Do You Work For Free?

In recent years, a trend has begun in the book buying community. People no longer see it as wrong to download a book for free. I don’t mean from Amazon or another authorized sales venue. I’m talking about pirate sites, where thousands of books are given away on a daily basis.

One must ask why someone might think it’s all right to take a book that an individual has spent months if not years creating and not pay a single cent for it.

I recently came across an article written by a performance artist, outlining why she didn’t accept a gig with a big name star, who had many other big name stars appearing that day. Those individuals were all being paid commensurate with what they felt their time was worth. Yet, when this performance artist asked what she’d be paid, she was told that she was getting the gig for the “exposure.”

That attitude seems prevalent to many authors during these troubled financial times. We are not seen as an individual who deserves payment for our product. When confronted with the truth that an author didn’t receive payment for a book an individual has downloaded fro a pirate site, the usual reaction is “well, they were giving it away.” This, therefore, begs the following question…

Are you willing to work for free?

Seriously. You expect me and all other authors to give you our books. While I will provide free copies to professional reviewers for an honest opinion of my work, or allow a pre-determined number of copies to be handed out as prizes in a giveaway, I would never hand over the work I’ve done up to fifteen hours a day for months on end without expecting reimbursement.

To compare this to the normal every day occupations, I wonder if I could visit my doctor and tell him or her that I wasn’t paying, because their work wasn’t worth the money. A lawyer won’t take on a case without a retainer and certainly won’t complete the work if you don’t pay the bill. Imagine how grocery stores and restaurants would survive if everyone quit paying for their meals.

Now think about this. I am a professional writer. I’ve been at this job for a long time. In order to pay for the basic necessities of life—utilities, a home, transportation—I must make money in my chosen profession.

As little as a decade ago, no one would have considered taking a book for free and not expecting to pay a criminal price for that choice. Today, websites offering free downloads of books are a dime a dozen. Many authors like myself search our names and titles weekly, seeking those places offering something for nothing, so we may inform these people they are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That takes away from the time we have for a new story, for promotion, for appearances. It’s a necessity, because people everywhere have now decided we don’t deserve payment for our hard work.

So ask yourself this: If I had to exist like many authors today do, can I justify taking someone’s book without paying for it?

Can you actually survive on the small amount of money provided by the sales of your product those who are too honest to take something for nothing purchase?

Then ask: Are you really a thief?


Excellent points, Kathi. Well done. It is frustrating that people do this and never give it a second thought.
Cynthia Ley said…
Extremely well said. Thank you.
Marie Lavender said…
Great post! Shared to the MLB blog and Twitter. Hopefully we can impact some readers.

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