Thoughts on piracy

The Pirate Bay logo

The Pirate Bay logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At what point is it okay to share the works of someone who is trying, or hoping to make a living at an artistic endeavour?  Is it once they’ve achieved a living by it?  When they’re rich by it?

With the internet, it’s certainly hard to fight it.  Fight too hard and, like Metallica, you just make it worse.  Don’t fight it hard enough and you’ll never get it to stop … assuming it’s even possible.  So there’s a certain futility to it all.

I know people who’ll pirate TV shows, movies, music, etc.  In some cases that’s the end of it; they have it and they’re not going to pay for it.  Some decide it was worthwhile and so buy the DVD, BluRay, CD, iTunes, whatever.  Some of the former would have bought it if a torrent didn’t exist, some refuse to ever pay for media.

Those who use piracy as a sort of library, I honestly have no issue with.  Or maybe you’re using it because you go to listen to your favourite tape, LP, or CD and discover it’s broken or ruined and it’ll be a few hundred dollars to replace because it’s out of print or something.  Seen more than a few people hunting down torrents of video games for that reason.

I don’t think file-sharing in itself is inherently bad.  As with most things, it’s intent.

Some people just share things because they can.  They don’t realise, or don’t care, that there are real people hurt by this.  Others do it as a sort of finger to capitalism and similar.  There are those who refuse to believe that data can, in some kind of sense, belong to someone.

I’ve recently found one of my books on several torrent sites.  And to get it down is very likely to require the help of a lawyer due to the rather convoluted policies on the part of both the DMCA and those sites’ interpretation of it.

On one hand, I almost feel happy:  someone liked my book well enough to share it?  And people want it badly enough to be downloading it this way?

On the other … I looked at the tracker statistics:  There’re twice as many people downloading that book as I type this than paid for it in the past two months.

I’m not so unrealistic as to believe that all of those are people who would have ever found my book to buy in the first place; there’re people whose personal Amazon is TorrentReactor.  I am not so unrealistic to believe that there are not some who see The Pirate Bay as a sort of lending library without due dates, or as a sort of free Netflix.

Still, it hurts.  It hurts personally that there are people out there who would enjoy someone’s hard work, but be unwilling to get it legally; unwilling to support that artist so that they might provide more work to enjoy.  I’ve seen musicians argue that, these days, don’t sell the music sell the merchandise – if they buy the shirt they get the MP3, according to an MC Lars song.  That’s fine and well for musicians.  What of authors?  What merchandise do we have?  That may work for some genres, but not all.  Too, I do have a bit of that; if you buy the print book from Amazon the e-book is free.

Thing is, with many arts, it’s a labour of love in the first place.  Many a musician, many a filmmaker, many a writer has to have a day job to pay the bills.  New York Times Bestselling authors who have to work to put food in the cupboards and pay the rent. Certainly those of us without that prestige … Now & Forever has two books out and both have hit the best seller charts in more than one country, not bad.  Amazon best sellers, at that!  Not sitewide, though.  Genre.  Yes, one of them did hit a point above one of the new big titles in YA romance.  Tally that against the statistics of how many people don’t read.  Best seller, in all but the most remarkable of cases; award winning, inall but the most remarkable of cases … these things do not mean well off, they don’t mean going through the dollars with a plow … they mean we make anything at all.  My writing pays my electric bill, sometimes.

The people who created the torrent of my book will probably never read this.  Even if they do, they’re as likely to troll in the comments as to take it down – the most likely is they’ll read it, shrug, and move on with no reaction at all.  I’ve no idea what I will or can do about the torrents; they exist, hundreds of people have downloaded them and the book (by-the-by, they used a terrible program to create the Kindle version put in there so it’s ugly … the ePub is one they got from one retailer or another) … I could get rid of the torrents today, and tomorrow, next week, next month … they’d be back.  With the sales lost, because some sales ARE lost, just no, not as many as the RIAA and MPAA try to claim, there’s no hope of ever affording the lawyer’s fees, to make it stop.  Maybe I’ll join the RWA, I think they offer legal services to members.

No I will not sue the people who want my book.  I’m not Metallica, I know a good portion of the downloaders are just kids, or the curious.  The torrent creators, they might get sued, but I know perfectly well how easy it can be for one to do these things without leaving any breadcrumbs … a little clever use of TOR or I2P and no one can find you unless you do something daft.  What?  Women can understand hacking and the internet, too.  Even those of us who prefer OSX and do our writing with ink and parchment; some of us just take an academic approach to it rather than a practical one.

