Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ePiracy Rant

I need to let off a little steam today.

Prior to my Mirabelle books getting published, I hadn't paid much attention to the whole piracy thing. It's something I'm pretty much helpless to do anything about, so why get all worked up over the issue, right?

My first two books haven't been released in ebook format, and I'm honestly glad for that. It means I don't have to worry about them getting passed around for nothing. I've spotted my NASCAR books several times on a few piracy sites, have requested they be taken down, and the sites have thankfully complied relatively quickly. Still, one of my NASCAR books had been downloaded close to 300 times before I became aware it was out there.

What's got me all worked up now is something that happened this past week.

I was searching through a couple of well-known piracy sites for my books and low and behold what did I find? Someone actually put out a request for my Mirabelle books. A REQUEST for a free download. I couldn't believe it. All I could do was seethe as I monitored the site, waiting to see what would happen.

Sure enough, someone uploaded my first two Mirabelle's last Saturday. I sent emails to have them taken down. AS I was following up to see if the site complied (which is hasn't, by the way) someone uploaded my third Mirabelle book. THEN COMES A BABY won't even be on book shelves until December and it's already being pirated.

Since Saturday, my three new books have been pirated 50 times. Any guesses what that number will be in a week?

One of the things that amazes me the most is that these people have no shame. Stealing ebooks isn't considered a dirty little secret. They do it in plain view. Then they have the balls enough to talk right on the same sites about who their favorite authors are and why they enjoy the stories.

Guess what guys, keep it up and your favorite authors won't be able to afford writing any longer. Eventually, you'll have nothing to read worth stealing.

I think the most frustrating thing about this is that my hands are tied. I can't do anything about it.

A few books back, I told my agent that I'd like to keep the erights to my books because I wasn't happy with the royalty rate. She said she thought it was a mistake. I'm not convinced. If I understand my royalty statements that came last week, I've made a total of about $140 from ebook sales. That's gross. Right off the top, 15% goes to my agent. I'm not sure that's worth giving the erobbers something for absolutely nothing.

There's this perception out there that writers--all writers--are rolling in the dough. My husband's coworkers and clients are always asking him when he's going to retire. I'd like to set the record straight. I work fulltime at this and my twenty-year-old daughter makes more per hour nannying a couple of kids than I do writing. I could make about as much as a clerk at a supermarket and at least then I would have benefits. I know because I paid my way through college working in a grocery store.

The only reason I can afford to do this right now is because my husband is being patient. He's supporting our family while I try to get this business--and yes, it is a business--up and running. And if it doesn't start at least jogging soon, I will have to quit writing.

I understand not being able to afford buying books. Trust me, I've been there. But just because a person doesn't have the money, doesn't entitle her to steal. That's what piracy is ... stealing.

There's this thing called a library, folks. They're free, legal and support writers by buying their books.

I truly believe that a lot of the people who read these pirated books have no real understanding of the ramifications of their actions. When Napster first came out, my husband and I downloaded some songs, until it hit me one day. I related it to book publishing and we stopped. Right away, I went out and bought a bunch of CDs of artists I'd ripped off.

So do your favorite authors a favor and educate your friends, family, and coworkers. Please spread the word that the majority of authors work very hard and are paid very little. Every time you download a pirated book you're not just taking from some big corporation with deep pockets. You're not sticking it to the man. You're sticking it to an author.

ePiracy, in every form--movies, books, music--hurts real, hard-working people.

One thing I'd like to clarify. Borrowing actual books between friends isn't at issue here, at least not if someone initially bought that book new. That's not stealing. It's sharing. I think it's great to share books you love with others. Books eventually wear out. They can't be read and reread indefinitely. Ebooks, on the other hand, go on and on and on.

So to everyone out there who buys their favorite authors books or borrows them from a library or a friend, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your support!



Kathleen Eagle said...

Helen, would you add links to some of those piracy sites? I've been really slow on the uptake on this issue. I should gird my loins and weigh them into the fray. Thanks for bringing this up.

Helen Brenna said...

I'll send them to you in an email, Kathy. Don't want to give anyone any idea! hehe

Kathleen Eagle said...

Of course! What am I thinking?

Tammy Hoganson (w/a Tamara Hogan) said...

Ooooh, I am MASSIVELY pissed off on your behalf. So much for being able to actually WRITE on Saturday, hmm? Grrr.

Michele Hauf said...

Preach it, Sista!

lois greiman said...

thanks helen. it's hard enough makin a living at this w/o someone stealing our stuff.

so how do the pirates get the books before they're pubbed?

Helen Brenna said...

