On Piracy, Patreon, And Why I (Probably) Won’t Put Out A Tip Jar

A little while back, I wrote a post on piracy, and I like to think I’m pretty even-keeled about the subject. Piracy is not awesome, nor is it legal, but I get it and frankly, I won’t burn your house down about it. I don’t really like yelling at the tides in the notion that it will change anything — further, I’ve seen some value come from book piracy in that people who downloaded books that way became fans of the books (mine and others). And when that happens, when someone becomes a fan, they buy the books.

Anyway, while that post is a bit old, a new comment popped up the other day:

Dear Author,

Here is an honest opinion hiding behind anonymity. It is simple:

1) I cannot afford buying all the books I wish to read; as simple as that.

2) It is digital data and if I read it without paying, you don’t lose anything since I was not going to buy it anyway. It does not cost you anything at all (other than a highly speculative opportunity cost which is blown out of proportion significantly). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost
I am not even sure if the term even applies here properly due to point 1.
Bottomline: All this lost revenue thing is mostly bullshit and you know it!

3) You need to make a living which is a very important point (those who really add value to the book: editors, illustrators, etc. need it, too.)

4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_segmentation is a well-known concept. Learn the basics!

5) So, to maximize your revenue:
a) please put a donation button to your website.
b) those who can afford make a donation to writers who honestly make a plea to their readers reminding that they need to buy bread, too. (I was going to paypal you some amount if I it were there because I liked your first two books a lot)
c) you share a portion of it with editors, illustrators as you see fit.
d) Stephan King may not benefit from this solution but he does not need it anyway. For him point 6 below would work better.

6) The current publishing business has way passed its expiry date despite point 3. As alternatives to point 5, one can try the good old “poor artist” model, try to make money from performances (reading to your fans), appearances, ads, whatever. Then, all this pirating/free-give-away-to-some-segment-of-the-market becomes free advertisement for you and helps your bottom line. You recoup opportunity costs elegantly with no effort.

*** Angry for hearing unsolicited advise from a pirate? Now, take a breath and re-read points 1 and 2. I am just trying to think of a good solution here that will work in 21st century.

7) Alternatively, you keep complaining and nothing constructive happens. We all live “in a capitalist society and all” and got constantly screwed by big companies, publishers, etc every day. Don’t expect people to give up free reading/pirating just because fucking businesses (big or small) are responsible to their shareholders and have to maximize their quarterly profits. Fuck that! Do you know how much they charge for even an ebook where I live?

8) I get screwed to some extent in my job, too, though in other creative ways. It is a fact of life “in a capitalist society and all”. You are a good author and obviously a clever guy. Stop whining! BTW, your stop pirating day is the stupidest idea I have heard. What are you, a fucking shill of mafiaa companies?

*** Again: All this lost revenue thing is mostly bullshit and you know it! I cannot afford the price you asked anyway…As simple as that…How my not reading will benefit you or me is beyond me so I will continue reading. BTW, go to point 4 again for solutions.

9) If you say: “fuck you, I don’t need unpaid readers like you” as an answer to all this, then fine. If it is going to make happier, I would respect it and delete all your pirated books from my library. Funny that you will not even know it (Point 2).

With regards,
An unofficial reader.

I’ll tackle a response to this as quickly as I can:

1) If you cannot afford my books, then the grossly capitalist thing of me to say would be THEN YOU DON’T GET TO HAVE IT, but realistically, I understand that books are a luxury and it is a privilege that I can afford them. So instead I’ll say: libraries are really great. The commenter lives in Australia, according to his IP, but having just been to Australia, I can confirm that they do have libraries there. Just the same: being in another territory where books are expensive or unavailable? Well, you know: hey, go ahead, nab my books however you see fit. I’ll look the other way and hope one day you can purchase the books you pilfered.

2) Lost revenue isn’t bullshit. It’s an actual thing. If everyone took to just taking digital material without paying for it, I’d be dead broke and, honestly, not writing at all. The reason I am not dead broke is because a lot of people are happy to involve themselves in a transaction where they put money into the machine and the machine spits out one or several of my books. Plus: my books are not just the product of my time, effort and resources. They are frequently the product of time, effort, and resources spent on behalf of a publisher. They don’t get sales numbers based on books of mine that people download but do not pay for. That doesn’t convince them to publish me again. So it’s not just lost revenue now, but lost revenue down the line.

3) I do need to make a living. True point!

4) Sure, okay.

5) I will not put a donation button on my site. More on that in a minute.

6) Making money from performances is called being a “performer.” Which I am decidedly not. I am an introvert who plays at being an extrovert, and that’s why I fucking write books, not gambol about on stage like Marcel Marceau. If we reach a point where we cannot pay writers for being writers, then we will reach a point where we will have few, if any, writers. I also don’t want to make money from ads because that really is crass capitalism and again, I’d much rather we engage in a very pure exchange — I put my words into the world, and if that’s of value to you, you help me put food in my child’s mouth. Not via a donation button, but via the transaction where you buy my books. I’m not angry at hearing unsolicited advice, honestly. But that good 21st century solution you’re looking for is here: buy my books. Ta-da!

7) Sometimes people get screwed by the government, but that’s not an awesome reason to stop paying your taxes. If a grocery store sells me expired milk or charges too much for kale or some shit, it’s not a good reason for me to shoplift. Now, all that being said, if you want to pilfer my books because that’s the only way they’re available to you in a cost-effective manner, then go for it. You do what you gotta do.

8) Sure, I’m a shill for my publishers. Because I happen to like my publishers. They’re not perfect entities, but… you know, yeah, they’ve done right by me and I’m absolutely going to shill for them. They’re my partners in this endeavor. That’s key here: they’re partners. Which means they need to get paid, too.

9) Unpaid readers are only useful to me if they somehow get me paid. That’s the hard, ugly reality here. If you read my work and love it: that does genuinely please me because I’m a bit of a Narcissist, but at the same time, unless I can somehow monetize that love and concentrate really hard until it becomes a sack of Bitcoins or some shit, I can’t use it to feed my family or satisfy the bank who apparently wants a mortgage payment every month (who knew?). Your reading me doesn’t benefit me unless it benefits me. Which means: you pay me. Or you convince others to do what you didn’t do, which is… pay me? Or you convince a library or bookstore to carry my work, doing some kind of advocacy for my books.

Now, let’s switch gears a little and talk about donations.

This website costs a pretty penny to host. Between $60-70 / month. The cost being so high is a function of traffic being high (thanks, everybody!) — but it does end up being around $800 a year for hosting fees. I’ve long noodled on the idea of putting up a Paypal DONATE button — and recently I’ve seen Patreon pop up as a good way for creatives to get paid to continually provide creative work to the world. And there I thought, well, that could work to fund the website in a “pay-for-post subscription manner.” Particularly since readers of this blog are not automagically readers of my books (yoinks, if every reader here bought just one of my books I’d probably be a bestselling author overnight).

But, ultimately, I won’t be doing that.

Here’s why:

If you want to help pay for this site, or put food in my kid’s mouth, or continue to support my flailing word-herdery in some fashion? You can. Right now.

You can buy my books.

You can buy books that are published via the mainstream system.

You can buy my author-published books.

You can buy my urban fantasy, or horror, or YA sci-fi, or YA crime, or my writing books, or, or, or — you have a lot of options, actually, since at present I have 18 different releases out there in the world.

You can buy books via Amazon, or B&N, or at your local indie bookstore.

You can buy some of my books directly via me.

You can also buy Merch related to this site and my work.

Want a dark fantasy about a psychotic psychic who can see how you’re going to die just by touching you? Start with Blackbirds. Want to see what happens when I mash up the Criminal Underworld with the Mythic and Monster-Filled Underworld? Blue Blazes awaits. In Under the Empyrean Sky, you’ll find a agricultural apocalypse where bloodthirsty corn has taken over the world thanks to a bunch of rich jerks who float in the sky, and in Bait Dog you’ll find a teen girl detective/vigilante story — think a mash-up of Winter’s Bone and Veronica Mars. Or hell, maybe you want to check out my writing books, in which case I’d say to either start small (250 Things You Should Know About Writing) or go for the whole enchilada (The Kick-Ass Writer). You got options, is what I’m saying.

And if you’ve already bought my books? Leave a review, maybe. Or tell others.

You give me donations, or tip me via Patreon, I’m not giving you what I really want to give you, which are the books that I’ve written. Further, it means my editors and cover artists and all the people who worked hard to help usher many of my books into the world gain nothing from it — you bypass them and put money into my pocket. That’s unfortunate.

None of this is meant to slag on those writers who do ask for donations or who use Patreon —  I can see good value for Patreon. And I had in mind a campaign that monetizes this blog and offers some cool little rewards as a result (Google Hangouts, one-page writer critiques, etc.). But right now, I want to monetize this blog one way and one way only: where you decide that you’re going to check out some of my books, and that money either directly reaches me (via my author-published work) or winds its way toward me (via my, erm, publisher-published books). That’s it. If you want to support me, and support this site, that’s how I hope you’ll do it.

