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A Story About Piracy

31 October 2017

From author Maggie Stiefvater:

I’ve decided to tell you guys a story about piracy.

I didn’t think I had much to add to the piracy commentary I made yesterday, but after seeing some of the replies to it, I decided it’s time for this story.

Here are a few things we should get clear before I go on:

1) This is a U.S. centered discussion. Not because I value my non U.S. readers any less, but because I am published with a U.S. publisher first, who then sells my rights elsewhere. This means that the fate of my books, good or bad, is largely decided on U.S. turf, through U.S. sales to readers and libraries.

2) This is not a conversation about whether or not artists deserve to get money for art, or whether or not you think I in particular, as a flawed human, deserve money. It is only about how piracy affects a book’s fate at the publishing house.

3) It is also not a conversation about book prices, or publishing costs, or what is a fair price for art, though it is worthwhile to remember that every copy of a blockbuster sold means that the publishing house can publish new and niche voices. Publishing can’t afford to publish the new and midlist voices without the James Pattersons selling well.

It is only about two statements that I saw go by:

1) piracy doesn’t hurt publishing.

2) someone who pirates the book was never going to buy it anyway, so it’s not a lost sale.

Now, with those statements in mind, here’s the story.

. . . .

It’s the story of a novel called The Raven King, the fourth installment in a planned four book series. All three of its predecessors hit the bestseller list. Book three, however, faltered in strange ways. The print copies sold just as well as before, landing it on the list, but the e-copies dropped precipitously.

. . . .

I expected to see a sales drop in book three, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but as my readers are historically evenly split across the formats, I expected it to see the cut balanced across both formats. This was absolutely not true. Where were all the e-readers going? Articles online had headlines like PEOPLE NO LONGER ENJOY READING EBOOKS IT SEEMS.

Really?

There was another new phenomenon with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, too — one that started before it was published. Like many novels, it was available to early reviewers and booksellers in advanced form (ARCs: advanced reader copies). Traditionally these have been cheaply printed paperback versions of the book. Recently, e-ARCs have become common, available on locked sites from publishers.

BLLB’s e-arc escaped the site, made it to the internet, and began circulating busily among fans long before the book had even hit shelves. Piracy is a thing authors have been told to live with, it’s not hurting you, it’s like the mites in your pillow, and so I didn’t think too hard about it until I got that royalty statement with BLLB’s e-sales cut in half.

. . . .

Floating about in the forums and on Tumblr as a creator, it was not difficult to see fans sharing the pdfs of the books back and forth. For awhile, I paid for a service that went through piracy sites and took down illegal pdfs, but it was pointless. There were too many. And as long as even one was left up, that was all that was needed for sharing.

I asked my publisher to make sure there were no e-ARCs available of book four, the Raven King, explaining that I felt piracy was a real issue with this series in a way it hadn’t been for any of my others. They replied with the old adage that piracy didn’t really do anything, but yes, they’d make sure there was no e-ARCs if that made me happy.

Then they told me that they were cutting the print run of The Raven King to less than half of the print run for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. No hard feelings, understand, they told me, it’s just that the sales for Blue Lily didn’t justify printing any more copies.

. . . .

I was intent on proving that piracy had affected the Raven Cycle, and so I began to work with one of my brothers on a plan. It was impossible to take down every illegal pdf; I’d already seen that. So we were going to do the opposite. We created a pdf of the Raven King. It was the same length as the real book, but it was just the first four chapters over and over again. At the end, my brother wrote a small note about the ways piracy hurt your favorite books. I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold the fort for long — real versions would slowly get passed around by hand through forum messaging — but I told my brother: I want to hold the fort for one week. Enough to prove that a point. Enough to show everyone that this is no longer 2004. This is the smart phone generation, and a pirated book sometimes is a lost sale.

Then, on midnight of my book release, my brother put it up everywhere on every pirate site. He uploaded dozens and dozens and dozens of these pdfs of The Raven King. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one of his pdfs. We sailed those epub seas with our own flag shredding the sky.

The effects were instant. The forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asked if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book.

And we sold out of the first printing in two days.

Link to the rest at Maggie Stiefvater and thanks to Barb and others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Maggie Stiefvater’s books (hopefully all legit). If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG loved Maggie’s strategy. Since she’s the owner of the copyright in her books, she can put up legal versions of the first four chapters of her book.

Depending on the wording of her publishing contract, it’s probably not a violation of the contract. If it is a technical violation, PG doubts any publisher would complain about her use of a portion of the book for anti-piracy purposes, particularly since it proved to be an excellent sales promotion strategy.

PG wonders if there’s an anti-piracy/sales promotion business to be created out of this strategy. The basis for the business would be to flood fan forums with incomplete copies of a book in the manner described in the OP in order to boost legitimate sales. If a pirate uploaded a complete copy, the anti-piracy business could respond by posting warnings on the forum that the pirate copy was another defective one.

PG hasn’t thought through the legal implications of polluting the pools where pirates swim, but he’s in a mood today. As Maggie clearly demonstrates in the OP, piracy does steal ebook sales from from legitimate online stores and definitely harms authors.

PG doesn’t advise escalating the strategy further by implanting a harmless virus in an incomplete pdf copy of a book and uploading that to forums where illegal copies are circulated, however. However, a flurry of antivirus program warnings that were triggered when a pirated copy was downloaded might further discourage the use of illegal copies.

Or, perhaps, simply posting messages on the pirate forums warning that some illegal pdf copies on the forum contained a virus might serve the same purpose.

While he doesn’t claim to be a programmer, PG suspects writing a simple program to at least partially automate this anti-piracy strategy would not be terribly difficult.

For clarification, this is not the lawyer’s side of PG’s brain producing these thoughts. PG has an anarchist section of his brain that he keeps carefully separated from the attorney section.

The lawyer side of PG’s brain does say that filing suit against the operators of forums devoted to ebook piracy is another possible approach. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides some protection to owners of such forums, but PG suspects an inventive attorney could find some ways to make the lives of the organizers and hosts of such forums uncomfortable.

So, for a final warning, PG is not making recommendations here, only speculating about possible anti-piracy strategies and giving his anarchic self a bit of morning air. He’ll stop listening to the voices in his head for the rest of the day.

Copyright/Intellectual Property, Ebooks, Piracy

104 Comments to “A Story About Piracy”

  1. I see some of her ebooks are selling for $6, though it looks like the newer ones are at $12. Even loyal fans may have thought that a bit too much.

    My own random mutterings are free to read from a couple of sites, and on Amazon if the reader wants to help support future mutterings. Surprisingly, there are sales …

    “PG doesn’t advise escalating the strategy further by implanting a harmless virus in an incomplete pdf copy of a book and uploading that to forums where illegal copies are circulated, however. However, a flurry of antivirus program warnings that were triggered when a pirated copy was downloaded might further discourage the use of illegal copies.”

