Best Selling Author Actively Pirating His Own Book -- Finds It Helps Sales Tremendously

from the the-benefits-of-free dept

We've been seeing more and more examples lately of content creators recognizing how they benefit from giving away their content for free. What's most amusing, however, is that every time we point out an example, people work extra hard explaining why that case is a special case. When we discussed less-well-known musicians giving away music, we were told that it would never work for megastars. When we discussed megastars giving away music, we were told it would never work for indie musicians. The same is true in other areas as well. When we recently wrote about an author giving his book away for free, someone angrily emailed to let us know that this only made sense because no one had ever heard of that author -- so it was purely a promotional effort by a new author.

Yet, apparently, it also works for well-known authors. TorrentFreak points us to the news that Paulo Coelho is such a fan of giving his book away for free that he's even set up his own blog called Pirate Coehlo where he points to where you can download various translations of his best selling book The Alchemist. Coelho explained all of this in a recent talk he gave:

Link: sevenload.com
What Coelho quickly discovered was that the more his book was available for free, the more sales of the actual book increased. As an example, he cites the Russian translation of his book, where it went from only 1,000 sales to well over 100,000 in a period of two years, and has only continued to grow since then. It's yet another good example of someone embracing how giving away content for free can help them earn more money. And, it highlights (again) that, whether you're well known or a nobody, you can use these tactics to your advantage.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Hellsvilla, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 3:41pm

    pffft....

    That will never work for the people that are too lazy to write a book....

     

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  2.  
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    Dae Arien, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 3:47pm

    Here is another author playing with the concept in a way, and an explanation of his thought process going into it:

    http://www.brandonsanderson.com/book/Warbreaker/

     

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  3.  
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    Cixelsid, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 3:52pm

    Re: pffft....

    Hey, is that a cheap shot at Blog writers?

    It should be.

     

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  4.  
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    Amanya Wannahear, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 4:39pm

    Haaaaaaand......Salute!

    Bravo. Good stuff.

     

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  5.  
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    Joey, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 5:28pm

    just a thought

    While I don't disagree with you at all, I do want to play devil's advocate on one aspect here.

    I can see that this structure works quite well for authors as the majority of people absorb the content through reading of an actual book. So, people find the author online, view the pirated material, realize that they would like to read the book at their own leisure (and not tied to the screen) and then purchase it.

    As I have been typing this and thinking it through further, I wonder how much the model benefits musicians. Does one side of the business model (electronic distribution) get hampered while helping the other side (cd sales)? Or are both helped by the process?

    --Joey

     

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  6.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jan 24th, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    Re: just a thought

    As I have been typing this and thinking it through further, I wonder how much the model benefits musicians. Does one side of the business model (electronic distribution) get hampered while helping the other side (cd sales)? Or are both helped by the process?

    With music, they need to adopt a somewhat different set of business models, as we've described.

     

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  7.  
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    zcat, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 6:17pm

    time for a new arguement?

    "Sure, a small amount of sharing one or two confined areas might actually have a promotional effect. But more widespread and open P2P sharing across all forms of media would almost certainly be detrimental!"

    It's a bit like arguing with creationists, really..

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 7:14pm

    Baen Free Library

    SF/Fantasy book publisher Baen seems to understand this, and they have for a while. For just over 7 years now they have hosted some of their own books as free downloads in the Baen Free Library.

     

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  9.  
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    R. H., Jan 24th, 2008 @ 7:46pm

    Re: just a thought

    With music I could see giving away 64 or maybe 128kbps mp3 files, possibly with ads at the beginning and/or end and then anyone who wants to listen to the music at a higher quality or without said ads would have to buy it somewhere. I understand that the ads could be easily removed however, how many people will do that rather than simply paying for a higher quality, ad-free version?

     

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  10.  
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    drummer, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 7:51pm

    Baen Free Library

    On the first page of the Baen Free Library, sci fi author Eric Flint boldly explains why they have the free library and why it has worked to many many authors' benefit. Both Baen and the authors have made quite a bit of money from giving books away for free. Why is this so difficult for some people to understand....

    I personally read a lot of books on my PDA as do many of my friends - and, no, we are not "youngsters" per se, as we're in our 40's & 50's.

    As a consequence of reading several of the free books and getting exposed to some different authors, we have all purchased quite a few books.

    I have found myself doing something similar with music sites that let me listen to free samples and list suggestions of similar music.

    The model really does work.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Iron Chef, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 8:39pm

    Agreed, here's a usecase...

    Recently I found this book called "The Areas of My Expertise" by satirist John Hodgman. It's definitely satire, and his type appeals to the "well read".

    During my search, I was a little dissappointed when I found that Apple had posted the audio version of it online for free for a week or two.

    The process that ensued thereafter was interesting- I bought the audio version, and also picked up the print version (to proudly display on my desk at work next to my growing library of HBR-published works.)

    So yes, it worked out well as a promotional item. Probably better than any other way...

    I can't wait until the Writer's Strike Ends. Neither can Colbert.

     

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  12.  
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    Jim Yiapanis, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 12:18am

    Why books will always reign...

