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On piracy and being demotivated

I've felt incredibly demotivated all week, which is not like me at all. Usually I like to get things done - I have a daily 'to do list' and try to march through it as much as I can, taking on board the inevitable curve balls.

This week though ... I don't know.

It could just be that I've been feeling more tired than usual - the daily commute really takes it out of me and I need to get my domestic circumstances sorted out within the next couple of months to try and cut it down. It's also most likely to be in part due to the fact that I can see the finishing line for KYBS, except that there's a bit of an incline to get there given the amount of rewriting to be done.

I'm on Chapter 19 now out of 22 and having re-read it and gone back through the editing of the previous chapters, I realised that what I thought I was able to be salavaged, can't be salvaged. Because this isn't an action driven chapter but instead turns on developing the characters and their relationship with each other, there needs to be more of an internal focus, with the drama coming from the slow release of all the revelations. I've got to completely rethink Latymer's relationship with Oberon, which is causing headaches because what could be a straightforward "I hate you, you bastard, and I'm going to kill you" needs to be more nuanced given the circumstances that Latymer has found himself in.

Fortunately the shift within Ellie's character is a bit easier to deal with because during the editing process for the earlier chapters, I've seeded some of the things that need to emerge as going on in Ellie's head. Hopefully, it should also add some oomph to her scenes with Mother Flesh so that she's driving the process more than reacting to it.

Having been certain that I needed to whack one of the characters, now I'm not so sure. It really does cause me problems in the event that the book is bought and I need to do a sequel. As a result I think I'm going to have to wimp out and have a bad but non-fatal injury instead. It's annoying because at this stage I don't even have a handy red shirt I can just throw into the mix and do the dying for me.


Anyway, enough of this self-reflection.

There was a discussion on Absolute Write recently that got onto the subject of file sharing for music and books and pirating, so I wanted to set out my thoughts here for general discussion. I'm going to set this out in relation to books because that's what I feel more confident in talking about, but the basic principles apply to music as well.

Content - i.e. writing - costs money to produce. Authors and musicians have bills to pay and have to put food on their table. When you're starting out, this is usually done by either (a) living with someone will to pay for the bills and food while you work on your book or (b) going out and working so that you can write in your spare time.

Times are not good for debut novelists. It is by no means impossible to get a book deal if you've got the talent or a good idea, but advances are low, sales are increasingly being skewered by supermarkets who are on the lookout for "guaranteed" bestsellers* and novelists who fail to perform as anticipated are more likely to find themselves dropped.

As a result, writers need their book sales - both because of the money that it can generate them in royalties once they earn out and also because it proves to the publisher that there is a market for their book.

If you decide to take a book from a pirating site for free, you are not sticking it to a greedy, corporate publisher, you are sticking it to the author. You are denying them the sale that they could otherwise have made to you and thereby the means to prove to their publisher that they are worth continuing to publish. You are risking their livelihood.

Yes, there are authors out there like Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow who can and have made their novels available for free in electronic format. Here's the thing - most of these authors are people you have already heard of. They already have a following, which means that they can afford to take the financial hit if such experiments do not work and it's noticeable that such experiments only last for a limited period of time. In fact, the claim can be made that they serve as much as advertising potential as much as move towards the new, electronic publishing age, because it drums up instant publicity for their work.

Some people make the argument that file sharing helps to make an author more popular and therefore translates into more sales. I have yet to see a logical explanation for how this works in practice. Yes, some people who read a book for free may then go out and buy the book legally. Many more will not. And if you know that a book is out there for free and are minded to read it for free, what incentive is there on you to pay the £8 cover price for your own copy?

I agree that publishers have yet to catch onto the facts of the digital age and in some ways, they have failed to learn from mistakes made within the music industry. In part this is because there is yet to be a 'must have' gadget for reading electronic books, unlike at the turn of the century when MP3 players and iPods were common place. Even though the Kindle and Sony ebook reader are growing in popularity and Apple are planning to launch their own ebook reader, the market is likely to be slower to develop. While allowing for this though, the pricing strategy that publishers are adopting for ebooks seems crazy and I'm not sure how they can justify charging the same cover price for an electronic book as they can for a printed one when the overheads for the latter are so much lower.

I disagree with those who claim that one day publishers will be irrelevant because everyone will just upload their content straight onto the web for people to take. Although there are millions of blogs out there, the ones with millions (or even thousands) of followers are few and far between. Marketing - whether through straight forward advertising or word of mouth - is a necessity for something on the internet to become popular. If you don't know that a blog or a book is out there, how are you going to read it?

If you don't want to or can't afford to pay for a book, then there are plenty of other ways to get hold of it:

- Public libraries are the obvious means - they're free and most can order books for you, so long as you're willing to wait.

- Most authors will do an ARC give-away - either as a straightforward raffle-type competition or in return for people blogging/vidding about it.

- The marketing departments of most publishers can be approached to try and obtain a free ARC in return for a review. In fact here on LJ, Simon & Schuster run booky_talk, which does periodic giveaways of books in a wide variety of genres. They also have a page on Facebook called I WANT A NEW BOOK EVERY MONTH, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. The only condition is that you post a review and they don't even specify how long it has to be.

- If you don't mind posting reviews and have some patience, Amazon UK runs their Vine Programme, whereby certain customers/reviewers are invited to participate and in return get to choose up to 4 items each month for free. The only catch is that you have to produce a review.

- Charity shops. If you're buying a book from a charity shop, then it's because the doner will already have paid for it once (meaning that the author has already had the sale) while you're making a donation to a good cause.

Right, I need to get back to editing my ruddy chapter.

* a bloody stupid idea IMO, given how difficicult it is to predice sales figures.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
Sounds like the novel is getting tighter and tighter. Will be curious to see it's new evolved form.

Demotivated eh? Commuting is tiring, hopefully once the novel is finalised you'll have time to sort out a new home.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )