Inconvenience Doesn’t Justify Theft

I’ve received a deluge of email after yesterday’s rant. The vast majority is supportive, and I thank you kindly for it.

The small proportion left over, well…I’ll give you a sample. This one’s representative, both because of its phrasing and because of a self-serving justification for stealing I hadn’t noticed much before. We’ll go point by point.

So, this is from a certain S.E.P. He starts out with his main thesis.

I find it extremely hypocritical talking about “stealing” e-books, when your not making sure people can actually buy them.

Oh, my. Well, if they’re there to be stolen, perhaps they’re also there to be bought? And how am I “not making sure” people can buy them? I’m not going door to door with cases of them? But wait, he explains further.

I have no way of legally obtaining your e-books by paying for them.

Let me repeat that, I’ve no way of legally paying for your e-books due to your stupid publisher. Your not loosing money by me obtaining your books without paying, because there is no way for me to pay for your e-books as your unwilling to sell them Internationally.

What? Just…what? In the first place, I AM losing money by you “obtaining my books without paying”, for fuck’s sake, and in the most fundamental way. You just shot yourself in the foot and didn’t even notice.

In the second place, I am not unwilling to sell my books internationally. Neither are my publishers. In some cases we are unable to do so.

This particular canard is related to the argument that you are justified in stealing because the ebooks don’t come in a format that fits your e-reader. Both are something I, as a writer, have as much control over as, say, the weather in southeast China. (Which is to say, none at all.) The correct people to talk to about this are the original publishers, so you can find out if foreign rights have been sold to a publisher in your country and then, ask that publisher if there are plans to release in ebook format. You can also talk to your distributor and let them know you want X book in their format. They’ll listen–it means taking your money, after all. They like that.

Regardless, saying you’re entitled to steal because of foreign unavailability, or because a certain distributor doesn’t have my book in their format, is hogwash.

I like the Korean pop star Rain. Unfortunately, I can’t get hold of most of his stuff unless it’s import CDs for a hellish amount of money. This is an inconvenience to me, but I manage to avoid STEALING and torrenting his music. I refuse to steal, and I either wait until I’ve saved up to buy the import CD, or I go to Everyday Music and check their International section, or I go to Ebay. If I still can’t find it, well. Rain doesn’t get my money, and I don’t get his music, and that’s sad. It’s a goddamn tragedy.

It is NOT a justification for fucking STEALING.

Do I wish everyone in the world could read my books? You betcha. Do I wish it was easier for people in different countries to read my books? Sure do! But this is an imperfect world, and there are things I have no control over, and those two issues are picture-perfect examples of things I have little to no control over. Not only that, but those issues are not justification for taking without paying. Because taking without paying is STEALING. How many times do I have to repeat that basic fact before it sinks in? Or, wait. It’s sunk in. you know you’re doing wrong, otherwise you wouldn’t be attempting to justify so damn hard.

The basic assumption here is that you are entitled and someone is infringing on your entitlement. You are mistaking an inconvenience for a violation of your rights. When you’re three years old, you think you have an absolute right to have what you want whenever you want it. By the time you reach adulthood, you are supposed to realize that this isn’t so. But some people apparently don’t get it. They feel entitled, and so they steal. You are inconvenienced by the fact that the logistics of international law stand in your way of getting an ebook, and it’s easy to steal, and then you have the unmitigated effrontery to write to me justifying it when I publicly ask you not to steal from me?

I am inconvenienced every damn day too. I am inconvenienced by a long line at the grocery checkout, but that is not a justification for taking my groceries without paying for them. I am inconvenienced by the price of diamonds, but that does not justify stealing them. I am inconvenienced by the fact that there are certain countries my ebooks aren’t sold in, and there are certain things I love, like J-pop, that I can’t indulge as freely in as I’d like because of logistical difficulties.

I manage to refrain from fucking stealing.

As far as I know my bank converts the money into $ before transferring them to you, so what the hell is wrong with my money since they aren’t good enough to pay for the books, just because my credit card and bank is in another country?

This has nothing to do with anything. The publishers would love to take your money, and I would love to have them do it because I get a chunk of it. My books are sold in several foreign countries, by foreign publishers–Brazil, France, Russia, to name only three. Those publishers would probably love to take your money too, if you asked them. In the countries that remain, if enough people asked them to carry my work, they would be all too delighted to.

