So Much For That Experiment

So the argument is that e-books go up on the torrent sites, a bazillion people download them for free and those who enjoy the book go out and buy a legit copy, once they’ve found out for sure that the book is worth spending money on. I was skeptical, but figured I should give folks a chance. So back in July I issued a challenge to the pirates. Someone had uploaded a copy of my story, “Learning to Love Yourself,” to the torrents and I was willing to wait for my next quarter’s royalty statement to see if there’d been any positive impact on sales. I promised that if there were a clear (or even a squinty) increase in sales after the story had been torrented, that I’d stop chasing after pirates; my publisher would still issue take-down notices and such, but I myself would stop doing so and let the uploaders do whatever they wanted.

Well, it’s next quarter and I have my royalty statement, and there was nothing. Not even a blip. So much for that theory. Sorry, folks, the cease-fire is over.

Given recent discussions [cough] on the net, I want to make it clear that I don’t get too excited if someone likes my story and thinks, “Hey, I’ll bet Mary would love this one!” and gives Mary a copy to try. A personal rec is more likely to turn someone into a fan, if they do like the story. My objection is to the torrents, where people steal copies of my copyrighted, for-sale books en masse. I’m not even going to deny the possibility that some people out there use the torrents to try before they buy; a few people have said they do, and I’m willing to provisionally take their word for it, although I still think torrent piracy itself sucks.

Reading the pirate message boards, though, there seem to be far more people there who actively mock the whole idea of paying for something you can get for free. These people think anyone who pays money for an e-book they could get for free is stupid, period. This isn’t a case of try-before-you-buy, or of poor people being unable to afford to buy books. When people can’t find a copy of something to “share” on the torrents, and someone in the group says, “I might actually have to spend money on this one, haha!” and everyone laughs on cue over how ridiculous that is, yeah, my spirit of compassion and generosity shrivels up pretty quickly.

You know, I was really hoping this would turn out differently. If there’d been any kind of visible up-tick in my sales, I’d have been willing to let things go and been happy to do so. It’s really a shame.


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Angela Benedetti lives in Seattle with her husband and a few thousand books. She loves romance for the happy endings, for the affirmation that everyone who's willing to fight for love deserves to get it and be happy with someone. She's best known for her Sentinel series of novels, the most recent of which is Captive Magic.