Research Shows Unauthorized Digital Books Leads To 'Significant Jump In Sales'

from the well,-look-at-that dept

We've seen this before, with individual authors like Paulo Coelho and David Pogue, who both found that as more people were able to get unauthorized copies of their ebooks, their sales actually increased. So, this shouldn't come as a surprise, but some new research looking at the impact on sales of unauthorized files getting out found a "significant jump in sales" (found via Michael Scott):
Brian O'Leary discussed his firm's research on the effect on sales when a title finds its way into an unsanctioned online market. The findings -- a significant jump in sales -- have surprised many in the business.
To be fair, he does go on to say this doesn't mean just "don't worry about" unauthorized access. Instead, he says it's important to figure out what kind of unauthorized access helps sales and what kind hurts -- and that still needs to be studied. But, the early results certainly suggest that the stuff that helps quite often outweighs the stuff that hurts (sometimes by quite a bit).


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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 6:31am

    Experiment...

    It's stories like this that make me want to release a novel I am currently pimping for consideration out into the "wild", just to see what happens. I wonder if a previously unpublished author could become well enough known via free disty of an eBook to get a book deal.

    This is why I need to do my homework on bittorrent etc. to figure out how to do this, as I'm currently fairly bittorent stupid (I know enough to know how to get free authorized distros, etc., but setting up a torrent and getting it to be searchable? The Helmet shakes his helmeted head like some kind of confused grandpa....)

     

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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 6:50am

    It is like anything. An author (or band, or movie maker) who doesn't have a big following can benefit from giving stuff away for free. In part, it is because their downside risk is very small, because they have little to lose.

    Helmet, I don't think you can get well enough known on this alone, I am sure you can get some exposure. My thought: how many people know about Nina Paley? Outside of a certain group, she would be an unknown. It might get you to a certain point, but I am not sure it goes all the way (nor am I sure you would want to go all the way on everyone getting your work for free).

    In the end, it appears that "FREE!" is one step on the ladder, see:

    http://techdirt.com/articles/20100128/2014177968.shtml

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 6:53am

      Re: Lol

      Masnick's Paradox, you say?

       

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:02am

      Re:

      "Helmet, I don't think you can get well enough known on this alone, I am sure you can get some exposure."

      As someone who has struggled in the past to bend the ear of agents/publishers, I can tell you that getting "some exposure" is THE most important thing. Seriously, even more important than being a good writer. Now, I for one make no excuses. I'm fairly young for a writer, and some of the things I've written that haven't been picked up by traditional publishers were almost certainly not worthy of those publishers. Hell, I'm not sure if I'm good enough to be a full time writer NOW, though I know I'm constantly evolving and improving. But I can assure you that if I had even a modicum of a following that I could point to, say via a serialized work given on a website that monitors how much traffic I'm getting, I would IMMEDIATELY be including that in any query letter I sent out, and it seems to me that this could be a reasonable strategy to implement that.

      "My thought: how many people know about Nina Paley? Outside of a certain group, she would be an unknown."

      Fair point, though I can only speak for myself. Everything is so niche these days that even my own girlfriend doesn't know about half the people I'm reading, listening to, or following. However, in my particular case, this was a perfect example of how this works. I didn't know of her before she did her thing and I read about her on Tech Dirt. Now I'm a fan, and I've mentioned her to others as well. Perhaps the FREE! thing is more akin to a longterm investment, rather than a quarterly report stock windfall....

      "nor am I sure you would want to go all the way on everyone getting your work for free"

      Depends what you mean. I have no problem with everyone getting my eBook absolutely free. I want them to then buy my physical book in such numbers that it translates into both a movie deal and a long term publishing contract. I see it as all building on itself to bring in multiple streams of revenue.

      "In the end, it appears that "FREE!" is one step on the ladder"

      I kind of agree with this, with the caveat that it can be THE most important step, the one that begins the whole process....

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      Seriously?

      "The Alchemist has gone on to sell more than 65 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling books in history, and has been translated into more than 67 languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author."

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:41am

      Re:

      "It is like anything. An author (or band, or movie maker) who doesn't have a big following can benefit from giving stuff away for free. In part, it is because their downside risk is very small, because they have little to lose."