I won’t ask you not to download the torrents; I will, however, beg you:  if you enjoy the book, consider buying a copy.  I have no magical power to know how many people possess a copy of my book, no magical power to know if and how much you enjoy it.  Reading a book does not support the author.  Tell your friends it exists, encourage them to read it?  That can, yes, though it helps if you do so in a way that at least some of them buy it; it certainly helps to nominate it for awards and to vote for it when it’s been nominated.  Leaving reviews, leaving ratings.  These things help.  That’s cheerleading, buying the product?  That supports the author herself; it’s money in her pocket.  If she’s with a big publisher, yes, it means you probably bought her the postage stamp she just put on her reply to a fan’s letter – sad, but true, though that’s no reason not to buy her book … if it doesn’t sell, and the publisher isn’t counting torrent tracker stats as sales by any measure, then they won’t renew her for another book.  If she’s self-publisher, you’ve probably bought her a cup of tea, a little nicer … but without a big marketing team, Ingram distribution, people whose job it is to ensure that the book is on Barnes & Nobles’ physical store shelves, etc … she gets precious few cups of tea as it is, don’t deny her another … she loves tea, it makes her happy, and a happy writer writes more books.

It’s all down to intent – don’t hurt the artists you love.  Like Boris Vallejo?  Buy a book of his art that has some of your favourites from that JPEG collection you downloaded.  Like Imagine Me & You?  It’s often only us$5 at Big Lots for the DVD (remember, used sales aren’t sales, you supported the store, not the artist(s)).  Love Arden Kaywin’s latest album?  Why not, at least, get your favourite tracks on iTunes?  Want to read Love or Lust all the way through, rather than just the sample, before you buy?  Fair enough, I completely understand that – too many books out there, big/small/self published where the editing and story telling are only good up to the end of the sample, everything from the next page on is a rough draft, and a bad one, at that; and of course you won’t take my word for it that I take more pride in myself and my work than to do that to people.  When you’re done, consider grabbing a copy from somewhere.  If you like having the ePub and the Kindle version, I recommend getting it from DriveThru Fiction or All Romance E-Books; I had no control over the Kindle file created by Smashwords and therefore cannot recommend it in good conscience, but all three will give you both formats in a single purchase and my lack of DRM means you can convert any retail source’s file to whatever format you wish, just don’t blame me if it doesn’t come out well.

Nominate your favourite indie author(s)

I hope, maybe, some of you will nominate Love or Lust certainly I do hope that some indie author or other has put a book out in the past year that has inspired or impressed you enough to nominate he or she.  You can also, by the by, nominate multiple books/authors.

Indie Author Land rgb-01

The 50 Self-Published Novels Worth Reading (2013/14)

Nominations Now Open!!!

We need your help in putting together a list of some of the best self-published books from the past year. Read something great? Nominate it. Written something great? Urge a fan to nominate it.

The interest our list has already generated has been phenomenal; in the three days since we opened up nominations it has already become our most popular post ever. That’s great for our ego, but more importantly, it means that whichever books make the list will get the exposure they deserve.

The Rules

1. The book must be self-published or published by a small, “indie-minded” house.
2. The book must have been published on or after 1 January, 2013.
3. The book must be available for purchase, in paperback or ebook format, from a large store – Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
4. Only nominations received on or before 21 April, 2014 will be considered.

Haven’t read a self-published book yet? Here are some we think might be worth your consideration.

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Getting fed up with Amazon

Warning:  I’m highly annoyed, in a foul mood, and not much inclined to be remotely charitable to a certain major corporation just now.

Well, my 75% off sale is up and going. … except Amazon.

They were one of the first places I set the sale, but they haven’t seen fit to post the new price.

I contacted their support and, after an unprofessionally long wait (most others respond within hours if not minutes, Amazon typically is best measured in days) they replied … the price change page hadn’t loaded properly so a key step was missed. Lovely of then to finally say so this morning. Got it sorted, and it’s been almost 12hrs … still no change. Should I mention that the price hasn’t even dropped through automatic price matching yet?!

This is not my first issue with Amazon, and I imagine it will not be my last. Simply put, they can be decently professional to their consumers, to judge by anecdotes at work, if people need to return or exchange something, but in their inter-professional dealings they are, frankly, insulting. So much so that if they were not currently such a major bookseller that I sell more copies per month there than I do in all other estores combined in a quarter, I’d drop them.

They have the slowest response time when contacted for issues and their responses are less attentive to what was said. Their terms are among the worst in the industry. Their format is obtuse and needlessly complex; not to mention stiflingly proprietary. Their KDP site, while not horrible, is not so intuitive as others. Finally there is the treatment: you are a charity and potential customer, not a serious business interaction – you are inundated with offers for premium services you can buy and denied options afforded to larger publishing houses (pre-orders and certain options that Tor has without exclusivity that little ol’ me mayn’t have).