    Sony went that route with their music CDs a while back, I know people who still won’t buy Sony because of it.

    • Anyone who really wants to try this can just embed the string from this page in their book.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EICAR_test_file

    • Richard Hershberger

      $6/$12 is perfectly reasonable for a quality work of professionally edited prose from an author I know I like. It seems outrageously high only compared with the self-published, four-novels-per-year, trade-editing-with-a-friend sort of book. I don’t begrudge paying the price of lunch for a book. I am far more concerned about wasting my time.

      • Bestsellers can command $12. For ordinary authors, it’s crippling.

        The fact that the publishing industry thinks ebook sales have flattened/fallen, when in fact Data Guy has shown how much of the market has been taken over by those four-novels-per-year self-pubbers, shows how truly out of the loop those legacy publishers are.

        • Richard Hershberger

          We are talking about different markets. The four-a-year crowd is the modern version of the old pulp fiction dime novels. A hundred years ago this was a substantial market. The actual books are nearly entirely forgotten today, partly because they had cheap paper and bindings that physically deteriorated quickly, and partly because the writing was mostly terrible (with the occasional notable exception). This market never disappeared, but much of it rose a bit higher in price, as straight to mass market paperbacks. The new regime of self-publishing has brought the price back down to roughly the old dime novel level (adjusted for inflation) by cutting out most of the intermediary levels. The old line publishers have lost this market.

          This is not, however, and never has been the entire book market, or even the entire fiction market. I have no idea what percentage of the market it is, but from my personal standpoint it doesn’t matter. I am more limited in time to read than I am in money to pay for reading material. Hence my interest in books written a bit more slowly, with professional editing, and yes: I want my gatekeepers. Here is an example of a current author I like, with the ebooks in that $6 to $12 range: https://www.amazon.com/N.-K.-Jemisin/e/B0028OIVC0/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1 I am happy to pay the prices asked, because I am happy to pay for quality.

          • Konrath noted that bestselling authors can command $6/$12. Your response was to point to an example of an author you like, N.K. Jemisin. N.K. Jemisin (who is also an author I enjoy reading), is a bestselling author. Which more or less makes Konrath’s point.

            • Richard Hershberger

              Was she (or rather, her publisher) charging less before she became a best seller? I don’t have any independent information, but I doubt it. Her earliest book sells on Amazon for $6.99. I doubt that it was originally two bucks, and then jacked up when she hit the best seller list.

              She is a best seller because she is a good writer, independent of the price point.

              • “Good” is subjective. I find N.K. Jemisin’s writing to be pretentious dribble unworthy of the time and money others spend on her, yet would willingly pay the same amount of money for independently published fiction by a “better” (IMO) author.

                You can flog the gatekeeper horse all you want; you’re not going to convince anyone of such a spurious, thinly reasoned argument.

          • Three months is actually a pretty good amount of time in which to produce a book. I would not equate those with dime novels at all (not based purely on the length of time they took to write and whether or not they shelled out thousands of dollars for someone else to edit). If you’re looking for dime-novel quality, I’d look at people like DWS, who seems to pride himself on writing pulp stories and praises those old pulp writers as the ones to emulate. And he also can write one of those types of books in, what, a week? If it took him three months to write a “dime novel”, it would probably be because he’d been in the hospital for two of those months.

            So I mean, yeah, there are people writing “dime novel” type works, and for those, you may have a point about quality vs. the ones who can actually get $12 for an e-book. I just don’t agree with your characterization of four-book-a-year authors who do their own editing or trade for edits as “dime novel” authors.

            • Three months is a pretty good amount of time for SOME (i.e., a very small percentage of) authors to produce SOME kinds of books. The great majority of authors (especially those with day jobs, kids, etc.) could not produce any kind of book in three months, and should not beat themselves up for not being able to do so. And even the authors who can produce a romance novel, the next installment of an urban fantasy series, etc. in three months are not going to be writing The Goldfinch or The Winds of Winter in that amount of time.

              • I agree that nobody should beat themselves up for not producing a book in three months, however, those who manage it should also not be beaten up …

                • I don’t think anyone would ever beat someone up for that, any more than they’d beat someone up for winning an Olympic gold medal! The rareness of both achievements is part of what makes them so special. It just needs to be acknowledged that they ARE rare, require superhuman dedication and depend on a lot of factors outside of one’s control, rather than goals that are doable for everyone who just puts their mind to it.

              • Many fine works of literature were produced in incredibly short periods of time. You’re making assumptions here based on your own prejudices, not the reality of what it takes to write a quality work of fiction.

            • I’ve written my last two novels (one 84k, the other 90k) in 17 days. I’ve never thought of myself being that author, but I’ve discovered that I need a week to research and sort of outline, and if I do 4,000 words a day, I get my novel completed in less than three weeks (there are days I go over that word count). And I think my work is pretty good. Reviewers seem to think so, at least. I also don’t consider myself a dime novelist. Not that I think I’m a classic writer who will be touted through the ages, but I think I’m competitive with others in my genre.

              • Wow, that’s amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever written 4,000 words in one day…I’ve occasionally broken 2,000, but my goal is 1,200 and a good day is 1,500. That’s just for a first draft, though…I don’t consider a book to be “done” until it’s revised, polished, and ready for other eyes, and I imagine that the faster I tried to turn out the rough draft, the longer the revision process would take. So if it takes me 6 months to write the first draft, and 3 months to reach the final draft, then I wrote a book in 9 months, not 6. Differences in calculating this might cause some confusion!

                • Those 17 days include revising. Before I start my writing for the day, I go back and re-read what I wrote the day before and edit/revise. It puts me in a good frame of mind to start my writing as the story is fresh. Then I take one final pass through the story, but that’s usually minor spelling/grammar corrections. On Day 18 I submit to my editors and the final version is very, very close to what I submitted. 🙂

          • A hundred years ago this was a substantial market. The actual books are nearly entirely forgotten today, partly because they had cheap paper and bindings that physically deteriorated quickly, and partly because the writing was mostly terrible (with the occasional notable exception).

            Also forgotten are most of the books from a hundred years ago published with expensive paper, substantial bindings, and good writing. Those factors don’t seem to provide much lasting power.

            • Richard Hershberger

              That is a really great response to the claim that everything traditional publishers put out was a classic. The impact, however, is somewhat lessened by the absence of anyone actually making such an idiotic, easily refuted argument.

