Monday, June 21, 2010

So how do we get there from here?

Are we there yet?

Ok I am feeling fundamentally silly, because after the long, long haul with Save the Dragons et al... finally my dearest beasts arrive here tomorrow. Wednesday and the cats are in Launceston, Roland and Puggle arrive with her tonight, and the lot fly over with the mailplane tomorrow. So today has been frantically tying to finish the fence, because we thought there was another day.

And THE TEARS OF IT ARE WET appears to be gasping its last. It might have been over today, except that the fence intervened. And in the process I have done a nice hole in my finger. Frodo must have had a hell of a time, typing.

During the week someone called my attention to a very old article - (part of discussion about a publisher insisting on world rights - because this might possibly impact on their e-sales. Curiously enough the same publisher has been pushing prices up to restrict e-sales eating hardcover sales. Kind of dog-in-the-manger process. 'We don't actually want it, we're not going to do anything with it, but we really don't want you have it, in case you do something with it.' Sigh. I have yet to have my publisher to sell a solitary right of any sort, so it does irk me, especially as I know this can be 2/3 of a writer's income, and that's for writers who sell less than I do. Maybe in some wonderful future authors Utopia contracts would all have use it or lose it clauses. - anyway - the article makes two wonderful points about 'piracy' - that terrible pervasive fear that so many authors dread or blame. Over the years I've noticed there seem to be an example of inverse square law in 'piracy fear' - The less it matters to you if you are pirated, the more rabid you are likely to become about it. This applies for instance to Josepha Nerverherdover (who is so invisible any notice is good - and she'll never earn her advance anyway -so even if pirated copies were lost sales, which they usually aren't, she lost nothing) and the Rowling-in-it extreme who really are going to be bankrupted ha ha by a handful of pirate downloads (because, surprisingly to people in charge of large corporate publishing houses, our readers are remarkably honest and actually like to reward their beloved favorite authors. I'm actually a bit taken aback by Ms. Rowlings attitudes - but then I don't bother to buy (and I don't 'pirate') her books after the first couple. I'm very grateful that she got lots of kids reading old-fashioned fantasy. I wish mainstream publishing would realise how popular it could be) O'Reilly does a good job of debunking the obscure author's fear. And I'm with him. I wish I was popular enought to be a 'pirate' target. I could use the publicity. That's why they're up for FREE at the Baen Free Library. And yes, he's quite right too. By the time you're getting the vast bulk of publishing's effort and publicity and push -- the tiny 'loss' you'd suffer from from having someone swipe copies is not relevant - and based on my experience with SAVE THE DRAGONS, if readers knew you were getting it (or most of it) instead all the middlemen... and moreover, if they know you need it, fair numbers of readers do pay, with no incentive to be honest at all.

The point I found most interesting in the article was lesson 6: Free is eventually replaced by a better quality paid alternative. And how right that is. The first fix is free.:-)

So: how do we move forward? How do we make e-books a big seller - especially ours!? And how do we stop people worrying about 'piracy'?

I am sorry this is all over the place tonight. But my head is.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your friends arriving soon! Happy days.

Piracy. What to do about it? It's such a big problem that it's beyond one person's scope of effort. While most people admit that it's illegal and distasteful, they don't know how to begin addressing it in an effective manner, so they don't attempt it until it directly affects them and their work.

As individuals, we can't get to the thieves ourselves, but we can't seem to make groups of people care. And the internet is a nasty place to have to find and get to criminals of all sorts that it's overwhelming. Internet authorities are focused on various types of illegal porn, scamming efforts, and general online thieving of all sorts that stealing someone's stories just comes last in line. Frustrating, yes! I'm pretty much with everyone else by not knowing how to address it.

Linda

matapam said...

Actually, Linda, piracy is not a problem. It's like some computer nerd volunteering to advertise your product at his own expense.

But all the loud voices are convinced, despite evidence to the contrary, that piracy damages sales. That is only true if the product is not for sale in e-format, in which case you aren't losing e-sales, but may gain paper sales if your book gains popularity through the dreaded free e-copies.

The mid-list author's worst enemy is to be unknown.

Stephen Simmons said...

I'm still marveling at this blog's amazing synchronicity with my life. One of youse guys must be reading my mail ...

