Piracy & Why You Shouldn’t Give a Fuck

If you have a strong opinion about the subject of piracy, specifically ebook piracy, this post may either interest you or ruin your morning. If the word piracy makes your stomach turn and cause anger to well up inside you until you feel like spewing venom all over the computer screen, you may want to give it a miss, especially if you’re very attached to your side of things no matter what anyone says…

Piracy is bad.

Right? That’s what we’re all supposed to believe as authors. Pirates are evil thieves who might as well come into our house at night, take money out of our wallets and crap in our beds. It’s the lowest form of sharing entertainment or knowledge, because its creators do not get direct compensation. Every pirated movie, song, book, whatever, that gets downloaded in this world, is a slap in the face to its creator, nothing else.

I tend to disagree.

Before Christmas, a group of us launched Gratis: Midwinter Tales. Because I’m obsessive like that, I did regular google searches for our title to see if we’d got any blog mentions. Within days, I found a hit from a torrent website. For those of you who aren’t aware, torrents are tiny little files that give a torrent software all the data it needs to download the contents of the file from random strangers online who were kind enough to share it to the world. You can use torrents to download movies, songs, books, software, for free. Usually people use them to share and obtain paid content for free in which case it’s illegal and often what is meant by the term “internet piracy”.

Anyway, back to Gratis: Midwinter Tales. Someone had put this book into a massive collection of Anthologies. Gratis is supposed to be free anyway, but that’s not the point. I don’t know if the other featured anthologies were free or paid. When I downloaded the torrent (selecting only Gratis, before anyone gets their panties in a twist that I downloaded a shit ton of potentially pirated other books), it transpired that it was one of the first versions I’d uploaded to Smashwords.

My first reaction was one of shock. The book had only just gone live, and already someone downloaded it and put it into this collection. This was unexpected and filled me with pride because to me it meant that someone thought it was WORTH putting into that collection. When I was about to share this happy news with others, I wondered though, if perhaps they wouldn’t be equally excited.

Every time I see the subject of piracy come up on Facebook (today is no exception), the affected author feels hurt, outraged and betrayed. Of course there’s a big difference between having a free book “pirated” rather than a paid one, but in truth, when I search for my name on google, I would welcome to see my paid stuff shared freely as well.

More often than not you’ll see statements like:

“I spent ages sending take-down notices to the sites, this is such a pain in the ass and I’d much rather not have to deal with this!”

“It was a review / giveaway copy. I feel so upset, I don’t think I’m going to give out review copies any more or hold giveaways, because you just can’t trust people to be decent nowadays!”

“Pirates are thieves and should understand that when someone downloads my book on there it directly affects my bottom line as an author. I wish people would understand it’s EXACTLY THE SAME as stealing a physical item from me personally!”

And then underneath you’ll see dozens, perhaps hundreds of comments from sympathetic well wishers who join in condemning the evil pirate. Looking at it all, I am often forced to sit on my hands to prevent me from saying something wrong. I want to be balanced and offer another view that might alleviate the frustration the author feels at finding his/her content pirated, but really I feel like starting off with the following:

“Fucking get over yourself!”

This may make me a cold-hearted bitch, but really, I fucking hate seeing all these melodramatic rants about how the author’s children are going to go hungry just because a book got “leaked”. They’re not. It doesn’t fucking matter.

Piracy = lost sales

This is what a lot of people think. If my book is pirated, more people will get it for free and not pay for it. This must be correct, because the music industry keeps crying about exactly the same thing (and they are wrong). Therefore, finding a pirated version of my book is a potentially world-ending disaster which will leave me penniless. Fuck, no!

The biggest problem is, it’s impossible to measure exactly how many sales are supposedly lost by piracy. You can’t go back and test how much you would’ve sold, had your product not been pirated.

Let’s think about this by looking at why people might download stuff for free instead of paying for it:

1. They’re cheap bastards who don’t want to pay for anything.

While you may feel that these people are filthy criminals, such a person does not represent a lost sale. If they don’t download your book for free illegally, they might move on to the thousands of free books legally available on Amazon. They’d have reading material to last their entire lives without ever having to pay a penny.

2. They’re after a particular book, but couldn’t easily find it for sale, or upon trying to purchase it legally found the cost to be prohibitive.

