eBook Piracy: Hard Numbers

Posted on Posted in Daily Rants

I originally wrote this post on Monday. I’ve been considering whether or not to post it since, because I share some pretty detailed information about my income as a writer. After making sure I’ve had time to cool down and stop seething from Monday, I’ve decided that I do want to share this with people. I think this is something that the ebook reading community should know.

Until Monday, March 2nd, 2015, I thought I was done talking about the whole ebook piracy “thing” on the internet. Some people, usually the rational, reasonable ones, understand why ebook piracy is a bad thing and don’t need any convincing why people shouldn’t. One the other side of the coin, you’ve got those people who are going to come up with reasons to justify ebook piracy, because they are the kind of people who want to get something for free. Ultimately, getting into discussions about it online aren’t really worth the time and emotional energy, and so I’d given up on participating in discussions about it online…

…and then…

Monday afternoon, my editor sent me a couple links from an ebook piracy site. The site had a number of my books available for free download. More than that, each book listed has the total number of downloads it has gotten. Having seen how much potential income I’m losing from ONE piracy site, I feel the need to speak up about it.

Now, before I get ranting, I understand that some writers don’t have a problem with the whole piracy thing. Two of the very vocal ones are Neil Gaiman and Hugh Howey. I’ve met both Neil and Hugh. They are nice guys. Love chatting with them. Love their books. Wish they would stop talking about how much of a benefit getting books for free can be, because some of us don’t have thousands and thousands of book sales to help counteract the amount of downloads of our books people are helping themselves to on piracy sites.

Okay, one of the reasons I waited to days to post this is because I’m going to disclose some personal information about my income from book sales. I have craptastic online sales. Like abysmal sales. I make most of my money from book sales at my storytelling show and at live appearances such as science fiction and comic conventions. Just so we have an idea about how craptastic I’m talking, let’s take a look at my income from ebooks from amazon for 2014, shall we.

So, for the sake of this post, I’m not going to separate it by book, and I’m only going to count sales from Amazon. First, I don’t want to do all the work of sifting through my records to calculate income by individual book. Second, I think limiting this to one retailer and combining income from all my books together will better illustrate the disparity between my ebook book sales and the damage from ebook piracy.

Counting all my books sold through Amazon’s Kindle Store in the U.S. for 2014, I made a grand total of… $1404.51. I know that I said my sales were abyssal, and that’s more than a lot of self-published authors make, but considering that sometimes I make close to that in print book sales some weekends at my live appearances. I also tend to do two to three weekend events a month from January to November. Aside from my storytelling show, I have no other source of income. So, taking all that into account, my online sales aren’t too great. As, as we get into the numbers of ebooks people have illegally downloaded, please remember this is from ALL of my ebooks sold on Amazon during 2014. Also, by the end of the 2014, I had eleven ebooks available.

Now that we have the numbers Let’s take a gander at the numbers of downloads from this piracy cite, by book and by how much potential income I’d lost .

BOOK                         DOWNLOADS     ROYALTY     TOTAL

TEARS OF RAGE #1          759                 $2.75          $2087.25
TEARS OF RAGE #2          573                 $3.44          $1971.12
TEARS OF RAGE #3          396                 $4.13          $1635.48
TEARS OF RAGE #4          337                 $4.13          $1391.81

DEAD WEIGHT #1             811                 $2.06          $1670.66
DEAD WEIGHT #2             959                 $2.06          $1975.54

HALLOWEEN JACK #1        695                 $2.06          $1431.70

DRAGON FLUTE #1            465                 $0.35          $162.75
DRAGON FLUTE #2            587                 $2.06          $1209.22

So..putting it all together…unless my math is off… that’s… $13,535.53 or 9.6 times what I bring in in a YEAR from Amazon.

Wow… Just… Wow…

Please don’t try to tell me about how wouldn’t some, or even most, of those downloads if people had had to pay for them. Don’t talk to me about exposure, because I doubt I’m going to get any from these downloads, because I really don’t think it works that way. You’ll have a hard time convincing me that people who illegally download books are going to suddenly start singing an author’s praises after the fact. Don’t talk to me about how those people probably wouldn’t have bought the book anyway. Cool. Fine. Not every book is for every reader. If you’re not going to put down money for an author’s hard word, don’t read their books. That’s how this whole thing works. Writers provide a product.  If someone is interested in owning the product, then pay the asking price set by the writer or publisher.

