So I recently came across a thread on a forum discussing where Living Dead Girl might be downloaded for free. It was kind of an odd, uncomfortable position to be in--witnessing a conversation I probably shouldn't be witnessing. I walked away with mixed feelings. After all, I've seen my books on pirate websites before. It's an unfortunate part of releasing material digitally that seems near impossible to combat. You shut down one site, another pops up. You get one torrent removed and three others pop up. Quite frankly, I don't have the time or money to try and keep up with it. I don't like the idea of my work being downloaded for free, but I don't feel like there's much I can do about it.
Seeing an actual conversation, though, kind of hit home a little harder. Unlike finding supposed links to free downloads on pirate sites, this was an individual actually discussing the act of trying to find my book free. An individual who obviously saw nothing wrong with the idea, or didn't care, which I imagine is the mindset of many people who seek out 'free' books/music/movies/etc. While I'm not convinced any of these people would actually buy my book if it was the only option available to get it, it still bothers me. Actually, it makes me sick.
See, every book represents hours and hours of work. Living Dead Girl took months--over a year if you count the time spent work-shopping, rewriting, polishing, submitting to agents and publishers, then editing once the contract was signed. It currently sells just a few copies a month. Nowhere near enough to compensate for all the time, effort and energy put into creating it. I'm not complaining about that. I'm still a relatively new author, trying to separate myself from the rest. This may take time. Maybe I haven't written the right book that will strike a chord with a larger group of readers. I'm not expecting overnight, bestseller success or millions of dollars. I just want to do what I enjoy doing, and maybe eventually make enough money that I can do it full time.
That said, to anyone considering downloading my books from one of these sites (and anyone who is adding my books to these sites), know this:
I'm not rich. I work a full time job that leaves very little time to write. It's a constant struggle to find quality writing time, and by that, I mean time where I'm not so exhausted my brain has become total mush. So when I actually complete a project? That's a HUGE deal for me. It means I sacrificed something else in my life to make it happen.
Living Dead Girl only costs $2.99 right now. For only slightly less you can buy a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts. For slightly more you can get a latte at Starbucks. Most people don't bat an eyelash at buying something that takes seconds to make and a few minutes to consume...then it's gone. So how do you justify seeking 'free downloads' for something that costs roughly the same as a cup of coffee? I don't get it. Maybe I'm not meant to.
I've given away many copies of my books, to both reviewers and contest winners. I have no problem doing this. If a person is kind enough to leave a review after, it's a huge bonus. That said, I do this with the understanding that my books will not be shared. Putting an e-book file on any site for free download is not the same as loaning out your paperback or selling it to a used book shop. It's not the same as checking out a book from a library. An e-book is a file that can be downloaded and shared an infinite amount of times.
What is book piracy? Plain and simple, it's stealing. It's telling an artist that their time and effort isn't worth paying for. As an artist, it's an unfortunate reality that just sucks.