This applies more perhaps to traditionally published books, or self published books which are available only in some regions or on some platforms. If someone’s got a Kobo reader, but you publish only on Amazon, they’re not going to buy a Kindle just to read your book. They may not know how to download a book purchased on Amazon and convert it for use on the Kobo reader either, so the easiest thing to do is perhaps to find out if someone’s already done the hard work for them and put it on a torrent website. Similarly, if you want to sell your 20 page werewolf gangbang story for $9.99, Mr. Pirate is likely to get pissed off and download it for free out of spite. Again, if your (traditional) publisher has in all their wisdom decided that the US gets your release right away, and the rest of the world can wait, because readers there are clearly not as valuable, the same might happen. Piracy may have lost some sales, but really, publisher / author stupidity had already lost the bulk of the sales before Mr. Pirate comes along.

3. I really love this book I purchased on Amazon/wherever and I’d like to pass it on to a friend who I think will enjoy it.

You can do that with a paperback fairly easily, and noone will say it’s piracy or theft. Digital content somehow is subject to different rules and as a reader, I don’t know why that should be the case. To me, a book is a book. But apparently according to Amazon, any ebook I’ve purchased, is actually “licensed content”. If they want to (and they have in October with controversial titles), they can just take it away from me without refunding my money. I’m not easily able to lend the book to a friend. And if I ever buy another ereader, I’m technically not allowed to keep my books and convert them to a different format, because they want to lock me into the Kindle ecosystem. As a reader and a consumer accustomed to free choice, this pisses me off greatly. Just because I want to buy a new, prettier book case, doesn’t mean I will throw out all the books I already own!

If I take a file I purchased legitimately and email it to a friend and openly admit to doing it, I have to worry about the anti-piracy brigade to group together and tell me I’m a filthy thief for not buying the paperback and giving it to that same friend. How the fuck is that fair, I still paid for the damn book in the first place?

Anyway, let’s now look at the possible consequences of piracy:

1. Visibility

Your title up on a torrent website may make more people aware of its existence. It’s like free advertising. Indie filmmakers tend to see the value in trying to get more people to find out about their new movie, so they may even share it themselves.

“The biggest threat facing authors and publishers today is not piracy, itโ€™s obscurity.” – Smashwords founder Mark Coker. See the article I stole that quote from here, it’s well worth it.

2. If it’s any good…

Someone who gets the book for free, who may be new to your work, perhaps really ends up loving it. Maybe they’ll take you seriously as an author and actually go out and buy the rest of your books. Even if they don’t, or you don’t have other books, perhaps they’ll tell their friends about how awesome you are. This, of course is a win as well.

The entire Music piracy debate I’ve referenced above, has actually stirred up some data that music piracy has been shown to increase sales rather than hurt them. Think about that for a moment. When something is good quality, and someone gets it for free, they are motivated to then spend money on it or related products. A reader who gets a free copy of your book, may love the story and the characters that they’re not content with their free version. They may buy a paperback version to proudly display in their home or buy the audiobook to listen to on their way to work. They may turn up at signings and conventions just to see you and buy a hardcover just so they can get your autograph.

How to prevent piracy

People are lazy, we all know this, because deep down every one of us is lazy too. We want to get the maximum result with the minimum effort from our side. We want awesome books, right now, at a fair price and for the ereader of our choice. Some of us think $4.99 is a fair price, and some of us think 0 is a fair price.

If you’re a self published author, you’re in luck because you can effectively counter a lot of the reasons I mentioned in the previous section that might drive a reader to piracy. Make your book easily available in as many places and on as many platforms as possible, and make it a fair price. If you’re traditionally published, your publisher may be to blame for any piracy issues you face. Good luck to you, but it’s still not worth getting that upset about something you cannot control.

Treat your readers right

If you’re anything like me, you value your readers. You still feel that excitement every so often at the thought that someone out there actually wanted to read something you wrote. It’s even more exciting to think someone not only wanted to read it, they were happy to pay for it as well. But don’t forget that just being willing to spend time (as opposed to money) to read your work is a pretty big deal.

A lot of us need to earn something from this writing gig, but don’t be a cheap bastard about it, because readers don’t like to be treated like criminals.

If someone pirated a review copy, and you know who it is, don’t give that person another one if it bothers you so much. But reviews are too valuable to stop giving out copies altogether.

If someone pirates a book received in a giveaway (similar though unrelated, if the very next day after winning a paperback on Goodreads, someone puts it on Ebay), don’t stop doing giveaways of any kind.

Don’t be an asshole to all your readers, just because one of them shared a book of yours on a torrent website. Some of your readers will understand why you’re upset, a lot may not.

Don’t worry about emailing every website to take down your work, it’s a lot of hassle and often has no effect anyway.

Instead, try to feel pleased that at least you’re “famous” enough to be pirated in the first place. Make yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or grab a glass of wine and take a deep breath.

It’s not the fucking end of the world. And be glad you weren’t plagiarised instead, because that’s way worse.


