Piracy and The Indie Author

This post, from Rhiannon Frater, originally appeared on her Zombies, Vampires and Texans!! Oh My!! blog on 10/13/09 and is reprinted here in its entirety with her permission.

It’s tough being an Indie Author at times.

You write for months and months on your novel until at last you are done. But you’re not really done because you have to:

1. Rewrite, revise and edit

2. Have your test readers dive in and point our where you screwed it up

3. Seek out qualified people to edit your work

4. Hire an artist to create a beautiful cover that will leap out at readers

5. Format the book yourself and work endless hours fixing any errors

6. Deal with the POD company you select whenever there is a gaff and deal with the headache of frustration while doing so

7. Promote the hell out of your upcoming book

8. Publish your book, sit back, and watch the sales trickle in

And I do mean trickle.

It can take awhile for an Indie book to find its audience sometimes. Even though As The World Dies had a big fan base, the first month As The World Dies: The First Days was out it sold 25 copies. It would take two more months for it to get its legs and take off.

I know I’ve been very blessed. As the first book plows toward 3,000 books sold and the two followups continue to rack up sales, I know that this is not the norm for an Indie book. If anything, it is highly unusual. Of course, all expenses to publish and the promote the book have been paid out of my own pocket.

So then how does it feel when I see my books on the bit torrents or other similar sites?

I hope the downloaders like the book and buy the paperback version.

My husband uploaded the books for me for one simple reason: someone was going to do it. It might as well be us. We might as well make sure it’s a good copy, with a good cover, and contact information for those who enjoy the book.

Piracy is going to happen. We can’t stop it. So we decided to use it as a promotional tool to build up my reader base.

Has it worked?

Sales continue to grow for the books we released on the torrents. Recently, I began posting Pretty When She Dies: A Vampire Novel for free on its own blog. Sales have picked up slightly. I was ticked off when someone posted it for free on Scribd, but mostly because I felt it stole my thunder in posting the novel for free on blogspot.com.

I did find a yahoo question a week or so ago asking for a download link for As The World Dies. The person who responded said they had bought it off Smashwords and uploaded it. They actually seemed quite pleased with this, as though they were somehow giving it to "the man." Though, in this case, it would be "the woman." The question has since been deleted. (I had nothing to do with that, btw.)

One of my friends, a fellow author, was upset by all of this. He felt I was being robbed, since I an an Indie, and I do want to be a full time author one day. He was afraid that by having my work out there for free, I am losing money. I told him not to worry That it is okay.

And it really is.

The reality is this: people buy books all the time and loan them to friends. Libraries have been doing that for years. If someone buys an electronic copy and passes it on, I can’t argue that its not the same thing. All I can hope is that the person downloading the free copy will like the book enough to snag a paperback for their shelf the same way people have bought a book after reading their friend’s copy.

Do I lose sales because of the downloads? I think I probably don’t. People downloading any type of media are usually A) broke or B) they have never heard of the book/film/show/band/game and want to see if it sucks C) they were not going to buy what they believe should be free anyway.

Frankly, I believe having a strong, loyal readership will benefit me in the long run and if it takes free copies on the bit torrents to build that readership, then that’s okay by me. As The World Dies grew its fan base while it was free online.

But…I do hope that one day they buy a book. 🙂