And, to the pilfering magpie above who wrote that comment: keep on reading my books however you want to read them. I don’t have any great grr-argh energy over piracy — I used to download tons of music for free (and during that time I also spent more money on music than I perhaps ever have). But if you were serious about donating, then donate that money by buying my books. You can do that on Amazon Australia (where my books are between $1 and $10 in e-book), or you can do it here, buying my books directly via Payhip (which results in Paypal). If you can’t donate, then I ask that you at least spread the word about my books. Again: reviews. Or tell others about my work. SPREAD THE GOSPEL OF WENDIG AND KILL IN MY NAME I mean wait don’t kill in my name I didn’t say that.


185 responses to “On Piracy, Patreon, And Why I (Probably) Won’t Put Out A Tip Jar”

  1. I have never, and will never, understand why people think it’s alright to pirate/steal someone’s work be it book(s), music, movie(s), or anything else for that matter. I’ve got three kids ages 20 – 30 and I’ve had this stealing talk with them MANY times but neither they or their friends “get it”, they think it’s OK and charging for items like these (movies, etc…) is wrong and immoral. “It’s just words, music, a movie so it’s not like I’m taking anything that’s REAL. Besides, they can always make more and then rip of their fans again.” They honestly think creating these things is not art but more of a hobby. I’ve asked how they’d like to work for days, weeks, months, and years but never get paid for it. Again, they don’t see the connection.

    Piracy/stealing work is a real hot button for me. I’m sure one of the reasons for that is that I am a writer (unpublished…for now anyway) so I KNOW how much work goes into writing a book so pirating really IS stealing, at least in my book.
    Just PAY for the work for goodness sake! If you can’t afford it then you don’t need to read it. Or, as Chuck suggested, go get a copy from the library!

  2. Sheesh, what would this person have done before ebooks? Broken into Chuck’s house and stolen physical books?

    Maybe part of the problem is the terminology. We call it piracy. It’s really just theft. But it’s a lot cooler to be a pirate than a thief.

    I’ll never understand why some people feel so entitled when it comes to digital products.

    • I agree with you 100%! I think calling it piracy instead of theft makes it less ‘real’ for people when they take someone’s work without paying. There’s no excuse that I can think of for stealing/pirating but, for some reason, people see it out on the ‘net and decide it’s OK because ‘well, shoot, the ‘net is free, isn’t it? What’s the difference? I’ve never gotten a good answer…maybe someday but I doubt it.

      • Eh it doesn’t matter what you call it. Fact is, the people pirating spend more on entertainment than people who don’t. We’ve all got it wrong. It isn’t that these people don’t have money so they pirate, it’s that they ran out of money for all the things they want so then they pirate. Trust me I know. Just like Kay, I used to pirate music like crazy when I was still in school and only had a pitiful allowance but once I got a job I preferred iTunes. Not only was it more convenient but I could finally afford to build a real library. Like Yeezus once said: “Judge not the spending habits of others…hater.”.

        • Actually, the word “piracy” matters quite a bit. Words have power. As others on here have pointed out, we can associate and disassociate things from ourselves by the words we use. I think there’s a “cool” factor that goes along with the word “piracy”, especially since movies with pirates have made a resurfacing in media. As kids, we fantasize (or at least I imagine a lot of kids did) about the life of a pirate. No parents to order us around, owning our own crew that does what we tell them, etc. Ah, the good life. So the wording does matter.

          As for the spending habits comment, people who pirate ANYTHING are choosing to not spend their money on what they are pirating. They are choosing to spend their money on other things, even if those things are necessities like food, clothing etc. If you don’t have the money for it, guess what? You don’t get to own it. This way of thinking is exactly why a lot of Americans are swimming in credit card debt >.<

    • “what would this person have done before ebooks? Broken into Chuck’s house and stolen physical books?”

      And drank his bourbon. Stroked his luxurious manly man beard in his sleep. Scoffed at his paper letter response while slipping out the back window into the black darkness of the engulfing night. He…is…Bratman.

  3. #1 is the key point in his whole argument, and it is the biggest problem with piracy today.

    People no longer understand that if you can’t afford something that you aren’t still entitled to have it. If I couldn’t afford a new game in the 90s then I didn’t get to play the new video game. Now though, people just hop online and pirate it. The same with shows, movies, anime, books, role playing games, and the whole nine yards of creative works.

    I have friends who supplement their income by selling paintings and pictures. They always appreciate it when people like their work, but it irks them all the same when the response is “I like your art so I copied it so I could have it for free.”

    I’m not sure how to change the mentality. Part of it is probably just the perception that piracy doesn’t hurt anyone. No one you see anyhow. It just kind of makes me sad.

  4. Dear anonymous reader,

    If you can’t afford the book DO NOT STEAL IT. Simply go to your local library and ask THEM to buy it. Then you win. The author wins. And as a positive side effect, you help get the author’s work placed where other people can enjoy it too! You benefit the author MORE because you are not only paying them for their work, via the library which you fund with your taxes already, but also because you are giving that author an opportunity at being paid additional for their other works by people who find them in the library. And, by the way, most libraries now offer ebooks too. So you really don’t have an excuse to STEAL from the author you claim to love any more.

    P.S. Still don’t think your stealing matters? How about 500 people take just one dollar each out of your next paycheck and tell me how that works for you. Would you feel it? Yeah. I thought so. It’s no different for an author who makes their paycheck to feed their family and pay their utilities by writing books. You don’t pay, we don’t eat. Simple.

    • Dear Theresa Meyers,

      You did not get it. 99% of pirated work would not have been bought anyway. A fair bit of research went into this in 2012/2013. Therefore, comparing it to having $500 removed from your salary does not make sense.

  5. to this point:
    “(yoinks, if every reader here bought just one of my books I’d probably be a bestselling author overnight).”

    I BOUGHT ONE!!! = D

    (c’mon everyone, chip in!)

    Wasn’t because of the Blog though, was because I met you in a Kaffeklatsch @ LoneStarCon3, not knowing anything about you, and by the wave of your wand you seduced me into a sale.

    I’ll probably buy another at some point. You know, to make up for the ppl on here who won’t. ; )

  6. Sure you can delete the files, but I guarantee you can’t delete the words of good books out of your head. Technically, THAT is what you’re paying for. The author has taken those unique ideas and thoughts and spent TIME and energy to put them down so you CAN put them in your head. Pay for it!

  7. I’m deep into my first — I think it’s a novella (overgrown short story). Bought your writing books and may spend some of my own writing time reading your take on how it’s done. 🙂

  8. “I know how to solve piracy (while I get to keep getting stuff for free)” – Every 14 year old.

    You can’t blame them. But maybe one day they’ll grow up and try to make a living at making video games or writing books or making movies or painting and some other kid will email them with a missive about how piracy is totally justified and easy to solve. And the universe will laugh.

  9. It can’t be overstated enough that the best way to combat piracy is convenience. It won’t deter the most dedicated pirate, but I find that the extra steps involved in torrenting or filesharing turn me off.
    -downloading the client,
    -finding the right file,
    -unziping it or converting to a format that my existing software can read or downloading yet another program to read it
    -getting aggravated when the file is not what the description promised, if indeed I can read the description as a lot of these hosts are from non-English speaking countries
    -finding out parts are missing or the quality is bad
    -throwing my hands up in frustration
    -spending days getting rid of the malware that hitched a ride.

    I don’t torrent 99.99% of the time, I just tried it once when I was hunting down an obscure anime that did not appear to have a planned release in North America. I sympathize with those who can’t access something because of where they live, but for anyone else I’m just like, why? Pirating is a hassle. It’s annoying. I am lazy and I want my book/song/movie right now with the least amount of effort possible

    Maybe it’s just ignorance on my part, but I don’t know how to get around the above problems and I don’t really care to when I can just click Buy Now and charge my Amazon credit card*. It is worth my money to get stuff quickly. Unofficial Reader might not agree, but I would bet money he is the exception, not the rule.

    I also get irritated with defenders of piracy when it’s clear that the hosters of the illegal file copies are in it to make money –their sites are plastered with ads. Give me a break.

    *I strongly advocate managing credit responsibly.

    • This. Me, too. Especially the malware thing.

      I’m not going to risk fucking up my computer to get a three or five dollar book, or a ninety-nine cent song. I’ll just buy the thing.

      Also, somebody told me once that “if you can’t afford a thing, you can’t have that thing.” That sounds mean, but it made me work harder.

  10. I don’t really understand how someone could afford to make a donation, but couldn’t afford to buy the book. Logic does not compute.

    Also, heck yes libraries. They are an awesome thing that still exists. AND they have digital books!

    • Well, the theoretical buyer might be aware that, for example, if they buy a $0.99 book of Chuck’s on Amazon, he only gets 30ish cents, where he’ll get at least $.90 if they paypal him a buck. They may simply want to make their money more efficient to him.

      But, of course, a sale has effects beyond money: rankings, permanent residence in that person’s amazon account (and thus, reminders that Chuck’s new book just came out), etc.

      • That’s true — I could see someone making that argument. But this reader says s/he can’t afford to buy books, then a few lines down says, “I was going to paypal you some amount if I it were there because I liked your first two books a lot.” So it seems to me more of a case of, “I want to give you money now that I KNOW I like your stuff, but wasn’t willing to pay the money upfront when I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it.” (Which, again, brings us back to glorious libraries. If I’m iffy on a book but want to give it a chance, I request it from the library.)

