Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, has pirated his own book and subsequently increased his sales by an astronomical amount. This is a news story you can find here

The linked story tells more in-depth about it and it also has an embedded video of Paulo Coelho giving a keynote speech where he discusses how pirating his own book increased his sales. The video is over 90 minutes long, but only the first 20 minutes is Paulo's speech. The story gives a good synopsis if you don't have time to watch the video.

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Last year's Melbourne Writers Festival had, as a guest, Cory Doctorow. I didn't see his session, but my partner is a huge fan of his work, and a passionate supporter of the Creative Commons Licence and GPL licence (he's a software developer) so he went to multiple sessions.

In a nutshell Cory provides all of this books as free downloads or you can buy a hard copy. In one session he was saying that his sales figures far exceeded his publisher's expectations, despite it being freely available at the same time. is Cory's private site / got the books listed.

It might be worth looking at his model as well (despite the option of / and having downloaded all his books), we also have purchased copies of them all.
This is EXTREMELY interesting. To me, it reinforces my belief that ebooks will never replace good old ink and paper. This might be a great new model for advertising books, giving the whole shebang away free online as an enticement to buy the hardcopy.
Yes, I thought it interesting as well. Of course, we don't know how Coelho got around the legal problems -- if he did. I have always understood that giving away free novels before they went into print ruined any chances of selling them later. But perhaps this also is not necessarily true any longer. Anyway, as long as people can get my books free in the library or buy them for a dollar or less used, I don't have much to lose.
The problem that remains is still how likely people are to read a novel on a computer screen.
It may have been Cory Doctorow who said that there's a difference between a book and the contents of the book. He gives away the content, but people still need to buy the book.

It is a wild new world out there. Who would have thought people would buy DVDs of movies that play on TV all the time? And I suppose DVDs will be replaced by internet subscriptions of some sort. Why have the hard copy in your house when all you really need is the ability to see it whenever you want? (this has probably already happened, I'm such a Luddite)

So, the delivery system for books could change. I don't think it will affect authors all that much. The truth is, if publishing companies could replace us, they would have already - remember that scene in The Player when the movie guys joke about getting rid of the writers? But it will affect the publishing companies. Just like the music industry has been changed. The "360 deal" they talk about, where musicians are signed to a single contract that includes recorded music, live shows and every other possible way of making money from their art - has led to artists signing with companies that used to be simply tour promotors and are now handling everything. Of course, what's really happening is that huge multi-national companies are buying up all these newly flush tour promotors.

The thing about publishing, though, is like Steve Jobs said last week, it's too small to be important. Well, not the whole publishing industry, just the fiction part. Almost the last bastion of people who like ink and paper. Take textbooks, cookbooks, reference books - all that - out of it and fiction is a pretty small part of the business. And there are no concert tickets or tee shirts to sell.

So, authors may end up being forced to take on more responsibilities for printing and delivering their books (luckily the new technology will really help) simply because there's not enough money in it for publishers.

But there'll still be enough for us, afterall, if we take away all that overhead how many books will we actually have to sell to make the same money we do now? (yeah, I know, we all want to make way more than we do now, but that's the tough part ;)
Well the HARRY POTTER books did rather well out selling other merchandise, but they had to become movies first.
Actually, one of the neat things about books is that you can read whenever and wherever you want, for however long you want, and that you can go back and reread if you like. I don't go to movies -- too inconvenient and usually not worth the money for 2 hours entertainment.

The music industry is a bit different in that you may want to listen to a song over and over again. You rarely want to read a book more than once or at the most twice. But it is nice to own those you love.

It occurs to me that the reason the authors above ended up selling more books after making them available electronically for free was that people liked what they saw but didn't want to bother with the discomfort of having to read from a computer screen.
Two things that Paulo Coelho did not mention in his speech was that:

1. Your book has to be good for it to work

2. Just putting something on the internet doesn't guarantee anything. You have to get people to know your work exists, and then you have to get them to care.
Ah, there's the rub. :) Actually, I hated THE ALCHEMIST, but then I'm beginning tro accept that I don't like what most people love.
Yay for Cory! Glad to see what he's been doing is working for someone else. (The interesting twist, here, is that Coelho is going through distribution channels that are the bane of copyright purists - torrent! pirates! - whereas Cory has an agreement with his publisher to use a Creative Commons license, which is a middle ground between "all right reserved" and unlimited file sharing with (usually) no control for the copyright owner.

I think open access is absolutely the way to go for many, many reasons.

As for the idea that fiction has a tiny market - well, it accounts for over half of book sales, according to a recently-published authoritative book on the industry; higher education textbook revenues are far less than half that of trade books (though if you throw in the K-12, textbooks do outpace trade sales, though not enormously).

And so what if Steve Jobs thinks nobody reads because 40% of people didn't read a book last year (though other surveys have said 25%). I'm willing to bet 40% of people have not played a video game in the past year. That doesn't mean there's not a healthy market for them.

By the way the AAP reports book sales in 2007 were up 9%. Why do we always predict doom and gloom for books?
Oh, I was glad to hear Steve Jobs say that, maybe people will stop trying to force ebooks on us.

And I didn't mean it to sound like doom and gloom, I just see things changing. Different doesn't mean worse. Like I said, these changes may effect publishers more than authors.
Sorry I went off. I was just pissed off at Jobs for brushing off books. "Nobody reads." Ah, you've been reading too many NEA press releases, Stevie!

Actually, doom and gloom is such a tradition in the book business that it's ingrained. Just now, I noticed the booklist blog has a link to a story in The Onion - "Area Eccentric Reads an Entire Book" - a nice, silly spoof on the way people panic when youth start adopting a threatening technology - and what does Booklist use for a headline? "Wait a Few Years and This Won't Be Satire Anymore" With friends like these....
Ha, that's funny, an entire book. Too bad they didn't mention The Onion piece, Citing Slow Summer Box Office Hollywood Calls It Quits.

Yeah, with friends like these....

Still, like I said, I don't think books are in trouble at all. The corporate world will have to make some adjustments, though....
People actually read more than they ever have. It's just, now, instead of books, it's gone to blogs and other online reading.


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