by Maria Geraci
The other day I received a Google Alert telling me that my first two published books are available for free downloads from a site called Sharebookfree.com. Imagine that. Penguin USA is giving away my books. NOT. I've received these kinds of alerts before, but I confess I've never done anything about them. This time, I decided to let my agent know, so I forwarded her the link. She informed me that, yes, indeed, these are "pirate" sites and of course, this happens all the time. She said she would forward the information on to the legal department at Penguin.
I have to confess, I'm conflicted about these pirate sites. On the one hand, I realize that what they are doing is wrong. It's stealing. No bones about it. They are ripping off my publisher and they are ripping off me. On the other hand, I really don't think that the people who are going to download my books for free are people who would pay to buy them. At least, I don't think so. Not knowing anyone (or at least anyone who will admit to it) who rips off books from free sites, I'm not certain what their demographic is. So in some ways, these pirate sites put my books in the hands of people who probably wouldn't have read them any other way. Crazy thinking? Maybe.
But it leads me to the point of my conflict.
Isn't getting your book into as many hands as possible the ultimate goal? I would probably feel differently if I was the type of author who had a large back list that was making her lots of money, but I'm not. I'm on my fourth book (due this week!) and I still haven't earned out the advances on my first three. So any indignation I feel is on behalf of my publisher.
Last year at the Novelists, Inc, conference in St. Petersburg, Fl, I was in the audience for a panel of group experts discussing the future of publishing. There were some big names on the panel- editors, agents, PR people, and authors, including self-pub guru Joe Konrath (who, by the way is doing a great give away for anyone donating $30 or more to the charity to benefit Leslie Banks, who many of you in the publishing world, knew and admired). Joe Konrath surprised me when he basically said (and I'm ad libbing here) not to sweat the pirate sites. These sites get your books into readers' hands, which ultimately will increase your readership. I think he was talking about foreign sites, and let's face it, I'm not on the same level as someone like Joe Konrath, who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars off his books. Still. It got me to thinking some more.
Justine Musk, author of the Tribal Writer blog wrote a piece titled, Why you need to give it away. Everything she says makes so much sense to me. Of course, she's talking about giving it away voluntarily, but in some ways couldn't the end result be the same? I don't know. I just know that in this digital age, when authors are self-pubbing fantastic books at streamlined prices (in some cases, under a dollar), it's kind of hard to compete when your publisher puts your ebook price at 10 or 12 bucks.
What do you think?
Maria Geraci writes fun, romantic women's fiction. The Portland Book Review calls her latest novel, THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB, "immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous." Check out her website at www.mariageraci.com.