              • A hundred years ago this was a substantial market. The actual books are nearly entirely forgotten today, partly because they had cheap paper and bindings that physically deteriorated quickly, and partly because the writing was mostly terrible (with the occasional notable exception).

      • There was a reason Amazon wanted to sell all ebooks under $9.99 – to increase sales.

        I’d have to wonder how many of her ‘lost sales’ from the later e/books were from her publisher pricing her out of the ‘best sales price’ and not ‘piracy’ in the first place.

        This is of course assuming her first ebooks got pdf-ed and still sold well. Hmm, also need to know if the earlier ebooks went out before ‘agency’ kicked in, meaning they were cheaper to buy at that time …

        I do though love your assumptions that ‘all’ over priced trad-pub output must be better than the cheaper indie/self-pub, and that trad-pub always ‘professionally’ edits theirs and indie/self-pub never ever does …

        • Richard Hershberger

          I am happy I could bring joy to your day, but I make no such assumption. Even back in dime novel days there were occasional authors that stood out. Raymond Chandler is an example. But pick up random pulp fiction from that era and bulk of it will prove dreadful. I read juvenile baseball stories from that era as a matter of period interest: certainly not as a matter of literary quality. And of course traditional publishing is no guarantee of quality, much less of matching my personal taste. We are playing the odds. To be blunt, I want my gatekeepers!

          • “To be blunt, I want my gatekeepers!”

            Sadly the up-and-coming great writers are looking at those ‘all for me and none for you’ contracts trad-pub is offering and going indie. The only ones still offering trad-pub anything are those 0.0001 percent-ers already making real money and those that think trad-pub is still the only way to be ‘truly published’.

            Beware: Your gatekeepers are saving money on staff (like editors), soon (ten days (years) ago) you won’t be able to blindly read a e/book and tell if it’s trad-pub or indie.

          • To be blunt, I want my gatekeepers!

            The market is so large it provides lots of them. We all get to choose for ourselves.

      • “$6/$12 is perfectly reasonable for a quality work of professionally edited prose from an author I know I like.”

        Thank you for saying that, Richard.

        If it takes you 6 hours to read, you have paid a dollar or two an hour to be mesmerized.

        I wish more readers were like you – though there are sometimes promotions at lower prices to build readership, one should be concerned with the economics that say ‘keep this author writing because I LIKE HER.’

        You sort of get what you pay for.

        • Richard Hershberger

          This recurring discussion of pricing strikes as very odd. What is a reasonable price to pay for dinner? Or a pair of shoes? It depends on the dinner and the shoes. I don’t think it is controversial to suggest that not all meals or footwear are the same, and it is reasonable to expect to pay higher or lower prices accordingly. This even extends to the producers. A short order cook is not likely to get defensive at the suggestion that a chef at a high end restaurant can charge more for a meal. But suggest that I am willing to pay more for some authors’ books than others, and listen to the howls!

          I understand the defensiveness from the author’s side. I am telling them their baby is ugly. But it isn’t my concern as a book buyer and reader.

          I just paid $4 to download a novella by Lois McMaster Bujold. She is self-publishing (or very nearly so) a series of novellas. By the common wisdom here, the price is too high, especially for such short works. But she is an author I have been reading for many years. Is a new novella by her worth the price of a breakfast sandwich at a convenience store. Easily. To be utterly blunt, when a writer tells me their novel isn’t worth this, I am inclined to believe them.

          • Some writers take years to write – and produce what they consider better-than-average. Artisanal, if you like.

            For many reasons.

            No one complains when Donna Tartt takes 10 years to write a novel! And it isn’t $2.99.

            Why is this an unrealistic indie expectation IF the work merits it? And the reader is who decides merit? In Tartt’s case, I have no idea what the royalties are for her, but her readers must also know that a book every ten years may not pay the bills for ten years.

            • Richard Hershberger

              Gatekeepers. Or their absence. This absence is a big part of the attraction. You no longer need to get past the obstacle of an acquisitions editor, and then hope it gets reviewed. Now you can simply publish it yourself and do your own marketing. This is all quite lovely, but then it turns out that your book is one drop amidst the stream from a fire hose. How do you make your book stand out? The popular strategy is to write lots of books really quickly and price them cheap. If it is priced low enough, some readers will be willing to take a gander. If you have enough books out there, you might manage to make a living wage. And good for those who manage this! I really mean this. But I am bemused by the claim that this is as good as it gets. As a reader, I am invested in those gatekeepers helping me choose.

              • There IS another way: indie writers without the pressure (I’m retired; other writers are lucky to have spouses who support them), or who write around a day job, who have horribly high standards from decades of reading good literature. We are our own gatekeepers, and we often write things the traditional publishers have no space for.

                Traditional publishers often want more of the same – because they have to think what they can sell.

                I’m unwilling to grant them exclusive ownership of ‘good books.’ And neither are many indies. That’s the next digital explosion.

                We will eventually have gatekeepers or promoters or discoverers of the best of indie writing which rival the traditional system, including mainstream – not just genre. Some of us would like to be on the crest of that wave.

                People who won’t even try indie there are playing it safe, and letting someone else do the discovering, and I sympathize. But the day is coming, if not already here, and the work is available.

                Oh, and marketing is hard.

              • @alicia
                Yes- I was thinking so similarly.
                I wouldn’t ever tie my rights up with a publisher. It’s not worth it. They cannot bring anything to the table that I can not hire out for myself.
                And because I am the only author I need to worry about, I can make sure I get the result I want.
                Whereas the publisher is looking at a stable full of authors or books and deciding who he wants to pay attention to.
                No thanks!

                @Richard- It may be that as a reader you want to limit yourself to trad pub books. But I think you’ll find less and less authors find it an appealing option for their work.

              • But I am bemused by the claim that this is as good as it gets.

                I am bemused by the notion that submitting and residing in the slush pile is superior to hitting the Amazon upload button.

                • Eh. It’s just a different slush pile. In one pile, you might get some money, but your work (which you might be Dunning-Krugerishly unaware stinks) is up for perusal and mockery by the whole world; in the other, you won’t get any money for the time being, but the only person who might see your work is a professional who’s qualified to judge how well it might do on the open market. I know which pile I’d rather be in, but I wouldn’t demonize anyone for preferring the other.

                • Money is a very big difference.

          • Well, reasonable is by definition subjective, and therefore not the most reliable indicator to use as a pricing strategy. Pricing is all about math and statistics. Its about hard data. Everybody around here makes lots of assumptions, but the only, erm, reasonable assumption is that Amazon is in the best position to know at what price the average ebook will bring in the most revenue at.

            Unlike physical books, there is no price floor or continued cost to ebooks. If an ebook will sell 100 copies at $10, but it would sell 1000 copies at $1, you would make the same amount on an ebook, unlike with the hard cover, where you would lose money. But, obviously, having 1000 people read your books is better, and provides a value above and beyond the monetary value, because those readers represent future dollars.

