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 seen some people add a donate button to their website. I have added one to my blog just recently, but I’m donating half of what I earn to a reading program at a school. I see your point. I love your blog. I purchased one of your books and plan to read it soon.

  2. I understand about not being able to afford book. I’m in the maybe lower class, maybe poverty gray area. It sucks, and it feels like everything is too expensive. I have great struggles over buying ebooks that have been discounted to a couple of books.

    However, I read almost all the books I read either from borrowing them from friends, or the library. There is legit ways to get books that the author accepts and is okay with.

    And, when I can I buy books from authors who I love and want to support. And, sometimes, when I want to buy a book and I can’t, I promote the author instead. Everyone deserves to be paid for their efforts.

  3. Okay, let me get this straight. Writing is your job, but you don’t deserve to be paid for your work. In the meantime, he has a job, and he expects to be paid fairly for his efforts. I might be missing something here, but that’s how I read things.

    • Sadly a lot of people don’t see writing as a job. At least that is what I have been told, when I said what I want to do for a living.
      Because, you know, all those books in bookstores appear by magic, not hard work.

    • Hayden didnt you know? Everyone has a book within. Everyone can be a writer and everyone is. For some its more virtual than others, but the potential, it lies within dormant just waiting for that right moment to explode into creativity. Isnt that how you approach writing? None of that sitting down everyday burning neurons, learning the CRAFT of writing, writing and rewriting and rewriting, learning some more, scrapping the whole idea of writing, realizing you cant scrap the idea of writing because its your driving force and why not just shoot me in the head?
      Im sure no REAL writer goes through any of that. Now excuse me while I go ride my pegacorn into my castle of creativity, where my next bestseller awaits in a cloud of fairy farts.

  4. People like “Unofficial Reader” are wont to argue that downloading a movie (or a book) is not stealing, because it does not deprive anybody of ownership. In making this argument they conveniently ignore the whole basis of our society. Capitalism places a value on that work. This value dictates the level of the bar above which the ‘haves’ can access the media, and the ‘have nots’ cannot, until they devote sufficient resources (value) to its acquisition.

    “Stealing” is not merely the transfer of possession of a physical good. Rather, it is the abrogation of the capitalist contract – the taking of something of value without a corresponding payment of another kind of value. If I steal a paperback from a bookstore, I am not likely to be depriving the store of a sale; in most instances there will be plenty to spare, and if I take the last one the store can simply order more stock. Rather, I deprive the store (and the manufacturer/distributor/artist) of my return of value in exchange for that book and the value it represents.

    But “information should be freeeee!” I hear them protest. Nope! They’re actually arguing either that the media has no value – for which, see Chuck’s point 2, above – or that the current system of “exchange of value” is null and void on the internet. In a way, it could be argued that online piracy is not only theft. It could be feasibly argued that online piracy is a form of revolutionary activity.

    So good on you revolutionary sweary at-least-partly-illiterate Australian guy. Now can you turn your fucking attention to revolting against someone that deserves it rather than honest writers? It’s not as if Australia is currently lacking in worthy contenders.

    • People always forget the full Brand quote when they spew about information wanting to be free: “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

  5. Wow Just Wow ! I need to take a deep breath….. what a gut this guy has….

    As a reader and not a writer that is unemployed now(hopefully it ill be a temporary situation) , which mean money issues I completely understand your demand for fair trade…this guy enjoy your works (literally) he can pay buy promoting it if he can’t do it by buying it. Period! Infect this is how I found myself with a site as a blogger….

    Honestly I felt that I need to give something back.. I can’t buy books now but I do get them in 2 was…1st for reviewing them and 2nd through many many giveaway and kindles/mobies/pdf freebies..

    And yes i work hard on my reviews in exchange….even if it unpleasant one i do try to make it the criticism constructive. My witnesses is a huge pile of books and comp.libraries full with books that I still have to read (I am an avid reader I can’t stop to succumb to this temptation of seeing books and just want to read them… like a child in a candy store or something)

    As for the library… I really don’t know why i stopped use them, maybe because i am greedy , maybe i am a hoarder… I still need to figure it out .


