Author Joe Konrath Experiments With 'Piracy' To See How It Impacts Sales

from the give-it-away dept

Last week, we wrote about how author Joe Konrath felt that authors were going a bit overboard worrying about file sharing, noting that there was no way to stop it, and fighting it was just a waste of effort. Instead, he wanted to focus on providing more value for his fans. Joe has since followed up his original post with a bit of an experiment: purposely putting one of his ebooks online for free to see what happens, even though it's also available for sale:
I'll keep track of my free downloads, Kindle numbers, Paypal donations, and my rankings on Amazon and B&N for the next 30 days, then post the results.
And he's hoping people will help by promoting the book on various file sharing systems:
Also, I encourage pirates to post this everywhere. Go ahead and proliferate the internet with JACK DANIELS STORIES. You can explain that I'm encouraging it, or you can just take it and not say a word. I'd appreciate it if you post in the comments section where you're uploaded it, which you can do anonymously. Or you don't have to.

If anyone sees this ebook on file sharing sites, I also ask that you please post a link to it in the comments. The more places I can see this being shared, the better I can compare ebooks sold to ebooks shared.
Of course, some will complain that this is hardly a scientific experiment, but it should still be interesting to follow. My only worry with these types of experiments -- of which we've seen many -- is that it's in the give it away and pray variety. That can and does work for some, but is something less than a complete business model that purposely ties a business model to the shared files. If I had to guess, I'd bet that Konrath will see a boost in sales for this particular book and other books. And that's because he's using this as a pure promotional strategy. Others will complain, of course, that such a strategy doesn't work if every author does this. That's true -- and one of the reasons why I prefer more complete business models beyond "give it away and pray." However, one of the key things of a good business model is recognizing good promotional strategies that remain "low hanging fruit." And, in a time when you still have many authors freaking out about file sharing, embracing it is probably a good bit of low hanging fruit in building up an audience.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    i sense a new poster child. i cant wait to see how you work him into your mind numbing presentations.

     

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  2.  
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    keven sutton, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:36pm

    Give away and pray?

    Maybe I'm not quite understanding the definition of the term, but I was under the impression that Give away and pray was giving away the entire content of a product and then subsisting off of donations.

    This author is giving away the content of his book, yes, but he's not giving away "books". There is a difference between having the book on hand and having it as a pdf or document somewhere (Fully learned a long time ago with gaming books). Considering the wonderful library system that many countries have, I'd say this probably isn't a give away and pray operation. But then again, I might be mistaken on the definition.

     

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  3.  
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    keven sutton, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:38pm

    Re:

    Growth from an AC! He didn't even say you were wrong, just that your presentations are boring!

     

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  4.  
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    RD, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    But Mike....

    "My only worry with these types of experiments -- of which we've seen many -- is that it's in the give it away and pray variety. That can and does work for some, but is something less than a complete business model that purposely ties a business model to the shared files."

    But Mike...this very idea (give it away and pray) is what your detractors and critics think is the ONLY "business model" you advocate here! Why, you would think they dont actually READ what you say, as if they are only twisting strawmen arguments into ad hominem attacks to portray your views as completely different than what you actually support or something....

     

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  5.  
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    KnownHuman (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:50pm

    Boost in Advertising

    I don't think it's completely fair to describe what Joe is doing as completely out of the ordinary for him. About a year ago, when he started becoming a more aggressive advocate for low-cost eBooks, he always pointed out that people were readily available for free on his website.

    He's an aggressive self-promoter, and frequently points that out as one of his primary pieces of advice to other authors. This recent blog post is merely capitalizing on the press he got over last week's post. Joe knows that when a story is hot, you run with it, and digital enables that.

    What's really interesting about Joe is how his recent deal with Amazon was received by the publishing industry. Announced shortly before BEA, it caused several people to really evaluate what a publisher is, and what value they bring to the author.

    Jane Friedman quoted Bowker as saying that Amazon will be a full fledged publisher in six months (http://twitter.com/JaneFriedman/status/14692409544), Richard Nash is pushing for publishers (starting with his own Cursor initiative) to only ask for three years of copyright, and numerous channels said that publishers need to do a better job of articulating value - a powerful first step to enabling a CwF RtB system.

