I was notified over the weekend that my books were available on a piracy website, and I was thrilled. I know that my reaction should be one of disgust because I’m not being paid for the copies going out, but the idea flatters me. I am worth stealing :)
The people that are downloading my books on a piracy site probably would not be on Amazon purchasing them in the first place. They don’t pay for books, the same way my most listened to music growing up came from mix tapes I recorded from the radio. I discovered many of my favorite musicians that way, and did buy their albums later. But I had to fall in love with them first.
That’s how I feel about piracy sites. Yes, technically it’s stealing but I don’t see it as robbing me any. It’s an affirmation of love – if someone desperately wanted my book but could not afford the .99 to purchase it, I would gladly give it to them. Few authors I know wouldn’t. The only difference is the piracy site does the work for me.
“We don’t normally find people we love most by buying them,” said Neil Gaiman. “We encounter them.” Neil Gaiman, one of my personal favorite authors of all time, expressed the same sentiment in his keynote speech at the 2013 Digital Minds Conference at the London Book Fair. “It’s a dandelion thing,” he said. “The seeds go off and float, and some of them land places where they grow.”
I write because I want to be read. Were I to never make a penny doing this, I would still do it. Getting paid for my writing is the ultimate compliment. I cherish every sale, every review and every person who tells me anything about my books at all. I don’t care how I was found – pirate site, Amazon or a quote on a bathroom wall – I only ask to be found.
I consider piracy sites to be more like dating sites for readers and authors – readers can troll until they find something that piques their interest. I hope they download my book and we go on a date. If the date goes well, they may date my other books and become a fan. If the date doesn’t go well maybe they will tell a friend and that friend will date my book.
By the way, I discovered Neil Gaiman by reading his Sandman comics, for free, in a comic shop. I fell in love with his ideas and style. After I fell in love, just reading him in the shop wasn’t enough. I needed to own his work, and I bought a large collection of Sandman comics, the books and searched to fill in the gaps of single issues I’d missed.
Later, I bought anything he published and and the movies his stories became. Gaiman is a name that draws my attention and I will go out of my way to search for his work. I would have never found him had the comic shop allowed me to stand there for hours, reading for free.
“It’s time for us to be dandelions,” said Gaiman. “Willing to launch a thousand seeds and lose 900 of them. If 100, or even a dozen survive and grow and make a new world I think that’s a lot wiser than waiting…”
Watch the entire video of his speech here. At 15:13 you can hear Neil Gaiman first urge us “to become dandelions.” Yes, I swooned.