      Not sure if I agree with you there. Neil Gaiman posted free e-books of various of his novels. As a result the sales for those novels went through the roof. These were books that had been out for a few years and had sold very well originally but when he brought them to the attention of a new audience they clamoured to buy them. Considering his books are normally bestsellters I'd say that he goes against your "downside risk is very small, because they have little to lose" comment.

       

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        The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re:

        onsidering his books are normally bestsellters I'd say that he goes against your "downside risk is very small, because they have little to lose" comment.

        Not at all. The books he put out for free, by your own words, had already been out for a few years, and the fans had already bought them. Anything he got after that was gravy. He had little downside risk (the fan base was already satisfied), so why not? The only risk he has is cutting off a bit of the long tail on his book.

        Now, if he had a new release coming, and instead put it out there for free in all the different ebook formats, he would be taking a very big risk against potential sales. That would be a whole different game.

         

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          :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Gravy

          Counter Example (author): Cory Doctorow. Every book he releases is available for FREE (gratis, not libre) online the moment it's done. This has worked out incredibly well for him, and he often describes how other authors could benefit from the same activity.

           

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            chris (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:49am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Gravy

            Counter Example (author): Cory Doctorow. Every book he releases is available for FREE (gratis, not libre) online the moment it's done. This has worked out incredibly well for him, and he often describes how other authors could benefit from the same activity.

            i have read all of his electronic versions and have given physical copies to my friends and family as gifts, "little brother" in particular.

            by reading his books for free, i have purchased something like a half dozen dead tree versions of his works.

            rick dakan is another author whom i have read the electronic versions and have then given the physical copies as gifts to another person. i bought my copy of his third novel "blackhat blues" directly from dakan at a hacker convention with an autograph without even bothering with the digital version.

             

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            Jon Renaut (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 11:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Gravy

            It's not really fair to use Cory Doctorow as an argument - he has legions of digital hippies following him who would buy his books just to piss off the people claiming his model can't possibly work.

             

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      DCX2, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      An author (or band, or movie maker) who doesn't have a big following can benefit from giving stuff away for free.

      Nine Inch Nails.

      Radiohead.

      blahblahblah

       

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        The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:48am

        Re: Re:

        Do you think either of them are suddenly more well known as a result of their giveaways? Do they sell more concert tickets?

        They have the same issue, in the end: little downside risk.

         

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          DCX2, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 9:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Way to change the subject. You said "no big following = no benefit from free stuff". But since you brought it up, let's talk about risk.

          Do you want to know why some people pirate movies? When you live on less than the median household income (as 50% of households do), money is tight ($50k doesn't go very far these days with rent/groceries/gas/insurance/college...). Why spend $20 on a DVD that sucks? There's too much r.i.s.k that the movie will suck compared to other movies that cost the same price. It's like paying $20 to reach into a grab-bag filled with diamonds and cubic zirconium.

          So pirate. Watch. Gag. Delete. Pirate another movie. Watch, gag, delete. Pirate another movie...hey, this movie is cool. See movie in the store, buy it. See other movies by the same director, buy them.

          A few years later, those crappy DVDs end up selling much better at $10. Why? Because blowing $10 on a stupid movie is much less r.i.s.k.y than blowing $20.

           

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        :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        Yah, Masnick's Paradox. An short-hand of standard expressions by techdirt's detractors. To wit:

        A) Sure, it works for nobodys, but will never work for established artists.

        B) Sure, it works for established artists, but will never work for nobodys.

         

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          The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Nope, more like "there is benefit for some at the bottom, some at the top, but there is no connection between the two".

          Either you have enough money to afford not to care, or you have so little that it doesn't matter.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You forgot to mention that whenever an example in the "middle" is provided, you'll just claim that it's actually at the bottom or the top.

             

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            CommonSense (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Only you could say "In part, it is because their downside risk is very small, because they have little to lose" when speaking about unknown artists, trying to exclude well known artists, and then turn around and say that well known artists benefit in the same way... At least without realizing that you're talking yourself in circles and losing any credibility.

