Piracy…Is It a Marketing Thing?

Earlier this week, Freakonomics published STEAL THIS E-BOOK, and anti-DRM advocates cheered. It appears, at least based on Tor’s experience with one imprint, that piracy didn’t increase with the removal of DRM.

I admit, I felt victorious.

For the past few years, I’ve been swimming upstream. Most writers live in fear of piracy. They freak out when google alerts them to new torrent sites, and wring their hands over the stealing.

Me? I shrug. A few years ago, I wrote a post on my old blog about how if a reader wants to pirate my book, fine. Just leave a review. I still stand by that. So much so, that when I parted ways with my old agency, I stripped the DRM from my books…and you know what? My sales went up, and the piracy rate stayed about the same. Interesting, no?

When my friends called me crazy, I positioned it like this: Publishers give away ARCs. ARCs are frequently passed from friend-to-friend. No one pays for them. The hope is that these readers will rate or review the book. Many don’t go on to purchase the final version unless they absolutely loved the ARC. So, I ask, is passing an ARC around stealing?

The answer is usually, “Well, the publisher paid for it and it’s marketing budget…so…so…” So, the non-original ARC reader can “steal” from the publisher and it’s okay?

*Insert BLANK STARES and confusion*

My position: what if we looked at piracy the same as we looked at ARCs – as a marketing tool. Now, don’t get me wrong, I want to sell books. I do. But like many authors, I need buzz, and a hot, pirated book gets lots of buzz. Plus, a percentage of pirates are reviewing books and creating more word-of-mouth. They – these vilified thieves – are helping my publicity machine.

So, yeah, I’m not getting paid directly, but I’m also not paying for the marketing they provide me.

“Wait,” you may be saying. “Why don’t you just give away your books for free?”

Because like a publisher, I want to sell books. My hope is the pirated copies, much like ARCs, lead to book sales.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me how someone got a copy of my book for free, what matters is what happens after they finish reading it. Do they review? Do they tell others about it? Do they become superfans and evangelize? That’s what matters to me.

After all, a reader is a reader.





4 thoughts on “Piracy…Is It a Marketing Thing?

  1. Great piece, Dawn. I totally agree, and don’t DRM any of my work. I want zero barriers between me and readers. I’ve often thought, “What if I were JK Rowling famous and didn’t need new readers?” But I think at that point I’d probably have enough money not to worry if people were nabbing my stuff for free.

  2. You could be right. As long as piracy costs more. The problem with electronic delivery of most books is that it is still very over priced. Amazon wants a good fraction of the physical book price. Ridiculous! Book price = cost of marketing + cost of materials + authors price + profit for amazon
    In this case materials are zero and marketing is close to zero. So a typical 10 dollar paper back should be sold online for 99 or 1.99, giving you 80 percent of the price.
    I think over time this will happen.

  3. Pingback: Google Thy Self | M.S. Fowle

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