  6. So wait…. this guy ‘can’t afford’ to buy all the ebooks he wants (I know that feeling – I can’t afford to buy all the designer dresses I want either… so sad…) but he CAN afford to have bought whatever ebook reader-thingy he reads his pirated books on? Strange, I thought compared to ebooks those things were WAY more expensive… I had to save up for three years to get mine…

    And because ebooks aren’t a physical product they cost nothing to produce? Okay fine, let’s extend that logic a bit shall we? Let’s imagine for a moment, Mr Pirating Person, that your day job is in Customer Services. YOU don’t provide a ‘physical product’ either – you provide a service. So how about YOU don’t get paid anything for YOUR job? After all, you’re not providing anything physical to your customers either, and therefore it costs YOU nothing to provide YOUR services, does it? Oh what’s that – it does? Oh well, no-one gives a flying firkin about THAT, ’cause WE’RE not affected by it, so I think we’ll just say we’re totally justified in not paying you another bean for your job from now on. Tell you what though… why don’t you wear a nice, shiny badge on your lapel with the words ‘Please donate’ on it? Yeah, ’cause you know you can totally rely on the loads of kindly people out there who’ll just spontaneously give you money they’re not obliged to give you, rather than, y’know, just let you offer them customer service for FREE..!

    /end rant.

    I feel a bit better now.

    • To be fair, my current ereader only cost me £25 (compared to four years ago when my first cost me £180). I just didn’t buy any books for a couple of months and voila, ereader, on which I can read tons of free books from Project Gutenberg, the library, Smashwords, Baen, random promotions, etc, etc, in addition to any books I buy (which are usually cheaper than buying dead tree books). Way better value for money, well worth saving for, even when I had no income.

      • Actually, you don’t NEED an e-reader device to read e-books. There is a fun little e-book app that you can download onto your computer and voila! You can read e-books for free ^.^ That’s what I use so this pirate guy no doubt has done the same (if he is indeed in as much financial trouble as he claims.) So no, you don’t need to spend money to be able to read e-books, that’s the real beauty of it =P

        • Or you can load an e-reader app onto your smartphone, and have the portability of a dedicated e-reader too. (Some people find a smartphone screen uncomfortably small to read off of, but I don’t have a problem with it.)

          • Right but my point was, if he can’t afford an e-reader, he probably doesn’t have a smart phone (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt okay?) but he obviously has a computer of some sort. So that’s why I went with that example =P Also, it’s what I use lol

  7. I third that comment about being embarrassed to be Australian right now…We are kinda sucky as a whole at the moment and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better…However that is discussion for another time.

    The only free books I ever get are the ones I win (extremely rarely), the ones that are given to me as gifts (quiet frequently but hey someone bought them for the purpose of giving), and the ones I scab out of the “free books” box out the front of my local second hand book shop (some real gems end up in there). I also work for a writers centre and our whole purpose is to make sure writers get paid what they’re worth and get the recognition they deserve. Often I receive emails saying that we should run our programs for free and that the authors who run our workshops shouldn’t ask money for teaching because they are getting promotion and god knows what else and really the people doing the course are struggling authors who haven’t cracked the big time and deserve to learn the tricks of the trade for free. Yes that is pretty much straight out of one recent email. (I usually point them to your website Chuck, so, sorry but Unofficial Reader may be one of those asshats)

    Anyway asshats aside. I am constantly recommending authors I love to random people in bookshops or the library or you know family and friends…I don’t run around throwing myself at random strangers and forcing them to buy more books. I just can’t abide by piracy. It is like someone coming into your house eating half the contents of your fridge and taking a bottle of milk with them. I usually ask them how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. Which is often met with ifs and buts and that’s not the same thing…It is the same damn thing.

    I am sorry I think this comment derailed somewhere there. Anyway the summary is buying books is awesome and people who think they can justify piracy for what ever noble-anti-capitalist are asshats.

  8. Piracy in Hollywood, equally a problem which trickles down to the collaborative whole of above/below-line talent, including the writers. And, the excuses hinge on similar justifications. Intellectual property rights can be pirated with a certain arrogance; you can’t jump on a plane to Sydney and check into the Hilton with the same claim of poverty or the same expectation of not paying for the trip.

    • Book piracy and music piracy confuse me because there’s plenty of free-ish ways to get those. Movie and (sometimes) TV piracy are way more acceptable to me, but Netflix is cheap and a lot of recently aired episodes are free online the day after they air now. I do not feel bad about pirating a big block buster movie, though.

