First off, that image is for real–it hasn’t been Photo-shopped or messed with in any way. There was a time when I would never have shown anyone a cheque like that, I’d have been ashamed of it, figuring you’d all think my writing sucked so bad no one wanted to buy it. I’ve learned since that the real shame lies with every person who steals my hard-earned reward for the work I do and thinks nothing of it. I’m not alone in this, either–there are a lot of authors who are stepping up and stating they see similar cheques now, and many are getting so discouraged they are wondering if it’s even worth the effort to continue publishing books for thieves to steal.
Ironically, this cheque represents December sales–right in the middle of the Christmas gift giving season. The truth is, the publishing house this is from is a well-known one, and the books this represents have been the victim of piracy sites no less than six times in recent months. The count on one site alone stated that there were 5000 copies of these titles downloaded by pirate supporters. You see the result of all those stolen books, it’s there in black and white. It’s a damn good thing I don’t have a family counting on me to support them, because we’d be living in a cardboard box by now.
Most people don’t stop to think that when they grab that “free” book they’re stealing from the creator of the book. After all, it’s just one little book, right? All those one little books add up, though, and this is the result of it. So, for the titles I spent a couple hundred dollars promoting and bringing to my readers, I have earned the grand total of less than $50. THIS cheque is actually a few cents more than last month, too.
I know it’s human nature to like to get things for free, everyone does it–but at some point we have to weigh that against supporting artists we claim to like and admire. If there were children waiting to be fed in this equation, it wouldn’t be pretty. The average reader has a home and family, they work hard to have a decent life, they’d be horrified if their work was given so little credence and appreciation that they weren’t paid. Realize it’s the same for any artist/writer/musician, etc. Creative arts are a business as well as a calling to many, and people who love to create are suffering losses and trying to find ways to stop the flow of their work’s life-blood.
There is no way to stop this, many people fight it tooth and nail–others give up in despair after losing days/weeks/months to constantly battling with pirate sites. Some exceptional voices will one day fall silent because they will give up. Others will persevere because they refuse to do less. The only way to stop piracy theft is for people who read to buy their books, not steal them. I’m not talking library borrowing, but actually going to sites knowing you’re stealing the money from your author of choice. Maybe if you’re a huge name in the business this is less of an immediate concern, but for the mid-level and starting authors–this is devastating. If you worked for weeks on a project at your job, and your company invested other people’s time and work into it, then presented it to the public–but you didn’t get paid a dime for all that effort, ask yourself how you’d feel about that? Would you want to keep working that job?
Too much of life comes down to dollars and cents these days, and art has always been a prime target for theft in one way or another. But, at the end of the day, stealing is still stealing, and if you don’t want to be part of the problem, be part of the solution and always buy the book you want, or borrow it from a legal source, like your local library. Too many authors are getting cheques that don’t even cover the postage cost to mail them, it really isn’t remotely fair to them to devalue their work to this level, is it?