Saturday, 7 July 2012

Who Really Pays for Book Theft?

By writing this, I'm inviting the apocalypse to rain down on my head. I'm sure the comments will be filled with people creating wriggle room, that their theft is not stealing, merely "sticking it to the big corporations", or some bizarre misplaced sense that they're actually helping the author by distributing their work to as many people as possible.

Or they're rationalising their palpable sense of entitlement because everyone else is doing it anyway, so what's one more? And anyway, why should I miss out when I know heaps of people who are getting books for free.  Why should I be the only chump paying $20 for a paperback?

Whichever way you cut it - whether you steal a physical book from a big chain or an indie, or an electronic book from a torrent site - it's all theft. You are taking the livelihood away from the creators while also punishing them for doing their best to entertain you.

The ones who end up paying are the authors and the staff in a bookstore.
They're the ones who end up on their tails in the kerb. People like you and me.

Let's look at how publishing works:
Authors kill themselves writing the best book they can.
A small percentage of those authors secure an agent.
Agent secures a publishing deal for a percentage (but not all) of their clients.

Publisher pays author an advance AGAINST FUTURE ROYALTIES OF BOOK SALES.
The royalty percentage an author receives can be somewhere between 4 and 10% of the net sales. Net is only for full retail price. It's even less when the book is sold at a discount. And everyone wants a discount.

Author pays agent a percentage of that advance, for securing the deal.

Many months later:

Author's book is on sale.

Thieves steal copies from stores, or via torrent

Stolen copies return no revenue to the publisher.

Not enough copies are sold at retail price. Publisher does not receive as much income from book as projected (this happens all too often without the thefts. Thefts just make it worse)

Author does not earn out her advance.

Publisher does not offer author another contract.

Publisher is still in business. Author is not.

Thief thinks they have 'stuck it to the man' by stealing a book and 'beating the system'.

Meanwhile, bookstores suffer losses and are forced to make cuts, most likely to staff.
Publishers too have less profits and cut staff.

Author explains how the theft is denying them a career as publisher will not offer them another contract.

Thief gets angry and says, 'go cry me a river you lazy artist, you're supposed to be doing it for love anyway.'

Artist gets righteous and says, 'I may be broke and hurting right now, but at least I'm not a thief.

Sorry, for the rant, but this is incredibly close to the bone for me.


Jennie Brumley said...

Well said, Ebs.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Thanks Jennie. The last time I mentioned this on twitter, I had some bizarre responses - people finding ways to justify their behaviour, or just trying to scream me down. They didn't call it theft, of course, bc nobody thinks of themselves as a thief.

Heather said...

*high-five* Anyone who truly loves books must appreciate authors and if they steal books, they obviously don't appreciate authors.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Gotcha Heather :-D *returns high-five*
When people download a book via a torrent site, instead of paying - what, $2.99, $5 - for it, they don't value it. They probably don't even read it. They just want it for no other reason than they can take it.

Ebony McKenna. said...

No trolls yet. They must be on holidays. ;-)