.
Now as to the other, my view on stealing in any shape form or fashion is it is illegal, that is not to say that like Krista if I buy something that has DRM on it that I am not going to strip if off so can add the file to my Kindle to read a book that I paid for (including the freebies from B&N that I convert to Mobi files once strip the DRM).

However thank goodness you are aware of what is going on early, hope things work out with B&N and surely pray you do not give up and quit because your imagination is too good not to share with the rest of us in story form in published books!

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: My guess is that pirate sites are netting revenue, harvesting emails, and growing a market. I could be wrong, but I think it's a fair guess they wouldn't do it unless there was something in it for them (or their company).

Krista: Education may be our only tool. But first we have to educate other authors.

Jackie: I am really ticked off with B&N. I want them so much to succeed, but they're not giving me the warm fuzzy feeling of trust. I hope I'm wrong, but I have a feeling, I'm not.

Krista D. Ball said...

Jackie - don't even get me started on DRM placed on *free* items.

Maria - There is a fair bit of discussion in the tech world over how revenue is generated for these pirate sites. There are the blatant thieves who actually sell pirated copies of books (generally these are translations, but I've seen english ones, too). Those are easy to shut down.

The file sharing ones are significantly tougher to close because they are just host sites. Those seem to make their money from email harvesting and adware/malware. After all, if you are running a pirate transfer site, do you really care if people get malware for visiting? Probably not.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

ugh. All this stuff stresses me out. I don't know how you handle it

Jenny Schwartz said...

Gee, Harlequin sure is slow. I knew you were the person to watch for branding and marketing savvy ages ago. :)

On the less positive stuff...isn't there a lot of that going around lately? *sigh* Maybe I should open the chocolate stash that didn't get distributed on Halloween?

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Just think. You'll be dealing with this soon enough.

Jenny: Ref: Gee, Harlequin sure is slow. I knew you were the person to watch for branding and marketing savvy ages ago. :)

LOL. You get the prize for the nicest thing anyone has said to me all day. Thanks.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I didn't get pirated until my third book came up and I saw an immediate drop in my sales. I feel so helpless against piracy.
Shame on B&N.

L'Aussie said...

Hi Maria. This is a sad story of loss. Nasty news of B&N. Congrats on your mention on Romance University.


Maria Zannini said...

Susan: It truly feels like you've been violated.

Denise: I keep hoping B&N will pony up with a response. No news makes them look irresponsible.

Jennifer Shirk said...

974 times? Oh my gosh that makes me SICK for your friend. That's a lot of money lost. :(

Hey, that's awesome about ROmanceU!! That's a VERY good thing.

Reece said...

Hi Maria! Thanks for commenting on my blog! I always like hearing from new people.

I'm really excited to read the article you mentioned here. I'm still on the fence about which publishing route to follow, and my biggest apprehension about self-publishing is promotion/branding/advertising. I hope this might have some tips.

Also, I'm a new follower.

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: The sad part is, that's only one site.

Reece: Hiya, Reece. Glad you stopped by.

Ref: Promo
I hate to break it to you, but no matter what route you take to publication, the onus of promo is always going to be on you--even in traditional publishing. That's just the way it is now.

There are a few people who get the glam treatment, but those are few and far between.

Madeleine said...

Og bless you Maria I can understand your upset and your anger. I do hope things change for the better for you soon.

Your comment about ignoring boring blogs made me smile :O))))
Congrats on being given the Harequin/Carina Shout out

Maria Zannini said...

Madeleine: I've had some friends and coworkers who gripe about everything around them, but fail to see that they're just as bad as the people they criticize.

I say if it isn't hurting you, just chill. The world isn't here to entertain you 24/7.

Cate Masters said...

Oh don't even get me started on illegal downloading (pirates is too romanticized a term, they deserve to be called much worse!). Most know they have us by the short hairs, and arguing does little good (I've tried, and was basically laughed at).
That's why I love this author for what she's doing:
Unfortunately it takes so much time to track down all these illegal sites, it leaves no time for writing. So I don't. Like you, I'm trying to educate readers on how terribly it impacts us to share even one book.
And yes, unfortunately, unscrupulous publishers exist too. I've been lucky so far, but I know other authors who haven't. And it astounds me, that anyone would go into business to suck the life blood from another.
Sadly, some self-publishing sites also "fail to pay" (Lulu, for one).
*sigh* Think I'll join you for that Bailey's Krista!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Cate! That blog rocked. Good for her.

Does it sometimes feel to you like we're pounding our heads against the wall?

I'm not asking for a free ride, just an even break.

Kaz Augustin said...

M was too discreet to say so, but she was talking about me with the downloads. Krista, I didn't put DRM on my books. I priced a 90K novel at $3.99. I put it on Smashwords in as many formats as the day is long. And I still counted around 1,400 downloads from various pirate sites before I became too depressed and gave up.

I know that not all pirate downloads equate to possible sales. In fact, that's the only piece of good news I can find in this. But I have tried doing the right thing by the reader and it's still apparently not enough. All I can do is soldier on. I'm not jacking up prices. I'm not adding DRM. But the knee-jerk reaction to do so is difficult to subdue.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Kaz: We're smart people. You'd think we'd be able to come up with a Jack-in-the-box where if someone downloaded an illegal copy of our books their computers would freeze for 30 minutes.

--I could think of worse scenarios but scaring them for half an hour seemed the less traumatizing. :)

Or maybe illegal downloads only get half the book. The other half has to be downloaded from the original vendor.

Sondrae Bennett said...

Last month, tired of being ignored by bit torrent sites and the like, I joined a bunch of them and sent messages to the individuals posting the downloads. I hoped that by pleading my case to the people responsible and explaining the issue, I would get a better response. One person was nice enough to comply. The others ignored me. Before I'd done this, I'd believed the problem was people not understanding what they were doing was wrong. I'm not sure what to believe anymore, but I agree that piracy a big problem.

Maria Zannini said...

Sondrae: You hit upon a great attack idea--albeit time consuming.

Much like killing someone you know, it's hard to steal from someone if you know their first name.

It's the anonymous nature of these robberies that makes it so attractive to them.

Live Out Loud said...

I just read someone likening pirating a book with stealing from a store. If someone stole an item from a store, the police are called and the person is arrested. Yet piracy is all but ignored. Why? `Cause it's hard to find?

Well, first off, I think attitudes like Mr. Gaiman's don't help the situation. He's saying it's okay. That attitude sneaks into otherwise honest people's brains - you tell an honest person something is okay and they'll have no little voice saying anything else.

Piracy is just not taken seriously.

And what about B&N? How do you know they aren't paying you for books bought? I always found them trustworthy and good. What should I be aware of - please tell me!!

I'll check out the article on that website about branding. Every bit helps.

I hope this 'icky' stuff gets all straightened out. Don't give up on good people, though, or the passion of writing, itself. (The minute you turn something you love into a business - BAM! You will regret it at some point. Maybe more than once, if I'm anything to go by.)

Maria Zannini said...

Live Out Loud: I know there were sales on B&N because the people who bought them volunteered their receipts as evidence.