     

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  6.  
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    sehlat (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:55pm

    Speaking solely for myself

    I figure a couple of bucks is worth it to see how I like Konrath's stuff, so I went over to B&N and it also turned out that they support UN-encrypted ePubs.

    About the only thing I can say about the version I downloaded is that the bibliography might have included links to the electronic editions of the other books in the series.

    OTOH, all eBook stores are search engines, and given title/author...

    We'll see how this plays out.

     

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  7.  
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    Kevin Stapp (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:56pm

    Advertising budget: $0

    I don't see this as give it away and pray but more as world-spanning free advertising campaign. He seems to be betting that obscurity is more risky than free downloads. I'm hoping he placed information in the free version on where to get more of his work. It would be interesting to see what the affect would be if he coupled the free book with an offer to send an autographed copy to those wanting to pay.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 4:10pm

    It's not dumb. He is embracing the "ingroup creation" model that us a bit more than "give it away and pray." He understands the true model behind CwF:

    SyF+CcE = profit

    SyF: Shame your fans. Convince them that by not buying, they are harming him personally instead of a big faceless publisher. Guilt them into paying and create "good feelings." These feelings are real in the minds of fans but sadly they are even less tangible than IP.

    CcE: Create common enemies. By defining pirates and publishers in the outgroup, he's creating enemies. Now paying for his book isn't just about getting a book, it's about supporting a cause! It doesn't matter if there really is no organized cause as long as people feel like there is. And Konrath will take these delusions straight to the bank.

    Smart business model? It's profitable, probably. It exploits the basest of human emotions to protect the ingroup and fuck the outgroup. These are built into the wetware. It's a little despicable, but I guess that's OK.

     

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  9.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 4:18pm

    Re:

    SyF: Shame your fans. Convince them that by not buying, they are harming him personally instead of a big faceless publisher. Guilt them into paying and create "good feelings." These feelings are real in the minds of fans but sadly they are even less tangible than IP.

    Hmm. Interesting theory, though I'm guessing you're posting it more to mock than for serious discussion.

    Of course, the problem with this is that it's proven blatantly false just by looking at what Konrath has written. At no point does he go anywhere near shaming anyone. In fact, he seems to be doing exactly the opposite.

    CcE: Create common enemies. By defining pirates and publishers in the outgroup, he's creating enemies. Now paying for his book isn't just about getting a book, it's about supporting a cause! It doesn't matter if there really is no organized cause as long as people feel like there is. And Konrath will take these delusions straight to the bank.

    Again, he doesn't appear to do any of that.

    Perhaps you're reading a different blog post than the rest of us? Or are you really so threatened by the idea of connecting with fans and giving people a reason to buy that you need to mock it with false claims? Is your life really so tough?

     

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  10.  
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    Karl (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 4:27pm

    Re: SyF+CcE

    I'm pretty sure you just described every anti-piracy campaign in history.

     

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  11.  
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    Wig Poo (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    Personally, I dont think it has any effect whatsoever. The ones who steal it cant afford to buy it anyways.

    Lou
    www.anon-posting.at.tc

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re:

    i didnt say they were boring, just mind numbing. its a technique that puts so much information in front of people by rapidly swapping slides that they dont have time to question the basic premises of the discussion. mind numbing.

     

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  13.  
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    Yackle, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 4:53pm

    WOW, just WOW

    To the author.

    Please send $36.50 for wasting my time on your dreck.

    Anybody read any of his crap? The level of stupidity IS entertaining for a few seconds, very few.

    Thank you,

    The critic

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 5:03pm

    "Personally, I dont think it has any effect whatsoever. The ones who steal it cant afford to buy it anyways."

    Hmmm...inside that group of "the ones who steal it", there are the ones desperate enough to go after those things and probably would make purchases multiple times.

    That 20% crazy people who buys anything advertised are the ones downloading stuff for free too they just can help themselves unless of course they get sued them they get angry and will stop buying but that is a different story.