            The only reason NOT to follow that strategy (pricing ebooks at the lowest price that will generate the most revenue) isn’t because it devalues the “contents” of the book, its because it makes it more difficult to sell physical books. Since this is the publisher model, it makes all the sense in the world for them to want to keep ebook prices high. There are fixed costs in warehousing that they are already invested in that can’t be gotten off the books quickly. Robotic handling, real estate, etc.

            But in the long run, it hurts authors to price that high on ebooks. For any given book, the “best price” will be different, but it will almost never be $12 or more, except in the case of a very, very select group of authors like a Rowling, Sanderson, King, etc, who are going to sell the amount of copies they are going to sell regardless of what the price is.

            Case in point, I haven’t bought a hardcover since 2013, but I’m dropping $30+ on one next week. But I’m not willing to pay anything on an author I haven’t read yet. And for most authors, I’m not willing to pay more than $4. That’s been the case ever since I had kids and a mortgage, which was long before self-publishing.

            • ‘having 1000 people read your books is better’ – but getting ten times as many people to read may be MORE than ten times harder.

              And many of those readers who buy books at $1 are not valuing what they get. Perceived value and actual value are fuzzy concepts.

              There’s a sweet spot, but quantity over quality is not that easy to achieve.

              • Yeah, and a reader who reads a ton of 99-cent books instead of fewer more expensive books may read them at a speed which is fine for consuming popcorn books but which is inadequate to really appreciate books that authors have put more time and nuance into.

                I do think that price can be an indicator of quality–or maybe that it should be. But gatekeepers aren’t actually the arbiters of quality, nor of what I as an individual reader will most enjoy. Though there’s still a sweet spot when it comes to price, and I think that spot is different for different authors. It’s hardly as simple as “If I sell it at a tenth the price, I’ll get ten times as many readers,” and for some types of books, you might end up getting the wrong kinds of readers entirely by pricing too low. (Or too high. Readers who want depth and nuance aren’t going to be happy paying $10 for what turns out to be a by-the-numbers popcorn book.)

                • Agreed.

                  If a reader is going to pay more for a book, I would hope he would also do a bit more exploration – what the book is, and what other readers/reviewers have said. After all, if it’s a ‘by-the-numbers popcorn book’ at $10, and anyone has bought it, she may be irritated enough to say that in a review.

                  I’m going to take a leap and say that a longer book is likely to be more complex, so a correlation between length and price serves as an indicator that a book may have more depth than your usual novel.

                  ‘getting the wrong kinds of readers entirely by pricing too low’ is a real hazard. They’re unhappy with the length, and you will be unhappy with the review which says, ‘this book needs more editing,’ roughly equivalent to ‘this book is too long for me.’

                • You guys do realized I used the pricing examples I did because the math was easy, right? As I said, the sweet spot will be different for each author and book.

          • I think one of the problems with pricing is that it isn’t a physical thing, an e-book. There is the belief that less work goes into it. Now, if they’re only released on e-book, maybe they’re worth the price, but when the e-book cost the same as an actual physical book, that there’s the problem.

            • A reviewer’s comment that he should pay attention to word count because he’d been reading for three hours, and had realized he was only 17% of the way through, made me chuckle.

              He also left a wonderful review, and did not complain about the length when he finished it.

              Obviously, he had an ebook version – it’s harder to miss length when you have a fat physical book in your hands.

              • I always check the “page count” of ebooks to compare against the price. $4.99 for 75 pages? No thanks! But, $5.99 for 400 pages — that’s more likely going to be a sale.

          • I don’t think it is controversial to suggest that not all meals or footwear are the same, and it is reasonable to expect to pay higher or lower prices accordingly.

            It’s reasonable to expect goods to be priced according to a demand curve and producer’s profit maximizing price. However, it is not reasonable to expect people to pay that price if they are represented at a lower point on the demand curve.

            • Richard Hershberger

              Ah, life in an Econ 01 world! it is indeed alluring in its simplicity.

              • Ah, life in an Econ 01 world! it is indeed alluring in its simplicity.

                Econ 101 contains most of the material from which we can derive the rest of economics. Like many things, the basics are indeed simple.

                One of the elements of Econ 101 is the demand curve. It tells us that demand is a function of price. So any price will generate a demand from only a subset of consumers. Change the price, and the composition of the subset changes.

                So, it is not reasonable to expect consumers to pay asking price unless that price is below their implicit bid as reflected in the demand curve.

        • You sort of get what you pay for.

          Price is what I give for good. Value is what I get from a good.

          Paying the same price for the same good, we all get very different value. Anyone can tell me the price I pay for a good. Nobody can tell me the value I get from a good.

      • Your tone is relatively insulting to readers, let alone self-published authors. Many of the latter were pre-published by conventional book publishers as I was = mid-list authors dropped in favour of big named authors and celebrity auto bios when the publishing industry began its decline in the face of e-book technology and cutbacks which ensued with mergers and conglomerate takeovers. E-books was a new thing the conventional industry said “would never take off” – famous last words. You may consider the average reader of mass market fiction as inconsequential, whereas in truth those kinds of books became the backbone of the industry, the shelf fillers, the massively read in comparison to high-brow literature. Now publishers insult readers with excessive e-book prices when the average person knows an e-book has little cost entailed in its production (formatting) and equally understands the reason for excessive e-book prices is to force the reader to purchase the paperback version at little extra cost. To say self-published novels are less well edited is a joke! A good many yes, indeed are unedited, some edited by rogue freelancers, whilst the rest are as well edited as mainstream published novels. More and more big named authors’ books are padded with repetitive waffle to up word count = badly edited, and typos and bad grammar are as prevalent as within Indie novels. Book snobbery no longer cuts the mustard in the new order of book publishing. Books find their own audience no longer subject to publisher edict of what constitutes a “darn good engossing read”.

      • My quarrel with the price of $12 for an ebook is that it bears no relation to the cost of production. I’ve just spent twice that on a print copy of a book I wanted for a present for someone and knowing something of the production costs of hardback I’m fine with that.
        Lest you think I’m an ebooks @ .99c fan, which for traditionally published authors would mean a royalty of c 18c – iniquitous in my opinion – I’d prefer to see them in the region of $4 – $6 – which would still give the author a royalty that would come close to what they get from a print copy.
        But to price it at $12 smacks of trying to milk huge profits for the publisher and the net result is likely to be that sales will fall and piracy profilerate.

        • Richard Hershberger

          “…it bears no relation to the cost of production.”

