Publishing, Pirate Prattle, and Pay

Friday, January 22, 2010

There is this myth going around the pirate sites that they think published writers are rich, so if they steal files from them, it’s not hurting them, it’s only hurting “fat cat publishers.”

Well, here’s another myth about to go up in flames on the sacred cow barbecue.

The majority of writers, even writers whose books make “bestseller” lists, make less than poverty wages from their writing. If the first link doesn’t depress the hell out of you, keep reading.







Okay, get your ass back in here off that ledge. I hate heights, and I’m not about to climb out there to pull you in. Take your freaking meds, sit down, shut up, and listen.

There’s a reason I’m telling you all of this. Very few fiction writers, I’m guessing MAYBE one out of every one thousand, IF that, make over $100k a year. I’m basing this on the glut of traditional publishing mid-list books, indie/e-houses, and self-publishing.

Of those very few, even fewer of them make Stephen King or Dan Brown money.

So all these file pirates who are stealing and downloading files from authors from little houses, guess what? Most of the people they’re stealing from are small authors who make less than ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A YEAR per book on their writing. They don’t get advances usually, either.

Are you understanding me?

Three of my books made LESS than one hundred dollars each in sales at one of my publishers. The sales at third party sites bumped that number up to slightly over a hundred dollars.

Are you saying losing a few HUNDRED (or more, usually more) copies to file pirates doesn’t hurt my sales when it's downloaded MORE than it's LEGALLY PURCHASED?

I’m one of the lucky ones that can make a living at writing, but I'm still far under the $100k a year number, and as you saw in my last post, I write my ass off. I have a few books that sell enough to make up for those numbers (except I lose sales to pirates there, too). But most writers DO NOT.

So before you think downloading a file from a free site doesn’t hurt anyone, think long and hard about who you’re stealing from, and if you’d like someone stealing from you.

9 reader comments:

  1. I found your list of what different pubs pay very interesting. I need to get into print! But on another note, it is so true that piracy hurts little authors a lot more than big publishers. There were over 4,000 illegal downloads of my books at one site alone. That's a lot of grocery money and mortgage payments I am never going to see because some people are too selfish to buy a book they want instead of stealing it.

  1. My short story, Mating Net, published by New Concepts Publishing sells for $2.00 a copy.

    I receive a royalty check from NCP of around $6.90 each quarter.

    Mating Net is on pirate sites.

    Rowena Beaumont Cherry

  1. Certainly it's true that the vast majority of writers (and even publishers) are struggling to pay their bills with their work. I hope people can understand this and I applaud your attempt to educate folks. But I'd also like to point out that it's not okay to steal from someone even if they are rich. Is it okay to rape a woman if she's really sexy? Is it okay to bully a child if he's really a loser? It's bad for civilization whenever we hear rationales for wrong behavior.

  1. I know exactly what you're saying, and boy, do I feel your pain. One book, just one, has been stolen 400X more than I sold on it.

    That amount was done in TWO days. It's been for sale for a year. I quit wincing after that. My average publisher royalty for 7 books is about $40 per quarter. I might have earned $600 dollars for 2009, across the board (need those 1099s to know for sure), so yeah, if ANYONE thinks we're friggin' making money hand over fist, I know a therapist who would LOVE to meet you.

  1. lISTEN. Don't dignify what pirates do as following mythology. They are just lazy thieving criminals who try to justify their criminality with self-serving clap-trap.

    It's enough to consider a return to old-fashioned vigilantism. Hanging is too good for them.

  1. OH Carl... man I will bring the rope!

    Seriously, something needs to be done. And what I think angers me the most is the assumption that this isn't hard work either.

    I dare, yes dare, any pirate to write their own 90K book, find a publisher who will take it on and go through the whole process of seeing it published. It takes months to years depending on how fast you write and your publisher's schedule. I'd love to know if after waiting close to a year to see your "work" available how upset they'd be when it pops up on a pirate site within a few days.

    I'm fairly new to this game. My first book came out just three months ago, and I've blessed to have five out now... but I spend at least an hour a day sending out notices and making sure links are taken down. This takes away from my writing time and my family time.

    The big publishing houses need to start crying out. We need more muscle. This is so far beyond sharing a copy with a friend, and it's sad so much misinformation is out there.

    Keep up the good fight, sister. We're standing behind you, torches burning, ready to "kill the beast!"

  1. Evangeline - Actually, being in print with a traditional publisher these days is little guarantee you'll make good money. Traditional publishers are cutting advanced across the board.

    Rowena - Owch. I'll add you to the pirate lynching party invite list. *LOL*

    Carly - No, it's definitely not okay to steal ebooks by downloading files (or buying illegal CDs of files on sites that are selling them as legal even though they aren't) regardless of whether or not the author is "famous" or not. I simply wanted to point out the fallacy to the pirates that just because someone is "published" doesn't mean they're rich. Usually, they're far from it. In fact, many of the pirates probably make more money than most of the writers they're stealing from.

    Diana - Yep, it's pretty bad.

    Carl - LOL I'll bring the hot tar and feathers!!

    Kris - LOL Thanks! Yes, I've often thought if these damn thieves had something dear to them stolen that they'd think a lot differently about what they're doing.

  1. Anonymous said...:

    Wow, I am a rich author compared to you. I make about $375 on a book over the course of a year.

  1. Anon - Well, that was a subject of a post I did earlier last week. Some books make more than others. Fortunately, I have books that make up for low numbers, but even those books' sales are negatively impacted by file piracy.

    The bottom line is, regardless of whether a person is Stephen King or Joe Blow, piracy hurts the bottom line of real people.