     

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  15.  
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    Rich, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:05pm

    Re: WOW, just WOW

    Ah, The Internet, where not only do people feel the need to be jerks, they feel it's their DUTY to be jerks.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    Just a thought, but a large portion of people prefer to read things in the dead tree form, so it isn't unlikely at all that people will read the electronic version and decide to buy the wood pulp version for convenience or preference.

    Give it away and pray makes drastically more sense in the context of electronic books than electronic music.

     

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  17.  
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    Mark Gisleson (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    Konrath's not kidding

    I saw a couple torrents for Jack Daniels books earlier today.

    Didn't know he was behind it, but I did wonder if the whiskey folks paid him to create that character.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:25pm

    Joe isn't looking for a positive impact in sales, he's looking for a (lack of) negative impact in sales.
    If you read the comments on his blog post, you'll see some people argue that he has no evidence that piracy DOESN'T harm authors (!), so he's trying to come up with evidence to refute that argument.

    This is not give it away and pray, because it isn't a business model, it's just manufacturing evidence to win an argument ;)

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 12:15am

    Wow. This post went from 181 to 18 comments.

    Wonder how that happened.

     

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  20.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 2:17am

    Re:

    Wow. This post went from 181 to 18 comments.


    You're confused. The original post had over 180 comments, and it still does: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100525/1040569564.shtml

    This is a follow up post that has a lot fewer comments.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 5:03am

    Re:

    LOL epic troll fail.

     

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  22.  
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    mermaldad (profile), Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 6:52am

    Where Does Give It Away and Pray End and a Real Business Model Begins?

    Mike is fond of the term "Give it away and pray" to describe the thinking of those who don't really have a plan for making money as they give their work away for free. I think he's right that there a number of people who do this. Just look at the dot com boom and bust to see some shining examples. However, I think Mike is sometimes a little quick to use this term. Just because you don't know what their plan is doesn't mean they don't have one.

    Also, the act of giving away something that cost you money to produce is an act of faith. Just as the recording industry is slowly learning that no one guaranteed them a permanent market for shiny plastic disks, no one promises anyone that their investment in time and money will net returns. A solid business model helps, but it's no guarantee. So a little bit of prayer is a necessary part of any business model.

     

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  23.  
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    Yackle, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Re: Re: WOW, just WOW

    "Ah, The Internet, where not only do people feel the need to be jerks, they feel it's their DUTY to be jerks."

    Absolutely, when the author is a waste of skin and time.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 8:04am

    Re: Where Does Give It Away and Pray End and a Real Business Model Begins?

    plus to be fair, many of the business models that mike pushes are give it away and pray style anyway. the music one is the best, give your product(music) away and pray that people come and pay double the ticket price to see you play live. the entire basics of cwf is that to connect, you must give away the store, and pray that people connect with you on some level that allows you to sell them over priced personal merchandise or access.

     

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  25.  
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    Mark Gisleson (profile), Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Give it away and pray

    I've been making my living as a business writer since 1988. Over the years I've noticed that those who make money writing are rarely the best writers, just the best at selling themselves and getting paid.

    I have more respect for the "give it away and pray" crowd than I do for the slicksters whose business skills give them an edge over better writers. Much more respect.

     

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  26.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 10:35am

    MIKE :authors were going a bit overboard worrying about file sharing, noting that there was no way to stop it, and fighting it was just a waste of effort.

    MIKE : "authors were going a bit overboard worrying about file sharing, noting that there was no way to stop it, and fighting it was just a waste of effort."

    ans : a fight on moral principle is never a "waste of effort."

     

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  27.  
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    Technopolitical (profile), Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 10:38am

    Re: Advertising budget: $0/// "He seems to be betting that obscurity is more risky than free downloads"

    "He seems to be betting that obscurity is more risky than free downloads"

    I agree

     

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  28.  
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    digital piracy fighter, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 3:49am

    Hmmm... Interesting. But you are right, it does smell like a promotional strategy to me too.

     

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  29.  
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    Nick, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 11:26pm

    This would be interesting...

    ...if Konrath were a real writer, and not just a simpleminded and numerically challenged hack out to make a few bucks by selling his products at a price that constitutes nothing more than sampling.

     

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