Mystery writer Joe Konrath has become another major writer who doesn't fear ebook piracy and who thinks pirates help more than hurt. .A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Piracy... Again
I just adore very successful writers who come out in favor of piracy or make it a victimless crime because it hasn't hurt them. Of course, it's not hurt them enough to notice because they have so many other ways to sell their books, unlike most other authors.
Think of it this way. Someone steals $1000 from a wealthy person. It doesn't really hurt them. Someone steals $1000 from someone on welfare. The poor person will probably end up homeless.
Think of it this way. Very successful authors who publish through the large conglomerates (New York based publishers owned by conglomerates, i.e. most of the publishers of books you see in bookstores) have diversified risk. That means lots of book titles in many formats-- paper (hard cover, trade, and massmarket), ebook, audio, and possibly media rights (TV, movies, graphic novels, etc.). Those paper books are available in most brick and mortar stores. The new book title as well as the backlist is available in paper on those bookstore shelves.
Most other authors with the conglomerate publishers are very lucky to have one book on those shelves for a very short time, and with the possible exception of the ebook, there are no other media rights sold. Other authors have no paper books on those shelves and must rely on online sales for their paper books, if they have a paper version, and their ebook version.
Most newer authors with the conglomerate presses get a very small advance, unlike the $100,000+ for a three-book deal Konrath has talked about for his books. Depending on the genre, etc., the advance runs from under $3,000 to $10,000 with his agent taking a 15% chunk. It will probably be the only money the author will ever see on that book. The author will be expected to use at least 10 to 25% for promotion.
If the first book doesn't sell well enough, the publisher will not buy the next book of that author. End of career or a major restart with a new name for the author.
Those authors with indie press and ebook publishers get no advance. Their books are only available online, usually as ebooks or more expensive trade paperbacks. They must bear the promotion expenses as well as the incredible amount of time needed to get their names out to the reading public since they don't have the platform of a major publisher.
Some have done quite well because they produce numerous books a year, those books are high quality and similar in kind, and the book is a popular genre like erotica. Everyone else struggles to come out even after the expenses of the website, etc.
Few will make minimum wage for their time, not including the years it took to develop publishable craft and the months it took to write the book. They continue on with the hope that they will be able to make a good living eventually. Most never will.
Most authors cannot continue to write if there is no profit after a period of time. The only exception is the hobby writer who has a second income through a financially successful spouse or who is able to hold down a full-time job as well as writing two or three novels a year and spending many hours promoting them in their "spare" time.
With their diversified list of books, types of media, and sales sites, the average conglomerate publisher can take a loss, perceived or real, on ebook sales. The average small press or ebook publisher goes out of business because they aren't so diversified and ebook sales plummet.
It's hard to believe that piracy doesn't hurt when an epublishers' entire list is available for free all over the Internet, there's no income from any other source because the books are only available as ebooks, and the money isn't coming in.
It's hard to say piracy doesn't hurt when an ebook has thousands of pirated downloads all over the web, and the author can't take her family out to McD's with her quarterly royalty check, and the only thing the author gets from all that "free" promotion of pirated earlier books is that her next new book will hit the pirate lists even faster than the last did.
Some of the most successful indie ebook published authors of the last years are some of the biggest foes of pirates because they are watching their own profits dropping while the market is expanding.
I belong to lots of lists where some of these small publishers and authors hang out, and many are hemorrhaging to death. Authors are becoming dispirited that their "fans" show so little respect for them by stealing their work, and their income continues to fall. It's getting harder and harder to justify spending hundreds of hours of their lives in a profession they are losing money at. Publishers are watching the steady march toward bankruptcy and are fighting to stay in business.
What does this mean to the reader? Those authors who are making lots of money will continue to publish. You will continue to see the big names in the bookstores and online. The conglomerate publishers will continue to publish lots of books for much fewer authors. That means fewer choices of the types of paper books available.
The small presses and epublishers where future conglomerate stars are developing a following and the types of books that aren't mainstream are being published will disappear so you'd better develop a taste for the authors on the bestseller lists, and only those authors, because everyone else will disappear.
Ebook piracy a victimless crime? Maybe for a few authors like Konrath, but not for the rest of us.
For information on authors who are being hurt by piracy, I suggest the group Authors Without Yachts, http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/30255.Authors_Without_Yachts_AWaY_ .
For information on copyright and epublishing, I suggest my blog articles on the subject. Click on the "copyright" label to the left to find them.