Fear Obscurity, Not Piracy

Tim O’Reilly said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy” in a piece written nearly ten years ago.

And I think he’s right.

Even more so today than a decade ago. Why? Because it’s no longer 100,000 books published every year, it’s over three times that. And that figure doesn’t count eBooks.

Last week, I posted a video featuring Neil Gaiman speaking on the subject of piracy. It has been long theorized that piracy does not hurt sales. It actually helps sales because it increases visibility.

None of our books have DRM enabled and I was very excited to see one of our books on a P2P sharing site, but today I’m going to go one step further.

I want you to steal my book.

Currently on Amazon.com, the eBook for Rowan of the Wood is ranked at 168,578 (4/14 6:36 am). It generally sells somewhere between 2 and 20 copies through Amazon each month.

It is ranked 864,950 on Barnes & Noble.

Here is the experiment:

I’ll keep track of my Amazon & BN rankings, Smashwords downloads, PayPal donations, and free downloads from the above link over the next six weeks. At the end of May, I’ll post the results.

Furthermore, spread it around. Tell everyone. Post the .zip files anywhere you like. Leave a comment here (anonymously if you prefer) and tell me where you post it, then I can Tweet it to my followers.

Tweet it, too. “Steal @christinerose‘s book. She wants you to. http://tinyurl.com/3gw6qhe #free #ebooks. Plz RT.”
Use the buttons at the bottom of this post to share on your networks.

After over three years in the publishing and marketing trenches, I’ve learned a thing or two. Primarily, most of the books we sell (like 92-98%) are in-person, so giving these eBooks away we have very little to lose if all the piracy fear-mongers are right, which I don’t think they are.

The successes of J. A. Konrath (who did this experiment last year), Barry Eisler, Amanda Hocking, and Dean Wesley Smith have inspired many authors, including this one. The thought of making $100,000 a year as an author (and that’s modest, considering it would be the income for both me and my husband) is a dream. It’s over twice what we’ve seen so far. J. A. Konrath claims to make this much every two months. Seriously.

Want what someone has? Do what they do.

Just a fraction of Konrath’s sucess would be just fine.

With regards to my new book Publishing and Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author along with the consulting services I offer, I’m thrilled to do marketing experiments like this one. As it will not only help me gain further understanding of today’s marketplace, it will allow me to help other emerging authors become successful. Again. Nothing to lose.

So take my book. Please.

(p. s. if YA fantasy isn’t your thing, my alter-ego O. M. Grey is running a similar experiment for her *strictly* adult steampunk paranormal romance novel Avalon Revisited along with an eAnthology of short stories, poetry, and articles.)

(p. s. s. This entire experiment was inspired by and blatantly stolen from J. A. Konrath.)


What do you think will happen?

Will our eBook sales go up? Will they go down? Will anyone donate? Will they buy our other titles?

Do you think an author should fear piracy, or is obscurity a greater threat? What are the greatest concerns (or rewards) that come from pirating others’ work?

12 Comments Add yours

  1. CL Stegall says:

    Well, I’m certainly interested in seeing how this works out for you, Christine! If nothing else, I may be following suit! I do plan on giving away my book of short stories to anyone who purchases my novel within the next six weeks (blog post detailing this is forthcoming this afternoon). Hopefully that gives me a boost, as well. Good luck and I will promote the heck out it myself. :o)

    1. christinerose says:

      Thank you, CL! I’m interested to see how it works, too.

      1. SL Clark says:

        Thanks for doing this experiment, which thus far (1/2 way), seems to be successful at some level. Did you do a Google search for “Rowan of the Wood” “Christine Rose” (including he quotes) before you started, because today this returns 22,900 results. I’m guessing it was far less before…?


      2. christinerose says:

        Wow! Thanks for sharing this. It has been awhile since I searched Google for “Rowan of the Wood.” There were some things I hadn’t seen there! It is an interesting experiment to say the least. I have seen an upswing in sales and interest. More in a few weeks!

  2. C.M. Cipriani says:

    Oh I fear obscurity. Though I also fear being obscure and pirated at the same time…

    1. christinerose says:

      I don’t fear being pirated at all, not if they’re taking my book and reading it and telling other people about it. Now the idea of people taking my work and publishing it as their own, is rather terrifying. And that is happening, too. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Kat_Anthony says:

    I found out I was pirated a couple of days ago. I felt shocked and horrified (the first time this has happened to me)–an emotional reaction. After I asked the pirate to take it down (and she did), I found myself feeling ambivalent for the very reasons you mention. It’s very easy to be obscure as an indie author. Very, very easy. I don’t know if I’d ask for the takedown if it were to happen again… Being read, finding fans, and finding an audience is essential and obscurity is a major impediment to it. Will follow this experiment with interest!

    1. christinerose says:

      Very good point. I think I was shocked & horrified my first time, too. Now…pirate away! If I hear someone has pirated my book, I normally request that they talk about it & leave a review. Same thing when I meet readers who got a pirated copy. They’re happy to do it!

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