Book pirates. No, these aren’t guys and gals in flowing, open-necked white shirts sailing the high seas with books tucked into their sashes instead of a cutlass. Book pirates are people who take copies of books and illegally upload them to be shared on the internet. Every few months, there’s a new internet explosion as authors find out about a site or group that is hosting their books for free and without their permission.
There are a couple of author schools of thought on book piracy. Some authors despise it, and go after every site they come across that has their book with a request that they be taken down. There are even services that authors can use that will do the work for them. Other authors feel that it’s not worth the hassle and pretend they don’t see the online sharing.
For the people who host the pirate sites, they rationalize it as free publicity. They feel a reader would never have heard of an author if they didn’t see the pirated book and now that they’ve read it for free, they’ll go and buy it and an author’s back list if they like it. I’m not sure I buy this theory. I know people who have scads of free music on their musical playing devices. If that’s the case, why would they bother to buy music? I have a feeling the same holds true for pirated books.
On the reader side, many feel that they should get free books because they can’t afford to buy them. On the one hand, I feel your pain. When you’re a voracious book worm, that $3.99 habit can add up fast. But on the other … if you were low on funds and you really, really wanted to see a movie you wouldn’t go into a theater to see it without paying. And if you did, you’d have to be sneaky and pray you didn’t get caught because you know you’re stealing. Same thing applies to books. It’s just easier to get away with the sneaking online because there aren’t any movie theater staff watching to make sure you came in the front door with a ticket.
Unfortunately, books aren’t always valued as worthy of paying to read. Part of the problem is, many people don’t understand the labor and cost that goes into producing a book. Never fear, your Friendly Neighborhood Author is here to break that down.
First, let’s cover the labor. Let’s say an author has a 60,000 word book and they write at a rate of 500 words per hour. If we give that author minimum wage for their labor, they would make $870. But wait, they also have to edit the book. If they do it in two weeks working the typical eight-hour work day, that’s $580 in wages. A week of rewrites would net $290 and three days of proofing earns $174. That’s $1,194 that the author needs to recoup in book sales in order to pay themselves. (I’m over simplifying this to umm… keep it simple. Also, complicated math makes me itch)
After the book is written, come the costs that a self-pubbed author has to pay out of pocket. First, the editor. That’s probably going to be about $600. For a book to be taken seriously, a professional cover design and a few graphics to advertise the book are necessary. Lowball price for that is $300. If an author isn’t tech savvy and can’t do the book formatting on their own, they’ll have to hire someone. That’s $150. A promotional book blog tour is helpful to get the word out, so we’ll need to add another $150. Ads on relevant sites? That’ll be about $70 each. Now if we add all that up to the author’s wages and carry the one, it comes out to about $3,384.00.
So! As you can see it is not free for authors to produce a book. Yes, the final uploading to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. is free, but before we get to that point we’ve already shelled out a few buckaroos. And authors need sales in order to cover those costs and hopefully make a little profit.
Okay, so maybe after reading this, people might feel a little bad for taking free books, but still aren’t able to pay for them. Well, my friend, don’t despair! I’ve got a Top Ten List of Ways You Can Get Free Books. Wait, no. I couldn’t think of ten things. I’ve got a Top Eight List of Ways You Can Get Free Books!
1) Become a reviewer! There are sites like The Romance Reviews, Romance Studio and blogs like Two Chicks With Books & Eye Candy that are often looking for reviewers. You get a free book, and in exchange you’re required to write a book report. It doesn’t have to be as in-depth as a New York Times review. Just state what you liked and/or didn’t like about the book and try to keep it spoiler-free.
2) Join an author’s ARC group! Most authors have opportunities for a core group of fans to get a copy of their latest in advance of release. In exchange, they ask you to post a review to sites like Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
3) Swing by Goodreads and sign up for book giveaways. I have lots of books on my Goodreads TBR list. Whenever there is a giveaway for one, Goodreads sends me a little notification. I sign up, and one day I’m going to win!
4) Shoot on over to Library Thing and do the same thing. Library thing is a little harder to navigate. But they do allow ebook giveaways, so that makes it easier for authors to give away more copies of their book babies.
5) Join a genre ARC group. In these groups, authors come in, state what their book is about and how many they’re giving away. If you’re selected, you get a free book and in exchange you write and post a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
6) Volunteer as a beta reader. Lots of authors periodically call for beta readers to help them out. What does a beta reader do? They read for the author, giving them their perspective on the book as a fan of the genre. Their role is not to be an editor, but to let the author know what did and didn’t work for them about the story. Some authors just ask for a read and general feedback. Others (*cough* me *cough*) have handy-dandy sheets that break down the things they’re looking for feedback on.
7) Go to the library. I know what you’re thinking. A lot of self-published books aren’t available through library systems. But some are. And if they aren’t there, you know what would be cool? Asking the library to carry them. If librarians know there’s an interest in a genre and/or author they might make more of an effort to get those books. I know I was ecstatic when I saw that Alexis Hall’s ebooks were available through the Harris County Public Library system.
8) Join Facebook groups, Like authors’ pages, and sign up for their newsletters. These are the ways that authors usually reach out in order to give away free books. It works both as a way to build some buzz, and to say thanks to those who have become our fans.
All of those methods require a little effort on the reader’s part. But in exchange you’re getting that free book. That seems more than fair. It’s a win-win for author and reader. Reader gets the free book, author gets another review which is helpful for sales.
For me, I don’t agree with book piracy. I’m the nerd who buys all her music from Google Play and pays to rent movies on VUDU. But, I don’t go after book pirates either. Unless it’s a huge and blatant site – then yes, I’m sending a take down notice. I want everyone to be able to read the stories that they love, but I also want authors to receive payment for their labor.
In closing, I shall put my books where my mouth is. Or however that saying goes. Go to my Giveaways Page and enter to win a copy of my latest, An Officer’s Submission. Yay! Free books! Also, feel free to share this post. And if you have additional and LEGAL ways to get free books, please add them in the comments.
Thanks for reading!
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My rambling and not at all edited thoughts on romance novels, writing, wrestling, shoes, dogs, roller derby and whatever TV show I'm binging.