        • If you read that section again, he starts by qualifying “those who can afford to make donations,” which is another way of saying “I’m ‘paying’ you by suggesting you ask other people for donations because you’re clearly too dumb to have considered that yourself.” Part of that interpretation comes from his helpful inclusion of two Wikipedia pages to explain some economic principles he’s certain a professional author like Chuck couldn’t possibly be familiar with.

  11. I’ve torrented books that aren’t easily available (they’re not ebooks because they’re part of a back catalog). That said, yes, I generally buy the books or rent them. Same with music. Grooveshark or pay ca$h.

  12. Fucking pirates. Yeah, I can’t afford to buy an iPad right now, but I’m pretty sure that we all agree that walking into the Apple store and taking one is wrong, so why is it considered okay to steal books? You don’t NEED books. You just feel like you deserve them like a petty, spoiled child feels like he deserves a toy just because he wants it. You can throw around your little excuses all you want, but that’s what it boils down to in the end. There are people who work hard and save up their money like responsible fucking adults so maybe they can afford a book once in a while, and then there are selfish, entitled brats who just take things when they can’t afford them.

    The thing that pisses me off the most, though, was that he accused Chuck of being the whiner. What the actual fuck, dude? You go on a tirade about how the big, scawy businesses are robbing you and how you’re too poor to afford a luxury item (join the club, asshat), then you chide the person whose PRODUCTS YOU ARE STEALING of whining about PEOPLE STEALING FROM HIM?? God damn, I hate pirates. Except the ones in Assassin’s Creed. Those pirates are pretty cool.

      • Brilliantly put? He just called 75% of the world who were unfortunate to be born in the right place “selfish entitled brats”.

        I knew many students at university who bought second textbooks from other students. No money went to the author. Does that mean they are stealing?? If I share a book with 50 friends or email my e-book to 10 friends than i am stealing.

        As has been stated, 99% of pirated books would not have been bought anyway. I find the idea that the knowledge and creativity should be hoarded by those with wealth and kept from those without it disgusting.

          • Not every writer (or artist in general) is wealthy. Far from it. Many, if not most, are just trying to get by. Those who create learn what works and what doesn’t (aka: knowledge) which is then, usually, shared in some way (eg: this blog post) not hoarded.

            What you are actually saying is a justification *for* piracy shrouded in a very transparent veil.

  13. I found you via Twitter, I think, then the blog. I liked it so I bought the Miriam Black books, just finished The Cormorant. I’ll move on the others soon. I backed Fireside on your recommendation as well, looking forward to that new story! I have more money now, so I can do things like that, but when I didn’t I wasn’t a thief, I went to the library.

    I take your point about the blog donations/Patreon, but from my perspective it is a separate thing that you do, that takes time and effort and money, that I enjoy and would be willing to support – not instead of but in addition to the books. I just heard about Beacon and signed up, I like it.

    I’m really surprised that people spend much time here and don’t buy your books.

  14. I found this blog by…I don’t remember. I remember buying a writing advice book, and then I found Blackbirds and then I came here. Something like that. I was all ‘I am so fond of this book OMG BLOG YAY WRITING STUFF AND LOOK THERE’S ANOTHER MIRIAM BLACK BOOK AND YAAAAAAY.

    Point is, I am pretty freaking broke. I am a college student working part time, which means I have very little money and probably won’t have a comfortable amount for a long time. I still pay for my stuff. Heck, I even rent my textbooks instead of trying to steal a version online, and that shit is expensive.

    And, like others have said? THERE IS SOMETHING CALLED THE LIBRARY. THEY HAVE BOOKS THERE. FOR FREE. EVEN E-BOOKS. GET THEE TO A LIBRARY AND STFU. I like the library. I get books there that I can’t afford to buy. AMAZING.

    I may have sacrificed animals in Miriam’s name. That’s okay, yes?

    • You mentioned renting text books for college. When I was in college, I found an even better way. I don’t know if this will work at your college or for your field (didn’t work for all of my books) but it might be worth a shot.

      My degrees are in economics, and they come out with a “new edition” of the textbooks every year, so it’s hard to find used (ergo, cheaper) copies and most of the time they don’t buy them back because a new edition is already being released.

      One thing I noticed though, is that the new editions are generally WORD FOR WORD EXACTLY THE SAME as the previous editions, with the exception of test-prep problems at the end of each chapter. Our campus library had copies of almost every previous edition. I would just rent the previous edition from the Library, free of charge, and continuously renew it throughout the semester. If we had to answer questions from the book as homework, I just got photocopies from classmates.

      I thought this might help you out. I know it helped me!

  15. here is how someone put it to me in terms I can understand as I am of a simple mind at times:

    Say you love the beer my brewers craft, bottle or keg and that my bar staff pours for you after they have scoured the flours, the bar, the tables and chairs, the bathrooms and then turned on all the tvs, the music and the lights and welcomed the public into our place.

    Say you love it so very much! But you just can’t afford it (even though it’s kinda cheap, considering). So you stand outside the Tap Room door three or four days a week, and ask people to go in and bring out free pints for you (somehow, maybe they know a bartender-who-will-get-caught-and-fired) so that you can appreciate and value all that hard work and overhead (you know, electricity, cable, heat, salaries, shit all that silly “overhead opportunity” i created for myself by opening a small business). You do that day after day then, one day my very angry bar manager confronts you and says “Hey, did you pay for all those beers?” while pointing at the 5 or 6 empty mugs in front of you.

    “Well, no,” you say, indignant. “But isn’t the fact that I LOVE your brewery and say so on Facebook and tweet it out and crap enough like payment? Besides I know it only cost you guys about a dollar to make each pint. So there.”

    Well, at that point, I would no longer be responsible for how my very picky and very anal about things like stealing bar manager would do or say (after he booted the bartender off the premises. He’s a hard ass. it’s why I hired him).

    I get it that it’s a drag that things like ebooks and beer must be purchased. But I don’t know that using “Wkki explanation” about the opportunity cost of production of ANYTHING (books or beer, again, keeping it simple for myself) in any way makes the fact that you are reading a book you did not pay for or that you did not check out of a library OR that you did not get handed to you by a friend (because I do share books, yes I do) the right thing to do–or to defend in such a way as to make me feel for about 3 seconds GUILTY for decrying piracy.

    Go on little one! Go and run a business, pay for things like really good and expensive editing, decent cover art, bookbub ass rapery advertising, gas and swag to attend convention squee fests and groceries. Or, to put it another way, open the doors of a brewery, buy brewing equipment, pay brewers and bartenders, pay for electricity, cable, heat and cooling, packaging, glassware, tables, chairs…you get me. Then come and tell me that my “opportunity costs” don’t “justify” me being “pissy” about your “theft.”


    • I enjoy how simply put it is Liz. I started and folded two businesses before my present one took off and is now successful ( five years later). I dont understand the pirates mentality. Cant afford it dont get it, period.

    • TO Liz:

      Hi. I am a creator who does not have a current publisher and is interested in things like Patreon, Kickstarter and crowdfunding. I feel I should stay out of this discussion but something you said makes me want to ask a question I feel is a legitimate point that I have never understood about this giant argument.

      Okay. Here is what you wrote:

      “…OR that you did not get handed to you by a friend (because I do share books, yes I do)…”

      You say that you see no problem in loaning a book to a friend. In my eyes, a book is a physical copy of the author’s work and a physical product of the publisher’s time and money. You give it to your friend. Your friend reads it from beginning to end. Then, he gives it back to you.

      Your friend did not pay for this book. Did he steal this book? One could answer no, he borrowed it from you and read it with your permission. Is this legal? Yes. Why? You paid for the book and it has now become your property. Therefore, it is legal for you to loan your property out to others.

      Now. Try this. You also have a different book. This one is an ebook that you purchased and downloaded online. The file you downloaded is a common .pdf file. Once you have purchased the copy of the file, you cannot get a refund. It is now yours. Now, along comes your friend who loves to borrow physical copies of your books. And he asks to read the ebook you have. Please explain the reason why it is okay for him to read the physical copy but not the digital one. This makes absolutely no sense.

      I am not a pirate (please don’t get me wrong). I used to fileshare on Limewire and one time, I downloaded Fantasia from a torrent and had to do a fresh install of my OS to recover from the worm that came with it. So I do not engage in torrents and hives simply because it is a good way to destroy your system.

      But I do not understand why in the hell it is such a problem and I honestly feel that no one has provided a good answer besides, Screw you! My kids will starve unless you buy my books!!!” Ya know what? If no one is buying your books or you cannot make a living off them, perhaps the problem is that they really are not that great. Think about it. Everybody pays expensive prices for premium mobile service, right? But they could have cheaper service. Why do they pay more when they could pay less? Value.

      The reason you can’t live off of your book sales is not because people are “stealing” the content. And it’s not because they are sharing it. It is because they check out your work and then decide to research the author (which is how I found the author’s blog). I was researching Patreon and this blog came up in my search. As a result of reading this bitter author’s lamentations, I will never be purchasing his work. In contrast, I will not read shared copies of his work, either, because the author has a bad attitude. I WISH people would screen capture images of my comic, print them and staple them together into a little book. That means that they want what I am selling. The fact that they do all of this work to get out of paying for it simply means that they never would have paid in the first place. But the two other kids that see that stapled, rat tagged home-made book might really dig it and want to know where they can buy a true copy (not one they have to print themselves and staple together).