          How do you know this? Surely the time the author spent writing it is to be included. The author’s cost of production is different for the four-books-a-year author than it is for the author who spent years polishing the prose. Whether the difference is worth it for you, the reader, is up to you. It depends on what you are looking for. I am very sympathetic to discussions from the reader’s perspective, which often produce different answers than do those from the author’s. But if we are to bring cost of production into the discussion, then we have to take the author’s time into account.

          • My comment re cost of production is bearing in mind that the print book is being produced anyway – the ebook costs very little to produce on top of the print edition. I am speaking both from the perspective of a reader and a writer. As a writer my books are the product of years of work – none less than 2 years so far, and some much longer, taking into account the research, writing, editing, and so on. I have been traditionally published and received an advance (which of course is a forward payment of royalties – an author doesn’t get any more until they have earned out that advance). At the time I received less than 1/2 the royalty on an ebook than I did on a print one. As an author that seemed to me unfair – it meant that the ebook was 3/4 profit to the publisher, for what I suspected was minimal outlay. The problem wasn’t with the price, but with the percentage royalty. However, due to the demise of that publisher, I have reprinted (in a traditional print run with the same printers) the book they first published and also brought out the sequel, which had been ready to go with them – again with a traditional print run. I now know exactly how much it costs to produce a professionally edited, formatted and printed book, with professional cover design, proof-reading etc and I realise how slim the margins can be on print. I also know what additional costs the e-format entailed – virtually none. So there is no reason for publishers not to give decent royalties on ebooks. I am happy to pay a decent price for a print book, but reluctant to pay a high price for an ebook, when I know that most of the price will go to the publisher, not the author. I do want the author to get a decent royalty though, which is why I said $4-£6 on a book that in print would be $12.

          • Assuming “polished prose” is something the reader is looking for, and they truly believe that it takes years to do, then maybe that reader wouldn’t mind paying $12 for an ebook, so yeah, maybe that’s a viable market. How large that market is, I don’t know.

            As a reader, I don’t want polished prose that took years to perfect. I want good characters and entertaining stories. Also, some people can produce that sort of prose automatically, with little revising, and others work way too hard and long reaching for it and never achieve it. Because people are different. It’s hardly true that all first drafts look like chicken scratch in dirt and the prose quality increases at a constant rate of 0.3 Shakespeares per 2 years or something.

            • Shawna, I just bought one of your stories for this comment. And if you come up with some sort of scale for how many Shakespeares individual writers write at, I would buy that too.

    • “I see some of her ebooks are selling for $6, though it looks like the newer ones are at $12. Even loyal fans may have thought that a bit too much.”

      This smells like victim shaming. Stiefvater deserved to have her books pirated because she or her publisher priced them unreasonably and thus even loyal fans thought that a bit too much.

      No. Stiefvater and her publisher can price her books at whatever point they feel is reasonable. “Oh they priced their book too high and thus deserved the piracy they were subject to” is not a reasonable response.

      As a noob author I have seen EVERYWHERE the idea that book piracy is a victimless crime because “they wouldn’t have bought it otherwise” and Maggie clearly showed otherwise.

      • Richard Hershberger

        Very much this. This is why I have been pushing back. There seems to be this idea that there is a single reasonable price for all books, and anything above this a sign of moral turpitude. This mostly seems to be coming from writers who think their books are worth two dollars–three at the most. I expect they are right about that, but this is not cause to generalize to all books.

      • Exploring the reasons behind an issue does not mean that one supports what is happening or condones it in any way.
        For example, if I leave the door of my house wide open when I go on holiday and the burglar steals all my stuff, The responsibility for the crime is upon the robber but that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge my own fault.
        And of course, there are some cases where it is perfectly reasonable to shame a victim, such as when wanting to discourage other people from becoming potential victims.

        • Nope.

          Leaving the door unlocked facilitates the criminal who wants to burgle your house. They were going to do so regardless, your decision here just made it easier for them.

          That parallel would work if she posted her ebooks online and hoped nobody would download them freely.

          What you’re suggesting is that books priced above a certain point which you deem appropriate “get what’s coming to them.” That theft is the natural result of asking unreasonable sums for books. Which is a close cousin to “it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t dressed provocatively.”

          Maggie Stiefvater is a bestselling author. Loyal fans who couldn’t afford the book could absolutely get copies at their libraries. When they found pirated copies inaccessible they clearly could and did pay for it. To me the takeaway here isn’t to say that anybody who charges more than a few bucks gets what’s coming to them. It’s that the mythos of “piracy doesn’t hurt sales” is false and that we all need to reconsider practices (possibly ARCs) that fuel piracy.

          • I have to say, I don’t really understand this line of reasoning.
            Sure, The robber could try to break into my locked house while I was away, but it would’ve been more difficult and he would probably choose to rob somewhere which had less security.

            • Yeah, my co-worker recently got burglarized purely because he accidentally left his door unlocked. He’s pretty sure that the burglar was going around looking for locked doors, then going in when he found one. In a case like that, a locked door is the difference between getting burglarized and not getting burglarized, so arguing that the burglar will always do it anyway is faulty. Many, many crimes are crimes of opportunity.

            • Exactly. My cousin unwittingly thwarted an invasion of her home simply by habitually locking her patio door. So, when a man who had escaped the cops tried to get into her house while she was watching TV, he couldn’t get in. The patio is just outside the TV room, so she could see him struggling, and he could see her home was occupied. Her locked door made him lose precious time, and the police recaptured him.

              This is the reason my mother will ask if I locked my screen doors before I get off the phone with her …

              I thought Maggie’s plan was brilliant myself; however, it is by no means shaming to point out practices that are more likely to lead to piracy. You don’t think Rolex understands that there will be knock-offs just because of the gap between those who want their watches, and those who can afford them? Designer knock-offs and “fell off the truck” exist because of the gap between “I want” and “I can afford.”

              Authors are in a better position than the music companies were when CD-ROM drives started letting you burn CDs. Buyers could get packs of blank discs for $10. It made them take a good, long look at recordings sold for $30. They saw it as a cheat, especially if they regarded most songs on the disc as filler. Napster flourished. Then iTunes came along, offering individual songs for 99 cents. Suddenly, you could get a whole CD’s worth of songs for $10. Even broke college students, Napster’s target demographic, thought that price scheme was fair.

              The difference between authors and record companies is that “iTunes” existed from the get-go when e-books took off. It’s just that only the indie authors get to take advantage of it, by pricing to close the gap between “I want” and “I can afford.” That gap is a reality that authors aren’t immune to. Adjust business plans accordingly.