Why say all of this? Information is a powerful tool. Most people perceive Amazon and Kindle in a very positive light. Certainly they are not Satan manifest, but neither are they the greatest company on Earth.

For those who prefer companies that treat everyone interacting with them with equal respect and professionalism I recommend Apple, Kobo, and the group behind All Romance eBooks (all of whom carry my book).

I’m not saying to cease using Amazon nor to trash your Kindle … but if you are already feeling a bit dissatisfied, perhaps this is one more reason to look at that iPad or similar you’ve been eyeing.

Love or Lust (ebook) now on sale!

Love or Lust coverUntil 2 March 2014 you can get Love or Lust in ebook for 75% off!

I wanted to celebrate how very close I am to having Ready or Not on shelves and this seemed a good way to do it.

I desperately wish I could cut my print price too — but that option still is simply not possible.

Follow the links to the book’s page, from there it can take you to your favourite ebookstore.

If your favourite still shows the normal price — give it a couple hours to a day.  I just launched the sale, and some stores don’t update in real time (Nook, Kobo, and Kindle I know don’t).

Another 5-Stars!

I was poking around on Amazon and discovered something:  A week ago today I received another 5-star review!

You can, of course, read it here.

It’s always nice to feel appreciated, and that the book is well liked.  I’m even happier to see that it seems to really … resonate?  Resonate seems a good word, we’ll use that.   Yeah, it resonates with people.  It’s warming to know that the characters are so endearing, or that the story itself is in some way moving or touching.

I’ve seen it said recently (it was a quote from another writer posted to The Indie View’s Facebook page, if I recall correctly) that artists are kind of schizophrenic.  At one and the same time we’re incredibly confident and full of pride, and nervous wrecks with absolutely no self-esteem.  It seems true — on one hand we feel as though our work ought to be shared with the world, so there’s your pride and ego; on the other hand we’re absolutely convinced (well, most of us, exceptions like Anne Rice exist — I’m not a fan, don’t ask about her books, I’ve never even watched Interview With a Vampire) that our work is awful and that we will be belittled and berated, stopped in the street and spat upon … well, okay, maybe not quite that bad, but some pretty terrible things and emotions do go through our minds and flood out through our mouths.  I’ve nearly got myself strangled by close friends I fretted so much ~blush~.

Any of you still waiting to buy the book, Kindle edition is 99¢ right now, and the iBooks version is free.

Oh, and for those waiting on a status report for Ready or Not: Delayed. Editor had some issues with her gall bladder. She’s feeling better now, but some other problems decided to come play “kick ’em while they’re down” with her so she’s still rather out of sorts. Things will hopefully get back on track soon and, with luck, we’ll at least have a release around the 1yr anniversary of Love or Lust … pray for a little luck and we might even manage a new years or Valentine’s release, but I wouldn’t suggest any holding of breath for earlier than Easter.

And Amazon joins the fun

So, it turns out, today, that Amazon decided to price match my Labour Day weekend sale.

So!  Until they put the price back up (I’ve actually got to look up how to make sure they do that) Love or Lust is free for the Kindle!

#18 and #52!!

Oh. My. God!

I’ve reached #52 in the lesbian fiction best sellers on Amazon and #18 in “Hot new releases” in the same category on Amazon!  (#18,852 Paid in Kindle Store)

Thank you so very much to all the readers who’ve made this happen.

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A free copy, as promised

smashwordsFor the Smashworders theres this code:  GG53A
That will be valid until 8am PDT 1 July 2013

dt-fiction3dwebFor those with a special place in their hearts for DriveThru Fiction simply click the cute little logo to the left.

Sorry folks, but until I’m in iBookstore that’s it for places I can do any kind of promotions.  Amazon’s program for such things are just a free give away and only if I agree to exclusivity with them.  I can’t, in good conscience, do that to my readers who don’t use Kindle.

When will I be in iBooks?  I don’t know.  Apple, admirably, reviews the books submitted to them by hand.  This means the number of other books on their plate will determine when I’m accepted and released for sale.  Why is this admirable in this day of computers?  Simple:  a computer can’t see if someone puts an erotica up as a children’s book, a human can.  I’m willing to wait for them to protect the customers from incompetents and pranksters.

 

Progress?

Sadly, no, not really.

Love or Lust is still being edited.  It’s moving along at a good pace, but apparently I make too many tiny punctuation errors for it to go what, by strict definition, could be called fast.  They might even be small enough most people wouldn’t notice them, but between my knowing how to do some of them right (typo, inattentiveness, or messing up when changing something would be how THOSE wind up wrong) and a certain sense of:   if I’m going to go through this kind of stress I might as well make sure it’s done right, it just wouldn’t do to leave them be.