  9. Chuck, I can only admire how reasonably you handle people like this. *applauds*

    There is no excuse for piracy. People who keep coming up with silly excuses for it know what they are doing is wrong. That’s why they try so hard to justify it – because they know that taking without paying for it it stealing. ‘Unofficial reader’ claims he can’t afford all the books he wants to read. I can’t afford to travel around the world and see all the places I want to see. Does that mean I have the right to hijack a plane and force the pilot to take me everywhere I want to go? No. I can’t afford a new car. Does that mean I can take someone else’s? No.

    People can get books from the library. They can get them in secondhand bookshops. If they still don’t have the money for all of them, they might have to accept they can’t have all the books they want. Piracy is just another example of our culture where people think that by wanting something they are automatically entitled to have it.

    But pirates wouldn’t work for free. If they spend eight or nine hours in an office and then their boss said they couldn’t afford to pay staff that day but maybe the staff could ask their colleagues for a donation, said staff members would raise hell.

    What pirates refuse to acknowledge is that the more people that steal books, the less the authors can afford to write them. Lilith Saintcrow had to stop writing her Steelflower series because excessive piracy meant she wasn’t earning enough to carry on writing the series.

    Piracy is a glaring example of the self-gratification of our society. People want something so they take it. And it’s completely wrong, no matter how they try to pretty it up with fancy excuses.

    • I’ve noted elsewhere that I was (past tense) a bit of a pirate myself. And I agree with you. More than illegal it is wrong. Now that I am no longer poor, I’m making a dedicated effort to buy all the things I pirated back then, before I buy anything new that I might want.

      But I was poor. Very poor. I was fortunate enough to live in a country that refused to let me starve or freeze to death, but it wasn’t good times. Books and movies and TV shows was how I got through it. I needed that escape or I’d have gone even more nuts than I did. I’m not saying that’s an excuse, I’m not saying what I did was right or even excusable. It wasn’t. But I try to imagine making it through that time without stories to cling to, without ever being entertained or just not being in my own head and my own life when I needed to get away so badly, and I can’t imagine how I would have done it. I genuinely don’t.

      I know it sounds like I’m trying to make up justifications for what I did, but sometimes I do honestly wonder whether escapism is a luxury or a genuine need. Not books or movies or entertainment, but the escapism they provide. I can only speak for myself, but I needed it. The worse your life is, the stronger your urge to escape from it. I needed to not be in my own life for a couple of hours and there’s only two things that could help me do that: stories and drugs. And I couldn’t download free drugs.

      It’s not okay. I wish I hadn’t done it, that I’d found another way, that I got the money for stories somehow, but… I don’t know. I do know for a fact that it wasn’t about entitlement and greed with me, not in the way it’s presented here. Maybe I’m an exception and maybe I’m not, but I’ve never seen any research into the mindset of pirates, so I don’t know. (If that research exists, I’d love to see it. Seems worthwhile to know these things for a fact.) And yes, you’re right, you absolutely do end up clinging to excuses and half-baked “facts” about how you’re not harming anyone. Because that’s what human brains do under those circumstances. It’s not okay, but there’s a lot of paths with very different origins that converge in that place where the justifications start.

      So I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you. Not at all, really. I’m just hoping to add a shade of gray to a very black-and-white argument. Because I know from experience that the last thing a poor person needs to hear is “you could just…”

      I couldn’t just. I couldn’t just save up for books and movies, because there was no money to save. I couldn’t just go to the library, because of reasons I’m not going to share here. I couldn’t just not read, because what sort of life is that? The idea of not being able to buy anything but the crudest necessities is not just an intellectual argument for me. And while I’m pretty sure that this person who wrote the email is more in a “don’t wanna” situation than a “can’t” situation, there are people for which the latter is 100% true. When you have nothing, that download button is mighty tempting.

      It’s not right, what I did. Not even a little bit. I can’t say that enough. But I don’t think it’s all down to callous greed and entitlement either.

  10. The ONLY time I pirated and read novels were The Hunger Games Trilogy and the last book for The Night Angel Trilogy. Only because I NEEDED to read the next book IMMEDIATELY and couldn’t get to a bookstore that moment. But in the end I did buy it because I love having a physical copy of a book I wanted to read that badly.

    With the invention of ebooks and thrift stores and libraries, I think it’s absolutely riddiculous that a person cannot afford books. Maybe brand new physical books at Barnes and Noble. That I can understand. But if you have a job, you can buy a damn book.

    Anything else a person says is just a lie hiding the real reason people pirate books and music.

