As someone helping others to write, produce and sell their books, I get what Nicholls, author of One Day, is saying, really I do. I share in what I perceive as his belief that authors should be financially rewarded for the work they put into their books and stories. And ask anyone, I’m no huge fan of Amazon, for numerous reasons.
However, I’m also a realist. I’d love to tell an author that they’ll achieve the income enjoyed by Harry Potter’s creator, J.K. Rowling, but it’s unlikely to be the case. But that shouldn’t, under any circumstance, put off an aspiring author, as there are gains to be had….eventually.
Amazon is there, hovering digitally over every author, reader, publisher and bookseller. It exists. And it sells books at cheaper prices than the vendors who have to fund their glossy book store or cosy book cabin. It’s a hugely successful, efficient machine – one no one can fight. At least, not on their own.
Even if Amazon has knocked 50% off a book’s RRP price, somewhere, the book is likely to be free. Piracy is almost as big as, if not bigger than, Jeff Bezos’s empire. When you’re competing against FREE, how can you complain if someone is spending a few pounds with an online retailer? It’s better than nothing at all. (Given the discounts such as Waterstones applies, there’s marginal difference between royalties to an author if their book is bought from there, as opposed to one bought via Amazon, but I digress.)
The true fans, those who have ‘bought’ into you as an author, and who would pay more than the book’s value to get it, may still buy your work from a physical store, or they may still choose convenience and opt for delivery from an e-seller. You have no idea of your readers’ time constraints or logistical and geographical issues – effectively calling those who buy online ‘shoplifters’ won’t exactly get them on board.
An author is there to serve their readers, their public. This is not an argument over whether they should see immediate, or lucrative, recompense, but one of cherishing readers – any readers – however they get their hands on your book. Piracy isn’t something I support, but neither is it something easily dispelled. Bottom feeders, and those who are only concerned with ‘bagging the freebie’, will always exist, but they’re not worth worrying about. Most won’t even open or read the book they’ve effectively stolen, or downloaded just because it was free.
To find someone who will therefore pay anything for your book is a good deal, when they could get it for free via Long John Silver. It’s a step up. Then you have those who do frequent book shops, and who will pay the asking price for your book – concentrate on finding more of those, on winning over readers enough that they just HAVE to have your book, at any cost. Care only for the ones who see the value in your work.
Authors are competing against piracy, obscurity, elitism and abundance in equal measure. That someone buys their book via a web interface and drone delivery, rather than from a beautiful table display within a tangible feast of literary offerings, is missing the point. They have, at least, bought the book, i.e. they’ve placed some value against it by handing over their hard-earned money – this is a success! It’s something to be celebrated. That’s why I don’t believe it’s productive to ostracise the few that are still putting their hands in their pocket, just because they choose to do so with Amazon, if the alternative is pirates and other freebie-baggers.
That said, the pirates and the freebie-baggers shouldn’t be deemed evil thieves with no hearts. Some people don’t like to take chances. To test out a new author and explore new genres, to allay previous disappointment of a prequel, or to just blindly discover something new….‘free’ hits the spot. It’s a low-risk method of literary exploration. There’s nothing to say the guy or gal who downloads your book for free won’t enjoy it enough to buy a physical copy to re-read at their convenience (because many do). That freebie book-bagger could be your next biggest fan. In this over-populated book market, anyone finding your book is a miracle. Hallelujah!
Developmental editor and publishing consultant Diane Hall is the author of three books; she has also ghost-written books for others and created a plethora of content, on more subjects than you could care to imagine, for numerous clients since the beginning of her career. She is proud to have fundamentally shaped series of books and more than a hundred individual titles over the last decade with various authors, nationally and internationally.
Among her editing qualifications, she holds a linguistics diploma, which involves the study of language and speech. Diane employs this knowledge in the forensic linguistic work she sometimes undertakes.
Diane has seen the introduction and subsequent rise of self-publishing, and passionately keeps abreast of its disruption of the publishing industry. She is a thought leader when it comes to the future of book marketing, fuelled by the poor results authors see when employing traditional techniques.
Thanks to saphatthachat at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the pirate image (case in point).