      See, I grew up watching goons like Metallica lose their fanbase because of this argument. As a creator, I still do not think the author gets it and he is writing for the wrong reasons. He is truly a shill. He writes to make a buck. That’s it. He even admits it.

      I like the way one blogger/creator (who got it) put it: we do not create in order to make money. The reason the true creator creates and shares is to provide value. Value is what we wish to provide. It is value that makes the client say, “This is excellent!” It is value that makes your fans want to buy a physical copy of your book that will be mailed to them. It is value that makes kids want to donate to your cause and receive a donation reward of a digital copy of your comic that they will share with their friends and make wallpapers of, posting to the web, making other curious web surfers interested, seek out the creators site, and begin the cycle all over again.

      In a pure and righteous capitalistic society, it is value that a company provides. The company does not have to worry about gimmicks and hidden charges because they know they offer a quality product and that it is this value that people pay for. People do not buy products. Consumers pay for things that provide some sort of value or enrichment to their lives. We go into business to provide value. The money is a byproduct of this value exchange. That is the way it is supposed to be.

      If we all begin to function this way, the world will improve. If we all choose to function the old, foolish way the author states, things will decline. Rapidly. If you don’t believe me, just look at Hollywood. If you do not want fans to share copies of your saleable material, then do not sell it perpetually in the first place. Be like Adobe. Or make people pay each time they view your product. And then get ready for the hackers to crack your product and actually pirate it.

      You see, pirating something means to steal it, to crack it, to take something that is locked up, accesible only my monetary exchange (like a file download link or something residing on a server) and to then give it away for free to the masses (like Robin Hood) or (worse yet) sell it to the masses instead or copy it or plagorize it.

      If somebody buys your stupid ebook and then uploads it to a fileshare site for others to see, this is NOT piracy. The person bought your stupid book, fair and square. Perhaps folks who download the file will like it enough to buy the physical copy (if you were smart enough to have one.) If you were smarter, they would go to your site (easily accessible via the link in your ebook) where they could then buy and download, purchase and order all kinds of other valuable crap and merchandise.

      The ones who are affected and hit hard by piracy are software makers (due to the very arbitrary nature of their products). I am tired of seeing authors, creators, musicians and others whining about piracy. If you do not like people sharing your creations with others, quit. Get a different job. But please, quit posting whiny posts like this: you are actually hurting your bottom line. Because, trust me, folks like me WILL cite articles such as this in future blog posts. And you can take THAT to the bank. 😉

  16. A teacher I work with has a calculator watch and I mentioned the boy in your book that had one and how he died and Meriam is like a scavenger…. two of my students want to read your books now =D so I did good, yes? (I bought all your books legally, btw)

  17. Piracy is that kind of marvelously twisted problem that can only really be a problem in the digital age. No one whinged and moaned when I was recording songs off the radio to play for my enjoyment and those of my friends. That I ended up buying albums and singles (yes, I’m talking 45’s and cassette singles here) was a direct result of that “piracy” was almost taken as a given. That I am an avid collector of CDs and Vinyl is also a result of it; and so the wheel of the music industry – with all of it’s flats, punctures, and occasional broken rims – rolls on.

    My father used to buy books by the banana box load from shady thrift stores and pawn shops, many of them remaindered. They passed from his hands into those of my sister and I. That those more than likely stolen books my father paid for at a ridiculous discount, resulted in a net gain for the publishing world in the form of lifetime readers who buy books the way some people buy groceries. I live in Portland, Oregon, within which resides Powell’s – a bookseller so fantastic and vast that it’s name is often used with the tones one reserves for very old friends – and they have seen more of my money than many of my creditors have. This is a direct result of my father’s “piracy.”

    I don’t think that piracy is, as an action that supports a broader ideal, bad. I had a coworker some eight years back whose favorite band was Flogging Molly. He pirated their albums and digital releases, and with the same energy promoted them to the sky and went to every live show he could get to and brought along as many people as he could harangue into paying to go. He supported the band with his money and his energy, choosing to pay it directly to them at their shows instead of their publishers. Right or wrong, he promoted them and they were the better for his fanaticism.

    I think that it is often the attitude that accompanies piracy that chaffs my ass; the self-righteous, self-important sense of entitlement that most if it’s defenders possess. It’s the argument of children.

    There are good reasons for piracy, there are bad ones as well and I think it comes out about 50/50. But taking and giving nothing back, not promotion,not money, not support of any kind, is the worst form of theft.

    • “I don’t think that piracy is, as an action that supports a broader ideal, bad. I had a coworker some eight years back whose favorite band was Flogging Molly. He pirated their albums and digital releases, and with the same energy promoted them to the sky and went to every live show he could get to and brought along as many people as he could harangue into paying to go. He supported the band with his money and his energy, choosing to pay it directly to them at their shows instead of their publishers. Right or wrong, he promoted them and they were the better for his fanaticism.”

      Problem here is, this only works because bands tend to make more of their own money directly from shows and merch — albums have sometimes been a bad way to make money due to abusive deals by record labels.

      Writers don’t have the “well, you can pay me other ways, wink-wink” option, and most don’t seem to want that option. We have books. If those books get bought: we survive. If those books don’t: we die in the abyss.

      The thing about piracy isn’t really about one person copying a book and giving it to a friend. The thing about piracy is that one digital copy becomes a thousand digital copies almost effortlessly — this isn’t making a mix-tape for a friend, this is releasing intellectual property into the wild to bypass commercial channels. That’s where it gets stickier and differs from the “oh, hey, I’m just copying radio songs” idea.

      — c.

  18. I think maybe there is a subtle difference between putting a ‘traditional’ donate button on your site and running a Patreon. I see the latter more as something similar to a micro-Kickstarter – you commit to putting out a steady stream of material that is free to access (such as webcomics or Youtube videos), and people pledge a certain amoount for each piece as a form of patronage. It’s probably not at all interesting for authors like Chuck who work primarily with novels, but it could be very attractive for those who focus on short stories.

  19. I love how this just ended up turning into you promoting ALL THE BOOKS.

    I feel like this is very ironic, but I am no master of irony, especially not right after I wake up, so I’m probably wrong.

    Well, anyway, I love your books, and only have one right now. I’m waiting until I have the money to buy, well, ALL THE BOOKS off Amazon.

    Very interesting blog post. As a teenager with not a way to get a job because of location, I have taken music off of YouTube before. And I’ve grown up with copied movies, because though we try, we don’t have the money to buy every movie we know we will watch countless times (the reason we don’t yet have Frozen). And I agree with some of the other commenters about te word piracy. Piracy sounds cool. Being a thief, not so much.

    It reminds me of something. You know all those commercials about people who need basic things like clothes and food? How many people actually donate anything when they see those commercials? There’s a seperation, we know what’s happening, it just doesn’t hit home in a real way. It’s easy to ignore. And in a way, using ‘piracy’ instead of ‘theft’ is that seperation

    Anyway, thanks for giving me something to think about

  20. Writerly .02 here: The bottom line is, writers have to be paid enough for their labor to make a living. Or else, like Chuck says, you’re gonna end up with very few professional writers, and a resulting dearth of diversity in the medium. (I suppose you’ll have plenty of free badfic still, but is that honestly enough for you?)
    So: we gotta get paid. I don’t know a single writer who needs or even really wants to live large. We want to not die of rickets or exposure, we would ideally like to be pest-free, we like to experience other food groups besides ramen, yes.
    I suspect most people who pirate could pay at least a *little* something for the books they’re reading, and they ought to. The easier we authors and publishers can make that, the better – that’s our end of it. But on the other end, you know, buy the friggin’ book. You paid how much for that dumb movie ticket, and it’s over now? How much for that latte, and it’s gone? For what a good book gives you, it’s nearly always worth the price.
    However, if you’re an honest fan who is truly too poor to buy my writing and also has no library access, there are valid ways you can make it up to me. Pay me in promo. Tell your friends about me. Share links. Remember me generously down the road when you do have some money. I count all those things as a species of payment. It still don’t feed me and clothe me, I will note, but it is the next best thing. Anyway, no matter what, don’t just waft some “information wants to be free” bullshit at me while you blithely walk off with my blood sweat and tears. Nothing about what I created was free. It took my time, my money, my supplies, my emotional energy, my years of learning and training. What I ask in return is entirely reasonable.

  21. BRILLIANTLY put point on the “pay writers for their writing” thing. But question – the site traffic; do site views help you monetarily in any way? And if so (or I suppose even if not), when I open my email and read your latest post that’s been delivered to my inbox but don’t actually directly visit the blog, does that factor into the numbers for your site traffic?

    • Obliquely, maybe — I mean, the more views I get, the more my “cred” grows as a blogger, and I’ve periodically had people want to know my blog numbers to measure said cred.