This is 2011, The Internet connect us all, so stop being stupid and prevent people from paying for stuff.

I am asking you not to steal, jackass, not “preventing” you from paying.

The Internet makes it easy for people to steal and gives them the illusion that they can get away with it. (And as Laura Anne Gilman noted yesterday, “Information wants to be free” means “Information wants to be unrestrained,” not “unpaid-for”.) I don’t think the Internet has made people more likely to steal, I think it’s made it easier and removed perceived difficulty and risk, much the same way cars removed perceived difficulty and risk for bank robbers in the twenties and thirties.

You’re not justified in stealing my books. You’re not fricking Jean Valjean, you’re a jerk who thinks he can get away with stealing and blaming the victim of the theft when she publicly asks you not to do so.

Believe it or not, this letter was actually one of the more coherent I received out of the small proportion classified as “I’m going to edumacate you in WHY I’m justified in stealing and it’s all your fault anyway and how DARE you ask me not to!!onety!” (As well as the one with the least typos. The mind boggles.)

I’ll bet, now that I’ve shot down the more common justifications for e-piracy, that the emails will only get more venomous and more exotic in their attempted justification of theft. The thing that comes through most clearly in this letter is that S.E.P. believes he is entitled, even though he knows what he’s doing is wrong. This Speshul Snowflake of Entitlement is very, very common, and the Internet makes it easy for such people to steal.

If you steal ebooks, it means less stories for you. It’s that simple. I will continue to ask, publicly, that you don’t steal my books. In a perfect world I wouldn’t even have to ask you not to steal my books. We don’t live in a perfect world, but I am not going to stop calling piracy what it is–theft–and publicly asking those engaging in it to just goddamn stop.

Over and out.

ETA: It is a common misconception that ebooks “cost nothing” to produce, or that the price of ebooks is padded excessively. This is not the case. Ebooks are not cost-free, and here’s why.

Comments closed, once again, for the same reasons as yesterday. My comment policy is here. Comments will reopen on tomorrow’s post, probably, and my Hammer of Moderation is ready and waiting. Just so you know.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Don’t Steal My Books

So that rant I was thinking about yesterday…well. One more straw was added to the camel’s back, and I’m going to go there. If you have a problem with four-letter words, don’t read any further. Go find some rainbows or ponies or something.

Here we go.

Why do I have to keep explaining to people that stealing is wrong? You’d think that should be a given. You’d think people wouldn’t argue.

To the person who sent me a little note about a “just-released study” “proving” that ebook piracy actually “helps” me: number one, I’m pretty sure that “study” doesn’t say what you think it does, and number two, how can I put this politely…

Oh, I can’t. I can’t be polite about this.

Fuck you.

E-piracy is “not a black and white issue,” you say. FUCK that. Taking without paying for is called stealing. Piracy is people stealing my fucking books, and it doesn’t get much more black and white than STEALING IS WRONG.

Even if that study says what you thought it did, you would still be asking me to believe that potential sales (which I can’t see and nobody has any way of proving) are somehow equivalent to the thousands of downloaded copies I can see people STEALING. If you even try to pull out the “well, maybe those people stealing it wouldn’t have bought it in the first place, so you should be grateful”, I will only repeat, fuck you very much. This is like saying car theft increases brand visibility, so nobody should be worried or upset about it. It’s just plain ridiculous.

The other thing I’ve had thrown at me lately–once when I politely asked someone to stop stealing my books, and again when someone on Facebook was trying to justify piracy–is that I shouldn’t be writing for the money anyway, implying that I’m somehow “lesser” because I expect people not to steal books I’ve written. I’ve already written about that canard. I don’t write “just for” the money, and even if I did it wouldn’t make me any less of a human being who doesn’t deserve to have her work stolen. Trying to say you’re justified in stealing my work because I shouldn’t be writing for money is so incredibly stupid, I can’t even talk to you if you’re going to be that willfully, obstinately stupid.

“But Publisher X GIVES AWAY ebooks and it HELPS THEIR SALES!” you wail.