    • I bought the first two books at $5.99, but borrowed the third from the library because, while I liked her books, I didn’t like them at $11.99. She should consider a reason besides piracy for the loss of ebook sales. The third book is now $5.99, but I’ve lost the desire momentum I had for reading it. There are other books than these….

  2. Just Another Curmudgeon

    I’ll never buy another Sony product, and yes, part IS due to the Sony Rootkit. And if some author decides to do what the OP did, regularly, AS A PRACTICE, I’ll probably skip reading them forever, too.

    She wasn’t just making a point, she was uploading spamvertisements to the internet, doing guerilla marketing, whatever the current buzzwords are (“Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book. And we sold out of the first printing in two days.”), and no matter how noble the purpose, I will not support such antics.

    • They don’t understand they are hurting their own branding. Readers compare notes and discover only pdfs from this one writer are crap – plenty of other ‘safe’ pdfs to read out there …

      • Readers who weren’t going to pay for the legit .pdf and who take an active part in piracy aren’t readers worth keeping. Having a bad reputation among them is a feature, not a bug.

    • I’m sorry, but I have to lol. If YOU received that PDF that she uploaded, it means that YOU were illegally stealing copyrighted works, and provide no value to her as a reader anyway. That is literally the only way to get a hold of this PDF. To steal it.

      • If the author uploaded it with the intent for it to be shared, it’s not stealing. (Or copyright infringement, for those with a more nuanced understanding of “theft.”)

        It was a gift from the author.

        • @Nathan- She wasn’t uploading it and saying “here, my gift to you”… The piraters believed they were stealing an actual copy of the book.

          • Disagree. They thought they were downloading an actual copy of the book, but instead, they were receiving a gift from the author of the first four chapters, along with a personal entreaty to buy the book instead.

            It certainly wasn’t a selfless act by the author, and it was definitely an interesting experiment. I’m trying to think of an analogy that isn’t sensationalistic, because I don’t think it need one.

            You can’t put a stack of books on a table on a street corner that has a sign that says “FREE–TAKE ONE” and then later complain that people stole the stack of books you placed there.

            The author made a deliberate, calculated move to prevent electronic ARC copies, then disguised the first four chapters as the full book in order to send a very specific message.

            She has every right (justified or not) to be upset at the pirated copies that came long after. And to be disappointed at the attempts to pirate the content that she put up. But if she offered the first four chapters for free, there’s no “theft” there. It was a business decision, pretty much the same as free samples in a food court.

            The trick–and this holds for samples as well as full copies–is that every person who tries the sample but shops elsewhere might still be someone who comes back later.

            Let me be clear: if the author uploaded it, then there’s no theft. But I still think it was a savvy business move. Maybe not sustainable, but worth experimenting with anyway.

            • Of course there wasn’t any *actual* theft in the case of people downloading her fake version. The point is that the people made an *attempt* at theft and were thwarted–because they downloaded the file fully believing they were getting an illegally pirated copy of the full book and choosing to download it based on that knowledge. That’s hardly the same as taking a free sampler clearly labeled as such.

              • It’s the same as taking a free sampler that’s clearly labeled as the full book but is really just an advertisement to try to convert the reader to a paying customer.

                That makes the author sound duplicitous. And, of course, she was. But I think it’s an intriguing experiment. And I’m glad it paid off for her. I wouldn’t recommend it as a general practice, but it makes a very interesting data point.

                Note that I am not defending people who attempted to (and succeeded in) downloading the entire book against the wishes of the author.

            • Wow, the moral justification dance is strong with this one.

              • The moment you give permission for others to consume your work (in this case, limited to the first four chapters which is plenty generous in my opinion), there can be no more “theft.”

                Piracy can certainly be a problem, but the moment the author makes content available free of charge with the intent that others download it, we’re suddenly having a different conversation (about said content–a free download or permafree book on Amazon doesn’t make any statement about other works by the same author).

                The people who downloaded the deceptive PDF? No laws broken, no crimes committed, no moral conundrum. They were given permission by the author, who was basically advertising.

                The people who downloaded the unauthorized, complete PDF? They can still be guilty of whatever moral crimes you want them to be.

                • I don’t think it makes any sense to say they were only stealing if they got what they thought they were stealing. The action is the same. By your logic, a dude who tries to buy crack from a dealer who turns out to be a cop, or who tries to meet with a 13-year-old from the internet who turns out to be Chris Hansen, hasn’t committed any crime.

                • Let me ask you this. Say you plan to commit a crime. You plan with twenty other people to commit this crime. You buy equipment, you put it together and then when you go to commit the crime, you are arrested. Everyone involved in the ‘crime’ except for you, is a Federal agent. The equipment you bought is fake, the money you ‘stole’ was provided by the government. There was never the possibility of you committing said crime without the help of the government. Are you legally responsible? Yes. But, are you morally responsible? It is an interesting question and one that has happened several times in the last thirty years.

                • If my intent is the same – if I truly think I’m committing a crime with fellow criminals, and would have done so with actual fellow criminals if the agents hadn’t stepped in to impersonate them – then yes, I think any argument that my moral responsibility depends on factors outside my own mind/beliefs is even weaker than any possible argument that the legal responsibility does.

                  Law enforcement has to jump through a lot of loopholes, in cases like this, to ensure that an entrapment defense won’t be valid. It’s far, far more likely for the would-be criminal to be morally responsible, but NOT legally responsible, than vice versa.

  3. I’m very tempted to blog about this.

    Years ago, I was in touch with an author who had a decent debut novel that did well for him and his publisher. I don’t remember the details, but there was some sort of contract issue and he decided to self-pub the next book. After some great success self-pubbing, things were worked out with his publisher, or maybe it was a new publisher, and they bought the book. That meant he unpublished his version, and he asked fans who hadn’t read it yet to wait the 12 months for it to come out through regular channels.

    You can guess how that went.

    The problem isn’t piracy. As long as your book is available, and reasonably priced, piracy isn’t going to harm your sales.

    But if your book isn’t available yet, such as the case with ARCs and galleys, your fans are going to do whatever they can to get ahold of it. There is a whole market for selling ARCs, and always has been. Many indie booksellers can only stay afloat by selling ARCs. I’ve visited hundreds of bookstores and have seen this firsthand.

    With digital, it is much easier to get your hands on a copy of a yet-to-be-released title. Rather than buy it, you pirate it. And that will almost definitely result in a lost sale.

    Piracy isn’t going away. You can’t fight it. The answer isn’t releasing fake versions on torrent sites. The answer is to stop releasing ARCs.

    “But what about reviews?” publishers will bemoan.

    The reviews can come out after the book is released.

    Of course, that runs counter to how the biz works. Advance reviews build buzz, which is important for that almighty release day, and if you want to hit the bestseller lists you have to sell as much as possible as quickly as possible.