My friend Leona Wisoker's first book just hit the shelves three months ago (and it's brilliant, by the way - but I'm biased). And the most recent entry on her blog is her reaction to discovering that she found her work on multiple torrent-pirate sites.

I can understand being upset at people stealing the fruits of one's labor. But I'm also able to acknowledge that those people probably never would have actually bought the book in the first place, so I can acknowledge that they don't really represent "lost sales". (On a purely emotional level, though, I still want them apprehended and tortured with pickle-forks.)

Kate said...

That was a fascinating article - the comments were just as interesting.

Piracy is a big problem - but not in publishing, music, or any other copyright-protected industry. It's a big problem around Somalia, isolated parts of Indonesia, and assorted other areas where, yes, people do still hijack shipping for profit.

As far as illicit copying - there are several issues that all get rolled into the label "piracy": there are the actual data thieves who sell illicit copies of material and profit from it. There are the ordinary joes who fall foul of contradictory and plain stupid laws all the time (how many times have you replied to an email with all the original text quoted? Guess what, you've committed "epiracy" multiple times). And there are the people who sample widely, pick what they like, and then go out and buy when they have the time, opportunity, or funds (or the appropriate combination of all three). Treating all those extremes and everything in between as evil thieves isn't just stupid, it's why bad laws should be disobeyed at every opportunity.

The best way to fix it (not that it will ever happen, alas) is for a coordinated effort of a sufficiently large number of people across the whole of every country with abusive copyright laws to choose a time to turn themselves in for copyright infringement and insist on a trial. And tell them why. Not only does it make the law look utterly idiotic, especially when you're confessing to the thousands of emails you've quoted intact without permission, it ties up the legal system so much that the High Ups will catch heat for not focusing on "real" crime.

I've seen bad laws overturned by this kind of mass action. I'd love to see it happen with the DMCA and its vile counterparts elsewhere.

Chris McMahon said...

Offer free Karmic points with every ebook download. Kind of like modern Indulgences.

Just imagine - enjoy the latest new reads while buying your way out of corporate white-collar crimes, or horrible things like throwing cut branches back over your neighbour's fence:)

Mike said...

Don't forget the folks who are encouraged to do illegal copying by happening to live in a different country? E.g., when I visit any number of web sites in America, I am told that they will not sell to me because I live in Japan. Which leaves me with the options of lying about where I live, getting an illegal copy, or just skipping it -- which in many cases means they have lost one sale. Now how did this discourage piracy? It encouraged it, and discouraged honest sales!

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

My husband was pirated on his third short story. In Russia. In a site devoted to Greats of SF. Asimov, Heinlein and... Dan Hoyt? I tell you, he was impossible to live with for a while. I thought we'd have to build a house JUST for his ego. (G)
My first book to be SIGNIFICANTLY pirated is Darkship Thieves.

Stephen Simmons said...

Sarah - DST is definitely worth the effort. Of course, so are the others of yours I've managed to catch up with ... slow thieves, maybe?

And thanks for your help on the contract question. I'm composing a polite (that's why composition is necessary, polite wasn't my reflex, even after letting it cool for several days) "not interested for the following specific-and-detailed reasons" letter.

Amanda Green said...

I guess my opinions on ebooks and "piracy" have been formed by Baen. The more publishers raise the prices, the longer they delay or even refuse to release an ebook and the more geographical restrictions they put on it, the more folks are going looking online for it -- from any source possible. What publishers have to realize is that ebooks aren't going to be the death knell of publishing but the next stage of it. Baen and others have proven that ebooks do not kill the hard copy editions. In fact, they garner sales. Just like free books and short stories do.

I guess my stand is, the more my name is out there, be it through legitimate ebook sales sites or pirate sites, the more people will hear about my writing. I like that. It's called advertising.

And all I can say about the furrikins coming home is, "HURRAH!"

Dave Freer said...

Linda - no author likes the idea of someone helping themselves to your hard work for free. But then no one much likes the idea of handing over 94% of the value of their book - for perhaps 10-15% in tangible added value. Unfortunately there have been few alternatives to that. And we've lived with it - not happily but somehow. That's been a real threat to authors' survival, as that is real income from people who are willing to pay for your work. The 'pirate' loss is _imagined_ income from someone who is not willing to pay - would he or she have paid for the book if they could not get for free? Who knows? I doubt it, myself.

Dave Freer said...

