As someone commented: 400,000 times zero equals zero...
Or is there the same thinking going on here as with the confused people in the music biz? That there will be some magic monetizing somewhere along the line (advertising? Paid appearances? Just a good way to sell the idea to a film company?).
Bottom line, it's unavoidable. Any creators who make stuff that can be digitized have to take this into account now, if they're aiming to make some money at some point. If people get into the same habits of downloading free books from Bit Torrent as they have with music and movies then... you better move fast, writers! It's taken just ten years since Napster for the music biz to change, shrink the percentage for the musicians and educate a new generation into the idea of free music, all the time, for ever more. (check out what that means financially)
Publishers are already looking at a writer's online presence before thinking about signing them up. If they follow the major record labels then they will expect a writer to sell 10,000 ebooks off their own back before signing them up for a deal that will include a cut of everything the writer is involved with, including T shirts...
What if a lot of those 400,000 like the book, and then Megan Lisa Jones' next novel is not released for free? Maybe the fanbase built up by giving away the first book will lead to a lot of sales for the next book.
Anyway, downloading books, via torrents or otherwise, is nothing new. It's been going on for years. Just because more people are learning about it now doesn't mean it just started now.
The combination of a huge tipping point like 400,000 downloads and the relatively recent ubiquity of devices to read them on heralds a change in pace. If this author does well on the back of her new fanbase then she will be exceptional - it doesn't mean another hundred authors will go the same way. There's also a chance that her next book could be pirated and she'll make zero again.
For me, it's not that downloading or pirating is 'wrong' but that the mindset of the public could change, in the same way as with the music business.
I wish we wouldn't further publicize those thieves. No idea what the deal is with the novel "release" but they've been stealing my books for years. That costs me money and contracts.
Whatever their reason for existing (are you sure they don't make money from this?), they can be sued.
I.J. - I would refer you to the unfortunate and completely unsuccessful attempts by the music industry to use the law to stamp out pirates...
The implication here is that she's losing money on 400,000 potential sales. There's no question that most of those pirates wouldn't pay for the book anyway. Or for any other book. And those who might have paid for it? Well, this is only going to introduce her to that market that might otherwise never have heard of her. A loss leader, so to speak.
As for the music business? Instead of trying to figure out how to adapt to the new digital world, the record companies instead poured their resources into lawsuits against their own customers. How's that working for them, I wonder?
Well, the loss leader argument has proven wrong with music and film - instead the losses remain permanent. Those 400,000 readers are more likely to be 400,000 readers who will expect to read digital books for free, which will be the attitude generally, with good evidence from the music industry.
The music business didn't really make many mistakes, when you look at the whole business - they just accepted the inevitable. They've had to readjust, slim down and carry on with several new players (Youtube/iTunes/Amazon) and a new business model which reduces manufacturing costs by paying out less in advances and with less risks by making the artists prove themselves before signing and then signing them to really rotten deals when they have signed them.
That sounds really hopeful for the book business!
Actually, there is already a lot of evidence that publishers are going that route. Mind you, I think those huge advances are idiotic, as is the fact that they buy books back from stores.
Considering that authors can go directly to Kindle, they can bypass those really rotten deals. Who wants to finance those publisher lifestyles?
That's the nub! There are a lot of dreamers who see online as a way to bypass the trad route. But the DIY revolution hasn't happened in the music biz, not in the way everyone was hopeful for and that should worry those who believe the world of publishing has suddenly opened up to the world.
My fear is that authors will come up against the same problems as musicians, which are the cost of effective PR & promotion, the lack of financial support and being swamped by the hundreds of thousands who decide to self-publish.
The effect could be that there are less options for the struggling author, rather than more!
So I'm the author of Captive and the BitTorrent partner. I agree with a lot of the points made below. Having said that, as a new author, the options, in my opinion (I come from the business, specifically high tech..not surprisingly...world) are very limited. But people are still reading books.
I will disagree with one point...I don't think that 400,000 times zero always equals zero. I've gotten amazing support and feedback from readers as a result of the BitTorrent promotion. Some has come from people in places like Iran or Syria where Captive wasn't going to get published. Some has been in the United States. I like knowing that people are reading and enjoying my book. Will they stay my audience if I charge next time? I don't know...but had they not read or heard about Captive they would never have been my audience in the first place.
I loved working with BitTorrent; they supported the release and know how to reach an audience. I look at the promotion as a "freemium" model (a business decision) and, as a friend told me when I mentioned that 400,000 plus is a lot of "free" - freemium always starts that way...then it's up to me to figure out how to make money. Will I? Let's hope. And let's hope others do the same.
Thoughts and inputs are welcome...
And, this book could very easily have been pirated...but no one knew that they wanted it. I prefer to focus on the fact that we reached across borders and windows to democratize media. I truly wish there were more options for new writers and artists. Perhaps I'm missing something, but getting any traction is hard with so many media options out there.
Thanks for contributing Megan.
It's interesting to note that, as with the music business, there are the polar opposites of evangelists for online and traditionalists on the other, with a lot of people hoping and praying in the middle.
Because books have always had such an important place culturally it's hard to grasp that, for the likes of Amazon, they are just so much product. Somehow it's easier to dismiss something if it only exists as an idea in a series of words, as opposed to a burn-able book.
So, as with a lot of internet content, we're still trying to work out what's important as well as how to make money from it and the fact that your book is read in countries where it would normally need to go through the difficult process of being sanctioned and imported is an important one.
The closest to a neat summing up of the situation I've read so far comes from author Iain Sinclair in an interview (read here):'I think the climate has changed, colder in some spots, meltdown in others. The slippage from the small-press world (where such as Peter Ackroyd got their start) won’t happen again. “Literary fiction” has lost its marketing niche: speed has increased, front-of-house display to smoky oven in nanoseconds. What publishers are looking for is the photogenic, one-idea pitch, the first novel. Novelty as a form of celebrity: look good, look wild-but-safe. Have a story. The author is being sold as much as the property.