      But it isn’t really directly a way toward cash, no — in fact, the higher my views go, the more I have to pay for hosting. 🙂

  22. Well lets go back a few centuries. I’m on my Spanish galleon ( Hey I’m Latino and damn straight I’m the captain) and lo on the horizon I see the profile of a ship. Pirates! Well do I drop anchor and invite them over for some dinner, give them some gold or lend them my crew you know because they cant afford any of that or load my cannons and disintegrate with extreme prejudice?

    As a writer I believe in supporting other creatives no matter the media because I know it takes work to create. I own all of your writing books because I browse through them when I’m in the middle of a project. I don’t usually read fiction when writing my own, doesn’t help my process but you know what, I just bought all the Miriam Black books( I wasn’t going to buy them until next month) because you should be a bestseller. Why the hell not! I wont read them until I’m done with my latest book, but there they sit taunting me on kindle.

    To the UR, yes it may be easy to get eBooks and STEAL them. You wont know how it feels until you create something and have it stolen from you, just because it can be. Then come back and we can talk.

    • TO Orlando Sanchez:

      Personally, I would love if people were stealing my work. I would love that just as much if they were paying for my work. You see, for me, it is more about people wanting my work rather than profiting from it first. I cannot profit from something no one wants.

      And if someone buys a copy of a digital book and uploads it to a filesharing site, they did not steal it. They shared it. For others to read. Same as if they left a copy at a coffee shop or at a giant mall. Or if they made 100 copies and left them at one hundred malls.

      Point is, it’s not piracy. They did not kick in the door to the publisher’s warehouse where the books are kept, shoot everyone in sight and then load up the books. Neither did they hold the people working in the buildings where the servers are housed at gunpoint while they downloaded your latest ebook to their flashdrive.

      There is no major loss in revenue. Those 1,000 folks who download your ebook for free from the filesharing site never planned on paying for a copy in the first place. And if they like your ebook, they may want to by the next one. Or a physical one. Or they may want to write a review about it. Or make a video. Or they may not want to do nothing.

      The point is, 1000 folks downloaded your ebook. If you are lucky, maybe 400 of them actually read it. And maybe 50 of them will by products from you in the future. That’s not bad numbers. That’s decent marketing. Word of mouth (sharing) is what you call piracy. I hate to break it to you old timers but word of mouth is the new way of staying relevant.

  23. There are already 118 comments that I will fall asleep before reading, so this may have already been brought up, but I wanted to throw out a question for you guys:

    Is it still theft if I’ve already paid for it? For example, I bought the “A Storm of Swords” and “A Clash of Kings” hardcovers when they came out years ago. I was rereading them and almost finished with Kings when I had to take a trip. I didn’t want to lug 30 pounds of novel with me on a train. Is it still piracy to download the ebooks?

    • Kveldman, yes that is still piracy. You have bought the hardbacks, not the ebooks. Therefore pirating the ebooks is still stealing. At the end of the day you might not want to lug the books around with you but that’s your choice. You’re _choosing_ not to, therefore you’re _choosing_ to get the ebooks. Which means you have to pay for them. It’s like someone going on a long trip and thinking they don’t want to carry lots of food around with them. They’ve already bought and paid for their sandwiches but they don’t want to carry them around. So they’ll just steal something when they’re out.

      If you make the choice to get the ebooks, regardless of whether you already have the hardbacks, then you should pay for them. Stealing is stealing and everytime you download a pirated book you are supporting an industry that is damaging hardworking authors.

      • You have bought the hardbacks, not the ebooks. Therefore pirating the ebooks is still stealing.

        Arabella, with that logic, I hope you don’t rip any CDs to put on your mp3 player…

          • Right. Well, it is a widely accepted practice. A Brennan is legal, despite the entire point being transferring something you’ve bought to a format you have not bought. The point being that precedent doesn’t particularly support your argument, and I can completely understand why people read it the way the original comment suggests.

      • TO Arabella:

        Your reply strikes me as ludicrous.

        First of all, he paid a premium price having bought the hardcover. I personally feel that a free digital copy should come with each book purchase (and some books, movies and cd’s already do this. Amazon does this with their mp3’s).

        Anyway, he bought the book. He could either photocopy every page into a file or type the book himself. This would take a lot of time, effort and would not make much sense. He already paid for the book in physical form (which is way more expensive than a digital copy). Now you are going to tell him that you also wish to charge him to have his physical book in a digital copy? I would never want to do business with such an author. In my comics, I include a special code for getting a 100% discount for buying a digital copy. It took me no extra effort to make the digital file (I simply chose ‘Save As…’, set the correct perameters and VOILA!!! And I should charge a PAYING customer a 2ND time to buy this digital copy of the work he already physically owns?! Are you insane?!

        If that is the case and I am the customer, screw that author. There are already 1,000 folks who have downloaded his book and read it without paying that author one cent and now, the author wants me, a PAYING customer, to buy a digital copy as well instead of just getting one free of charge as a way of saying thanks for spending your hard earned cash to buy my shallow swill? Ya know what I would do? I would write a very concise and not-so-nice letter to that author stating how I felt about the whole thing. Then, I would take those two hardcover books, chuck them in the trash and go by that author’s competitors work. Then, I would write another letter to that author and tell him about what I had just done. I would also include a polaroid of my new purchases and tell him I will no longer be buying his works and will be posting bad reviews for his work from here on out.

        On a positive note, this hypothetical situation will go into my bag of screening tricks when I am deciding whether or not to work with new individuals in the future. In this way, I can avoid working with people I feel are completely lost.

        So thank you, Arabella, for that much. 😉

    • Technically, yes. Ethically, it’s a gray area.

      Ultimately, I wish buying a physical copy universally came with the digital copy, because ultimately what you’re buying should be less about the container and more about the story.

      — c.

      • >Ultimately, I wish buying a physical copy universally came with the digital copy, because ultimately what you’re buying should be less about the container and more about the story.< –

        Seriously, this. I would be so happy to be able to get digital editions of the books I've already purchased in print format for even a reduced price. I know that Amazon recently did this, but the list of eligible books for me were ones I didn't care about keeping in the first place.

        As one of my friends always puts it: How many times do we keep having to buy the White Album?

        Even so, I am slowly but surely replacing my print books with digital copies. It's a matter of budget & availability. So many of my treasured older books aren't even in digital form.

        This is a fast-changing, growing field. Just a few years ago, when I signed the contracts for the 4th & 5th books in my series, ebooks were a sideline, an add-on, not the main thing. It takes time for the industry to catch up and for things to settle down.

        In the meantime, I hope that more people explore ethical ways to get books they want to replace with digital/that are affordable for all.

      • Let me start off by apologizing for people reading these on smartphones, this reply is a doozy:


        “…At the end of the day you might not want to lug the books around with you but that’s your choice. You’re _choosing_ not to, therefore you’re _choosing_ to get the ebooks. Which means you have to pay for them…”

        I both agree and disagree with this statement, based on two conflicting points-of-view:

        1) As an unapologetic capitalist and economic conservative, I agree wholeheartedly and enthusiastically that if someone (we’ll call him Pete) wants something, Pete should f***ing pay for it. If Pete thinks he has the right to something just because he wants it,whether he can afford it or not, is the most absolutely enraging fallacy currently driving me to alcoholism. I jest, but seriously, it’s garbage.

        2) As a writer (albeit an amateur who has only published a small handful of short stories), I feel like the product I am selling is my story, my novel, or my book. Similarly, back when I was trying to scratch out a living as a musician, my product was my music. I didn’t care whether people bought my album on CD or iTunes. I would have burned them a cassette tape if they asked for it. I also wouldn’t begrudge someone making a CD out of my iTunes album or ripping the songs from the CD to mp3. So on this level, I very much disagree with your conclusion.

        “…It’s like someone going on a long trip and thinking they don’t want to carry lots of food around with them. They’ve already bought and paid for their sandwiches but they don’t want to carry them around. So they’ll just steal something when they’re out…”

        No, it isn’t. Food is a consumable resource, books are not. Also, food is a necessity, books are not. I could, as you mentioned, simply choose not to bring both books. The reasoning was that I was almost finished with one, and then would have to start the other. I could simply choose to bring the first one, or neither. My point was that I had already paid for the stories, and I will be reading it either way. I have already paid the publisher. I would, of course, rather carry the books than pay double and re-purchase the same product (for the same reasons I would sit in economy rather than pay double for first-class, which is a more apt comparison).

        “…If you make the choice to get the ebooks, regardless of whether you already have the hardbacks, then you should pay for them.”

        Opinion. I won’t argue it.

        “…Stealing is stealing…”

        See comparison to CDs and iTunes above.

        “…and everytime you download a pirated book you are supporting an industry that is damaging hardworking authors.”

        I have already paid the author, publisher, and editor. I would not pay double to avoid the inconvenience of carrying the books, I would bring the books if that was my only option, therefore the opportunity cost (i.e. lost revenue) is negated.


        “Technically, yes. Ethically, it’s a gray area…”

        Ethical gray areas are apparently my specialty.

        “…Ultimately, I wish buying a physical copy universally came with the digital copy, because ultimately what you’re buying should be less about the container and more about the story.

        – c.”

        Wouldn’t that be AWESOME? I would buy SO many more physical copies of books. Then my wife would double down on telling me to donate them to a Library, then Chuck would be available in one more mid-sized Midwestern city’s shelves. Sounds like we need to make that thing happen. Even if you could add the eBook for 1$ more I would certainly do it every time.