The Old & the New

Firstly, Happy New Year to everyone!

I feel inspired today. Granted, I may have glanced over some of the New Year’s Resolutions or the more sensibly named Goals for 2014 posts on Facebook without taking much of the information in properly. I may also have previously pooh-poohed the need most people seem to exhibit for about a week in early January before slipping into old habits and forgetting all about that brilliant plan to visit a gym three times a week. Nevermind that those extra pounds always seem to ruin any attempts made to purchase a new pair of jeans (except jeggings, thank god for jeggings), junk food and sweets always win by the 20th of January, or early February for the most disciplined of us all.

No! This isn’t one of those posts. (Although I could really use a kick up my arse to finally start using that treadmill which has been collecting dust in my living room. Volunteers, form a neat queue and please, no pointy shoes!).

Instead I’d like to talk books & writing.

2013 has been pretty good, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. It helps to be reminded of just what all has transpired and then perhaps figure out a way to top it in 2014. So let’s start, at the beginning:

3rd of January 2013: I published Just Another Day at the Office Part 1. I had been writing this story for several months at that point and felt like something really had to happen. Mostly it was due to impatience that I was wasting my time with just one short story up on Amazon which wasn’t really doing much. But nevertheless, I published Part 1, and by May had the whole serial out. My first novel(ish) length work. I never thought I’d have the drive to follow through but somehow I got there!

5th of February: Part 2 came out and it was still the good old days when KDP Select could make an impact (that’s the Amazon scheme that gives you 5 days to make your book free as a promo, in exchange for exclusivity). So of course I had to try it for myself. I gave away loads of copies of Just Another Day 1, and sold a bunch of Just Another Day 2. I finally felt like a real writer, and knew I had to start acting like one.

Also inย  February: Not sure of the exact date, but I was recently reminded by expiration warning emails from my domain name registrar that this site is up for renewal in February. It’s hard to imagine now because it feels like so much time has passed in between, but this website isn’t even one year old! The next thing I did was start a mailing list, because apparently everyone should have one. I still feel like I’m a bit new to the concept (and who in their right mind would want to receive emails from me every month?), but I think it went pretty well, all things considered.

March: I published Just for One Night (I know, I should really sit my ass down and write that sequel I’ve been hinting at), and Just Another Day 3. This of course does not mean I actually wrote two things in March. Sadly I have this thing called Compulsive Procrastination Syndrome which means I write stuff, leave it half / mostly finished and ignore it for months at a time before finally getting it done and published.

May: Just Another Day 4 and with it the end of the serial. Cath & John’s story felt complete. I can’t even begin to explain (again) how very pleased I was and still am. I often dreamed but never fully believed I could write a full book. Now I know that I can because I have: this is going to be the first of many!

July: Just Another Day at the Office came out in print ๐Ÿ™‚ It was extremely exciting to hold it for the first time.

October: A much needed sequel to Ladies’ Day came out: British Champions. I promise I won’t leave it another year before continuing that particular story…

December: Gratis: Midwinter Tales came out. A free anthology featuring some amazing talent in the genre, which also happily kicks off another series of mine, The Rebound List, conveniently while I still haven’t finished some stuff I’d started earlier in the year. Of everything I’ve done this year, Gratis was basically the grand finale. In fact I was shocked by the interest we saw in this anthology and encouraged to try and replicate it…

What’s next?

So, enough reminiscing and patting myself on the back for 2013. What’s important now is to look ahead at what needs to happen in this coming year to keep growing as a writer and self publisher!

The Rebound List: I had set myself a goal of finishing #2 in this series in December. Sadly I failed. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up, so right now I’m aiming for January. Hopefully the remaining parts will follow soon after so I can add another full length release to my catalogue.

Just for One Night: That sequel. I know, really, I’ve been way too lax about this one. And the same goes for what happens after British Champions. I’ve got a vague idea for both, but nothing concrete.

Gratis: There will be another Gratis collection scheduled to publish on the 20th of March. The line-up is already looking good, even if I’ve yet to put the first word on paper for my contribution. ๐Ÿ™‚

Audio: I desperately want to release Just Another Day (1? Maybe more?) in audio. While I do not fully get audio books (not fiction, anyway), I love listening to podcasts and such in the car. For me the draw is that I get to be entertained and (since they’re podcasts, not fiction,) learn something. But it would be so cool to revisit this story and bring it to life a bit. I have a few parts of it recorded already, hopefully I can get organised and finish it shortly.

Video? Closely related to the audio goal above, wouldn’t it be cool to post the same on youtube? A lot of people create book trailers for their work, which I don’t fully understand. But it might be nice to do some videos of books being read out and perhaps some relevant imagery? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s something to think about.

