What Pirates Say To Copyright.
The pirate king, is right. Harsh though it sounds, getting artists paid is not a politician’s job. It’s the artists’ job. So in a world without copyright monopoly, how will we make money?
This question is important and complex and deserves not to be skimmed over. So this series is taking a slight detour to explore its answer–specifically as it pertains to writers. Don’t worry, we’ll be back on track in a few days. In the meantime…
How writers will make money
Publishers will sell our books
Publishers are not going away.
Publishers do not make books, they offer services. Making books is easy. Thanks to Amazon and Lulu and the like, anyone can make a book. I can stick my half-finished NaNoWriMo manuscript up on the Kindle store right now and probably con at least a couple of my friends into buying it. Thanks to the Pirate Bay I can bypass the corporations altogether, make a torrent of my book and distribute copies for free.
That’s not what a publisher does.
A publisher provides editing, design, marketing and distribution. Far from disappearing, the need for these services is growing with the digitization of books.
I have four legally bought copies of Lord of the Rings. Which one do I read? The fifth one, the one that I downloaded for free that doesn’t take up any room in my backpack, and doesn’t weigh down my suitcase at the airport. But if I want to feel the pages and leaf through the maps, and compare illustrations I go to my shelf and pull out the dead trees. The thick red cover of the collector’s edition decorates my bookshelf when I’m not reading it and the beautiful boxed set illustrated by Alan Lee sits next to it.
And indie authors need to sit up and listen to this too. As a fan of web fiction, I champion the DIY approach and welcome the increase of easy self-pubbing options. However, I still recognize the power that a publishing house can give a book. A publisher produces a well-edited, well designed, and well-distributed book. Even without a marketing budget, professionally published books are more likely to appear in stores around the country, or even around the world. They are more likely to have appealing cover art, attention-grabbing blurbs, good layout, and nearly typo-free pages. I love the raw quality of fiction that hasn’t had a business (publishers = businesses) edit the fuck out of it, and it’s way more exciting for me to find a gem myself than find a gem that someone else dug up, polished, and sat on a bookshelf for me to see. Still, even I will only very rarely spend more than $2 or $3 on a self published book (hence the name of this site). And since many of these books aren’t being shared, and Amazon’s “Look Inside!” feature really sucks, there’s no way to “try before you buy.” I may be missing out on some good books, but I’ll never know.
The fact is, if I pay for a book, I’m not paying for the story, I’m paying for the services that went into making that story a polished, well presented thing that will look pretty sitting on my shelf (or desktop) . With the flood of easily, quickly produced indie books (yay!) and dashed off copies there is actually more of a need for the commercial publishers to produce high-quality books that distinguish themselves from the masses and offer something more special than their digital counterparts.
But without copyright laws, what will stop the publishers from just stealing all their author’s work and taking all the money from it? (besides the fact that stealing work != copying work…)
Simple. They cannot afford to. Publishers need authors. The best editor in the world can not produce a damn thing without the cooperation of a good author. And just how much cooperation do you think they’ll get if the trample on just one author? Just like I am not paralyzed by the fear of someone stealing my work online, I am not paralyzed by the fear of a publisher stealing my manuscript. Authors lean on publishers and publishers lean on authors. Neither can afford to turn the knife on the other.
There will still be a place for publishers in the world, right next to the writers, right next to the pirates.
Next, in part ii of the detour:
Way #2 that writers will get paid: We sell our own books (and whatever else we want)