Free for the Taking...Which Kind of Burns Me

Usually, I'm of the opinion that any publicity is good publicity. However, I'm a little bit annoyed at the moment. I've spent the last hour looking up my own books online. I've found five websites where you can download my books for free. I sent three cease and desist emails to get them removed. The fourth I can't find any contact information at all and the fifth one is the one that really peeved me. First of all, in order to have my copyrighted material removed I have to provide the specific download links they have, must send it from a company email (yahoo, gmail, etc will be rejected) and then prove it's my work. PROVE IT'S MY WORK!!!

Yeah, that last part is the one that burns me. How the hell do I prove it's my work. Show them the agonizing screen shots of a work in progress? Show them a link to the publisher's page where my picture and my name are right there?

I've been published since RIBBONS OF MOONLIGHT, I think that was 2008. I've found, and my other writing colleagues, have found hundreds and hundreds of websites where our books can be downloaded for free. If the counts on the webpages are to be believed I've had over two thousand free downloads in the last six months. Even at fifty cents an ebook that's a grand. A thousand dollars.

Now, I don't do this for the money. However, it burns me that people aren't willing to pony up the $.99 to $4.00 for one of my books. They're not that expensive. Heck, a cup of fancy coffee costs more and a book lasts a whole lot longer. You'd also be amazed at how many people expect to get a free print copy of my books. I pay for those. Admittedly, I get a discount, but I'm supposed to sell them at publisher prices so I can make my royalty.

It takes an author, depending on the writer and their lives, anywhere from six months to three years (or more if you're Geaorge RR Martin) to write a book. We make anywhere from five cents (with the Kindle pages read thing) to over a dollar for each book sold. That's it. So, all those free downloads hit hard. They're also readers who aren't ever going to leave reviews, which are hard enough to get on their own. Or they leave reviews on the pirate sites, encouraging more and more people to steal the books.

I'm a copyright cop. I buy all my books and I purchase all my movies. I use Youtube only for excerpts and public domain material. I stroke out on my students when they offer to bring in bootleg movies. However, it's also common in our culture that artists, of every stripe, are constantly being told, "you shouldn't complain. It's exposure. You should be happy so many people are reading your books. Next time they'll buy one." Ah. No. Next book they'll hop back on that torrent site and grab the next one. Artists are always asked to donate their hard earned work for free, give it away and then told to be happy about it. Why? It would be like telling a dentist, "You know, fill a few hundred cavities and word of mouth will get around. Soon people will start coming in here and paying you for your work."

I will toss out free copies of my books. I'll give them away to libraries and other authors for giveaways because we're all in this together. However, I will continue to hunt down the pirate site and send them cease and dismiss orders. That's my hard work. (Anyone who tells you writing with a full time job, a small person, a family and a life isn't hard work is lying to you.) I deserve that fifty cents an ecopy. We're not all JK Rowling and Stephen King, who, by the way, don't deserve to have their work stolen just because they're doing well. I hope anyone who's ever tempted to download a book or movie or tv series without paying for it thinks a little bit about how they'd feel if someone came in and expected them to work for free.


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