Publisher X chooses to offer some of their list for discount or free, for varying reasons. They have a choice, and the content creator (the person who spent the effort to write and revise it in the first damn place) is part of that choice. This is not in any way, shape, or form an equivalent to people fucking stealing. Why do I even have to explain this?

I have a suspicion of why: because e-pirates know what they’re doing is wrong. They dress it up in silly stupid arguments like the above because they are trying to cover up theft with a pretty name. It’s not a new human behavior, (for lo, theft and greed in their many forms have been with us from the beginning) but it’s not one I have to condone either.

It’s very simple.

Piracy is stealing. Stealing is wrong. Pirating my books means I can afford to write less stories for you. If the first two sentences of this paragraph aren’t enough to stop you, maybe the third will be.

Comments are closed because I will not listen to one more idiot bleating about how epiracy is somehow beneficial to me, or how I should really be grateful to the jackasses stealing my work, or how it’s not really stealing because everybody feels like they deserve something for free and that’s what the Internet is about, or any of the other red herrings, false equivalencies, downright lies, or self-serving idiocy that one or two assholes always have to throw into the pot every time an author objects to people STEALING his or her work. (ETA: Like another one I just noticed, the “publishers charge too much, so we’re RIGHT to steal, because we’re customers!” OMG. There just aren’t words for the stupid.) Today I am just done with explaining. If you didn’t learn in elementary school that stealing is wrong, I doubt I’m going to be able to teach you now over the Internet. But even that doesn’t make stealing any less goddamn wrong.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Friday Three

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames.

G’morning! I’ve updated the Strange Angels page for Defiance, and added a page for Taken, my Harlequin Nocturne coming out in February. I’ve been a busy little bee this morning. (I do hope to get a newsletter out by the first of the year, but don’t count on it.) There is all sorts of fantastic news I can’t share yet, but I can say that the busy will not abate. Which is good. I’m happiest when I’m working.

The alternative just doesn’t bear contemplating.

So here I am on another Friday. There’s a lot of work ahead of me today, I can’t stay long, so here’s Three Things That Hopefully Make A Post (two of them questions I’ve been asked lately):

1. How do you make a reader care about a Bad Man/Antihero/Almost-Villain? Well, first you have to be absolutely clear on what the Bad Man’s motivations are. You have to know what his glass of water is. You have to know why they are doing what they’re doing. Then, you need to figure out what the most effective way of getting that why across to the reader. Half the work in making a Bad Man (or Woman, I should add) is getting that understanding; understanding breeds compassion, as I kept saying to a certain Coyote until I was blue in the face. Once we understood Vader was Luke’s dad, a whole lot more about Vader started to make sense and he became much more than a cardboard villain. (I am not even referring to those movies with JarJar. Just…no.) Sit down and make a list of why your Bad Man does the things he does; then decide if you want the reader to care, or to loathe, or both. Then you can write him (or her) effectively.

2. What if you run out of ideas? Look, the world is a smorgasboard. There are stories waiting all around you, just aching to burst into your consciousness. I don’t believe there is any such thing as writer’s block, and I have always seen the world as literally CROWDED with stories. Every car you pass on the freeway, every person on the bus, every light in the city at night, every person you see at the mall or at work or ANYWHERE, has their own story. Thinking “What if?” and “Why?” when you observe the people and things around you is fabulous creative fuel. I will never run out of ideas. Some ideas will not be plausible, some will not be ones I can pull off in novel or short story form, some will be unable to bear the weight of story structure, some I’m just not interested in telling the story around. But running out of them? Nope. Won’t happen.

3. This isn’t a question I’ve been asked, it’s just a thing. I don’t do arbitrary. There isn’t room for arbitrary in stories. You curl your fingers around your swordhilt, you draw and make your cut, and you are either victorious or dead. I do not “throw in” romance because a particular genre “has to have a romance in the book.” I write the story first and worry about what genre it sticks in later. If I’m writing to spec, I pick stories knocking around in my head that tally with the specs. (There’s never any shortage–see #2.) But I do not arbitrarily put stuff in my books. If something’s there, it’s there for a reason. Sometimes that reason is just that I’ve made a choice, simple as that. But it’s not arbitrary. I rather resent the implication that I just throw shit into the books without any care or thought. (As if you couldn’t tell.) Right next to piracy (don’t even get me started), this is a major irritant.