        To wrap this verbose blast of hot-air: I don’t condone piracy, it is stealing. Stealing from anyone is wrong, but stealing from writers (specifically the writers who aren’t automatic NY Times #1 bestsellers like Rowling or King, etc…) is a major dirtbag move.

        I also disagree with you, Arabella, because I wouldn’t consider the scenario I described above as theft. I would describe it as re-formatting.

        If any of you think my arguments are self-serving and I’m just rationalizing my own crimes, well… that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it.*

        Thanks for reading, folks.

        *PS if the above opinion is the same as your, and you tell me about it, my opinion is probably that you’re a self-righteous ass-bag. Probably.

  24. I found your blog some time ago (can’t remember how) and liked it. I liked the writing, so I bought Bait Dog, which I loved. So I bought everything else available as an e-book. Point being, blogging can be a successful way to introduce readers.

    With regards to piracy, generally bad, in my view. Worse, though, is the entitled, self-serving, self-justifying attitude that often goes with it. Ick.

    In some ways, digital results in more purchases. I have many times bought e-copies of books I already own in print. Or bought audio versions of same. Which is fine; I’m happy to support authors I like.

    I do wish that publishers and studios would stop making it SO DAMNED HARD to get their stuff legally. DRM, country restrictions, etc. I have been known to download a copy of something, but usually only when I can’t freaking buy the thing legally. I can’t fathom it. What possible justification can there be for not making it INCREDIBLY EASY to buy legal copies, hmm?

    Aside: will there ever be a sequel to Bait Dog? I will buy it. Legally.

    • Hey, thanks!

      This year will see a release of ATLANTA BURNS, now published by Skyscape, and it’s a revised, tweaked combination of SHOTGUN GRAVY and BAIT DOG. Then, next year, comes the sequel (tentatively titled FRACK YOU).


      — c.

  25. I am so sick of the “But I can’t afford it!” whine. And yeah, that goes out to a certain author who crowdsourced finances to attend conventions. I’m not naming names, but I think, Chuck, that you’re intelligent to know who I mean.

    I’m an author. I’m small pressed published. I don’t get advances. I earn roughly £10 a month if my sales are good. Less if they’re not. I would love to attend World Con. Or Geek Fest. I can’t afford either. So do you know what? I’m not going. End of.

    The attitude of “I want it so give it me!” drives me batty. Get the fuck off your high horse. (General “your” there). Want is not need. There are people in actual need. People who are having to go to food banks, or are getting into debt just to feed themselves and their families.

    No one needs to go to a con. No one needs to buy a book. But if one cannot afford those things, that does not give you the right to take. To steal. To deny me the pittance that is my royalties.

    To the anon commenter, I say NOPE. You don’t get to take because you want. Grow the fuck up.

    • I don’t know who you mean, but I’m cool if authors want to try to crowdsource that stuff — it’s not theft, it’s charity. And while I don’t feel the need to ask for charity (because I literally do not have the need, at present), if someone wants to ask, hey, whatever. The audience will decide whether or not to support that. If they want to support sending an author to a con (and thus potentially seeing that author *at* said con), so be it.

      Charity isn’t taking. It’s asking. Piracy is taking.

      — c.

  26. You’re a saint, Chuck. Seriously, I wanted to reach through the screen and punch that schmuckweasel in the face until his nose was half a foot wide across his face. And I’m not a published author, I have no personal stake in this. But that kind of bratty entitlement just riles me up. “E-books are crazy expensive! I can’t afford them!” But you somehow managed to pony up the cash for an e-book-reader/tablet/smartphone? Then I’ve got news for you: It’s not that you can’t afford books, it’s that you don’t want to pay, because you’d rather spend money on things that you can’t download and therefore have to pay for.
    And, oh yeah, if you somehow got that reader/smartphone/tablet in better days and have gone broke since then, tough, but that should give you more empathy with people trying to make a living, not be an excuse to screw them over. They’re called libraries, sunshine and most of them have e-books. Learn to use them and love them.

    • Money is sometimes, not always, like time. We say we don’t have any, but what we really mean is, we just haven’t chosen to spend it a certain way.

      (Of course, this metaphor falls down in that everybody gets 24 hours in their day, but not everyone has the same amount of money. I’m just noting that I’ve known many folks throughout my life who say they can’t afford something — but they can’t afford it because they spent their notable expendable income on other shit, instead. “I can’t afford your book [because I just bought a video game]” is not the same as “I can’t afford your book because I just lost my job and I need food.”)

      — c.

    • Again, you don’t HAVE to have a e-reader to have e-books. All you need is a computer. Amazon has a free downloadable app for e-books to read on your PC. So no, you don’t need to buy a special device for reading e-books if you already own a computer of some sort.

    • “E-books are crazy expensive! I can’t afford them!” But you somehow managed to pony up the cash for an e-book-reader/tablet/smartphone? Then I’ve got news for you: It’s not that you can’t afford books, it’s that you don’t want to pay, because you’d rather spend money on things that you can’t download and therefore have to pay for.

      I actually got so cheesed off with this argument that I’ve written a post about it, here. Tl;dr? How about we quit making judgements on how people choose to spend their money, since we don’t know what the fuck is going on with their lives, and just stick to the issue at hand: authors not getting paid.

      Fuck off with your “libraries, sunshine” condescension. Libraries are not a universal panacea. Intersectionality is a thing. Someone who is disadvantaged by having no money might also be disadvantaged by living in the middle of nowhere, or too scared to leave their house, or too physically impaired to leave their house.

      • Here is a response to your own writing just in case you missed it in your blog:

        In addition to the fact that Chuck Wendig didn’t say that (if you have an e-reader you must have the money for an e-book), what the majority of the postings were about was the fact that stealing books is exactly that, stealing. I would be surprised if you were to add to the post above (on your blog) how your horrible depression and inability to leave your home justified stealing comfort food from the local grocery store. Stealing is stealing, and that is the basis for the post that Chuck made, and most of the responses that were there (on this site).

        I am sorry to hear that you experienced such hard times. That still doesn’t justify stealing. There are plenty of free -ebooks online. Almost any classic title that you can think of is available for free due to loss of copyright. So, now does the argument change to, that isn’t my taste in books?

        Again, I am sorry for the hard times you experienced, and I am happy that you found something to be passionate about during that time (reading). Don’t make the mistake of translating your passion for reading into advocacy of theft. Instead, perhaps you could, and should, work to “pay it backward” and find ways to advocate the writers (which includes buying the books you stole when you couldn’t buy them) and publishers and editors, etc. that you took advantage of in your hour of need. This would be far better than supporting the best way to put all of them into the same financial challenge that they carried you through.

        • Wait, so not content with coming to my blog and accusing me of stealing, you… waited until after I’d replied and emailed you (because this comment wasn’t there when I went to bed after replying to you), and then accused me on Chuck Wendig’s blog too? Wow.

          So hey, for the record, my post does not mention a single illegal or immoral source of ebooks. It deals purely with this idea that if you can afford x, you must be able to afford y. If the argument against piracy falls down when you’re asked to stop making judgements on other people’s financial decisions, it’s a shit argument.

          For those who’re still missing it: I am not arguing for piracy. I am arguing that it’s none of your business whether someone who pirates books owns an ereader or not, nor how much they paid for it. It’s fair to say “if you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it”; outside of that, you have no right to make judgements on the cost effectiveness of other people’s decisions. As I’ve demonstrated, there are plenty of reasons why an ereader is still a smart decision even if you can’t afford ebooks, because there are free sources of books. Several of these comments have disregarded that.

        • Thanks Ward! If I ever forget how to write character dialogue that is disgustingly patronizing, I’ll just click the bookmark to this comment.

          Not a single sentence in Brightspark’s article advocated theft/digital piracy. In fact, she specifically stated that she did NOT want to touch on that issue in the first few lines. The only thing she advocated was e-reader ownership. She mentioned non-copyrighted material, she plugged Project Gutenberg (which is a great site), and she advocated silence from assholes like you who can’t keep judgmental hot air full of erroneous preconceptions and fallacious logic from spewing onto comment sections like this one.

          You owe her an apology.

      • I think I’ll just quote Ward’s answer from your blog, since they say it far more level-headed than I could.

        “In that discussion, nobody made the argument that poor people should not purchase e-readers. What was expressed was that people should not justify stealing e-books by saying that they are too poor to purchase them, and that purchasing an e-reader or other device to read stolen e-books undermines the argument that they are too poor to purchase the e-books and therefore justified in stealing them. Both of these statements are logical and valid points related to the justification of piracy.

        Apparently, your sensitivity to others assuming the worst in you lead you to assume the worst in others, and to think that they were commenting on fiscal choices rather than the fact that being poor doesn’t justify thievery of e-books. Your assumption lead you to undermine reasonable arguments that people were making against piracy, and therefore you, perhaps inadvertently, argued in support of piracy.”

        There are so many ways to get free e-books (either out of copyright or people giving their works away for free) that they could last someone a lifetime. Which I don’t need to tell you, because you mentioned them in your post. But schmuckweasels like the person who wrote that email? They don’t want free books, they want a free copy of Hunger Games or Game of Thrones or whatever. They steal what they want because they can, then afterwards they make up a justification.
        No go on and tell me to ‘fuck off with your condescending attitude that poor people don’t deserve to read the same books as the rest of us because they can’t afford them’.

