Thursday, May 14, 2009


Two mornings ago I went through my usual google search. Authors and publishers know to do this on occassion because our work shows up in unapproved forums. As expected, the search pulled up pirate sites which had allowed my books to be uploaded for the general access to all and sundry.

I know that readers think it's no different than lending a book out, a library, or used book sales, but that isn't the case. The internet is a universal access point. The damage is widespread. The theft is massive. Consider that the author who spends hours a day, sometimes for months on a single project, makes a percentage of sales. A short story selling for just under three dollars might net the author sixty cents per sale. We pay our own taxes, pay social security and federal taxes. If the publisher is international, there is the conversion rate to consider. Then consider that popularity of a book fades after just a few months.

In polling several authors, mainstream and erotic, I found that sales can be as low as a few dollars a month. Most publishers won't issue a check below a certain sales figure. I know one author who wasn't paid royalties for five months because sales and conversion rate put her beneath the minimum earning rate for a check to be issued. Now consider that most writers have families or day jobs or both.

Piracy is piracy. Stealing from a hardworking person, taking from their store of creativity isn't suddenly right because you are internet-faceless. It is tantamount to a stranger walking in off the street, going into your desk, stealing confidential files you've worked months on and selling it as his own.

The author doesn't get paid. Their families, children, household income suffers significantly. They depend on the income to make ends meet whatever the economy. Some authors may feel giveaways help them. Fine. Let them give away copies without limitations, that's their choice. But making the universal choice for someone else about their work is a violation of copyright, a violation of creative integrity, and a violation of someones financial support structure.

We don't make much. Even those of us who do well still need outside work to pay the bills. We don't strut around in feather boas and lounge in silk pyjamas. We don't have pool-boys peeling grapes for us. We're like the readers, the general workforce, out there who make a living doing what we know how to do and hoping we bring joy in the process.

I'm being stolen from. The site has been given a cease and desist. They took it down and another person re-posted my work. I can see the number of times it has been downloaded and I know that number will reflect in my publication check. And I'm not alone.


Jennifer Madden said...

So, as an aspiring, unpublished author,I ask, what can you do? The 'cease and desist' thing obviously didn't do much, if another person posted it. Can you go after the website owner? Or is it even worth the hassle?

Jennifer Madden said...

Sorry, another question occurred to me. Is erotica targeted more than other genres?

Rassles said...

What kind of horseshit is this?

Some people believe they should be granted access to everything free of charge. Sometimes I feel like if you're smart enough to work around the system, you deserve it. Create your own programs, professional hackers etc.

But if you're smart enough to click "download" just like the rest of I said, horseshit.

Regina Carlysle said...

I honestly think it's futile to complain because these sites will continue to rip us off. Ebooks are where music was a few years ago over the whole Napster flap. I didn't think much about it at the time but I soooo get why musicians and music companies were pissed. It's stealing.

Mia Watts said...

Rass-Yeah, it's totally horseshit. Stealing isn't heroic no matter what form it comes in.

Jennifer-In the poll I took, more erotica writers get ripped off than mainstream because of the demand. You're more likely to get someone checking for a mainstream book in a store, but bring in erotica and people fear public opinion. Therefore online sites get more traffic. Also depends on the name you've created and its popularity.

As far as I know there's nothing to stop that's not already being done. Kindle has proprietary software and some ePublishers are developing the same thing. However, work arounds will be invented and uploaded for the process to start again.

At least with the Google Settlement, they are interested in paying royalties for viewing scanned books. But that's another blog.

Regina-It's frustrating and pointless. The cease and desist, as you know, only works for a very short time before someone reloads it. I would hope that site owners begin to write in code to catch the markers of these uploads and from the NYT article it sounds like there might be hope for honest vendors. Then there are the dishonest vendors who don't care so long as they make money.

Basically, no solution at this point.

Gwen said...

Oh my fucking god. That is infuriating, Mia. You work hard on your work and to have it stolen is such a violation.