And that’s three things that hopefully make a post. The current round of revisions is eating my head, and the proof pages I’ve got to get done this weekend (days off? What are those? Do they even exist?) are chuckling at me from their pile. Time to strap on the flamethrower and the red pencil and get to work.

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Winners, But No Bitter Screed

The winners of the Heaven’s Spite contest are now posted.

I know I promised a Friday writing post about process, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t get much of any use out of me yesterday or today. I’m having one of those weeks where I question my chosen career pretty hard. If it’s not piracy (Heaven’s Spite hasn’t been officially out for more than a week and the torrents are popping up like mushrooms) or plagiarism it’s someone implying NaNoWriMo is a waste because it encourages the plebes to write. Plus I just paid some taxes, and had a dentist appointment last week and other Life Shit piling up, so…yeah. I’m not an uber-happy little camper right now, and if you asked me to write about writing, what you’d get would be a pile of bitterness.

I’m not up to a bitter screed right now. (For once, yeah, I know. Call the press.)

So I’m just going to say this.

If you love to read stories, great. Don’t pirate them, because the end result of pirating is less stories for you. Write if you want to. Understand that making a living by writing is not easy and calls for professionalism and hard work. If you’re gonna do it, do it, and let me be the first to congratulate and support you. If you’re not, that’s okay, I wish you luck. Either way, brush your teeth, get enough sleep, hug the people you love and tell them what they mean to you. Watch out for ninja terminator squirrels.

And have a great weekend. See you Monday.

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I’m Not The Jerk In E-book Pricing, And Trunk Novels

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about some things, so I might as well do a blog post.

* Every time I say “trunk novel”, someone asks what that is. A trunk novel is a term for a novel that won’t ever escape the inside of a trunk. It’s a piece a writer works on solely for his/her own gratification, one that stands little chance of every being published, mostly because the writer understands it’s horrible. It’s the writing version of junk food. I love my trunk novels. (Yes. That’s plural.) Often I work on them during breaks from other books. They’re sort of dry runs, practice to keep me in the game. It can also mean a trunk novel that gets published after a writer is famous, or famous and dead.

* OK, guys, let’s get serious. Lots of you are emailing me telling me that various e-book distributors are protesting publishers’ move to agency pricing by pulling my books. You invariably ask me to “talk to the publishers” and solve this problem.

I cannot do that. Furthermore, I will not even consider it and the very thought makes me cranky.

First, the publishers have little control over whether the distributors carry their books. Publishers and distributors are two separate companies and make their own decisions. Second, I would not dream of coming down on the side of the distributors on this issue, for the simple fact that the publishers’ interests in this case align with my own. The agency pricing model gives writers a better deal, and it keeps the books around for longer. The distributors want to profit at the expense of the writers (who produce the content) and the publishers (who invest in quality control and on the chance that the content will made the money back for them).

In short, THE PUBLISHERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY HERE, AND THE WRITERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY EITHER.

It is perfectly natural for the distributors to want to maximize their profits, or to keep going with business models that benefit them at the expense of the writers or publishers. They’re businesses, maximizing their profits is what they DO. But neither I nor the publishers should take the rap for it. Because it is also well within publishers’ rights to say, “We invest in bringing this content to the marketplace. We pay the advance, we provide the editing and quality control, we provide the art and marketing, and we will set the price for it as we see fit.” And in this one case, the publishers’ views align nicely with the rights and views of the writers producing the books in the first damn place. Professional writers are OF COURSE going to support their publishers in seeking the pricing and policies that grant them a living wage (or a close approximation of one). Or, to be more precise, that maximize the chances that a writer can afford to continue writing because the financial rewards are enough to let them scrape by. (This is where I go off on my “just because you’re published doesn’t mean you’re rich” rant. I’ll save that for another day.)

The distributors’ response–yanking certain publishers’ goods in order to pressure them into dropping the agency pricing model–is greedy and short-sighted in the extreme. Brick and mortar stores, e-book sites like Fictionwise, other sites like Amazon, are DISTRIBUTORS. The whole purpose of these companies is to distribute the goods that people want to buy, in this case, books. If they do not distribute, people should get annoyed and find somewhere else to shop. Distributors shoot themselves in the foot in these kinds of situations, despite their PR working overtime (usually through their customer platforms) to convince customers that someone else (the big bad publishers, the writers) are to blame.

