Piracy is a huge and complicated issue, but a lot of where it comes down to for me is “I enjoy eating.” I enjoy having food. I enjoy having lights that come on. I really, really enjoy feeding my cats. Forget my enjoyment of luxuries like Monster High dolls and sometimes going to Disneyland—I enjoy food, and shelter, and providing for the living creatures who depend on me. I am able to do this because people buy my books. I am a full time author, which means I have no safety net at all: I get what people pay for, and not a penny more.
From here, I am going to switch to the generic “you,” because I need to express some pretty broad concepts. I am not accusing you, the asker, of piracy. I have no information one way or the other, and I’m not trying to call anyone out. That said…
You’re not sure you’re going to like my work? I give away a borderline ridiculous amount of fiction, for free, with no DRM and no geographical restrictions. Both the Velveteen vs. books are available DRM free, again with no geographic restrictions. All the Velveteen stories are available free on my blog, where they were originally posted. I have short stories in publications all over the internet, many of which can be read, again, for free, without geographic restrictions or DRM. If you’re worried that you may not like the sort of things I write, there are ways to reassure yourself.
(“Liking one thing doesn’t mean liking everything” is an absolute truth. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I don’t like several of his books. I still bought them. I bought them, I read them, I disliked them, I got rid of them. Because I don’t pay for my movie tickets after the film; I don’t pay for my theme park admission based on how many times I barfed on the scrambler. I had the experience of the book, which I bought based on my preferences and my track record with the author. I paid for it because I wanted it. I was not cheated, even when the book wasn’t for me.)
There’s a way to read a lot of books and buy the ones you like best without piracy: the library. If the library in your area does not have all the books you want to read, either because of the country you’re in or because of budget restrictions, that sucks. That does not make it ethically right to download a bunch of books that were not intended for free release. Authors do get paid for library use: the library buys our books, and then, if those books are popular, they buy more. No one’s getting paid for piracy.
Everyone in the world, except for the first editor who opens the file, is paying for a book they’re not sure they’ll like. I’m not saying buy blindly, or buy everything, or that you owe me a living. But given how much you can get hold of without putting down a cent, I find “I may not like it” to be a little disingenuous as a defense of piracy. Either you know you like my work, and are trying to excuse not wanting to pay for it, or you haven’t taken the time to read before saying “hey let’s just steal stuff.”
Here is a post I wrote about piracy:
Here is another:
Piracy is not a victimless crime. Piracy hurts people. There’s no way of saying “one hundred pirated books equals ____ sales,” because that’s not real math, but the fact is that books are not songs are not movies; most people don’t re-read, and buying a copy of a book you’ve already read will almost always come after buying a book you haven’t read yet.
I don’t make that much per copy, all told. It’s about fifty cents once you average it out. And that means that if someone were to illegally download all the Seanan McGuire books—not even the Mira Grant—when they otherwise would have bought them, they would only be depriving me of $7.50. Not a big deal. Less than the full cover price of one book, right?
Except that it’s never just one person. It never stops at $7.50.
I am terrified of not being able to pay my bills. I left my day job because trying to write and work for a corporation at the same time was literally killing me. It was destroying my health and my sanity, and I couldn’t take it any longer. I need to be able to eat and keep the power on and feed my cats and take care of my mother, and I do that by selling books. I am a businesswoman. This is my job.
How do I feel about piracy? I hate it. I give away so much, in part to keep people from wasting their money when they don’t know if they’ll like my prose. I am as generous as I can be. But I can’t be generous here.
I can’t starve myself to save someone else a dollar.
Along similar lines, do you feel the same way about used books? I work at a used bookstore, and whenever I see one of your books, I jump at the opportunity to sell it to a customer. Do you feel that I’m taking away a customer that might buy a copy from, say, Barnes and Noble? Also, does it upset you in any way to see your books at a used bookstore?