Ready or Not is stuck in too many way.  Part of it is a long series of migraines.  Creative thought and migraines just don’t happen together, full stop.  Too I keep having life interfering with it, and finally I just can’t quite get a good handle on what happens next.

I should be set for a, relatively, simultaneous release on Kobo, Nook, Kindle, print, iBooks, Smashwords, and DriveThruFiction.  ‘Relatively’ just to account for Murphy’s Law, one of them, I just know, is going to take forever to put the book up in their store in some fashion and possibly require re-upload of the file based on some error it couldn’t have just kicked back when it first scanned the file during the initial upload.

All in all, I look forward to the release.  I hope to see mountains of reviews and lots of comments about it.

I should have some previews up very soon.  I’m really just waiting to decide where to cut it off at and then I’ll put it here (first few chapters are pretty much done, so shouldn’t be too much trouble).

Decisions, decisions …

So the final editing of Love or Lust is well under way.  It probably won’t be done by Valentine’s Day, but it still might.  It is moving at a fair clip, but that doesn’t change that there’s about 140k words and 400-ish pages to get  through.  Too, I have to make a final read through just to make sure that the final buff and polish is done, so that date will likely be missed and was never a very resounding likelihood anyway.

That’s got me to thinking about a few things.

First off, section separators:  Also known as fleurons (and an hundred other things), they do give a certain flair to the page.  They’re also a bloody wretch to figure out how to do.  With Dingbats type fonts they’re a breeze in the PDF, but they start to become an unholy nightmare in the universe of the ePUB and Kindle editions.  Not impossible, mind, but nightmare.  An alternative is to just use a little graphic.  Dear God save me from things that ought to be black on transparent alpha layer but instead are scans complete with random not exactly white artefacts in the white bits!!  Photoshop and I had a lovely row about that.  I did make one.  It was kind of pretty.  Well, that is, until I tried to put it on the page.  That didn’t go too well. Still … I’d appreciate feedback on that.

If you click on the word fleurons above it’ll take you to an example image.  The alternative is good old fashioned asterisks.

The second bit of thinking was just a bit of fun inspired by how another author did a little pre-release promotion.  Seanan McGuire did a Discount Armageddon ABCs thing that seemed kind of cute.  The more I think about it the less I want to do it.  So I probably won’t.  But just in case I do lose my mind and decide to go with this little touch of lunacy … well … you’ve been warned.

Solidly decided things:

  • Publishing, I don’t care if you use a publisher or do it yourself, is a good way to go completely mad with indecision, anxiety, self-doubt, and several other things that suddenly have escaped my vocabulary and are lost in the woods some place.
  • I love my cover art.  I’m, torn between ideas regarding it though.  I’m very much thinking to keep that layout and just change the colour scheme for each book, and then (naturally) the image.  The question is, do I keep finding girl/girl cover art (something I can absolutely do for Ready or Not but is giving me a touch of trouble for later books), or just keep finding pretty images (e.g. the 4th book maybe having a ballet slipper on it or some such).  Ah well, I’m not even done with the second book yet and feel like it needs heavy editing so I’ve plenty of time to consider and reconsider this.
  • The print edition will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of us$10.  Sadly, this is due entirely to length.  It costs more than the retail price of a novel half this size just to print the bloody things.  Which gives me a new found respect for some of the newest Terry Pratchett novels I’ve picked up being about us$10, but doesn’t explain some places charging that much for things like Light Fantastic or Wyrd Sisters!  The eBook, though, will likely be closer to us$4 or us$5.  Compelling enough arguments could see it as low as us$3 (just use the comments or the contact link), but current ‘wisdom’ says the higher price will attract more sales.  We’ll see.

Page numbers.   I’ve just realised I’ve no idea how I should like to do the page numbers.  Centered and unadorned at the bottom of the page?  Unadorned at the bottom corner of the page (obviously this thought is for the print edition only)?  Unadorned at the top?  If decorated, with tildes or a fleuron/dingbat?  Well, don’t ever let anyone tell you self-publishing is easy, or that it’s the lazy way out or any other such nonsense.  That said, going through a publisher is just as bad or worse — you may not have to decide a lot of this stuff, but then you have to worry that your first edition might have covers in “50 shades of mud” and “kept them out of the shops“, among too many other less amusing anecdotes by far too many other authors to mention.

I’ll always argue with someone who says writing is ‘hard work’ — I take issue with the work part.  The hard … that depends on perspective, writing is challenging in terms of telling a good story well and not losing your mind in the process.  Work it is not.  Publishing, on the other hand, I will doubt the sanity of anyone who claims is anything but work and be suspicious of anyone who claims it to be easy.

In other news Puppy Bowl is tomorrow!!  I’ll, alas, be missing it because a) I’ll be at work and b) I don’t actually have any TV service that doesn’t come via my DVD player.