    That we’re damn lazy. It takes effort to save and shop and etc. Going and downloading a torrent of a thing is super quick and satisfying.

    I don’t know whether or not it’s okay for people to pirate stuff on a financial level.

    I do know pirating is horrible on a creating a human society to be proud of level. If you aspire to be wealthy, happy and have high self worth, pirating is definitely NOT the way to go.

  11. Not saying this works for all but I discovered Scott Sigler via his free online offerings and then went back and bought a bunch of his publications I’d already read as I felt it was only fair. No piracy involved, just straightforward speculation with a view to potential accumulation on his part.

  12. I’m a recovering pirate myself, and I’m not proud of it. These days the only thing I’ll pirate is things I cannot legitimately buy in my country.

    But I’ve never, not once, not even on my piratiest, booziest, bootiest, dead-man’s-chestiest night even considered writing a snarky advice email to the people I took things from. I can’t fathom the mind of someone who would do that. It’s fascinating and horrific, like the Swamp Thing. What logical steps must have happened in their head to make them think this was an okay thing to do? I’m just sitting here trying to imagine being the kind of person who pirates books and likes them, enough to read the author’s blog, and thinking to myself “yes, clearly this person needs my insights regarding the crime I have committed against them. I am a cool person.” And I can’t. Partly it’s because I don’t want to imagine it. The closer I get to the idea of me doing that, the more my brain rejects it. There’s not enough rum in the world.

    You are a saint, Chuck. A goddamn saint.

  13. This actually provoked a question in my mind here: while I like your response and understand your aversion to donations, would you ever consider crowd-sourcing a book? Pulling an Amanda fucking Palmer?

  14. ‘Unofficial Reader’ should consider writing the type of books he wants to read but can’t afford…

  15. I can’t stop payin’ ya! Tweets, links, composing an opera around titles of your site. That last one was a stretch.

    Love anonymous posts.


  16. I don’t know how it is in other states or countries now but the libraries are starting to provide digital content as well. There are several cities in PA that have a e-books that you can ‘borrow’ for two weeks before it expires off your reader and goes back to the library for the next person to borrow. I haven’t checked to see if your books are there yet but then I bought Blackbird so that I could read it. (And your writing books)

    Oh wait…you said to NOT kill in your name? Hrrrm. Guess I should take the altar and the goat back and see if I can return them then.

  17. I agree with everything, though I must admit my blood pressure probably spikes higher than yours over this issue of piracy. My entire catalog of 26 books is out there, including some of the 99c varieties. Come on, if you can afford an ereader, you can’t afford 99c? Or, or, or… gasp, what is he *not* telling us about how he procured that device?
    I’d actually *pay* for a subscription to your blog. It’s one I read religiously. Why? Because you entertain, you “add value” (hate the term but it suits) and you champion storytelling.
    But… since I don’t see a button, I’ll just go buy one of your books.

    • I made a comment about this earlier but I’ll say it again, you don’t NEED to buy an e-reader to be able to read e-books. Amazon has a free app (which is what I use) that you can just download onto your computer and viola! You have access to e-books. So the argument about “if he can afford the e-reader” isn’t really valid because Amazon itself offers a legit way to read e-books without having to buy a device to do so. Yes it’s different than having the Kindle or whatever device but it’s still available.

  18. I find it interesting that people still pull the “I can’t afford it” card when there are so many amazing author-published books out there for so cheap. And on top of that, if you really can’t afford it, how hard is it to send the author an email? “Hey, so I really want to read your book, but I’m broker than broke. Would you send me a copy in exchange for a review? Pretty please with sugar on top?” Many authors would love to put a book in the hands of someone excited to read it who is willing to leave a review in exchange. It falls to being lazy and entitled. “I want it, so I deserve to have it, even if I have to steal it.” That way lies bad things, my friends. Bad, bad things.

    • Many authors would love to put a book in the hands of someone excited to read it who is willing to leave a review in exchange.

      And some respond by telling all their followers on twitter what a c*** you are for asking… Better tactic that avoids being abused and puts it in the hands of the author: set up a blog, get a decent following and post a decent amount, leave an email address in your about page, and authors will start offering you books to review. Sure, you don’t get to pick which authors, but if you do stuff like author spotlights and point the authors to them on twitter, you’re in with a chance. (I got Bruce Holsinger’s A Burnable Book that way, for example.) And it’s always worth keeping an eye out on Netgalley/Edelweiss.

