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.