By Maria Ferrer
• 4 in 6 have downloaded e-books
• 1 in 6 own a Kindle/ Nook / other e-reader
• Everyone has heard of e-piracy.
According to Publishers Weekly, the publishing industry is losing over $3 billion a year due to e-piracy. E-piracy is when an e-book is copied and distributed without the author’s or publisher’s permission. This also affects paper books that are transcribed and uploaded as e-books and then illegally distributed.
$3 billion is a huge chunk of money. You may think e-piracy has nothing to do with you since you write “real” paper books (not my words) or write for the confessions market or you just sold your first book and you don’t have that many fans (yet), but that is not true. E-piracy affects everyone –the publisher, the author, the reader.
The Publisher: Publishers focus on the bottom line. If a publisher is losing money, that translates into budget cuts and layoffs. That translates into fewer editors available to read your work, buying less books, and taking chances on new authors, new ideas.
The Author: Even New York Times bestselling authors are NOT rolling in the money. Lynn Veihl released her full royalty statement last year. She was #19 on the NYT list and made $50,000 on that book. That sounds like a lot, but it took years for her to receive that sum. Then there were author costs (agents, promotions, etc.). What I am getting at here is that the majority of authors are NOT rich and may never be. They need every sale to count. And, authors lose BIG when their books –any books– are pirated.
The Reader: Yes, readers, lose too with e-piracy. Readers downloading free books from illegal sites, passing along e-books to others or selling downloads on Ebay are stealing from the authors. If the author or publisher are not getting paid for those downloads, IT IS STEALING! And the penalty is jail and a fine.
The bad part about those illegal sites is that they are fan sites run by adoring fans who want to promote that author, that genre. Unfortunately, they are doing more harm than good. Writing is not free. It is how authors make their living and feed their families. If readers steal from them, then authors don’t get paid and have to stop writing. One example, author Shiloh Walker ended her Mythe Series early because of piracy.
The $64 million question is: What can authors do about e-piracy?
1) Start by educating the Readers. When Authors are speaking at readers groups, libraries, anywhere, talk about the bad effects of e-piracy. Let them know that writing is a business, that Authors are judged on their sales and that illegal sales DO NOT count. Let them know that e-books are the property of the AUTHOR not the reader even though they bought it. Let them know that authors can't write if they don't get paid, which means less books for them.
2) Feed the Hunger. Often times, readers are just looking for more from their favorite authors. And let’s face it, it can be months, years, before the next book is out. Authors should think about offering “free” reads on their websites – deleted scenes, character sketches, proposal notes. This way the Author controls her material and the readers can still get something for free, and it’s legal. I know many authors are doing this already, and have chat rooms and yahoogroups. All good ways to keep readers’ interest and great places to mention that e-piracy is a no-no.
3) Boycott illegal distribution sites. E-piracy is not free promotion, is not a God-given right, is not free. E-piracy is a crime. (AUTHORS: you need to let your publisher know when you find these illegal sites so they can get the company lawyers on them.)
4) Let’s put the FBI Anti-Piracy Warning on ALL Author and Publisher websites and blogs. Paper books carry the copyright notice, but it’s lumped in with the publication data. Some paper books still carry the “stripped book” notice, about books without covers being stolen property. Maybe we also need to add the FBI warning in bold letters. (See below.)
If anyone has any other ideas on how to stop e-piracy, please share your comments here. And, please respect an Author enough to buy her book.♥
FBI Anti-Piracy Warning
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Maria Ferrer is the editor of the RWANYC newsletter. She is working on several projects.