    As much as people will continue to consume snippets, exerpts, summaries and more online, there are a few practical considerations as to why bookshelves will always be in demand... Electronic devices continue to have robust energy requirements, be susceptiple to damage and simply not as user friendly as a physical book. Books are indeed the ultimate mobile platform, accessible anywhere anytime. Electronic content will augment and compliment well into the foreseeable future... JY

     

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  13.  
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    Allen Harkleroad, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 2:16am

    I too went the Free Book route

    Last month I began giving away the digital version of my search engine book, Confidential SEO Secrets. I have been quite happily surprised at the number of voluntary domains I have received. I made it very easy for visitors to download the book (no registration) and it is the complete book, not just a couple of chapters. Allen

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 4:35am

    Re: time for a new arguement?

    "It's a bit like arguing with creationists, really.."

    Actually it's worse. Because

    "widespread and open P2P sharing across all forms of media would almost certainly be detrimental"

    is already here.

    That's what I don't get about idiots touting they can't compete with free. You're doing it right now every day.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    You can't pirate your own content.

    Is free a business model? Of course it is, many have been using it for years. Hell, there is a famous razor company that gave away the shaver while selling the blades. Free is nothing new.

    I have no problem with the free issue, I do have a problem with taking the content of those that choose to not go with that business model. Techdirt does seem to support the taking of that content.

    I look at it like this. Walmart has a business strategy of selling at low prices. Nordstroms doesn't. There may be the exact same items in both stores (although I doubt it) but do I have a right to walk out of Nordstroms while only paying Walmart prices? Seems to me that could get you thrown in jail.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Alimas, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Books and Music

    Its not really comparable.
    The simplest reason being books are still typically enjoyed most in their paper form than an electric form by the typical person, for a variety of reasons. (Light reflecting off paper is easier on the eyes than a screen, can't carry the computer to bed for a quick read before sleep or to the breakfast table, etc..)
    Music on the other hand has only gotten better and more popular with the advent of recent technologies making it more mobile. Its carrying cases (MP3 players vs. CDs or tapes, etc..) are smaller, lighter, more organized, hold more, etc..
    Even if you got a copy of a book for free on the web, most people would still be motivated to go buy the physical books to enjoy the rest of the story or others by that Author.
    With music however, you get the song you want, then you've got it. Done. Like an artist specifically? You can typically download the entire album of a popular star near effortlessly a week after its released, maybe earlier.
    I don't even know anyone personally that actually buys CDs anymore.
    I think the small time artists are the musicians that can really benefit from doing the releasing of some tracks to the public for them to sample.
    Music for small time artists is harder for to find. You find one track they're spreading but not the rest. What do you do? Go buy the CD.
    It won't even come with the stigma of Metallica whining about not making as many millions as they used to.

    Free Sharing:
    Megastars: Bad idea.
    Small bands: Good idea till their mega stars.
    Books: Good idea.

     

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  17.  
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    aarthilal, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 10:20pm

    hello! I'm a big Paulo Coelho's fan and I don't know if you heard about his blog http://www.paulocoelhoblog.com I've started as a fan and now I'm collaborating with him and thought that you would like to enter his universe. Check the blog. if you want, or subscribe to his newsletter http://www.warriorofthelight.com/engl/index.html You'll see a community of warriors of light sharing ideas, dreams and most importantly following their personal legend. QUOTE OF THE DAY: A responsible Warrior is one who has proved able to observe and to learn. (Manual of the Warrior of Light) Have a nice day! Aart

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Morgan, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 11:55am

    Not sure what the point is

    Everyone's been free to do this for a goodly long time, Bruce Eckels did it like 10 years ago, Seth Godin as well. That it is a good idea for some people, or even if, theoretically, it made more money for every writer in the world, means nothing in regards to stealing. It's the writer's decision how they sell their work, and someone's perception of whether a business model is worthy or not does not give anyone the right to copy a work without the creator's permission.

    So if it's not another in the litany of stories here written to say "stop trying to control your works and stop trying to prevent stealing," then I don't know what this story is other than about a decade old news.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Keith, Jan 29th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Pirating own content

    Well, for Paulo Coelho to do this is one thing! He is already an established writer, so he can afford ($$) to wait...and see if such activity really helps his book to sell copies...but for the average person out there...many writers need the revenue to stay afloat...so this gets back to my supporting collaboration...this way writers can keep on writing...
    Regards, Keith Johnson, Author "365 Great Affirmations"

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Nameless Face in the Crowd, Jan 30th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    It's my understanding that "most writers" aren't full-time writers, and can't be until they "make it big." Free content speeds up the "make it big" part, because more people will have access to your content and be able to decide if they like your style or not. It's better to have people demanding more content from you than to be another nameless face in the crowd.

