Tuesday morning thoughts
Last week — was it only last week? — I wrote about how I was finding myself forced to take some downtime after finishing a novel. That need has pretty much passed, only to be replaced by the body numbing exhaustion that came from a weekend filled with graduation and commissioning activities for my son. Much as I’d like to be able to sit back and bask in the pride I feel for my son, I know I can’t. So I’m pushing through. The only real problem today is there simply isn’t enough coffee in the world to get my brain going enough to blog.
But I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that sanity has yet to find its way into legacy publishing. How do I know? Well, the price fixing suit filed by the Department of Justice against five of the Big Six as well as Apple has yet to be settled by all parties. In fact, it looks like it will go to trial early next month, barring some last minute settlements or postponements. It is going to be interesting to see how that plays out in court, assuming it goes all the way to verdict. Of course, if the court finds for the DoJ, we all know there will probably be appeals and that means no final result for years to come.
Then there’s this article from Publisher’s Weekly about the increase in e-book sales last year. What’s interesting about it is that it, like so many of the other studies, goes by the number of dollars spent instead of number of units bought. This is an important distinction. Going by the number of dollars spent, e-books represented 11% of the market. But when you consider how much cheaper e-books are — at least if you are talking about non-legacy published e-books — than paperbacks, much less novels, you have to wonder exactly what the numbers of units sold are. I have a feeling that if we had accurate numbers, we’d see figures nearing 50% of the market for e-books. But that’s just my feeling.
There’s also been another warning for authors about the danger of posting your material online. Author Lillith Saintcrow has been posting Squirrel!Terror on her blog for some time now. Imagine her surprise when she is tipped off that someone has been posting her work, with some of the names changed, as their own over on Daily Kos. She went to the posts, made sure she had gotten good information and then posted that these were her work.
And she was attacked by followers of the purported plagiarist, being called liar and other things.
While I understand her upset at being plagiarized, and I agree that she received at best a non-apology from the other party, I have to take issue with a subsequent post she put up and that has been echoed by other writers. She basically lumps piracy with plagiarism and that is my problem. In the world of e-books, piracy is not the same thing as plagiarism (although they are certainly closely related). As she noted in her original post, whole blocks of text were lifted by the other person and the only real changes in the text were names of the characters. Plagiarism clearly, as any student who has had to write a research paper will attest.
Piracy, on the other hand, is taking your e-book and putting it up for download without permission and without giving the author/publisher the appropriate proceeds. No one likes having their e-books pirated. There are differing opinions on whether it helps or hurts sales. As most of you know, I happen to fall in the camp that it helps. I guess this is where I admit that I have been brainwashed by the late Jim Baen not only about the viability and importance of e-books but that folks might pirate one e-book, find they like it and then they will go out and buy others by that author. Why did he believe that? Because he’d seen it work that way and, frankly, I happen to agree. Of course, if you happen to believe that readers are inherently criminal, then you won’t believe this and there is nothing I can say to change your mind.
Frankly, this debate reminds me of a situation that arose several years ago when the author of the then hot YA series discovered that someone she’d given a copy of the manuscript for the next book had leaked it on the internet. She stomped and screamed and pitched a royal hissy fit — in public. Because she just knew it would kill sales of the book — and remember, this was the latest hot YA series and it is still a big seller — she withdrew that book from her publisher and went back to work writing yet another book for the series.
Now, her hissy fit was a marketing windfall for her because it kept folks talking about the series. But it also delayed, iirc, the release of the next volume because she had to go back and write something else. Can I blame her for being mad? No. But at the rate the book was selling, the leak wouldn’t have hurt her. Not really. It didn’t hurt the Harry Potter books — and they were leaked as pdf files before the print books were available and years before legal digital versions were. But she was convinced no one would buy her book.
The lesson from what happened to her and from what happened to Saintcrow is that we have to be vigilant. If we post excerpts, or entire stories or novels, online, we need to periodically do searches for key phrases or passages. We need to search for our titles to see if they have been put up on some torrent site. Then, if you find you’ve been pirated, send a take down notice. It may or may not work, especially if the site is hosted outside of the country. If you find you’ve been plagiarized, do a take down notice and also let the offending party know that you will be talking with your attorney, especially if they are selling your work as their own.