      • Any author who attacks you like that is an asshat who doesn’t deserve your money anyway. None of the authors I know would never do anything that horrid (at least, I hope they wouldn’t). I’ve never said no to a request for an ebook in exchange for a review. I have said no to sending print copies halfway around the world, but that’s because shipping is stupidly expensive. But never ebooks.

  19. Max Barry (Australian writer) responded to this same question with the answer: if you stole my book and liked it, go tell someone else how good it was. Boom.

  20. Most of the pro-piracy arguments seem to hinge around the unofficial reader’s argument #2 so let’s tackle that for a moment.

    The first flaw in the argument is that they are only looking at the cost of the final product: the ebook. From this point of view it is true that it costs very little to “produce” each copy, but using the word “produce” here is false. It should really be “reproduce” to be accurate. The production of the ebook happens months or years before the reader ever sees an ebook. Just for nice round numbers, let’s say it takes an author 1 hour to write 1,000 rough draft words. That means it would take them 100 hours to write 100,000 words (if only right?). They then probably spend 2x that much time again editing the book so now we are at 300 hours. But writers know that you can’t just count pure writing time because the creative process is a fucking involved process after all so let’s just round up to 500 hours to create a publishable manuscript. Even if we pretend that there are no costs beyond that, if those 500 hours were put to use in a low paying $10/hr job, that’s $5,000 that could have been earned (which is the actual definition of an opportunity cost you poorly tried to reference). Even at that low sum, which is low-balling the cost to the max, if the author is lucky and moves 5,000 copies of their ebooks, their cost per ebook would be $1 per book. True the more copies they move, the less the cost per book becomes, but even if between actual sales, giveaways, and stolen pirated copies, they moved 20k copies, their cost per book is $.25/book. If of those 20k copies, 1,000 were stolen copies, they just lost out on $250 of opportunity cost. That may seem like a low number, but would you be willing to give up $250 right now?

    The next part of the argument that a pirate would not have paid money for the book anyway so you didn’t lose out on a real sale relies on the fact that piracy exists in the first place. It ignores the fact that the pirate is obviously an avid reader and would read whether piracy existed or not. If suddenly the ability to pirate were gone, would you never purchase a book again? Would you stop reading? Of course not!! So yes, a pirated download is ALWAYS a loss of a sale because the alternative to you STEALING a copy of a book would be that you actually PAID for a copy of a book. The reasoning can’t be that if I wasn’t able to steal any books, I would not read any books because you have already stated that you are an avid reader. Maybe you would read less. Maybe you’d be forced to actually try to live within your means, but you would still read. You would be buying somebody’s books.

    • Too add to my point about opportunity costs, the pirate doesn’t know how many copies of an ebook the author has moved so they could be stealing copy 1 of 100 or 1 of 1,000,000. Either way they are stealing 1 copy and that 1 copy took a conservative 500 hours of the writer’s time. And that 500 hours of time is for a skill that few others can do so it should be worth much more that $10/hr. Other professions that perform a highly skilled service that the majority of people cannot perform such as lawyers and doctors regularly bill more than $100/hr so are opportunity costs really bullshit? Are they really inflated?

  21. Additional to Chuck’s excellent data, I should add that interested readers can buy ebooks of any or all of his Angry Robot books direct from us ANYWHERE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD via our Robot Trading Company website.

  22. One (of many) parts of this guy’s argument I’m having a problem with: It seems like one of your many publications is often going on sale for a price much lower than a typical ‘tip jar’ contribution. While the intention of these special price drops is to draw in new readers, those would be a great way to for he/she to buy your stuff, as well.

  23. Thanks, Chuck, for a great post. I’ve boosted the signal via FB. You’ve managed to capture my thoughts on this with a lot less whinging and more clarity than I’ve been able to muster. 🙂

  24. The recommendation with the donation button is SO FUNNY! Because I’m an author with a stupid donation button on my website.
    When I ask Google to list me all torrent sites that have my books, I get about 3000 (yes, three-thousand) hits. My Paypal donation button has never been used (yes, ZERO donations).

    • I seriously laughed hard at that section. Unofficial Reader wants a donate button for his favorite authors so they can beg him for money, which he’ll apparently expect other people to pay. Of course occasionally he’ll deign to throw a pittance Chuck’s way, but I think we can assume if that ever happened (big if there), it’d be far below the royalty that would have gone to him if UR had actually bought the book.