        • This is not a reasonable argument against piracy:

          “E-books are crazy expensive! I can’t afford them!” But you somehow managed to pony up the cash for an e-book-reader/tablet/smartphone? Then I’ve got news for you: It’s not that you can’t afford books, it’s that you don’t want to pay, because you’d rather spend money on things that you can’t download and therefore have to pay for.

          This is making unwarranted judgements about other people’s finances.

          I agree with you, the person who wrote that email likely is making up justifications for something they know is wrong because piracy is easy and they can get all the books they want. However, arguments like the one quoted don’t address that person — they address everyone who cannot afford ebooks, and say well, if you have an ereader, you can afford books, you’re just a cheapskate. Oh I know, I know, I’m supposed to magically divine intent and realise that these people aren’t addressing those who have ereaders and use them as an extremely cost effective way of accessing books — but you know what? Intent isn’t magical, and I don’t believe for a second people making that argument even thought about the ways an ereader could be cost effective for a poor person. They just see “luxury item” and go straight to “you can’t really be poor”.

          • Right, it’s the same logic where people see someone with a smartphone and that person shouldn’t be allowed on welfare. (And usually the person with the smartphone didn’t pay for it — someone else did FOR THEM, so that they could have it.)

            I will admit that some people say they “can’t afford” something when what they really mean is, in fact, they made a choice to spend money on other frivolous things.

            Others really can’t afford it, and as you note: lots of free content and ways to get that free content onto a computer or other reading device.

            — c.

          • You know what? You’re right. I didn’t put enough thought into what I posted and I can see how it could be read as me saying that poor people shouldn’t own nice things, because then they’re not really poor. I didn’t mean that and I’m genuinely sorry to have come across that way.
            I still don’t feel it was unwarranted of me to speculate on the financials (or for that matter IQ) of someone making that kind of statement (after all, they made the statement that ‘Stephen King doesn’t need the money’ and what the hell do they know about that, really?) But taking them owning a ereader as something to be used against them was just dumb. There are tons of great argument to be made about pirating, but ‘You own an ereader so you should be able to afford e-books’ is not one of them. So again, I didn’t mean it and I’m sorry.

            I stand by me wanting to punch Schmuckweasel’s face. Pirating can be forgiven, writing that kind of condescending drivel, to an author you claim to like, cannot.

  27. I read this yesterday and kept thinking about it. First, DONATE BUTTONS?! Are you kidding me? Are we writers panhandlers now? Sorry, but I ain’t Billy Joel sitting in front of a beer-soaked microphone waiting for customers to put bread in my jar. Second, I know and understand how seductive this line of thinking can be, “It’s just me. My stealing this book/album/movie isn’t going to make any difference to anyone. I’ll make it up to the artist when I get in a better financial situation.” Hello, libraries were made for people in poor financial situations. Despite stereotypes, librarians are super nice people who would definitely consider (at least) purchasing a book that a patron has requested. There is also Inter-Library Loan, which most libraries in the world have, in one form or another. Third, if you can afford a computer to spew your view, then you can afford a book. If you’re using the computers at the library, why the hell aren’t you using their books too? Great answer, Chuck! Stick to your guns so you can keep your little boy in good toilet-deucing form.

    • Hey,
      I know you probably weren’t expecting a reply to a post from a couple years ago, but here I am anyway! Ahem. I was struck by your line about writers and panhandlers, and I just wanted to offer a contrasting perspective. A panhandler is someone who asks for money without providing service. If you compare that to a busker (street artists), they offer service in the form of skill and performance. You aren’t simply paying them for the fire they blew or the start the living statue gave you, you’re paying them for all the hours and time and effort they put into learning that skill in the first place. Artists were meant to be supported by their communities, and it’s only in modern times that that’s changed. Look to the Greeks who wined and dined any storyteller who arrived on their doorstep to pay homage to his craft. Or more recently, T.S. Eliot who was patronized by the Parisian ex pats, including Hemingway (when he was living paycheck to paycheck himself) and the mastermind, Ezra Pound, with Bel-Esprit.

      However, let’s cut to now to make this a bit more relevant to digital and modern writing. Consider that until recently, writers who did what bloggers do now used to get paid for it. They were journalists, columnists, etc. who produced articles, features and stories. That work’s skill, effort, research, time, and stress, and the result of it the Internet now acts entitled to. You think they should continue to work for free? Or should they be forced to stop due to finances? Maybe they should charge a subscription fee. Well, what if a writer who isn’t well-known enough? They will get nothing.

      What Patreon and donation buttons do is allow those who deeply appreciated the work and are able to give something in return to do so. If you aren’t able to give or are unwilling, you don’t have to. And that’s the beauty of it. Those who want to support a writer/creator can and because that creator is supported and can now pay their bills or buy food, they’re able to keep creating and give the work to everyone for free. That said, it’s not demanding that people support the ability of others to get free content, rather it’s allowing the willing to do so if they want to. So the bottom line is that the ability to donate helps the creators /and/ those who don’t donate, without requiring anything from anyone. It’s all about asking and allowing the willing to answer.

    • Really? You put in the hard work to create the value that the consumer appreciates, and you’re so damned proud that you’ll call their sincere appreciation panhandling?

      ‘Donate’ might be a poor word to frame it, but the tipping format is the primary means by which I monetize my creative work, with Freemium being a distant second.

      I find myself far more successful giving my fans a chance to pay me out of good will and appreciation than trying to sell them something.

  28. We do live in a capitalist society. A tenant of capitalism is to maximize return while minimizing cost outlay. The anonymous author has simply excelled at this equation by lowering their costs to zero. If you want to play capitalism but can’t protect your content/products/services from having them reduced to zero cost, or can’t meet the market at the market price and turn a profit, then you lose at playing capitalism. welcome to the creative market in 2014.

      • Absolutely, if you are a character in Grand Theft Auto or that kind of video game.

        Um, by the way, Simon, capitalism isn’t a game. You don’t gain XP for stealing the produce of someone else’s hard work

    • Thank you, Simon, for that beautiful allegory of the Organized Crime perspective of Capitalism.

      “Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”
      From Mirriam-Webster

      “A tenant of capitalism is to maximize return while minimizing cost outlay.”

      –True, but if we’re diving into micro-economics here, you forgot a crucial point: These are both facets of the function of PRODUCTION. Anonymous is producing NOTHING. Trying to dress up theft of property (intellectual or otherwise, thanks Chuck) as “capitalism” is not only arrogant and inherently wrong, but also destructive and fallacious.

      Since we’re exploring the tenants of capitalism, the anonymous comment does call to mind an economic concept that actually obtains:

      Free Rider Problem
      “A free rider, in economics, refers to someone who benefits from resources, goods, or services without paying for the cost of the benefit. Free riding may be considered as a free rider problem when it leads to under-provision of goods or services, or when it leads to overuse or degradation of a common property resource.”
      From “Welfare Economics and State Theory”

      –Granted, this is usually associated with Public Goods (and this source is all about public economics), but it works perfectly well here. To use our host as an example: The more Chuck’s books are pirated online, the more his publishers are forced to raise the cost of the books in the market, passing on the costs to those of us who purchase them. Economic theory suggests that less people will then purchase the books, and if the problem persists, it will not be economically feasible for Chuck and his publishers to continue to produce, ergo, I’ll never get to read the conclusion of the Dinocalypse Now Trilogy.

      There are a few others, such as “Pure Economic Loss” and “Seizure of Private Property”, among others, but this will get boring if I go into them, so let’s explore this nugget of wisdom:

      “If you want to play capitalism but can’t protect your content/products/services from having them reduced to zero cost, or can’t meet the market at the market price and turn a profit, then you lose at playing capitalism.”

      A few quick points on this:
      1. Forgets the fact that capitalism is based in private ownership
      2. Ignores illegality and potential (if not probable) prosecution
      3. Callous disregard for (intellectual) property rights
      4. Incorrectly equates “the market” and “the market price” with stolen goods and shadow economy
      5. Fails to account for the above mentioned final result of the producer “losing at capitalism”: no more production

      If you are actually interested in capitalism, I would recommend “The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith or “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” by John Maynard Keynes, both of which are public domain and may be LEGALLY downloaded for free. Or, for a slightly more modern view, I would go with “Free to Choose” by Milton Friedman or “Principles of Economics” by Gregory Mankiw. These can be purchased on amazon or pirated for free, if you want to “win at capitalism.”

      That’s all I got. Chuck, let me know if you get anything good out of his car or pocket.

  29. This sort of entitled bull really yanks my chain. What Chuck said was right: if you can’t afford it, you don’t get to have it. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO HAVE WHATEVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE.

    And as for the tip jar, you’re basically saying that EVERYONE ELSE should fund your free books. Erm, no. I PAY THE AUTHOR by BUYING THEIR DAMN BOOKS.


  30. Whilst I admonish the thoughts and actions of our Unofficial Reader, I am not an example to follow as I have taken aspects of their behaviour and made them my own.

