Dealing with Piracy

I have always maintained that digital piracy is unavoidable, and it is therefore better to treat it as a compliment. It is not a lost sale but more like a book borrowed from a public library – and with the right attitude, you can potentially gain a long-term fan.

I have been approached by Mobilism.org about it, and they have graciously published an interview with me on the subject. You can read it in full here:

Our short interview with mystery and fantasy writer Assaph Mehr. You can find more info about his books here: https://egretia.com/

* Q-mobilism: Why become a writer?

* A-Assaph Mehr: Mostly because I like to read. I’ve had the idea for a fantasy detective and for the particular twist ending of Murder in-absentia for a while. It was the story I really wanted to read, wished someone wrote.
Then one day my wife made a comment about not having anything good to read, so I just sat down and started writing. And I didn’t stop until I was done. It’s a very interesting process, both exhilarating and frustrating at times. But the sense of accomplishment is enormous. It’s a major tick in my bucket-list.
I now plan to write further novels. I think once you start it’s an addictive creative outlet.

* Q-mobilism: Why self-publish? Or not?

* A-Assaph Mehr: I chose self-publishing (through a small niche publisher), because I knew that there is almost no chance for a new author to get published. It takes hundreds of submissions to agents before one will represent you, and then many more until a publisher picks you up. And then, in return for the production and marketing, you lose a lot of creative control over your book.
I much preferred to do my own marketing, and concentrate my time on writing the second and third novel – rather than wait years seeing the novel just gather dust.

* Q-mobilism: What do you think of piracy? What do you think of Cory Doctorow’s thesis? (He prefers to be pirated than obscure and unknown, unread.)

* A-Assaph Mehr: I think it’s unavoidable. I always said that I would take it as a compliment if someone took the time to pirate my book. I even put a small blurb about it inside the book. Within hours of releasing my book, a friend wrote me a message with “consider yourself complemented”, and a link to the pirate site that already released the book. And you know what? I still think it’s a compliment.
However authors still need to be paid for their work. There is a lot of effort and costs in producing the book (for example, I commissioned an artist to do the cover art). I’d like to balance that with reaching reader who might otherwise never hear and never try my book. I’d rather reach (and maybe inspire) a young reader somewhere who could not afford my book, and only be supported by those who can afford it.
So here is my take. If you read my book – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. If you did, you could support the author by buying a copy. This lets you use your limited budget to support the really good authors.
If you still can’t afford a copy, you can leave a good review of the book on Amazon and Goodreads. This is particularly important for indie authors. In a world where hundreds of thousands of books are released each year, it’s hard for a true gem (like mine wink emoticon ) to be noticed. A good review on Amazon – even if you read a pirated copy – will let the good indie authors stand out.
So go on and read my books. If you like them, support future novels by buying a copy and leaving a good review on Amazon.

(Original post: https://www.facebook.com/Mobilism.org/posts/1120602391307930)

Edited to Clarify:

I do not condone piracy, though after this article I have been (almost) accused of practising it myself. I think it’s horrible, and of course I’d rather be paid. But it’s not going away. As someone who works with document security, I can assure you about it.

There also seems to be a general misunderstanding about how piracy and DRM work amongst authors. The people who post the pirated books know how to get around DRM of any kind. The people who download the book have decided ahead of time that they will do so illegally and without paying. This transaction happens asynchronously, and on servers outside of legal jurisdiction.

To all the frothing-at-the-mouth downloading-an-ebook-is-the-same-as-stealing-a-car brigade, I realise I will not change your opinion. This article is not you. It’s for the rest of the level-headed authors out there, who’d appreciate a different point of view that might help them deal (emotionally) with the hurt of their work being pirated.

For reference, here is the blurb out of my novel:

If you downloaded this book without purchase from a pirating site, please read it with the author’s compliments. If you enjoy it, please consider purchasing a legal copy to support the author in writing further books. If you still can’t afford it, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads – it helps!

It’s a similar message to what I post on the online forums where I find my novel pirated.

last comment: does this strategy work? I can’t tell. I can’t say that it led to more sales or reviews with any certainty, as there is obviously no way to track it. This is  merely offered here as an alternative to the rising costs of antacids amongst authors.

EDIT: further comments to this controversial discussion have been added under Quick Update to the Piracy Post.

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