When You Steal a Book From an Author

So yet another admin of a Facebook group has decided that copyright doesn’t apply to them; a particular group has over 2000 pdfs of pagan books, including a LOT that are still under copyright. I mean, for pity’s sake, some of them even have “no-drm” in the file name, denoting that someone originally knew that book had digital rights management software attached to it, which means DON’T STEAL IT. My publisher for my books that are affects is already dealing with the DMCA takedowns, so I am here being unhappy that in 2017 this sort of thing is still happening.

Let me tell you something: when I write a book, I put literally hundreds of hours of my time into writing, editing and research, and that’s before the manuscript even goes to the publisher. If I’m self-publishing, I put in even more time with re-editing, proofreading, layout and interior design, book cover layout and design, file preparation, marketing and promotion and, of course, direct sales. The Tarot of Bones deck and book? Easily has a four-digit number of hours attached to it, and still counting since I am the sole distributor and marketer for it.

And unless I’m fortunate enough to get an advance from a publisher or have a successful crowdfunding campaign for a self-published project, I’m doing all this up-front work unpaid. Once I do get paid, tallying up the royalties and the income against the expenses? I’m not even making minimum wage. We authors have to play the long game, hoping that our books stay in print long enough to keep selling enough copies to maybe break even. I don’t know of a single pagan author who makes a living solely on book sales. Everyone has either a side hustle or a day job–or both.

Just because you legitimately bought a copy of the book doesn’t entitle you to ignore copyright. People who pirate have this idea that sharing ebooks is exactly the same as loaning a hardcopy version to a friend, or making photocopies of a few pages and giving them to a handful of students. Wake-up call, chum: sharing ebooks is not the same as passing a paperback around your coven. It can take months for that one paperback to work its way around thirteen people (longer if one of them “just needs a little more time, honestly!”) An ebook posted in a Facebook group, on the other hand, is going to hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can access it instantly.

It’s also not the same as getting a book from a library. Your average library book is only going to get checked out a dozen or so times a year, maybe a little more or less. Again, this is nowhere near the same as sending the PDF to thousands of people at once. Nor is that PDF the same as someone buying a secondhand copy at a thrift store; again, it can only go so far, so quickly. Sure, maybe a few of those people who read the pirated PDF might buy a new copy of the book, but the vast majority won’t. I’ve had my books pirated before, and if those people were all buying paperbacks from me I’d have a hell of a lot more money.

If I wanted people to be able to have access to a work that I put hundreds of hours of effort into free of charge, I would have released it into the wild myself, not chosen to enter it into an arrangement where I get an agreed-upon amount of compensation for it. So when some entitled individual decides that they have the right to ignore copyright and post entire PDFs online without my and/or the publisher’s permission, you know what that person is saying?

They’re saying that copyright doesn’t apply to them. They’re saying they are above the law. Sorry, but there is no way to legally justify sharing the ENTIRE book without permission. Fair use applies to a few hundred words, that’s it. “Educational use” is only within certain educational establishments, and again is piece and part, not the whole damned thing. Sharing a bunch of PDFs to random strangers on Facebook? Sorry, your educational defense doesn’t work.

They’re saying that I don’t deserve to decide how I will disseminate the book that I put hundreds of hours of work into. They’re saying “Fuck you, I don’t care what you want, and I don’t care how much work you put into this, because what I want is more important.” They ignore my choice to go through a publisher or to self-publish or to otherwise decide how to share what I’ve created.

They’re saying they don’t think my work is worth what I say it’s worth. When you give away an ebook of my work for free to thousands of people without permission, you are ignoring the price that I or my publisher put on that work. Again, few people who read the free version will actually buy the book after because they’re already got what they want, and all of that is lost potential customers. Which also means…

They’re saying that they don’t care whether I can afford to keep writing or not. As I said, I don’t make that much money off my books, certainly not enough to pay all my bills. A good month is one in which sales might pay one or two bills, or buy me some groceries. I have to do a lot of other things to make sure I can stay afloat. And at this level, the loss in revenue from lost book sales due to pirating hurts. Any pagan business owner, whether author or artist or shop owner, can tell you that the margin between paying the bills and not is pretty damned slim, so whether it’s piracy or shoplifting, theft makes it harder to get through each month.

They’re saying they’re entitled to my work. If you don’t respect my ability to be compensated for my work, but you think you should have access to it no matter what, you’re being entitled as all fuck. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic or your accountant or yourself to work free of charge. But somehow authors and other creatives are expected to create for free, and when we complain about theft we’re told we’re the ones in the wrong.

The sad thing is, there are people who will still feel that they have every justification for pirating books, whether pagan or otherwise. They’ll come up with excuses as to why they should be the exception. And they’ll keep wallowing in their ignorance and entitlement.

So as a way to counter that just a little, here’s my little bread and butter speech:

Consider supporting this self-employed author and artist by buying my books, or checking out my Etsy shop, or purchasing the Tarot of Bones! You can also get exclusive content, art in the mail, and more by being my Patron on Patreon! Thank you 🙂

9 Comments.
  1. Soli

    every last word here, yes. hopefully at some point this message will sink in.

  2. Lykeia

    I don’t have any cases of any if my books being stolen but as an artist too I consider this also should be applicable to this end too. Just cuz you like it/want it doesn’t mean you are free to just take. It bothers me both with written work and people randomly printing others art. Hours if work people…hours!

  3. Loona Wynd

    I wish we didnt have this fear. I’m afraid that one day I’ll see my book on one of these lists and will be rightfully pissed. I spent two years of my life on that book. While I am guilty of having made this mistake, it was an honest mistake.

    7-10 years ago I got caught up in down loading free PDFs of books. I was a dumb college student who didn’t know it was wrong. When I learned it was wrong i removed the pirated materials and kept the ones that were genuinely public domain.

    I eventually went out and bought actual copies of the books I had pirated. Now I do my best to report them when I find them.

  4. Thank you Lupa. Authors in the Pagan community have been saying this for years, but it keeps getting worse. It almost makes it impossible for some to make a living off their work.

    I appreciate every word you have said. So do many other authors. And we stand behind each other in cases where groups like this abuse authors rights.

    If any authors or artists are interested in learning how to protect their copyrights and learn about recent copyright laws, how to file DMCA, access to forms and more education about piracy and plagiarism, there is a large group on Facebook that works with the community to educate and advance copyright in the Pagan Community. Feel free to join us:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/pagansagainstplagiarism/

    Thank you.

  5. I feel you. At times I try discussing with the pirates, but most of them really do not get it. “But I have no money”, they say. (Well, so do I, for you keep stealing my books.) “But it’s just a file”, they say. (So is the book sent off to the printer – and when you buy an old-fashioned book, the important thing is the file that went to the printer, and not the paper itself.) “But you don’t have to write”, they say, “it’s a hobby. People should not get paid for hobbies.” And there it is … I *do* have to write, otherwise I am unbearable as a human being. And I want to share what I write, because I want to touch as many people as possible with my work. But in order to do so, I have to make enough money from writing to cover writing-related expenses. Heck, I am not talking everyday stuff, for that I have the bread-winning job, but a new notebook, books for research, attending fairs, taking classes to improve my skills, buying advertisement – as long as my writing pays for itself, I am happy, and some years it does not even do that.

    Long rant short: If you don’t want to buy my books, simply don’t read them. Stop wasting my time.

  6. Glad to know you are on Patreon. Is there some way this can be more widely shared? Patreon is a great way to support artists of all sorts- and writing is certainly an artform!

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