  25. I have a donate button on my site, because we gave away something like 5,000 ecopies of GW (legally!) early on through various promotions, which is about $5,000 in royalties I’ll never see. I considered it a sunk marketing cost, but a lot of folks who got it free emailed to say they wanted to pitch in a couple bucks.

    The button has been up for three or four years, and I think I’ve made $100 through it, total.

    I’ll keep it up – because, why not? – but it’s laughable for somebody to think that slapping a “donate” button on your site will feed your kids. This is just something people say to assuage their own guilt. “Hey, writer, if you’re not making money, you’re not working hard enough!”

    For those of us with 40-hour-a-week day jobs and 40-hour-a-week fiction jobs, this is pretty enraging.

  26. EXACTLY! Another great post, sir, and a subject that gets me all stabby. I do sometimes download things for free (and we don’t have a lot of cash to toss around…yeah, writer here too), but if I like a writer/musician/etc, I’ll invest in their works. I picked up Alastair Reynolds’ short story collection from the library and loved ’em, so I contacted him on email (he was a very cool guy, BTW). He suggested his Revelation Space books because they’re set in the same universe, so I picked up the first book at the library. I read it. I went out and bought it and the next books in the series.

    I just don’t get people who think it’s a right to just get stuff for free. Go into the grocery store and pile up a cart and see how fast you’re arrested for trying to just walk out with it.

    I’ll try free things, but if I love it, I’m buying the rest (when I can afford it). It’s only right and supports the possibility of further books/music/whateverthefuck.

    I’ve thought about using the tip jar thing when I’m published (which may be around August), for those who may feel like me and want to donate for something they took for free. I just hope this whackadoo is the minority, otherwise, what’s the point? Yeah, just steal my shit while I’m stuck in an eight dollar an hour job working nights and trying to help feed my family, you stupid twat.

  27. And if you want to donate and don’t want the book, or the merch, give it away. Leave the mug in the breakroom at an office supply store. Something. Just because you buy it doesn’t mean you have to keep it.

    Now, ‘scuse me, I have to go buy some Chuck swag. 😀

    • Yes, give it to someone you think might like it. They may very well become fans and buy other works. “This wasn’t my cuppa joe, but I think Dude McGillicutty, that guy I know who likes zombie badger sex-bot femme-fatales, might dig it.”

  28. I like how “Reason” 1 – *I cannot afford buying all the books I wish to read; as simple as that* – becomes justification, along with the rest of this self-serving guff, for not buying any books at all.

    In other words, “I can’t afford to buy the books I want so I won’t pay for any of them. So there. It’s your fault they’re so expensive. If they were cheaper, I still wouldn’t pay for them so why not make them free?” Even at that price, people like this wouldn’t pay for them.

    As someone who’s always paid for the things I like, through simple respect for the creator, I have no sympathy with this argument. I’m not flattered that someone thinks my work is literally worthless but still wants to have it.

  29. My thoughts on the “but I can’t afford it!” argument are thus –

    1. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford monthly internet? My internet bill (whether via my computer line or smart phone) is roughly thirty times my cost for an average e-book. Granted, that’s an average. I buy a lot of low-cost author-pubbed items at 99c to level out the $6-10 fare. Still, internet costs a lot more than an e-book.
    2. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford something to read that it on? Whether it’s a computer, smart phone, tablet, or e-reader, these things out-cost the average e-book by at least 5 times if not more. Yes, the e-reader, etc, could be a gift, but seriously? If I was so broke I couldn’t afford a $5 e-book (or the internet service to download it), then getting an e-reader is pretty crappy and mean-spirited unless they were showering me with gift cards throughout the year. It’s like buying someone a saddle when they can’t afford the pony.
    3. If you’re pirating your books from the library (with, you know, computers and free wifi), then why not just BORROW THE DAMN BOOK instead?

    All the free wifi spots (McDonalds, libraries, schools, etc) block access to certain sites. Most of those sites are pirating ones (and porn, can’t be watching porn next to the PlayPlace). Still, free internet hot spots don’t remove the cost of the reader itself. So, no, I don’t buy the whole “I can’t afford it” when it comes to e-books. Not when libraries still exist. Not when used bookstores still exist. Not when yard sales and thrift stores still exist. (though those last two do the author few favors, at least the book was bought once upon a time) No, you won’t get that best seller the day of release at those outlets, but you’ll get them on the cheap or for free without trying to come up with some convoluted logic with more holes than a sponge.