I understand people contact the writers because we are the “face” of our books. People write to me about all sorts of things I have zero control over, like cover prices or font sizes or distribution to foreign countries or or or…you get the idea. It irks me that there are problems I can’t solve for the readers or to facilitate their enjoyment, but that’s life.

But please, please, dear Readers, don’t jump on me because a distributor is kicking and screaming over the e-book pricing model that may very well make or break an author’s chances to keep bringing these books to you. (Although, really, e-books are such a small part of total book sales…even though it doesn’t seem like it to people on the Internet.) Don’t jump on my publisher, or THE publishers, either. The publisher wants me to keep writing as much as you do; the publisher wants you to have the books as much as I do and you do. It’s the distributor who doesn’t want agency pricing because it gives the publisher and writer a bigger slice of the profits (profits that distributors have grown accustomed to in the last five-ten years or so) that deserves your ire. They are the ones you should be demanding an answer from–an honest answer, not “the big bad publishers are picking on poor little us, waaaah!”

Honestly, if it was the publisher being an asshole, I’d tell you. If it was me being an asshole, I’d admit it.

In this case, it’s neither. We’re not the assholes here, and filling up my email inbox with rants about how I need to get on the publisher and yell at them do not help. I know you’re frustrated. I’m frustrated too, as you can probably tell. I have no choice but to sit tight and wait for it to all shake out, since there is literally nothing I can do. In this case, the publishers are going into battle on behalf of writers. Well, it’s on behalf of their own profits, but it’s benefiting writers. Fair enough.

Now I’ve got to go hop on the treadmill and work all this adrenaline anger off.

See you around.

PS: Behave in the comments, please. Thanks.

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Give That Bitch Some Bonbons

The Muse, again. Taking the story through a bootlegger’s turn, and now she’s sitting on her red velvet fainting-couch, selecting bonbons from a beribboned cardboard box, and thinking through how she’s going to tell me to fix this thing. I can’t go any further until I figure out how Character A has received the information he’s going to impart to Girl Friday. I know there’s a solution, it’s on the tip of my brain. The goddamn Muse is sitting on it.

Some days she’s like that.

I am just going to keep throwing bonbons at her until she takes pity on me or until the solution wriggles out from under her and into my head. In the meantime, I’ll be working on another project to make this one jealous. Making books jealous of each other is a good way to jolt them free. If I’m not working on one thing I’m working on another, and that’s what’s saving my sanity.

Such as it is.

So. I’ll be shoveling bonbons and working on the homicidal-fae book today if anyone needs me. If you see the Muse, throw some choco at her or kick her pretty little derriere, willya?

Thanks. You’re a pal. I couldn’t do this without you.

*exits stage right, hands fisted in hair, muttering*

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All and then it’s nothing to me, yeah…

Yeah. Like this:

You and I got something
But it’s all, and then it’s nothing to me, yeah
And I got my defenses when it comes to your intentions for me, yeah
And we wake up in the breakdown
In the things we never thought we could be, yeah…

I’m not the one who broke you
I’m not the one you should fear
We’ve got to move you darling
I thought I lost you somewhere
But you were never really ever there at all… (Goo Goo Dolls)

Yes, I want to get free. But you don’t need to talk to me. I’m done talking. Now I’m moving.

There are hard days and easier days. Today is somewhere in between. But when I’m on the treadmill and running, I find pieces of myself I left behind so I could fit in your cupcake tin. They slide back into place like they were never gone, and I feel more and more like myself. Each day is better as the other physical things migrate out of the house–kind of, I don’t know, like bits of shrapnel leaving a wound.

I’ve made my way out of the cocoon. The wings are dry. I’ve climbed the damn tree I was hanging in.

Now I’m going to fly. I’m scared, and there’s no net…but the worst has already happened, and I’ve not only survived. I’ve just plain thrived. I guess I didn’t need what I thought I did. Lesson learned, I won’t forget it. Ever.

Now I’m gone. Really gone. Gone gone gone.

And it feels good.

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