DRM and Pirates and Bears, oh my!

25 Apr

Twoooooo lovely sales today, one ImoShrou and one Miya Black II (YAY). Giveaways are going well too, Birds of Passage already has 25 people interested and The Boy & Little Witch is close to a hundred–and every single person who has now been made aware of my books (however vaguely) is important and valuable. We may live in an age of anonymity and disconnection, but it’s my belief that the most important thing isn’t groups or demographics, it’s individuals. Demographics don’t buy books, people do. Every sale represents an individual person who has decided that one of my books is worth reading, and I truly appreciate that, every single time. Even if they end up thinking it’s not that great, I appreciate the time they took to read it. It’s a busy world and time is our most precious resource, having someone spend some of theirs reading something I wrote is a huge compliment.

There’s a discussion on DRM happening on Kindleboards now, sidetracked (as usual) into issues of piracy. I’d just like to say this:

Hello. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. But that’s not important. What DRM really stands for, is ‘control’. A lot of people seem obsessed with it, these days. I think a lot of people need to relax. I increasingly feel that a lot of people, especially people in charge, people with power, are focusing on the wrong kind of control. Piracy, for example, is notoriously difficult to control. Perhaps impossible. However, I believe that there are several ways to effectively combat piracy, which I’ll go into now.

First of all, and I really believe this is more important than anything: respect. To a very slightly lesser extent, trust. Do you respect and trust your readers? If the answer is yes, then forget DRM. Brush it into a dark corner and let it never be spoken of again. I respect and trust my readers. If someone who bought one of my books wants to email it to a friend, I say, go ahead! I’m so happy you think they’d enjoy it. Of course, I’d prefer if that friend actually bought the book–more for the +1 sale than the money–but really I’m just pleased to have more people reading what I write. In these early stages every new potential reader is immensely valuable–and even if I was selling a thousand books a month, what’s one less? What’s a dozen less? Heck, what’s a hundred less, if it means that’s a hundred more people who’ve been exposed to my work? This is the very best kind of direct marketing, ‘recommended by a friend’.

I respect and trust my readers, I respect them enough to give them the freedom to do what they like with my books–to convert them into other formats, to put them on their phone and PC and Kindle and whatever else, to share with their friends and family. I trust that they’ll buy them if they like them–and if they choose not to do that, then I respect their decision. As long as they’re not altering them (beyond conversion), claiming them as their own, or selling them, I’m fine. Should I be more concerned with piracy? Quite frankly I don’t see the point. Some people don’t want to pay, some people think they’re ‘smart’ for ‘getting around’ having to pay, even 99 cents, but these are the same people who feel superior for not paying taxes, they’re not worth bothering with. And who knows, maybe they have a lovely sister, maybe they email my book to said lovely sister, maybe said lovely sister likes it so much she buys the sequel–is this scenario outside of the realms of possiiblity? I don’t think so. Every person who is aware of my books is valuable, no matter how they came into contact with them. Every copy of my book that is made increases the chances of future sales–or at the least, does not diminish them.

Other ways to combat piracy? More than anything else, convenience. Or as I like to think of it, ‘lack of hassle’. It’s so easy to buy a book for Kindle, you just click and it’s there. Zero hassle–negative hassle, actually, because it’s fun to click buttons. If you want the book, what’s stopping you from just clicking and buying it? One word, ‘price’. This is what will stop people from buying a book, what will encourage them to try to attain it through torrents or download sites. Price reasonably and you greatly reduce the chances of this happening. I think the most ridiculous situations occur with e-books priced at $14.99. To clarify:

$9.99 @ 70% = $7 royalty
$14.99 @ 30% = $4.50 royalty

Yep, publishers are losing $2.50 per sale–and probably making less sales overall–by charging more. Why? Well, it’s a complicated issue, but the simple answer is that publishers don’t want to price the e-book too low because they feel that would diminish the perceived value of the physical book. There’s just one tiny flaw with this plan: it’s bollocks.

In any case, let’s get back to the point. In fact, let’s sum up. Piracy is out there and most likely will be forever. You can’t stop it, but you can diminish its effects, namely by following these three steps:

1) Respect and trust your readers (which means no DRM and no getting snarky about people ‘stealing’ your books) (also just generally not being a Biggus Dickus about things).
2) Make your books simple and hassle-free to attain legitimately (easy enough; just sell through Amazon or a similar online retailer).
3) Price your books so that people won’t think “Do I really want to pay that much?”. I’m not even talking about 99 cents here (that’s a separate issue), I think anything under $5 is good. The lower your price, the less sales you’ll ‘lose’ to piracy.

And finally, ask yourself a question. What’s more important to you, that people buy your books? Or that people enjoy them? Put aside the legality of piracy, put aside the morality. Put aside ‘how’ someone attained your book. If they enjoyed it, isn’t that unquestionably a positive result? Isn’t that what you’re striving for, as an author? Let’s distil all of this into a pithy closing statement:

If you’re popular enough, your books will be pirated. But if you’re popular enough, you’re doing okay anyway. No matter which way you look at it, you’ve won. Forget about this small change nonsense and focus on what’s really important; writing great books that people want to read. And relax! To pervert a quote from Falls-From-Grace: “Piracy is not your enemy. Obscurity is.”

(This is easily in my top ten comedy scenes ever, probably in the top three.)


Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Of Writing


Tags: , , , , ,

3 responses to “DRM and Pirates and Bears, oh my!

  1. Mo

    April 25, 2011 at 18:03

    Blackadder too!? You like everything I like, it’s uncanny!

    • Ben White

      April 25, 2011 at 19:04

      I’d just assume EVERYONE likes Blackadder 🙂

      • Mo

        April 25, 2011 at 19:22

        Well, they SHOULD anyways! 😀


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