An author’s take on piracy by Belinda Williams
My eyes widened involuntarily at the sharp gleam of his cutlass. As he narrowed his dark eyes at me, a twisted smile played on his craggy, weather-beaten face.
“That’s right, sweetheart. I’m going to get what I came for one way or the other.”
I swallowed painfully as the point of the blade came closer. “It’s not yours to take.” My voice was a desperate whisper.
I winced as the deadly cutlass met the delicate skin of my neck, inhaling sharply.
“I disagree. I make my living out of taking things that aren’t mine, and quite a fine living it is too.” He erupted into a roar of laughter and the movement pressed the blade even deeper into my flesh, making me cry out.
“Please!” I ignored the sting of tears in my eyes. Now wasn’t the time for emotion, it was better to stay as level-headed as possible.Even though it pained my heart in much the same way as the blade currently causing a slow trail of blood down my throat, I knew what I had to do.
I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, his laughter had subsided and he was watching me carefully.
“You can have it,” I told him, my voice suddenly firm. “Take it, if that’s what you want, but please let me live.”
His smile was genuine this time, but it was at my expense. “Arr, you’re a smart lassie. And I may be a pirate, but I’m good to my word. Your life for your book is a fair trade.”
Book piracy can cut deep
That’s the problem with being an author.At times, it feels as though the book you’ve written is your life. You’ve poured your heart and soul into it, and the idea of someone simply taking it, cuts deep.
It’s your book. There might be times when you choose to lend your book to someone or even give them a free copy, but the difference is, it’s your choice. By contrast, the act of piracy takes away the rights of the author and puts the power in the hands of the perpetrator.
Publishers might be landlubbers, but they know good booty when they come across it
It’s not just the writers that stand to lose from piracy. DRM (digital rights management) was adopted by publishing leaders like Amazon and Apple to prevent copying, printing and sharing of e-books. What they didn’t expect was the backlash and controversy it could cause.
It’s the old print v digital debate. When you purchase a print book, it’s yours to do with what you choose. If you want to lend it someone after you’ve read it, sell or give it to the second-hand bookstore, that’s entirely within your rights.
In the digital world, you’re allowed to view the book on your device (or limited devices). Schemes such as the Kindle lending library have been created to mirror the advantages of physical books, but it’s not quite the same, is it?
Technology v pirates: who will win?
There’s two sides to every story. Now, I’m not going to ask you to adopt the perspective of the pirate (although I’m the first to admit Johnny Depp would definitely make it worth it). Instead, I am going to ask you to remember the readers.
If, in the fight against copyright infringement, the technologies developed are so complex and so restrictive, their usage impacts on the reader to the point of inconvenience, then perhaps it’s time to reflect.
For example, publishers enforcing DRM might be seeking to prevent piracy, but they are also encouraging readers to buy from a single source and read from a single device. Great for the publisher, but for the author this can serve to limit readership.
Forget the pirates, it’s the readers that matter
I look at this issue from an unusual perspective. While I’m an author, I’ve spent much of my career as a marketer. This means that as well as trying to sell people stuff, one of my main aims has been in achieving customer satisfaction. Because happy customers means positive word-of-mouth and more sales and so on and so forth.
Publishers are starting to recognise this too. In Australia, Pan Macmillan’s digital publishing arm,Momentum Books, is proudly DRM-free.
It’s also why when I published my paranormal romantic suspense novel, Radiant, I chose to go DRM-free.
There will always be pirates and sometimes getting a few scars doing battle can be worth it
As for the bilge-sucking, scurvy dogs out there who choose to pirate, I figure they’re only a small percentage of a book’s readership.
Besides, my marketing mind sees an opportunity even in the pirate market.
You never know. They might like my books so much that they actually choose to buy the next one. And those pirates might have friends (who aren’t pirates) – positive word-of-mouth can come from many places!
What do you think? Should we get the pirates to walk the plank? Or are you pretty relaxed about their nefarious seafaring ways?
I would like to thank Belinda for joining us today to take about something that is destroying our authors. So fans out there, if you love your authors work, respect them and do not pirate!
Belinda Williams is an author based in Sydney, Australia. When she’s not reading romantic suspense or chick-lit, she’s writing it (or else can be found wasting time on social media).
Belinda is also a marketing communications specialist and copywriter who, after spending more than a decade writing about exciting subjects like financial services, IT and hospitality, allowed an addiction to romantic suspense and chick-lit to get the better of her. Radiant came to life when Belinda decided it was time Sydney featured in some fast-paced, heart-stopping romantic suspense, with a dark twist.
Radiant is her novel début and earned a finalist placing in The Romance Writers of Australia Emerald award 2013.
Belinda is a music lover and her eclectic taste forms the foundation for many of her writing ideas. She also has a healthy appreciation for fast cars and would not so secretly love a Lamborghini. For now she’ll have to settle with her son’s supercar Hot Wheel’s collection and the occasional drive in her much loved MX-5.