    • 2. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford something to read that it on? Whether it’s a computer, smart phone, tablet, or e-reader, these things out-cost the average e-book by at least 5 times if not more. Yes, the e-reader, etc, could be a gift, but seriously? If I was so broke I couldn’t afford a $5 e-book (or the internet service to download it), then getting an e-reader is pretty crappy and mean-spirited unless they were showering me with gift cards throughout the year. It’s like buying someone a saddle when they can’t afford the pony.

      Average ebook: £5. My ereader: £25. Yeah, okay, your calculation there is right. But what about all the free books you can get if you have an ereader? I get a lot of my books from Netgalley/Edelweiss/direct from authors or publishers, lately. The ereader was a justified investment for me even given the fact that at the time I had no income. It’s, say, five ebooks’ worth — giving me access to the library ebooks, Project Gutenberg, Baen, Smashwords, Netgalley, Edelweiss…

      My internet was paid for by my family. That doesn’t mean I had income. Can we maybe stop trying to police how people calculate out costs and what they spend their money on, and focus on the fact that authors, like anyone else, deserve to get paid?

      • We have a 500 dollar electric bill this month (forget the 400 dollar one the month before or the month before) because winter frankly SUCKED this year and it still beats the grand it would have cost for ONE month of fuel oil. I have a computer. A glitchy desktop computer from maybe 10-15 years ago that’s still on XP, and it’s a loaner, and I lost my laptop, and I’m a writer that still needs to access the internet to look for agents and publishers and deal with the publisher I have now. I can’t AFFORD to even fix my laptop. My wife lost her overtime AND bonuses. I’m working an $8 an hour job in the evenings just to hope for the eventual possibility of making ends meet again so we can barely AFFORD what we have. I agree with the above statement from thebrightspark. Just because YOU are awesome and have awesomey awesome money to pay all your bills AND buy books doesn’t mean everyone can. I’m not saying I swipe books (I don’t). I take advantage of finding new authors through either reviewing them or getting some freebies off Amazon or the occasional library trips when it’s a physical book. Hell, I even put in for contests in the hopes of finding something new. But generalizations about what people can and can’t afford don’t help.

        And in some places, they don’t have ebooks in libraries, or some people might not even have access to them. And show me a used bookstore that sells ebooks. Unfortunately, ebooks are the wave of the future, and they’re rarely sold used.

        So sometimes, the “I can’t afford it” line is legit. But I get your base logic: stealing is still stealing. It just seems to be clouded with, if I can afford it, you can. Sorry if I’m misreading that.

  30. I have not always had money to buy books. I also loved this sight and wanted to support it. So…
    When I didn’t have money for books I planned on checking out Blackbirds from my local library. When I found they didn’t carry it, I requested they order it (support – acheieved!)
    When I discovered I am a HUGE wuss and Blackbirds was a little scary for me, yet I had a little more money to spend on books, I ordered Under the Empyrean Sky for my teenagers, who I thought would enjoy it (they are less wuss-y).
    I also brought the writing book when it came out in physical form.
    Point being, there are lots of ways to support someone if you want to without a donate button (though I also like donate buttons, in no way trashing them).

  31. 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.

    Of course, technically you do make at least some money from personal appearances, though you’re teaching about writing, not “performing” as such. I’ve paid to see your panels at the GenCon writers symposium and found them quite worth the money. (Seriously, people, go see this man talk! He’s worth it! 🙂

    • Whoops, that will teach me to post before my morning coffee. Came here via a link by Mike Stackpole’s Facebook (he also wrote a post about piracy some time back) and thought he was the author. He does give writing lectures. Chuck doesn’t, as far as I know. 🙂

      • That’s okay–Chuck does appear at conferences, and he’s great! I got to hear him–twice–at the Tucson Festival of Books (and it was free. . . ).

  32. I tend to tune out rather quickly when Stephen King’s name is invoked in an argument in favor of piracy. There isn’t a faster way to reveal your myopia than not being able to tell the difference between someone with 40 years of intellectual property as a foundation to being literally the first name people think of in the entire horror genre regardless of media and professional writers on the whole.

