If you mention the term ‘piracy’ among your colleagues or business relations, no doubt that you will have a lively conversation. It is about the most discussed topic in the book world nowadays. But mainly because of the fears and threats people experience. Briefly summarized, you could say the overall feeling by the word ‘piracy’ is that it is a bad thing. I myself see this a bit different, and dare to state that you could say that piracy is also a good thing.

Think in opportunities, not threats
I know this is a bold statement and the conversation starter number one when you talk about piracy, but it’s not because of that, why I see it this way. To explain why I see piracy as a good thing, I must first emphasize that I do see the downside of piracy. I do see that it could hurt your digital sales, that it could threaten your income as a publisher or author and that it is almost impossible to stop it. But it also stops there for me. Because fighting piracy doesn’t work, just as sitting down and whine about all the damage being done to you. This is reality. And no matter how hard you fight it, it doesn’t go away and might even damage your image. 

That’s why I encourage people to see it differently. State for yourself that this is how reality is, and move on from there. In other words: see the opportunities and not the threats. Thinking in threats brings you nowhere, costs you a lot of money and makes it that almost all of your time is spend on defending your legacy. Instead of making it future-proof and expanding it even further. 

The opportunities of piracy
Once you are able to see piracy not only as a threat, you can start to see the positive effects. Positive? Yes. Think about why people pirate your books. Why would they do that? Think negative and you might say: they don’t want to pay for it. Could be (see the text under the next heading how to tackle that). But the main reason is: they want your book! And that is a good thing, right? So if you want to use that in your own advantage, you could see piracy (in other words: downloading for free) as sampling. Hey, an opportunity! Take over control and spread the work for free yourself. Not just the complete work with no further actions attached. But for instance a management summary of your (non-fiction) work. Or a version with ads (additional income!). Or a version with social media buttons included to let the readers spread the word (so they become ambassadors of your work, free marketing!). Of course with links included that can help people to buy the original work if they like it (and I know from experience that people do this) in a format they choose (e-book, hardcover, etc.). If you take this even one step further, you can also see that this could help the author spread his name (and expertise), which could lead to extra lectures, workshops or seminars. And if you offer the author a complete package (including arranging his presentations), this could become an alternative source of income for you as a publisher. I know this is not a simple thing to implement, and might even mean you have to change your business a bit, but it is a way to take the initiative on it and to make good use of the opportunity.

Piracy is good
You can even take it one step further, and state that piracy is a good thing. Inspired by a blog post I read earlier this week and thoughts I already had before (and wrote down almost a year ago), I am convinced that you can really learn from piracy. And therefore see it as more than only opportunities. 

The way I see it, is as follows. Take the thought I mentioned here above that this (how the – digital – world looks today) is reality and learn from it. I already stated that people download your books illegally because they want it. The reason that they don’t come to you, but visit a torrent site for instance, could be because your price is too high. Learn from it, and lower it. You don’t have to go all the way to 99 cents. But you know you’ll have to go down. Another reason could be that the book is only available for one device. By that, you leave out everyone with other devices than the one you support. Learn from it, and make sure that everyone can read your book on the device they choose. Not the device you have chosen. It could also be that the digital version is not directly available from day one. By that, you disadvantage your digital readers. Learn from it, and make your titles available in both forms (physical and digital) from day one. Take that one step further and make them also directly available all over the world. Which shouldn’t be a big problem with today’s internet and worldwide versions of web shops such as Amazon. I say shouldn’t, because one of the biggest problems (no, I should say challenges) for the publishing industry in the coming years, are the arrangements of the (worldwide) rights for book titles. The way all the agreements are made up until now, doesn’t match with the new reality (globalization) and it certainly doesn’t help your reader. He or she doesn’t care what was arranged for and what not, they just want to read the book. Now. 

To sum it all up. You can say that if you can see piracy as a good thing, because it helps you to understand the need of your readers, you can learn from it. And if you can learn from someone or something to help you and your business go further, you can state that it is a good thing. 

 

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Comments

confidence

Philip Jones's picture

worrying lack of confidence in what is being published if you have to wait for a pirate to copy it before deciding that the market wants it?

If you don't do anything at all, your income will fade

Timo Boezeman's picture

"Like it or not, money is the gas that keeps the publishing engine running."

Absolutly. But all signs are showing (and just look at the music industry for a peek in the future) that consumers want it different then publishers are (mostly) offering. If you don't do anything at all, your income will fade. If you do something, you might be able to turn the tide and create (more) income with it. 

The points you make are very true. But is doesn't help anyone to only state them and leave it by that. A changing world (from physical to digital) means changing your business. That is the point I am trying to make here.

Yeah, right.

Like it or not, money is the gas that keeps the publishing engine running. Even if the nonfiction author makes most of his income from being an “expert” and giving talks, the publisher and its employees don’t so they are screwed. If the publisher loses too much money, he stops publishing the author, that type of book, and may go out of business which is bad news for everyone.

Most fiction writers aren’t paid beyond those who buy the book so they are screwed in any event, and the less money is poured into the system, the fewer writers, publishers, and others along the publishing food chain stay in the system.

Since the self-published take all the financial risks, they are even more prone to running out of the financial gas that keeps them producing.

Heck, even those poor innocent pirates are hurt when less is published so they can't make money off of uploading books to sites and those sites can't make money off advertising or people buying subscriptions.

 

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