     

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  21.  
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    essien victor, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 6:03pm

    pirating ur book

    its allright, if ur aim is just making huge profits.However it can be fallacious if there is real need to enlighten pple about a process which will be to the good of the society at large

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    essien victor, Jul 9th, 2008 @ 6:04pm

    pirating ur book

    its allright, if ur aim is just making huge profits.However it can be fallacious if there is real need to enlighten pple about a process which will be to the good of the society at large

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Nate, Apr 12th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Free Ebooks are my fav

    Also check out http://www.FreeBookQuest.com. I have been using it for a few weeks now, and I can usually find what I am looking for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Stephen Nier, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:24am

    RE:Pro Writer: Paulo Cuelho,Matt Groening's "Simpson's" Cartoon Series, & N.A.S.A.'s science symposium on recent discoveries on Saturn's moons

    This "seven load" web cast was fairly interesting regarding
    Paulo Cuelho's "The Alchemist" marketing of e-books and general sales statistics on an international scale.
    It seems to me that the book business can get " very hairy
    (complex) very quickly" when dealing with the legal realm
    of copyright law and DRM [digital rights management] while
    dealing simultaneously with translator's pay percentages on
    the overseas sales.
    The Paulo Cuelho pointed out a remarkable phenomena that
    I would like to call the 'avarice & apathy' factor of the
    market place. He mentioned casually the fact that people by
    the thousands were downloading his e-books ,yet apparently
    NOT READING THEM!!...since there had been NO COMMENTS,CRITICISM, OR COMMENDATION of his literary work!!!!

    P.S.:
    - Go into all the world & preach The Gospel of CHRIST
    to all!

    -Your Fellow Keeper of Torch of Truth,
    The Holy Grail, The Holy Double-Edged Sword,
    The Holy Arc of the Covenants, & other various
    assorted objects d'art!!,

    s. c. n. ... d.b.online as

    mastertech37@yahoo.com
    stevenier74127@gmail.com
    snier@stx.rr.com ... while owning & operating
    two websites:
    http://nierenergy.igniteinc.biz

    http://steveniersdesignservices.biz

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Sports Betting Online, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    This doesn't work for audio/video

    I agree with one of the previous comments that this free distribution type of online promotion works best for books. People might download complete digital copies of books online but if the book is too big it's a lot less strain on your eyes to read it in print.

    With music and movies the situation is different - once people download and listen to the song or watch a movie, they most likely will not buy the original product, unless they absolutely loved it.

    Just my two cents based on personal experience.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Geoffrey Transom (profile), Apr 19th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    Re: just a thought

    The point is, artists are NOT the ones who profit from copyright - LABELS profit.

    The internet is a terrific tool for undermining the parasitic shitbags who interpose themselves between creators of content and viewers of content.

    Every industry, every political system has a layer of bullshit artists - parasites whose job is to raise prices in order that they can pocket the difference between the cost of production and the (rigged) final price.

    There are any number of examples of musicians who create content, provide it at whatever price the viewer is willing to pay (including "zero"), and make more than enough to cover their expenses (Nine Inch Nails are the most-cited example).

    The marginal cost of a digital copy of a CD or DVD is ZERO, or as near to zero as makes no odds. Under a competitive system, prices equal marginal costs.

    If artists can find people who are prepared to pay more than marginal cost, then that is perfectly alright - effectively, some consumers are prepared to voluntarily donate some of their 'consumer surplus' to the artists as a gesture of goodwill.

    That is fine (noble, even) and I have done that myself from time to time. But I understood what I was doing: paying more than marginal cost, and giving up (part of) my subjective evaluation of how much it was worth TO ME.

    To insist that everyone pays more than marginal cost undermines the fabric of a genuinely competitive economic system. It is the behaviour of monopolists, and monopoly is always and everywhere subject to being 'undermined' by the market... which is why the first port of call for any monopolist (when they face market pressure) is to call in the state and its goon squads.


    Caedite Eos.

    Cheers


    GT

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Online Sports Betting, Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 7:49am

    Re: Re: just a thought

    Labels are evil, I agree, but your argument omits the fact that people steal works of all artists, even from independent artists. Take Nine Inch Nails example. They might sell their sons or albums elsewhere on the internet for a nominal price that they feel is fair; yet on a P2P network people exchange that same music for free without the consent of Nine Inch Nails. Is it fair for them? Of course not.

    What is needed is a revolutionary concept, one centralized online market place where artists can sell their work. This place must be free or based on donations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    premji, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 10:08pm

    Literary investigation

    dear friend,

    paulo coelho is a publishing phenomenan. but he is not an original writer. his magnum opus 'the alchemist' itself is a stolen treasure. he knows from where to stela and how to hide. please read the blog www.literaryinvestigation.blogspot.com to find out from where he copied and created 'the alchemist'.

    truth is always bitter...

    premji, india

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Rico, Nov 21st, 2009 @ 5:55pm

    Re: Re: just a thought

    I believe that your scheme would still work. Those people that want high quality would still but the HQ version. I do that all the time. I find a mp3 set (album) and if I play it constantly, I buy a CD, or 320khz mp3 version from somewhere, beatport, Itunes whatever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    DeathOfChaos, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Re: just a thought

    I would, lol.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Literary investigation

    Watch out, the link only leads to cricket, it has nothing to do with the Coelho fellow!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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