            "Either you have enough money to afford not to care, or you have so little that it doesn't matter."
            -That's based on an entitlement mentality where you feel you have a right to make a certain amount of money per book/movie/album regardless of what anyone thinks about it. That's pure idiocy. If no one knew of a certain author, and they release a free EBook, there's no risk to a casual reader to check out the book. If Dan Brown (example of a well known author) released an EBook, there's no risk to a casual reader to check out the book. In both cases, people who would never give said books a second glance in a bookstore because they're not sure it'd be worth the money, can pick up the books in digital format and evaluate their worth with no financial risk. In both cases, the only possible harm that could come to the author is if the book is terrible, and everyone who reads it for free decides it's not worth paying for. The side of this that you don't seem willing to look at, is the people who actually paid for that book, found it highly disappointing, and vow to never buy a book by that author again because the work isn't worth it. I fall into that category, and I admit to RARELY viewing movies in the theater because they're so RARELY worth theater prices. I saw half of Avatar online (as well as heard lots of friends praise it), BEFORE I went to the theater to see it, and I paid to see it at the theater TWICE!!! I don't read much, and I don't buy books that I haven't already read, because I'm not spending money and storage space in my little condo for a book that's not worth reading twice.

            Anyway, content creators throughout the spectrum (large, medium, or small) all benefit in the same way, and the ONLY reason they should be afraid of losing sales, is if they know their work is terrible and want to con people out of their money before they realize it too. If it's good enough to pay for, people will pay for it.

             

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              The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              There is no "entitlement", just business.

              If a writer spends a year of their life writing a great story, 6 more months doing re-writes and edits, and then spends a certain amount of time on actually marketing the book in interviews, appearances, book signings (nice scarcity there!) etc, they have a reasonable expectation to make at least enough to pay for the time they spent, such that they can afford to do it all again.

              he ONLY reason they should be afraid of losing sales, is if they know their work is terrible and want to con people out of their money before they realize it too

              Bad work is bad work, and it means that even if they make the sale today, they won't make the next sale tomorrow. Most writers / movie makers / businessmen want the next sale too, in part because the next sale is cheaper (you are already sold). The second Matrix movie was an easy sell because the first one was popular.

              All business moves are a question of risk and return. What the author does by first selling the books over a period of time, and then working to give access to new markets later is to extend his reach and make the next sale, on the next book. But there is no reason to give up the first sales to do it.

              Why do you think you don't see many supermarket samples of things that are popular, only of things that are new? Something that is popular doesn't need to be pushed, at least until it's popularity declines, then it becomes "new and improved". For the writer, having the book sell well to existing fans for a period of time, and then moving to use "FREE!" to gain new fans for his next work is a great move. Little risk, expand you fan base, and profit the next time around as well.

              Oh yeah, remember, profit also means "gain fans", It isn't about the money, money at a certain point is only a measuring stick, not a goal in and of itself. Most writer interviews I have read shows that once they reach a level of income that they are not so concerned about making a living, they can take the time to create much more complex books, or take a slight risk on subject matter that might not be quite as mainstream. Money isn't money in the "I'm a rich fat bastard" sort of way, just that they no longer have to worry about keeping the lights and heat on. It frees the mind... and the rest will follow. :)

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 10:47am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                The second Matrix movie was an easy sell because the first one was popular.

                The second Matrix movie? I think you mean the first as they didn't make any sequels.

                 

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                Big Al, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                And there lies the crux of the problem:
                "If a writer spends a year of their life writing a great story, 6 more months doing re-writes and edits, and then spends a certain amount of time on actually marketing the book in interviews, appearances, book signings (nice scarcity there!) etc, they have a reasonable expectation to make at least enough to pay for the time they spent, such that they can afford to do it all again."
                There is no reasonable expectation to make ANY money from the sale of the book. It solely depends on the whim of the readers as to whether it makes the best seller list or winds up in the $2.00 bargain bin (and this also takes into account the 'risk' of spending a chunk of disposable income on an unknown quantity).
                That is exactly what is meant when people accuse you and artists of having an "entitlement mentality".

                 

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                  The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:46pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Sorry, you missed it.

                  "reasonable expectation" is the reason they spent the time to start with. There is no entitlement, the market can give them a big thubms down and they make nothing. But they wouldn't intentionally go to market with a failing product, thus they have a reasonable expectation to make their money back at least.

                  No entitlement, just their intentions.

                   

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      RD, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:40am

      Re:

      "In the end, it appears that "FREE!" is one step on the ladder"

      Yes. Who ever said otherwise? Oh thats right, YOU and your troupe of whiny "you cant make money with FREE!" "give it away and pray DOESNT WORK!" lying, deceitful troll brigade.

       

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        The Anti-Mike (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:49pm

        Re: Re:

        "give it away and pray DOESNT WORK!" - Mike says he doesn't like give it away and pray, for various reasons. It is a very risky way to do things.