    Which, IMHO, has always been a terrible way to run an industry. The goal is to find readers, and that should be a long term goal. Not a goal where only the first month of sales counts.

    And don’t even get me started on returns…

    The industry is broken. Always has been. Digital has crippled it even more.

    Worried about being pirated before your print pub date? Keep your ebook rights and release it yourself.

    • Excellent points, Joe.

    • I never could understand why authors Get upset when their arcs pirated, I mean these are people who are so desperate to get the book and they can’t find a way to pay for it at that moment.
      But then, i’ve often thought that a dedicated release day for a book is silly, why not just release it when you think it’s done, then the customers get what they want and you can get on with writing the next book?

    • The way I see it, stop releasing eBook ARCs and only release pBook ARCs. The only way for a pBook ARC to get out into the wild is for someone to scan/OCR the ARC. This will cut down he chance of the ARC getting out and you can still get reviews.

      • Oh and when releasing pBook ARCs, make sure each copy has the name of the person it’s going to in the header of EVERY PAGE. That way it won’t even be sold as a used book and it won’t be scanned/OCRed.

  4. Just Another Curmudgeon

    I bought ARCS when I lived in California, I saw no difference in buying a used ARC over a used print release, I was buying a used book from an author I wanted to read.

    These days I’ve pared down my hardcopy collection (and its associated shelves) so much I’d rather have an ebook. On the other hand, I don’t want to pay hardcover prices to be a beta reader.

    So I put likely books in an amazon wishlist, and periodically check to see what they cost. I am no longer going to support authors want to charge more for ebooks than paper, or the ones who only sell through their own site.

    • ” I saw no difference in buying a used ARC over a used print release, I was buying a used book from an author I wanted to read.”

      There is a significant difference for the author: the author doesn’t receive a royalty from the sale of an ARC. Publishers give away ARCs to reviewers. Reviewers then sell them to used bookstores. The publishers doesn’t sell ARCs and the author never recieves a royalty when a bookstore sells one.

      • Just Another Curmudgeon

        I bought used books from a used book store. As far as I know, first sale doctrine means no author received any income from used book sales in used book stores.

        You may direct any righteous indignation about authors being ripped off to the bookstore itself, since they had the aforementioned ARCs for sale on their shelves. It was a cash transaction that took place at least 25 years ago. The store was on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, close to PCC. Have fun storming the castle!

        • I think what Peter may be getting at is that with a used book, the author still got paid for that book the first time it was sold, when it was new. With an ARC, they never got paid for that book.

          I’ve bought a handful of ARCs too, and I don’t see anything particularly immoral about buying them. But I would point out that a lot of ARCs are printed with pretty low quality paper/binding. I have an ARC (got direct from the publisher) which looked more flimsy and worn after my single reading than a normal paperback looks after several. I mean, they’re kind of designed that way, since they’re only intended to be read once. Just one little reason to opt for the regular release version instead of an ARC. Though they can make fun collectibles.

      • Authors don’t receive any royalty from the sale of a used book.

  5. Just Another Curmudgeon

    With regards to prices, I’ll pay the same 8 dollars that a paperback costs for an electronic copy instead. But I will NOT pay the hardcover prices ($12+) that some ask, not for fiction. I’ll wait for the price to come down. And if the paperback price drops, I hope the ebook price does too.

    I hope all of you authors make loads selling your work, I want to read them, but what they cost determines whether I read them new, used, or from the library. And thats for authors I’ve read all my life as well as new ones.

    • There is huge variety in consumer tastes and preferences. I value an eBook more than the hardcover of the same book, so I would have no problem paying more. Others have different buying preferences.

  6. I had my Men of Myth series destroyed by piracy in the same general manner. It was years ago, and under another pen name, but it was literally easier to download a pirated copy of the novel than buy it in any format, and that’s what series fans did. I never did finish writing the series since book #3 performed so poorly in sold copies. Congratulations to Maggie for coming up with a solution!

    • Just Another Curmudgeon

      That is terrible, I’d never wish that on an author. It does sound like your publisher didn’t help you either.

      I’m a series fan, I want authors to keep writing, but there’s only so many hoops I’ll jump through to get new reading material. I salute Amazon for making it easy to find and buy the books I read.

  7. Years ago, SFWA was aggresively anti-pirate. One thing they did was upload really bad copies of books which included universal substitutions of words, etc., to the pirate sites. It was jokingly called, “Luke, I am your feather.”

  8. I was wondering if this might be an agency pricing thing.

    Book 2 was published in September 2014, when the Big 5 were under court order not to use agency pricing. Book 3 (the one that did poorly) was published in December 2015, which I think was after they all raised ebook prices and then brought them back down a little.

    But her publisher is Scholastic, which was not a member of the price-fix six, so anything I remember about the behavior of the Big 5 in 2015 doesn’t really apply.

    It could be that the main problem was releasing the ebook at a price point that was too high, but I’m more inclined to believe the author’s analysis.

    I also suspect that this pirated eARC problem will have a bigger impact on young adult books like Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle than on other genres.

  9. Just the flooding of piracy sites with the partial would make it harder for folks to find the full version, thereby reducing piracy to the folks who sincerely refuse to or can’t get it any other way.

    Even though $6 or $12 is perfectly fair for something you can enjoy more than once, that doesn’t mean everyone can afford it, and libraries aren’t always accessible for folks. Just try getting and keeping a library card when you’re a shut-in. Sure, there are sites like Wattpad or Inkitt or Tapas where folks can read online for free if they’re really strapped for cash, but even those are dependent on a consistent Internet connection.

    So I can understand why piracy happens, especially in books targeted at youth.

    Maggie Stiefvater did an excellent job sabotaging the piracy that happens for convenience’s sake. Kudos to her for that.

  10. In Viet Nam, small US units would discover enemy ammo dumps. There might only be a dozen guys in the patrol, and there might be lots of ammo.

    Destroying small arms ammunition is incredibly difficult. Blow it up, and it just gets scattered around, ready to fire when picked up and put in a gun. Burn it? There has to be something to burn, and gathering all that kindling takes too much time and effort, and wet stuff doesn’t burn well.

    So, they would randomly pick out rounds, pull the bullet out of the casing, double the powder charge, and put the bullet back in the casing.

    When fired, that blows up the rifle and a significant part of the shooter. Put enough of the super charges back in the ammo dump, and nobody would use any of that ammo.

    Applied statistics.

  11. you already know my take. I dont steal. I expect others not to.

    Ive heard ad nauseam from some millionaire writers, indie and trad pub’d, indie only pub’d, trad only pub’d that piracy hurts no one.

    No one has the stats. No one. It’s p in the wind –all that mirage speculation without hard facts in longevity study.

    Applied stat. If only.

  12. There is no mystery here. If you release advance copies of your book and you have avid fans, they are going to go to great lengths to get the book. If it was available through legitimate sources, many, but not all, would buy it. As Joe Konrath took the trouble to point out, the main purpose of arcs is to generate excitement for the release. Well, it apparently works too well in many cases.

    The second area where there is no mystery is price. If you price your ebooks at $12 or even more, you will lose sales. Some may go and buy the print book. Others will wait to buy a used copy or borrow from a library. But we live in an age of instant gratification. Many will simply download a pirate copy. Like it or not, there are people who would have paid 5 or 6 or 7 dollars, but will not pay 12. Even more so in the case of YA.

    For those who love their gatekeepers, there are two book markets, the lower priced Indies and the higher priced traditional. But for many of us, myself included, there is only a single market. My response to the price fixing conspiracy was to read Indie books, and I’ve never looked back. I find no significant difference in quality between the Indie authors I read now and the traditionally published authors I used to read. The former have replaced the latter.

    So yes, piracy does damage sales. If you price your book too high (or your publisher does) you will lose sales to piracy. The more overpriced your book, the more sales you will lose. Likewise, if you release advance copies and your readership is an avid one, you will lose sales to piracy until the book becomes available. Combine these two mistakes ………

    • For a number of years, I stopped buying books because there were too many times that I’d walked into B&N, and couldn’t find anything to read. The trads weren’t (and still aren’t) publishing things that I liked to read. I spent my time re-reading books I already owned instead of hunting down new ones.

      Just a few years ago, I discovered the indy ebooks, and haven’t looked back. Indy authors are writing and publishing things that I want to read, so they get the bulk of my funds. Occasionally I do buy trad ebooks, but those are for authors I already know; the only new authors I try are indy where I’m gambling $5 or less.

      • Wow, I can’t imagine having this problem! I can’t walk out of any bookstore, new or used, with fewer than 5 or 6 books. However, I’m a fairly omnivorous reader…I read many different kinds of fantasy, science fiction, horror, literary, and hybrids thereof, both long, heavy, complex stuff and light, fun stuff. The only self-published books I’ve ever bought are a few written by friends…not because I consciously turn my nose up at them, but because I find so many fascinating books through blogs, message, boards, etc. and recommended by friends with similar tastes, virtually all of which happen to be trade-published, that I’ve never felt a need to dig into self-published stuff.

        But I can easily see how someone with more specific tastes…for example, someone who only reads clean Old West romances, or who only reads urban fantasy with werewolves…might run out of their jam in the trade-published world, and be inspired to look elsewhere. I think this is a big part of why some kinds of books…those in genres/subgenres that tend to attract niche readers…do so well with self-publishing, while others…which tend to be read by people who read a wider variety of books, and thus never run out of trade-published stuff that interests them…don’t do so well. It definitely proves that there’s no one publishing path that suits every book/author.

  13. You can tell’em, as I’ve been telling authors, do not upload ARCs to NetGalley other – its the main source for pirate books sites to obtain advance copies of upcoming new releases, but do authors listen? Anyone can sign up at Netgalley as a reviewer and gain access to thousands of books for free. Also I’ve told authors never send PDFs to book review blogs, no matter how friendly or Kosher the site looks, aside from the fact Mobi other can be cracked with specific software by determined thieves. As for sharing of PDF ARCs on groups and forums (shareware) who didn’t think that would happen between friends in the same way friends will exchange paperbacks. Authors are so desperate to be noticed (read) common sense escapes them, and it’s another reason so many are obsessed with paying for book reviews, for big splash Bookbub ad days, and gifting books in exchange for reviews. Fame comes with a “price tag” and it’s not always as authors would truly wish for. Momentary exposure at cost can soon become addictive when that momentary success fades and authors think one more boost will do it, so on and so forth. And yet, there are authors who resort to none of those mad explosive grand displays and still crack the big sales whilst in the long term shadows of the glitzy books that come and go.

  14. Just Another Curmudgeon

    Not to scare you, F.H., but Calibre library software can ‘crack’ MOBI, AZW, PDF, EPUB, and other formats. Because those aren’t secure formats (PDF CAN be locked, but it can still get overcome).

    For that matter, anyone with a scanner and time can ‘crack’ your book regardless of format.

    Maybe watermarked ARCs are the way to go, but you know somebody’s out there right now trying to break those too.

    • Calibre can’t ‘crack’ anything at all. It’s legit software and contains no DRM-breaking code.

      There are third-party plugins that can be installed, but they are not Calibre and are not provided by Kovid.

  15. I don’t really see the point in ARC’s. I think they’re a relic of a bygone age. Reviews don’t sell books. I’ve seen books with hundreds of reviews in the million rank range and books with two reviews in the top 100. I have a friend who sent out 200 ARC’s and got five reviews from it. Headache city. There are things authors can do to get reviews that don’t require aiding piracy.

  16. I think it was kind of ingenious what she did. And I can’t blame her for it.

    I won’t pay more than $10 for an ebook, no matter how much I like the author. (Even $9.99 annoys me.) Stiefvater and her publisher can certainly charge whatever they want, and I can go somewhere else to find my reading material. It seems like NY doesn’t understand that if they kept prices lower, they’d have more readers. At those higher price points I feel like I’m getting ripped off.

    • Richard Hershberger

      Would you pay, say, $8 for a book by an author you like half as much as the one who wrote that $10 book?

      • Nope. Eight dollars is too high. I max out at about five or six dollars. Anything higher than that I’m either going to skip it or request it from my local library. There’s no series or author I love so much that I’m willing to fork over that kind of money. Especially when I know that the author receives very little of it.

      • I wouldn’t pay $8 for an individual book. I did pay that price for an omnibus edition of the four books in the Morgaine Cycle (CJ Cherryh). I paid $9.99 for the Lord of the Rings (three books). They were replacements for the tiny-print, dead-tree editions I already own, and at those prices they were bargains. I paid $0 for Columella, who is freely translated at Lacus Curtius. Dead since 70 AD, but oddly the $0 price point didn’t affect the value of his words one bit.

        I once saw Peter Straub’s publisher selling the e-book edition of Koko for $11. I own the mass market paperback, for which I had paid $7.99. Am I ever buying e-book Koko? Hell no, not unless it’s on sale. Would I buy new books of his at that price? Hah! And younger me considered him a literary role model. I can’t pay a higher compliment to a writer than “I want to write like you.” Well that, plus, paying money to read them.

        I set up alerts for e-books so I can buy at normal prices. If I never see one for an overpriced author I like? Shrug. There’s always the library. If I remember to go there.

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