Diversification: I love the stories I’ve written, the genre I’ve played around in (Erotic Romance). It’s a lot of fun and seems to work well for me because I constantly seem to dream up new stories. This last bit is especially weird because I’ve never been a reader of Romance really. My usual reading tastes are much darker, ranging from Fantasy to Crime and Horror. So because of that, I’d really love to try my hand at something else under a different name… Perhaps 2014 will be the year I diversify!

Efficiency and Timeliness: Since starting the newsletter in March, I believe I skipped one month where I had nothing to say and been late on multiple occasions. This year I won’t skip a single one, I hope! Also, hopefully I’ll have more to add to the blog. What would everyone like to see on here? More previews of stuff that’s in progress perhaps? I’m not a natural born blogger, so coming up with thoughtful articles all the time is just simply not going to happen. Expect off topic rambling and rants, perhaps the occasional anecdote. Now if only I had enough of a life to have suitable material…

Stuff that’s in progress: I have a significant part of a new story written, tentatively called The Best & Worst Year. I know where it’s going, but just haven’t done enough with it. This year, I will. It’s a bit weird, this one, but I know it must be told. Obviously I already hinted at another story for Gratis 2, it’s meant to have a spring / Valentine’s theme and I hopefully will have something. I also have an idea for a fantasy / historical thing which is attempting to develop into a story which will hopefully see the light of day in 2014. This would be one of those attempts of mine to diversify, because I do love fantasy as a genre. But this one still feels pretty erotic as things stand right now.

Marketing / Promotion: perhaps I’ll crack Twitter this year? Nah, probably not. OK, advertising then? I’ll try, but I really don’t know… Perhaps the way forward is to just keep working away and trust that those who will enjoy it, will end up finding it somehow. Maybe 2014 will be the year that I get the fuck off Facebook and onto Google+ write more. Realistically though, that’s not likely to happen.

Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to say in a really roundabout way is that yesterday, on the first day of a brand new year, I spent a lot of time moping around on the sofa feeling depressed. One could guess that it was due to the holidays coming to an end and the day job starting again. Or the prospect of having to take down the Christmas tree which seemed to make the living room so much nicer to be in. It was neither of those things though, instead I was sad because I’d read a bad review. It wasn’t even directed at me personally, just at something I believe in 100%. And somehow I felt a stab deep inside my heart because this other person, a complete stranger, could not see my vision and understand the intent behind it. That’s pathetic, ridiculous even. Why should I feel upset just because some person somewhere doesn’t like something I like? Have I ever sat around wondering why the world is so cruel because a stranger doesn’t like chocolate as much as I do? No, I haven’t.

Why is this different?

Essentially it is exactly the same thing. Tastes differ, and that’s fine. People have opinions and feel like they ought to express them even when they don’t fit in with mine. Fuck it. Despite all that, 2013 has been a great year and I ought to feel happy about everything that’s happened in it. And 2014 will be even better, so long as I don’t get distracted!

True Love and other Myths

Before I start, I’ll admit that I may be feeling a little bitter as I write this. I’ll also admit that “a little” may be an understatement. But I do believe that nowadays we live in a world where love and relationships are so over hyped that it would be impossible to achieve the supposed ideal.

1. True love lasts forever
No. I don’t buy it for a second. Yes, you may see couples who have been together their whole lives. Sometimes even first lovers who have never been with anyone else. But I don’t for a second believe that they never have their moments of doubt and despair. In my opinion it would be impossible for two people to always feel love for one another. I’m sure even the most “perfect” couple has times when they just want to murder each other in a spectacularly violent fashion.

2. Soul mates
Nothing short of drinking too much tickles my gag reflex like the phrase ‘so-and-so and I are SOUL MATES!’. Really? Another one is ‘we finish eachother’s sentences’. Ugh! The world is a big place, and people vary so much in tastes, character, outlook, that I simply cannot believe that there is this one person out there who matches me perfectly. The best we can hope for is some overlap to make every day life run smoothly. Maybe some shared interests and similar religious background (or lack thereof), just so you don’t fight every time you settle down to watch some TV, or discuss current affairs. But the world is simply too diverse for two people to be exactly the same. And if that was the case, it would be incredibly boring also. Which leads me onto my next point;

3. Happy couples should do EVERYTHING together
Oh god no! If you’ve found someone you enjoy spending time with, don’t go and ruin it by spending every waking moment with them. Doing everything with them, involving them in every one of your tedious daily affairs. When I was young, much like everyone else, I had received my fill of ‘they lived happily ever after’ fairytale brainwashing. Therefore I never used to understand when my mother advised; ‘You know it’s good for couples to have different jobs. What would they talk about if they already spent all day together at work?’ It may have sounded unromantic to the young me, but it’s true. Nothing gets boring quicker in a relationship than not having your own identity.

