Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Google Alerts, piracy, poverty and politicians

Google Alerts isn't what it used to be. Once it actually worked, and now it just occasionally informs me that I have written a blog post. But last week it made a bit of an effort, and alerted me to a forum where a reader was asking where she could download Ice Diaries free. The forum was quite strange, as some of the time it pretended to be KUF, the Kindle Users' Forum, and sometimes came up as The Comic Book Forum - but don't let's get sidetracked.

I'm trying to decide what I think about illegal downloads. Neil Gaiman famously believes that piracy boosts sales; but he's in a different league from me where maybe the rules are different too. My novels cost £1.99 or $2.99, which is reasonably affordable for most. Not for everyone, though. Some people really don't have any spare money to buy books, and if the choice is between their reading an illegal free copy of one of my novels, or not reading my writing at all, I'd go for being read.

I've blogged before about poor heroes being more appealing than rich ones, and this is often true in real life as well. It's more difficult to like rich people, as they are free of so many of most people's daily concerns. I still grit my teeth over Shirley Williams saying she didn't know why people were always going on about money - she never thought about it at all. Nor did she need to. 

One problem with politicians these days is that they have never experienced poverty - but not only do they think themselves underpaid (huh!) they wrongly believe they know, from observation, what it is like to have no money. It is not possible to know what poverty is like without being poor. In my opinion, everyone should spend a year or two being a bit broke, as they will be better for it and have empathy for the have-nots for the rest of their lives.

I do worry though that if too many people get into the habit of illegally downloading books, authors will earn even less than they do now. Still, at least we'll be able to write poor heroes and heroines with real conviction and inside knowledge...


  1. This is a difficult one. Over the years I have worked out something I am comfortable with and that is that honesty is the best policy. Sorry about the cliché. Having lived in Africa where corruption was endemic, I saw that it is one of the causes of poverty. Dishonesty was the norm in many sectors and it was the poor who suffered most from those who had the luxury of having something to be dishonest about.

    But - and it is a huge but - I have always thought that if I were to live in the times that my novels are set in, I might well have been on the side of the smugglers or the petty thieves who stole chickens or sheep to feed their families. No doubt about that. And, as you mention, Lexi, poor heroes can be more appealing than rich ones, and I think that is why I fell in love with my poor smuggler rather than the neighbouring landowner.

    In countries where people in general can afford £2 or $3 say, once a month, to spend on a book, then I think they should always pay. Taking a sheep or a book without paying is theft. It is the definition of the word. And so that person becomes a thief.

    Some thieves deserve our compassion and our help. Some deserve to be recognized as greedy thieves.

    Most of us have to learn to live within our means or we run into difficulties. Libraries exist to help (but that's another topic).

    Having said all that, there's a little part of me that would prefer to have my novels read than unread and just maybe something a thief reads in them will give them cause to examine poverty and the causes of it and to discover the cliché above as being worth examining too.

  2. You've reminded me of that new popular genre, Billionaire Romance - readers must find those rich, young and hot heroes appealing, I suppose. (I always hoped your landowner would get the girl, as you know...)

  3. Previous attempt to post beheaded my comment so will try again!

    I think that a few years ago many people thought that posting e-books for download was like sharing a book with internet friends. Then the problems for authors and the illegality were widely discussed. Many sites hosting this activity were then closed down and I assume that the activity has tapered off.

    In my opinion most of the books downloaded illegally would not have been purchased legitimately and so would simply not have been read. The books 'shared' in this way by enthusiasts will have publicised certain authors and their books. The free downloads will have wetted appetites so that legitimate purchases follow.

    I think many authors now recognise this logic by offering a book free or cheaply on a legit book-site (the short free samples on Amazon are not sufficient to judge whether an author resonates with the reader).

    This is a splendid way to publicise their work, especially for the first book in a series. If it appeals, readers will buy other books in the series and the author may then become an auto-buy.

    I know that this works well with me. After recently downloading an offer version of book 1 in Cheryl Wilson's fantasy 'Tairen Soul' series, I ended up reading all of the available 5-book audio series. Same thing happened with Julianne MaClean's 'Color of Heaven' series.

    I think that Lexi may also have given me review copies ..... and she is now definitely an auto-buy :)

    1. I've just rescued your comment from Spam! And mine got wiped somehow...

      Whatever I said, now forgotten, was very perceptive and witty. I want you to know that.

  4. A true comedy of errors!

    Pearls of wisdom sparkling with humour and forever beyond me .... like a croq of gold at the end of a rainbow. LOL