Arrrg, Matey!

Posted: February 5, 2014 in Self-publishing
Tags: , , , ,

Since Mother Nature insists upon turning my neck of the woods into a glacier (thereby rendering my occupation as a driver “nonessential” as far as my employer’s risk assessment department is concerned), I thought I’d use this found time to delight myself and maybe a couple of readers with a rare and wonderful mid-week blog post. So here goes.

One of the interesting features of Smashwords is the “SEO” link on the Dashboard, which allows you to search your titles through various online engines with easy, one-click goodness. I’ve Googled myself before, but never with quite the satisfaction I’ve achieved using Smashwords. My status as a Luddite is well-documented, so most of my previous self-searching resulted in page after page of information on British Petroleum stations in Broome, Australia. Not particularly useful, as I’m located over 10,000 miles away from the nearest BP, Broome. That said, I’m sure they all offer wonderful customer service and squeaky-clean restrooms. But I digress, as per usual.

Like most aspiring writers, I’ve developed an interest in intellectual property law. Okay, I’m kidding. No one in the history of the world has ever developed an interest in intellectual property law. But I’m aware it exists, in much the same way I’m aware piracy exists. So I did an SEO search this weekend on my short story collection and found a website (which my antivirus software strongly suggested I avoid) selling that ten-tale result of six years of blood, sweat, tears, and intermittent writer’s block for $26.50. That’s approximately 27 times my humble Amazon/Smashwords asking price. The link’s now gone through no action of my own, but maybe someone at Amazon saw it and made it go bye-bye. Just because the FAA has a problem with Mr. Bezos’ proposed drone delivery system doesn’t mean they wouldn’t green-light a gentle reminder to those scurvy pirates to not dip into a tax-paying corporation’s booty.

When I first saw my work being pirated, I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or flattered. Hell, the idea of someone “borrowing” my work for their own profit never really crossed my mind. Many, many, many agents and publishers have let me know (with varying degrees of nicety) that my stuff didn’t exactly float their boat. So the thought of someone thinking they could profit off my labor is pretty alien to me. Thankfully, this here internet thing is omnipotent now, so I’m guessing anyone who was (A) tech-savvy enough to bump into my book on the pirate site and (B) take an interest in it was probably (C) bright enough to search elsewhere for that title and save him- or herself $25.51, American.

Now that it’s actually happened to me, I find myself agreeing (mostly) with Neil Gaiman’s take on piracy. (Ironically, I may have just went all Blackbeard on Goodreads). In my case, and probably in the case of most self-published authors, any potential profits lost through piracy are probably regained many-fold through unintended (and free) publicity. I imagine most folks in the ebook market are with it enough to search for the lowest price offered for a title that catches their eye, regardless of where they initially find that title. I see “unauthorized” sites as a sort of digital storefront that showcases an author’s works, much like a brick-and-mortar bookstore can serve as a physical storefront for a hybrid author’s ebooks.

To (finally) get to the point, it’s 2014, and it’s an exciting time to be a writer. Even for a Luddite like me.

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