The other day, in one of the many chat groups I now belong to thanks to my publishers, one of the authors mentioned an experience she’d just had where a reader came up to her to tell her how much she’d enjoyed her book. That was so nice, except as they chatted, it came out that the reader hadn’t actually bought the book – someone else had downloaded it and sent it to her. The author expressed her disappointment, because that was a lost sale for her.
This has been big news in the music industry for a while now. With the advent of digital music, and now digital books, it’s so easy for people to access them without paying for them.
But as I thought about it, I realized that with books, this has always gone on. How many of you have ever loaned out your books to friends or relatives? My aunt and I used to have a great exchange program – someone would give her books when they were done with them, she’d pass them on to me, I’d read them and pass them on to someone else. I guess I never thought of the fact that we were depriving an author of a sale.
Of course, now I do! But I don’t think it’s realistic to think it’s going to stop.
Now I don’t know the numbers, but I suspect that authors of print books make substantially more money than many authors of electronic books. When the publisher tells you they won’t cut royalty checks for less than twenty-five dollars, you can be pretty sure you’re not going to be making big bucks, especially for new authors. So the loss of even one sale is felt a lot more in that case. Especially when sales are tracked by the publisher, and bestsellers are noted. It's not just a loss of money - it's potentially a loss of recognition and status as an author.
I guess we just have to hope that by reading a book, even if they didn’t pay for it, readers will like it enough to remember your name and go out and buy your next book.