    Being a person who enjoys traditional gaming, including roleplaying, I have been exposed to the practice of electronic versions being included with the purchase of the physical book. I am clearly not alone in the thought that this should become standard in all forms of book publishing.

    The ease of piracy allows me to help myself to an electronic version (should one be available) when it is not offered as a bundle with the physical copy. I freely admit to doing this, with both roleplaying games and books I will read for self-contained pleasure. I have done this with many authors, Mr Chuck Wendig included. I am not of the belief that I have harmed the author, as I have purchased their book so they and their partners receive payment for my enjoyment of their work.

    In these actions I am taking something I have not specifically paid for. It is piracy and it is theft. I am doing so because I believe there is no harm in it. I have paid for the contents of the book and am just allowing myself to consume it in alternative methods should I wish it. I cannot read The Blue Blazes in paperback and electronic form simultaneously and I do not loan books either, so I see it as a harmless practice. This self-justification may be seen as a slippery slope, but if stuck to the fundamentals of ‘buy physical; download electronic’, then I think it’s alright. If I buy an ebook and later see a need for owning the physical book, I’m not going to steal one. That action harms the retailer financially and is not okay, even though it is a parallel to the same line of thinking.

    I will freely admit that I haven’t stuck to this religiously in the past, not in the correct order at least. During a period of unemployment, I did download a bunch of Jim Butcher’s books in the Dresden files series. It was a case of “I can’t afford it, but I want it”, but it was far from malicious. It was a time when I needed some entertainment to keep me going and the internet was there to provide it. I have since purchased all of Jim Butcher’s works, including those I previously pirated: it is what I would’ve done had I been in a position to do so at the time.

    As an Australian also, I can confirm the existence of libraries and their greatness. I’ve used them since I knew how to read, which was pre-Kindergarten (thanks mum!). Our country is becoming well known for piracy, but we’re also known for making an effort to get around things preventing us paying for access to things, like Netflix. Distributors in our country are trying to take us for every dollar we have and our retailers are prevented from using international alternatives in many instances (book distributors are specifically protected and retailers in this market are hurting severely because of it). This keeps prices high as competition is low, but that is in a world where the internet doesn’t exist. If our Unofficial Reader, and others like them, looked around for cheap prices as enthusiastically as they did for the pirated equivalent they’d likely be surprised (and then possibly pirate it anyway, because [insert system/corporation/paper-thin excuse here] or because they’ve gotten used to doing it). It’s no excuse for outright piracy, buying things at a non-extortionate price just takes a little more effort.

    On the donate button issue, it can serve as something a little more than ‘I pirated your stuff and liked it, here’s some money’. We’ve all had tough times in our lives and often there is something that helps us through such times. Music, books, podcasts, whatever it may be can be what makes the situation bearable. After facing such times, I’ve made an effort to make use of the donate button or whatever method there is to directly thank whoever they are for doing what they do, so they know they’ve made a difference and that they’re appreciated. Of course there are other methods like buying more of their stuff, maybe giving it away or something, then sending them an email or somehow letting them know, and I’ve done that too. A donate button is just another option, it may not be as nice as buying stuff and giving it away and the creator seeing they’ve made a difference in someone’s life AND potentially doing the same for another and growing their audience, but it is an option.

    I apologise for the long-winded nature of this and appreciate you not burning my house down because I pirated (and also bought, don’t forget!) your stuff.

  31. Dear ‘Unofficial Reader”,

    I get it. You are willing to steal things you want because, for whatever reasons, you choose not to pay. Fine. You’ve made your decision and I doubt there is anything I could say to change this.

    But then you pretend that your wants (not needs) supersede the legal or moral rights of others and try to legitimize this with poorly reasoned justifications.

    I sincerely hope you do not actually believe this nonsense because it is one thing to lie to others, but it is quite another to lie to yourself. That’s just sad, child.

  32. The piracy issue gets debated on Reddit fairly often, with the same tired arguments used here about how piracy supposedly doesn’t hurt authors repeated ad nauseum.

    I think the most unusual critique of the “piracy doesn’t hurt anyone” position that I’ve seen is the exchange between user Skittay and user gemini_dream in this thread:

  33. I like Cory Doctorow’s approach of publishing a list of libraries / schools etc which would like to have a copy of his books – so even if I don’t really want a copy of his book but do want to support his efforts / reward his blogging / whatever, I can buy a copy for one of those people and everyone wins (Doctorow gets book sales figures, all the people involved in the book creation and publishing process get paid, a worthwhile institution which wanted a copy but might not have been able to afford it gets a copy).

  34. I’m sure everyone’s congratulated you for saying this and I’m beating a dead horse but, duh, libraries. We borrow audio books, put them in our computers and phones, return them right away for someone else to borrow and delete the files when we’re done. Feels like piracy … but it’s not. These days we can be legal pirates.

    Also – and I know it’s not the best way to support writers (I buy from indie bookstores and all the other ways too) but Amazon’s kindle deals are awesome. I bought BLUE BLAZES the other day for 1.99 and added audio for 99 cents. That’s $3 for an audio book. Insane. People really can’t complain anymore.

    (Blue Blazes – two thumbs up – btw! I love a good audio book while I draw and paint. Patrick Lawlor does killer voices for the characters.)

  35. I’ve not read any of your books, or your blog before, but I just went and bought Blackbirds based on the awesome one-line description you gave of it. And you totally schooled the commenter. Nice work.

  36. Is it possible to sell e-books under ten bucks and make a living? I write because I have to write. But I think it’s harder and harder to think of it as ever being a ‘living’. The digital age has changed everything. I get excited when I can buy a book for 2 bucks on Amazon, but I feel guilty. I also utilize libraries. I have since I was a child.

  37. I haven’t read your books… yet. That’s the key word. I don’t have much money that I can spend on music , books and things, but I do plan to buy a heap of books – including a few of yours. I’m always writing, and just from reading through a few blog posts of yours, I have come up with so many ideas on what to write about, character ideas, just silly little things too. Honestly, I found your blog when I got stuck with my current plot. It helped so much more than all the plot generators (which are kinda useless and mostly nonsensical, so I rarely use them) and all the how-to-get-ideas blogs/sites that I practically devour whenever I’m stuck. Seriously, wow man. I’m definately going to get a few of your books ASAP. It’s on my list. (Along with about two billion other things)

  38. You’re really shooting yourself in the foot by ignoring Patreon, imo.

    Create exclusives for your patrons, simple as that. Your books should be a separate thing.

    I share your attitude toward pirates. They aren’t going anywhere, people. Might as well let them be brand ambassadors. Word of mouth is still powerful, and most pirates don’t pirate for the thrill of stealing. They do because they’re broke. Later, when they have money, they might just buy your book. In the meantime, they might advocate for your work.

  39. “So instead I’ll say: libraries are really great.”

    Yeah. Libraries are great. So lets take hours from our modern crammed neoliberal daily schedules to travel to libraries, queue for a the few available books which we want to read, and maybe get and read them in the next 6 months, sometime. That is, if we can find any way to shove it into our daily struggle.

    The grossly capitalistic world you are defending in your article is creating the conditions depicted in the above paragraph. It comes with a package, with piracy included as a result of the very nature of the other parts of that package. So, either get used to it, or try to change those other parts so people can find time, money and energy to deal with getting anyone’s books.

    “my publishers”

    The publishers you love very much have been not only the self-censoring censors of free speech by refusing to publish whatever work that would challenge the establishment spoken of above, but also they were the ones profiting to extreme from doing so. They are one of the top reasons why our world is how it is today, with people living on prozac while working in stressful, overtime day jobs to make a living.


    You are defending every single factor above, which created the conditions you are complaining about. Incredible contradiction.

    Do stay away from Patreon. From pirates. From crowdfunding. From creative commons.

    It is a new world, and the perspective you are advocating has no place in it.

  40. Hi Chuck,
    I have a backlog of several hundred emails from you (yes, I’m actually reading them and /finally/ making a concerted effort to chip away at them) and today, while looking at the last page to see what date they stopped at, this post’s title caught my eye. Seeing “Patreon” (of which I’m a huge advocate) and “Piracy” in the same line reflexively left me tense. That said, I was very relieved with how you handled it. While I don’t entirely agree with you, I do understand your perspective. I respect your opinion immensely and as a result I’d like to support you.
    I’ve been a reader (though not really a commenter/contributor) of your blog for a few years. And it’s because of your blog that /finally/ I bought two of your books (today in fact). That said, your blog is the main product I consume. The amount of time, effort, work, etc. that you put into it makes it its own entity, separate from your books, but equally important. As such, I was wondering if you might reconsider Patreon in that light.

    If you kept it solely focused on the blog side of things, it wouldn’t cheat the lovely editors, illustrators, proofers, etc. that work on your books, but it would ease the burden of supporting a high-traffic website and give you some windfall in case anything unexpected should happen. What’s more, it would be a great place for your avid fans to congregate and get a little something extra for their loyalty. Not to mention that you could tap them if you wanted an early opinion or feedback on something before releasing it into the wild.

    Anyway, just a thought and a not-actually-affliated-with-but-huge-supporter-of Patreon pitch. In the end, I hope you do whatever is best for you, even if that means skipping out on subscriptions or donations. I’ll keep following your work either way.


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