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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.

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Comments on “Author Joe Konrath Experiments With 'Piracy' To See How It Impacts Sales”

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29 Comments
keven sutton says:

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.

RD says:

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….

KnownHuman (profile) says:

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.

sehlat (profile) says:

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.

Kevin Stapp (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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 😉

mermaldad (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

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.

Technopolitical (profile) says:

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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