4. You never keep secrets from your partner
Judge as some of you may, I think there are good reasons to keep secrets. It might be too presumptuous of me to assume that a lot of people have deep, dark thoughts and fantasies that they fear nobody else might understand. But it certainly can be the case. Not telling your partner, doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Also not every fantasy is meant to be acted out, some are much safer locked away in the depths of your mind where they cannot hurt anyone, especially your other half. While it’s relatively easy to give your body and your heart to someone, giving every one of your thoughts is in an entirely different league. Not everyone can hope to achieve this ideal, so there is no reason to feel bad about it.

5. When you love each other, you’ll never look at anyone else, think about anyone else, do anyone else
Wouldn’t it be nice, to be such a selfless and pure person. Never plagued by curiosity about what it might be like, on the other side of the fence. Fine, during the honeymoon period when your hormones are going wild for the other person, perhaps you won’t glance at the attractive waitress at the restaurant. Or appreciate the perfect physique of the barista serving up your morning cappuccino. But as time passes, so does that insane obsession with your other half. Love may make you blind, while you’re newly in love. But sooner or later, your eyes are wide open. And personally I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking around, watching porn, having horny thoughts or dreams about others. Depending on your own moral compass and any agreements between you and your partner, it might even be ok to act on such feelings.

In my opinion, true love is being able to accept that the other person isn’t perfect, isn’t all you’ve ever wanted, but they’re yours and that’s enough (mostly). And no matter how much you want to clobber them over the head with a cricket bat every so often. Once you’ve calmed down, you return to them and retain the ability to make each other smile.

Oral Sex & Hygiene

Somehow I feel compelled to write about this topic today. Not sure if it will turn into a rant or what, but a quick Google search revealed that I am not alone with my, shall we say, “concerns”.

Firstly, let me explain my position on oral sex. I am not very fussed about it myself, it feels nice but it doesn’t make me cum. But, I am extremely conscious that I make sure things are clean and in order before anyone goes near there with their mouth. As in – I don’t mind sex during that time of the month, but I don’t want anyone licking stuff I wouldn’t want to taste back if I get a kiss afterwards. If I have any doubts, I’ll have a quick clean beforehand or refuse and suggest something else instead.

Even though I don’t quite see the attraction in receiving oral for anything other than a warm up to the main event, I understand that most men love getting it. I’ve never had any complaints about technique or anything, perhaps I had watched enough porn before attempting it for the first time to know roughly what to do. I don’t mind giving head, but I have serious issues when it comes to personal hygiene.

I’ve tried the whole wipe-it-down-with-a-wet-cloth-beforehand routine. It doesn’t work. Neither does rinsing it under warm water for a bit. I don’t know if it’s a circumcised vs. uncircumcised issue but somehow no matter how hard I try to put it out of my mind, when I try giving head, it tastes of urine.

It’s not that he doesn’t shower, and he has even started to wipe off any stray drops after taking a wee but somehow it doesn’t seem to help. Always after a blow job I just have this aftertaste in the back of my throat that seems to find its way into my nose and doesn’t go away for at least half an hour. And I particularly dislike if he pulls back his foreskin wanting me to lick his head directly. Even though it looks clean, it smells pretty bad. I don’t think I’m very fussy, I don’t mind tasting a bit of sweat, or even swallowing.

I just mind that public toilet smell.

I guess it’s more difficult keeping it clean, but it just irks me that for noticing it, I’m apparently picky. Because this never used to be an issue. I have two theories about that. Firstly, apparently when you’re super aroused you are less likely to find things off putting. In the beginning of our relationship we were absolutely crazy which may have caused me not to really notice these things.

But my second theory is probably more viable (and less insulting): We were in Asia, where he didn’t use toilet paper but instead washed after going to the toilet. Perhaps it was just cleaner that way?

Well anyway. I guess I’m just a bit annoyed. I know what I smell like and base my decision on whether or not to agree to oral on that knowledge and I wish others were as self aware. Judging from what I found googling the topic of urine smell during oral I have come across entire discussions of women noting the same thing. And surprisingly a lot of men who think wiping their dicks instead of a halfhearted shake or two is gay. All I can say to that is if you’re happy leaving drops of piss all over your underwear all day, don’t expect more than a handjob.

But if he’s making an effort keeping things clean, why the hell does the smell not go away?