        "you cant make money with FREE!" - sort of a self evident stamement. There is no money in free. The only money is generated by other activities not related to free.

        I could go on. But since you will just twist my words, why bother?

         

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          RD, Feb 10th, 2010 @ 1:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "give it away and pray DOESNT WORK!" - Mike says he doesn't like give it away and pray, for various reasons. It is a very risky way to do things.

           

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          RD, Feb 10th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "give it away and pray DOESNT WORK!" - Mike says he doesn't like give it away and pray, for various reasons. It is a very risky way to do things.

           

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      Alan Gerow (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      blah blah blah ... given real data, you spit back anecdotal opinions and no real information. Rinse, repeat.

       

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    Planespotter (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:43am

    Mr Helmet sir, have a look here >> http://www.mininova.org/apply

    ;)

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      Outstanding,thank you. I'll take a look at it once I'm off work or can get on my phone; apparently our web filter doesn't like that site too much....

       

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        SeanG (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 11:52am

        Re: Re:

        I can vouch for mininova as a content distributor. I've used it quite a bit. Easy to do.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          What type of content, if you don't mind me asking? As in, your own work or other's?

          Also, is it fairly easy to make files available and searchable via bittorent/mininova? I have a fairly unique last name, so I'm hoping that a search of that name coupled with the name of the book would return the torrent, which is something I could throw up on my Facebook....

           

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            :), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 3:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            FAQ:

            How do I create a torrent file?

            Many torrent clients today have that ability.

            http://www.utorrent.com/documentation/make-a-torrent
            http://torrentfreak.com/how-to-cre ate-a-torrent/

            Start a blog, promote your book everywhere and be called a spammer a few times, create a youtube channel(read your book to others, so youtube can collect the data), find the social networks used in mobile phones in your area and put your work there, find other social networks and put your work there and find and aggregator of social networks there are a few so you don't need to login on each and everyone of them.

            http://mashable.com/2007/07/17/social-network-aggregators/
            http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/th e-19-social-network-aggregator-list/

            Now the difficult part if you want information you will have to scrape that from other places and put somewhere you control. It is not an easy task to automate the process if you don't know how to code. If you know how to code you can make a scraper or you can use the API some services provide to gather that information.

            PHP, python, javascript(if you use AJAX) are good for this type of thing.

            If you don't know how to code you can use some auto action recorder like:
            https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3863
            http://seleniumhq.org/projects/ide/

            S ome basic learning to tweak those auto tools is necessary.

            Bitorrent is also moving away from trackers so there will be no central statistics as DHT doesn't have that kind of capability. DHT works by creating a form of "local" group that can be physically disperse and build a internal list and ask other groups for information but doesn't collect that info from what I can tell.

            Trackers on the other hand have statistics and if you contact the administrators of the sites they can help you gather that information if they are nice, some administrator are just a-holes.

             

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:50am

      Re:

      Now that's innovative! Hope it works out for them.

       

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    Steve R. (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 7:59am

    Just bought Some "Free" books

    I just spent nearly $50 buying Open Office books that are available free as PDF documents. For me, going through a real book adds value since it is easier. In fact, I will probably use both the PDF and hard-copy versions. So even content that is legitimately available free of charge can lead to revenue generating sales.

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    OH you mean like

    me dling all the palladium ebooks then actually going and buy 80% of them?
    like seeing diablo II on torrents and then trying and and going to store paying 80$ for a boxset and expansion disc?

    na piracy never leads to sales
    in fact lets talk about there use a piracy

    i envision a bunch a guys on a ship armed with weapons and they storm YOUR SHIP and kill you take your gold.

    no pirate of p2p harms you physically and you also have your item still. ALSO copyright is a right granted by the sovereign nation you live in. RIGHTS can be taken away when you abuse them.

     

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    Planespotter (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    "rick dakan is another author whom i have read the electronic versions and have then given the physical copies as gifts to another person. i bought my copy of his third novel "blackhat blues" directly from dakan at a hacker convention with an autograph without even bothering with the digital version."

    What a shiny example of CwF+RtB.

     

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    Stephen, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 9:58am

    a new way of publishing

    Dark Helmet et al.

    The trouble with releasing a book into the wild is the same as sending one into the chains: how do you get it noticed? how do you get people to want it?