I know some of you might try to point out that I’m comparing these numbers for total downloads against only may earnings from 2014. Here’s the thing: The two books with the most downloads got published this year. Also. between the time my editor sent me the link and when I started to write this article, I went to put my daughter to down for a nap. In the time it took me to get her to sleep, each of my books had several HUNDRED more downloads than before I tucked her in.That took less than an hour, which leaves me to believe my books haven’t been up there terribly long. Also, and I’m going to put this in its own line:

These number are from one, that’s right ONE, pirate site. I don’t want to think about how many other copies of my books are floating around from other piracy sites out there.

So… there you have it. The affect one piracy site has on one little indie author trying to make a living in the wide world of publishing. I can’t imagine how many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year piracy sites are costing writers in income every year. My mind boggles.

For those of you out there who actually purchased writers’ books, thank you for helping us live our dreams. If you care about writers’ ability to continue writing, please help support writers by not pirating our work. If you have pirated books in the past, please stop, and maybe you might consider retroactively purchasing the books you downloaded from a legitimate ebook retailer.

If you have pirated books, have read this, and still plan to pirate books in the future, I would like to ask one small favor of you: Please take your preferred ebook reading device (Kindle, Nook, iPad, phone, whatevs), place that device on a hard, flat surface, take a solid object (hammer, rock, iron, hachet, whatevs) in your dominant hand, then proceed to bludgeon your preferred reading device with that solid object until it is no longer recognizable as your preferred reading device. Have a nice day.


8 thoughts on “eBook Piracy: Hard Numbers

  1. That really puts it in perspective. We’re not talking about authors getting rich, we’re talking about authors getting by. I mean, I love a good freebie, but there’s a difference between a gift and a theft. You’re entitled to be paid for your work by those benefiting from it.

    Which reminds me, I’m missing a few volumes. If I give you a list can I pick them up at Baycon or something? Gotta catch em all…

  2. Straight up truth here. People who download from a torrent/pirate site aren’t going to buy your book. To quote Dr. Seuss (loosely), they would say, “I would not buy it on Kindle, I would not buy on Amazon. Not from a store, not for money, I will not pay, Sam, do you see?”

    Looking at pirated copies and running math as if they were sales is madness-inducing. It is screaming into an empty void. Some people will not pay for your stuff and they have the capacity not to pay for your stuff so they won’t pay for it. And they know (somewhat, vaguely) that it hurts you as an author, they just don’t care.

    People who downloaded it for free are not your target audience. Your target audience is people who will pay you for your stuff. They don’t care about you, and being angry at them is like being angry at the moon. The moon don’t care.

    That being said, I’ve seen authors and content producers who have had some success actually commenting on sites and torrents hosting their materials, either asking the infringers to stop or posting a link to a place people can get the book legally. You can look at those sites as a place to advertise – even a few conversions is income.

  3. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. Once upon I time I did such things, but stopped about 14 years ago. I now find it infuriating trying to reason with some of my friends who still do this. You are dead on with some of their arguments, but they won’t see it any other way. I’m going to pick up a few of your books to support you, and will spread the word if I enjoy them. Thanks for the post!

  4. Send them a bill. Tell them thanks for advertising your work now pay up. I got on a few pirate sites i found who were illegally hosting my books (my YTD sales are worse than yours bro. I just got my electric disconnected…). so right now im tied up in red tape suing the crap out of people. Only one buckled. Be firm man! Be like im a poor author and i deserve my money! You screw with me i will sue! Cos murica!

  5. Within months of publishing my first book in 2011, my step-father called me up one day and told me “I guess you’ve ‘made it’. You’re book’s on the pirate boards on Usenet.”

    “What are you doing pirating books on Usenet?” I retorted.

    Just this week, Google’s alerts sent me nearly ten-different sites that had put my book up for free. I used to DMCA these when they came in, but it’s such a time-consuming process, and such a drag on my energy and creativity to put myself in that negative mindset that I just don’t even bother any more. If you take one down, another springs up to take its place.

    In any case, I’m in the same boat as you–I’m making a few thousand dollars a year on Amazon, but nothing close to what the day job brings in. I know Gaiman believes that the word of mouth earned by pirates is good promotion, but I don’t find it to be true. I don’t think a lot of pirates read my book and then go on to rave about it to their friends. It doesn’t create ‘buzz’, because I’m not famous.

    Honestly, how many pirates do you suspect run around and rave about their favorite books to their friends, and then recommend that those friends go *buy* them?

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