Tammy, thanks hon! To be honest, between my extremely disappointing royalty stmt, this piracy crap, and a host of other depressing goings on in the publishing industry I haven't been able to write more than a few pages in the last week.

Helen Brenna said...

Michele - I don't know how you stand it. It seems the paranormals get pirated even more than many of the subgenres.

Helen Brenna said...

Lois - s/h clarified that. eHarlequin has it's books in both paper and ebook formats available online the month before they hit the shelves/other online book stores.

Michele Hauf said...

Helen, I've had my books that come out electronically at eHarlequin pirated the day of release too. It frustrates me, but there's nothing I can do about it so I can't waste the worry on it.

I just send the link to harlequin's piracy reporting and let them handle it.

What I can't figure out is that most of these sites don't make any money. So why do it?

Cindy Gerard said...

Thanks, Helen, for putting voice to a nasty problem that seems to have no solution at this point.
There seems to be an entire segment of the population out there that think that if it's on the WEB and it's free that it's okay.
And here's the truth - right now, it's a no win for authors. If we ignore it we lose. If we refer it to our publishers they take action then the next week the book is up again on another site - possibly even the same site. If we speak up about it in public formats we are often 'branded' as money grubbing bitches, when in fact, we just want to get paid for the work we do.

I too THANKS everyone out there who BUYS the book or borrows it from a library or from a friend, but to those of you who honestly see no harm in downloading a book that you know you should pay for, please consider what it means to not only the individual author, but the the entire industry.

Hugs, Helen and hang in there.

Liza said...

It really makes me angry that people are out there stealing from authors. It is really no different than stealing a car or robbing someone. I always tell people that the library is always free and they even have books you can check out for ereaders now. I get even angrier when I think about the number of authors that might have to stop writing due to the number of books stolen.

Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, Helen, I'm so sorry.

I'll recommend to you what I do when I'm having a bad day/week...I read (kinda ironic, that, huh?). Last night I bought two Harlequin Presents that I'm holding out for a treat. Between the two titles there are 2 brides, 1 billionaire, and 1 desert prince.

I'm escaping as soon as I get my pages done!

Helen Brenna said...

Because they can, Michele. Why do people send out viruses? It's that whole stick it to the establishment hogwash.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks, Cindy. I was actually a little worried about posting this because I don't want to seem like a money-grubbing you-know-what. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm barely making minimum wage in gross income. And if you deduct expenses - postage, paper, ink, computer fees, books, agency fees, conference, contest fees, subscriptions, promotion, advertising - OY!

Let's just say I have a VERY patient husband.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks, Liza.

The publishing industry - just like a lot of other businesses - is in crisis right now.

ePiracy is just one of many things going on behind the scenes that undercut the ability for authors to make a living.

In fact, very few authors can make ends meet without a part or full-time job.

You won't have to worry about the really huge authors, but the rest of us are hurting.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks, Christie. Cyber hugs.

Debra Dixon said...

Oh, baby.

You are preaching to the choir.

I do have serious doubts about the future of publishing given all the legal shifts in the model and all the illegal impact on how the industry works.

Publishers and authors are being squeezed.

Helen Brenna said...

>I do have serious doubts about the future of publishing

You and me both, Deb.

Kathleen Eagle said...

At least musicians can go on tour to make up for the loss in recording sales due to downloading. From what I understand, that's where their income is these days. Nobody's going to pay me to read to them.

Helen Brenna said...

Good point, Kathy. Although the traveling they do has to be grueling.

KylieBrant said...

Helen, I feel your pain. My Nov. book was posted on a piracy site the day it was released. I've sent in three requests to that site. They take it down and the next day it appears again. Meanwhile we're in the thousands of downloads now.

I recently got a rather terse letter from a reader demanding to know why my 2006 book wasn't available for download. I wanted to say if I had anything to say about it, none of my books would ever be ebooks!

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, Kathy, I'd pay you to read to me-- you've got a great voice! lol. But I doubt you'd think it was worth it at the rate I could afford to pay.

Meanwhile, I never worried about piracy. . . I never found my books on such links until recently. Random House made a number of my titles available in their e-catalog and suddenly I'm finding "torrent" sites offering my books for free!!!! Maybe it was better to be unknown!

I'm with you, Deb. There are big changes afoot, but who knows where they'll lead. And Harlequin is not developing a line for self-publishing!!!!! I'm astonished and a little insulted. Why are they doing that?

Betina Krahn said...

Sorry I meant to say that HQ is NOW offering a self-publishing option for aspiring romance and women's fiction authors! Somebody check it out and tell me I'm wrong. Please.

Helen Brenna said...

Horizons, Betina. On top of everything else, this kills me.