    Doctorow has it easy when it comes to his books because he's the heart of Boingboing, so he has a built in audience. But he's doing something different too: promoting authors who are serializing their work on line.

    That would be a better way to start, I think: serialize your novel and build up an RSS readership. In addition, why think in terms of just a novel? Why can't you do a series of episodes that can wrap up whenever, not just after 300 pages?

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 10:06am

      Re: a new way of publishing

      That's a seriously good idea, but you have the same problem of building up the audience, I think. I honestly don't know how you do it....yet. Do you make posts on social networking sites to alert people to the free ebook or serialized releases? Do you make some kind of regular Craig's List posts advertising it?

      Do you hope that the TD community will visit and read once in a while? ;)

      Seriously, I'm not sure what the "smart" way to getting your name out there w/o a traditional publisher is yet. But I refuse to believe that it cannot be done....

       

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        IshmaelDS (profile), Feb 9th, 2010 @ 11:24am

        Re: Re: a new way of publishing

        I'd say start interacting with the community forums for whatever type of book your writing, ie if it's SCI-FI go to some sci-fi forums and using Stephen's RSS feed idea put up a couple of chapters and then ask people to review them in the forums, if you can get the hardcore fans of the genre to like it they will promote it for you. Though I wouldn't rely on just one forum, nor just that method, but it's a start. You might also try talking to the Baen Books guys, they may have put in their free library, or be interested in some kind of deal.

         

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        AR, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 11:29am

        Re: Re: a new way of publishing

        This is why I feel shutting down sites like TPB, Mininova, Sharazza, Napster and Vuze is a bad idea. They do more than just offer "infringing" material. Most also work as a categorised indexing service. They even help people get there works, with descriptions and/or samples, uploaded and out there to be noticed and obtained.

        Dont get me wrong Im not an advocate of "piracy", but it has been going on since time began, and it will never be stopped no matter what they try. As downloading, including "piracy", becomes easier and more mainstream, it is becoming the new standard, This is because thats what the masses want and thats whose money they are trying to get. Pizzing off the masses is NOT a good idea, they tend to react very very badly to that, including violently, and is usually regretted later.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 12:18pm

          Re: Re: Re: a new way of publishing

          OOPS "They do more than offer" is a poor choice of words. they dont really offer them. They also list "legal" material along with forums, torrent building, and such that could be used as a marketing tool by people to get their work out there. Sorry

           

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    cram, Feb 9th, 2010 @ 9:06pm

    "There is no reasonable expectation to make ANY money from the sale of the book."

    That applies only to the debut work. If it sells 50K copies, you know you have an audience willing to support you by buying your books. If it sells 50 copies, it means they have delivered the verdict: you go back to your regular job, and if you have the guts and energy, maybe try again.

    I don't see where entitlement mentality fits in here. Hell, even the most popular writers have had their fans giving the thumbs down for a certain book. That applies to all creative artists. Just because your last album/book/movie was a sellout, don't expect the next one to be.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    RD, Feb 10th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    TAMicide, Take 3...

    ooookay, something cut off my post twice, so going to try this without using reply:

    "give it away and pray DOESNT WORK!" - Mike says he doesn't like give it away and pray, for various reasons. It is a very risky way to do things."

    and you have ACCUSED mike of this, USING THESE WORDS, many times before. EVERY time Mike says he DOESNT, you wave it away as if he is either lying or you dont believe him. Yet when it HELPS your argument and you are called out on it, suddenly you AGREE with Mike, because it helps you "win" another point this particular time.

    "you cant make money with FREE!" - sort of a self evident stamement. There is no money in free. The only money is generated by other activities not related to free."

    Same argument. Mike has said "USE free!" many times, and YOU have been one to ignore that and claim he was advocating JUST FREE. Now, when the argument is turned against you WITH YOUR OWN WORDS, you are suddenly Mr Superior and AGREE with Mike that free should be a PART of the process, when you never otherwise do.

    "I could go on. But since you will just twist my words, why bother?"

    But you have said these very things, many times. There is incontrovertible proof of this. I dont have to twist any of your words when you damn yourself out of your own mouth. The fact that you then use "but you are twisting my words, so I dont need to reply, but I'll spend my days sticking my fat fucking nose into these posts anyway" as a way to get around really ANSWERING for yourself shows that you are nothing more than a mouthpiece shill and have no REAL points to make.

     

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


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