Google Alerts notifies me when one of my book titles or my name appears online. This helps alert me to reviews I’ve missed, awards nobody told me about, or mentions of my books—good and bad—on people’s blogs.
Every so often, it will turn up a link to a post on Yahoo Answers or a torrent site that goes something like this:
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Cinda Williams Chima’s books. Anyone know where I can download them for free?
Call me crazy, but I’m just not feeling the love here.
Book and music piracy is stealing. It is not a victimless crime as some people seem to believe.
I know—I’ve heard all the arguments used to justify piracy, some of them from people who wouldn’t think of walking into a store and walking out with a ham, a pair of jeans, or a physical book without paying for it. Somehow, that ink and paper book has value. The message I’m getting is that the work that I do does not.
YA authors Laurie Halse Anderson and Mary Pearson have done a good job of addressing those arguments on their blogs so I won’t repeat them here. I believe that people steal books and music because 1) they don’t view it as hurting anyone, really, and 2) they’re unlikely to get caught.
I recently was directed to a website that offered illegal downloads of three of my books. Total downloads: 781. And that was just one site. Not all of those downloads represent lost sales, but a hundred books here and a hundred books there--it adds up. And as e-readers proliferate, it’s bound to get worse, unless we—all of us—take action.
In any given week, my publisher knows just how many books of mine have sold. Guess what—if I don’t sell enough books, my publisher isn’t going to publish any more of them. I’m not a musician. I can’t take my show on the road and sell tee shirts and merchandise. Touring authors don’t draw huge crowds of paying customers. I’m not an entertainer. I’m a writer.
So I’ll have to find something else to do for a living. I can’t afford to work this hard at something for free. With a few notable exceptions, most writers—even successful ones—make a modest income. Can’t wait for the next book in your favorite series? Well, it’s going to take a lot longer if your favorite writer is working a day job. If he or she is able to write at all. I left a day job that I loved because I was exhausted.
All you aspiring writers out there: speak up now, or say goodbye to a future as a professional writer. If your friends are illegally downloading books and music, call them on it. Let them know you don’t approve.
To any pirate reading this: I know you don’t mean to, but when you illegally download an e-book, I can’t help but think you are targeting me, because what you are taking is what I contributed. The story. Not the ink and paper or the fancy binding. It may not seem real to you, but it sure seems real to me.
It takes me a year to write a book. And I hope you think it’s worth paying for.