Go On, Take My Book. I Don’t Care
Or at Least, Not Very Much
I don’t care if someone steals my book.
Just so you know, this is a book I spent hours upon hours planning, writing, drawing (I make comic books), inking, editing, and coloring. I agonized over every panel, every line, every character design, and plot point. And I don’t care if someone steals it and reads it for free, or reproduces it so others can do the same.
Well, there are a lot of reasons...
1. Money Has Never Been My Motivation
Hey, I’ll take whatever money people are willing to give me for that book. I appreciate every sale and fan who likes my work so much they want it sitting on their bookshelf. But I never did it for the money.
Even if nobody paid me for what I do (which few people do as it is), I would still do it. I have a deeper motivation, and it churns like magma at the core of my very being. I need to tell these stories. For myself.
At the end of it all, I need to be able to look back and know that I’ve said what I needed to say, regardless of how many people were listening. This need is so deeply ingrained in who I am that it’s pointless to resist.
When I go too long without writing, I start to mentally shut down. Then, when I start a new story, it’s like someone flipped the “on” switch in my brain and I’m buzzing with energy. I feel in tune with something big and exciting and ancient as humanity itself. Creation.
I have something I need to say in the limited time I’m on this earth. Staying silent, simply because I won’t be paid, isn’t an option I’m willing to consider.
2. The World Is Noisy and Getting Noisier Still
And I don’t mean “honking car horns and roaring airplanes” noisy. I mean the noise of information. Of people talking.
They’re talking in print, on video, podcasts, social media, billboards, flyers, magazines, and blogs. We live in the information age, and everybody who has anything to say is saying it, nonstop, 24/7.
More than 2,000 books are published each day in the United States alone. That being said, it can feel near impossible to get anyone to look at what you’re saying, because there are literally millions of other things competing for their attention. You want people to buy your book? Great. So does everyone else in the world.
I’m grateful that anybody even knows my book exists, let alone reads it. If one of those people wants to share my book with more people, who will then know it exists and possibly read it, more power to them. In fact, I’d be grateful. The more people know about my book, the more people will ultimately buy it.
I don’t really care if a few people get it for free. If they’re real fans, they’ll want to buy it anyway. Besides, there are plenty of authors who have offered their books for free online and then published them later for a profit. (The Martian, anyone?)
At the end of the day, if nobody is willing to pay for my stories, I’ll just tell them for free.*
*Not only that, since I am PAYING to have these books printed without any expectation of breaking even. THAT’S how much I care.
3. The Internet Is a Fairly Self-Policing Place
In my experience, if you’re doing something naughty on the Internet (plagiarism, in particular), someone is going to notice and get pissed. They might not be able to stop you, but you’re not going to breeze through unnoticed, either.
If you’re stealing someone’s intellectual property, and that someone has fans who will recognize their work, they WILL call you out—especially if you’re trying to make a profit from it. People on the Internet love to get mad. And when they do get mad, they’re vicious. In fact, the ensuing scandal (apart from making you look bad) will probably just bring more attention to the original creator.
Keep in mind, the harder it is to steal a book, the harder it’s also going to be for people to actually read that book legally. As an indie author, how hard do you want to make it for people to read your book?
4. My Goals Are Long Term
I’ve always operated under the assumption that, as a creative type, I’ll need a day job for a long time before I have a shot at getting paid for what I create. That’s true for many creative professions. Writers, actors, sculptors, painters… You name it. We all need a pay-the-bills job while we build our skills. Sure, there are prodigies out there, but guess what: If you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of them. The rest of us need time and hard work to hone our craft. Therefore, we need to be thinking long term.
In the short term, we need to focus on building our author brands. Authors have a brand just like anything else. To grow your readership, you need people to trust your brand. People aren’t going to take a risk on an unfamiliar brand unless you offer them a taste. Think of it like offering free samples at the grocery store. Then later on when you write something truly remarkable, you’ll have the exposure to really get the word out.
Many people protest offering books for free, or bundling with other authors for a low price, saying it devalues books in general. True, you’re not going to make a lot of money on free or bundled books. But that’s not the point. The point is to get people reading your books. As long as they actually read your free or bundled book, they have a chance of becoming an actual fan.
And the more fans you have, the more money you will make long term. Growing a readership is what will get you future books sales. Offering one of your books for free online is a great entry point for new readers. If they like that book, they’ll be more inclined to pay money for the rest of your books.
Now, this still doesn’t address the problem of illegal downloads. You can track down these websites that offer your book for free and petition to have them blocked or shut down, but that takes time. Time that could otherwise be spent writing better books or marketing to people who actually will buy your books. Anyone who downloads your book illegally isn’t ever going to pay for it, anyway.
Something you can do anything about? No.
5. Odds Are, Nobody’s Going to Steal My Book
Honestly, I’m small potatoes compared to most authors. And odds are, you are too. Calm down, have a little humility. You’re a speck of sand in a vast desert of information. If your book is good enough to be stolen, it’s good enough to make a profit on its own without you turning into an overprotective “book-parent.”
Most of the people who read (and eventually buy) self-published books do it because they want to be supportive. They believe in a non-mainstream culture and business model. They admire what you’ve accomplished without a big publishing company backing you up. Many of them are probably self-published authors themselves, or they own a small business, or they buy locally grown produce and sell handmade jewelry. We “little guys” like to stick together and support each other.
Look, I get it. As creative types, we pour our blood, sweat, and tears into every one of our creations. We’re passionate about writing these books, and we have the dream of “making it,” so we can quit our day jobs and write full time (or maybe just sit on a beach and enjoy the fruit of our labors).
But we have to be realistic. Yes, somebody might steal your book and cheat you out of some hard-earned money. But also your book might flop on its own, or the market might not be primed for what you’re offering, or maybe your talent just isn’t on par with your dreams. That’s life.
As an indie author, you have much bigger problems than someone illegally downloading your book. If you like to worry, here are some better things to worry about:
- Worry about how to make people aware your book even exists
- Worry about editing it thoroughly, so your book is equipped to compete in today’s market
- Worry about whether your cover design looks amateur
- Worry about perfecting your craft so you have a book worthy of stealing
As far as how to keep your book from being stolen, I have two answers. For my long answer, reread this article. For my short answer, it’s just one word:
Rachel Hansen is a Brand Engagement Coordinator who spends her free time writing comics, exploring the Twin Cities, and cuddling her feisty calico.