Matapam - I couldn't have said as well, let alone better. Free samples get given away by every supermarket. They give away hundreds of thousands of dollars of 'earnable' income promoting a 'bestseller' - free copies to every reviewer, book distributors, awards. Money spent on advertising, co-op... that wouldn't happen if quality was all a book needed to rise to the bestseller lists.

Dave Freer said...

Stephen - On a purely emotional level, I agree. But let's face reality here 1)they wouldn't have bought it. 2)did I lose anything because they took those electrons?... no the book is still for sale. 3)Is a book of mine going to appeal to joe average theif? No. It's as likely as me stealing copies of the Koran to read for pleasure.

Dave Freer said...

Kate my evil past has caught up with me. I never kill the e-mail tail. Mind you, do you think the companies who make this possible are complicit? Outlook fascilitates this evil. After all if they want to harass ISPs for doing it...
It's a case of trying to use the law to keep the status quo instead of doing the hard graft of providing a desirable product at a reasonable price, easily available.

Dave Freer said...

Chris - I'll install an electronic confessional and absolution - granter "Just tell 10 people how much you enjoyed the book my son, and you have my absolute forgiveness."

Dave Freer said...

Mike - the foreign access issue was actually what got me onto this article. As far as I am concerned all 'piracy' charges fall away if you advertise the product in a medium (the web) accessable to people that you REFUSE to sell to. The problem - of course - is that many authors earn 2/3 of their income from foreign/ secondary rights. Apparently some publishers are now demanding world rights (as a deal breaker), because of the potential impact on e-rights sales. In my opinion we're going to enter a period of frantic rights grabbing, as in uncertainty they are not willing to risk 'missing out' - even thought they have no idea what to do with it. Also I suspect they're scared authors would make money out of other things, thereby loosening dependency. I actually think this is remarkably foolish - if they want author loyalty they'll have accept that it comes at price, and that restrictive contracts won't actually make loyalty suddenly appear. It worked - badly - while there were no alternatives. It won't while known authors can sign up for kindle publication. It's not something you can make law.

Dave Freer said...

Sarah, I'd be insufferable :-)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I wonder what your pets will make of the Australian flora and fauna. Hope they haven't been too distressed by the journey.

Dave Freer said...

Amanda, obscurity is our enemy. Is JK Rowlings really 100 000 than joe newbie simalr book?(ie one reader out of every 100 000 likes joe newbie's book more than JKR and would rather buy it?) No. She might be 10 times as popular (only 1:10 people would choose Newbie's book instead) or 100 times... or 1.3 times (or 0.75 times). But the bottom line is no-one will actually ever objectively, quantifyably measure Joe Newbie's quality as his book will have a print run of 4K and get single copies into 5% of total bookshops. If sold his books will not be re-ordered except on demand. And hers will get massive publicity and get 4 000 K printed, and be in every bookshop window, let alone shelves. Every copy sold will be re-ordered immediately. And she'll outsell him by 100 000:1 and somehow the publishing world concludes that's a measure of quality and spends more money on her next time, and less on him (if there is a next time for him). The only escape he has is demand re-order and that's only possible know who he is.

Of course the e-bookshelf is never empty so that is good.

Dave Freer said...

Rowena, they seem to be adapting really fast. Puggles was chasing mice already. The cats - Robin and Duchess have been making love to us frantically, Batman was a little suspicious at first and punishing us, but has settled and is now tryingto trip us up.

Chris McMahon said...

Bless me father, for I have read an ebook. . .

Stephen Simmons said...

But, but, Dave ... I have copies of the Q'uran. Two of them ...

Dave Freer said...

Ah but did you steal them to read for pleasure?

Doug Lance said...

Piracy cannot be 'fixed' and it's not a 'problem'. It is a tool that can be harnessed for good.

It is an easy way to deliver advertisement and promotion to people who actively seek out your work. Why complain about that? Throw a newsletter sign-up at the beginning of a .PDF and upload it yourself, sell advertising in your ebook, promote your other work, link to where they can buy paperback or hardcover versions, etc. There's a lot of ways to benefit from 'piracy'.

Truth be told, I'm a pirate, I've been reading books for free for years and I've never once been caught. It's called a library. You don't hear people complaining about them, even though by the same logic they use to denounce piracy, they must be losing book sales to libraries as well.

It's all in how you see things.