  33. Or he could wait around until you have a book available for free or a much reduced cost. Blackbirds was just free a few months ago and others books of yours have been under 2 dollars here and there. But the downloads are still tracked, so you get credit with your publisher and such.

    • That’s where I got Blackbirds and as soon as I can get time to read it in front of this poop PC (I hate reading books on a computer screen…), I’ll give a review (and if it’s as cool as his blog, it’ll be a good one, I’m sure 😉 ).

  34. I liked this. Just promoted your book via Twitter. I agree that buying your books is a great way to support you, and one that I am more than happy to do.

  35. When I was poor–enough money to feed the kid but not the utilities–I went to the library, and I reread the books I already owned. Maybe the library is not accessible, but you can still get free books without pirating. Just now I went to Amazon and searched for free kindle books–it came up with over 57,000 titles. Maybe a title I want wont be on that list, but there has to be something that fits my taste among 57,000 titles. Unofficial reader, you are an ass.

  36. I would most definitely pay to see you “gambol about on stage like Marcel Marceau.” Just in case that ever becomes an option. Also, You’re starting to take up a pretty good portion of my already overcrowded bookshelf. And if i had a dollar for everyone who’s read about Miriam Black after I told them to, well, I’d have about five dollars, but still!

  37. […] On Piracy… Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailGoogleMoreStumbleUponGoogle+ C.J. Casey This entry was posted in Publishing, Writing and tagged Chuck Wendig, Piracy, Terrible Minds. Bookmark the permalink. ← James Clear: The Myth of Creative Inspiration […]

  38. If you want free books, sign up for bookbub our one of the other daily specials. The library is an excellent choice. I have to wonder how someone who can’t afford a book can afford an ereader of some type. Most people can find a way to afford what is important to them. I have my own financial difficulties, but when I want a Wendig book, I schlep a few more hours at the coffee shop on my 50 something year old feet. Don’t steal.

    • We bought an ereader when we had money, a Kindle Fire. Then we didn’t have money because of financial changes. Then the charging port on it died. Then, my laptop died. Then my wife lost her bonuses and overtime. Then I had to go get an $8 an hour job to help pay winter bills and buy food. Still don’t have my laptop back. Still don’t have the ereader back. Using a glitchy loaner desktop. It’s easy to see, really, when income suddenly changes. But I still don’t just feel entitled to swiping books. I just read my old ones for the tenth time.

        • Haven’t yet, because we haven’t had the money if it needs to be fixed. I’ve just now gone back to work and winter and illnesses have pretty much eaten our finances. I really do hope it’s an issue they’ll deal with, but anything beyond that, I can’t pay for.

  39. Well said, and I agree entirely. Also anyone who thinks it costs nothing to write has never taken the process from idea to publication, or they never cared enough about it to die over and over again at the ways it went wrong, had to be cut up and stitched back together.

  40. Absolutely with you on this one, and with . I have a whole load of shorts out there and two (soon to be four) full length books which are a series. There’s only one book in that entire bloody lot that people have to pay for. And they only have to pay £2.50 – which is about $3 US. The last two books will also cost that much each. Is it so much to ask?

    To be honest Arabella’s said it all way better than I can. I don’t like Piracy because I disagree with the view that it’s not our ‘right’ to have everything we want. Piracy is the toddler tantrum of people who think that not getting their way. Some things have to be worked for, other things we will never have. Like that Ferrari I want so much… it’s my right why can’t I have one.

    On the point about readings; I hear the point about free advertising and as an ex stand up comedienne the idea of public readings probably holds less fear for me than it might. But I’d like to earn from what I do best. Putting words next to one another.

    Naturally, I appreciate piracy’s there and it always will be and Since Caxton sold the first printed book I have no doubt there’s been some bloke selling dodgy handwritten copies that were the equivalent of a fuzzy, in theatre video of a new movie complete with screen shadow thrown by some inconsiderate bugger getting up to go for a wee. But hey.

    On the topic of donate buttons. I don’t really like em. I used to follow one blog that was brilliantly written but every other post was begging for money. I unfollowed. Also, like Chuck, I don’t like the idea that someone thinks that I haven’t the right to put a value on my own work and the work of the people who help me produce it. That’s fucking condescending of them actually. So no donate button on my blog either.



  41. Well said. One thing I always appreciate about you is your sense of practicality (in this case pirating and donations). Hmm. Maybe this can be linked up in your header “Why I don’t have a tip jar”!

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