Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. 13 comments


Part IV.i
What Pirates Say To Copyright.

(WTF? Start from the beginning)


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

Way #1:

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)

13 Responses to “How will we get paid? part i: Publishing”

  1. silvershadowfly

    Completely spot on. What would be the point in publishers stepping over the writers’ toes when their job is to spot and enhance talent?

    Enjoyed this post, interestingly I don’t own a kindle, and much prefer books over digital copies. Call me odd, but I think it is both the smell of something new (of the pages) and when retrieving a book from the library, the smell of the old.
    Digital copies don’t have pages, and there’s always some satisfaction in turning over a new page with your hands.

    On another note, I also have the box set of LOTR illustrated by Alan Lee. It is so beautiful. =)
    Enjoyed this post!

    • aeliusblythe

      I just got a kindle because I travel a lot and it’s just convenient, but I love physical books and I think a lot of people do.

      I rad a really interesting article (which I can’t find yet, still looking…) comparing the possible trajectory of publishers to the trajectory of fine watch makers. Basically, when everybody started having cheap digital watches it looked like the fancy watch companies would die off pretty quick. But then they started selling watches not as just a time-keeping device, but as a piece of jewelry, a status symbol, something more special than their more common counterparts that marked the owner as distinguished with good taste. Book publishers may have to do the same thing, that is, distinguish themselves and their product in some way, which really they do anyway but they don’t really emphasize it.

      I wish I could find that article! It worded the whole thing way better than I just did.

  2. live60

    I enjoyed your post and you make some good points. Many big name publishers in today’s world now go with brand name people who have already made it in sports, politics, movies, and in Casey Anthony’s case, crime. It will sell if the person is already popular or notorius. Yet, that doesn’t always pan out, since there are hundreds of famous people still trying to stay at the top who can’t get anyone to purchase their fictional books and autobiographies. I’m an indie publisher and have about 20 to 25 books in print. And like wine, there’s many generations to perfecting the process. To a book collector it may be well worth their while to buy a copy of all of my works in order to see my transition over the last four decades. Standard publishers will never go away, but indie competition has reduced their power and made them more conservative selecting untried talent. I prefer the on hands process of indie publishing and the challenges that come with marketing.


    • aeliusblythe

      You know it’s funny, everybody’s been lamenting the slow “death” of publishers, when they really should be celebrating the decreasing power of the handful of major houses. Of course, it is too bad when a big company cannot invest as much in new authors, but I really think that the changing landscape will be something of an equalizer, giving smaller publishers a better chance, and give everyone more options. And more competition will force all publishers to adapt and find a way to distinguish themselves in the new landscape or risk being swept aside.

  3. live60

    I agree, and I am one of those publishers filling the gap. However it’s a slow process. But, I’ve been standing against the power of the status quo publishers for 22 years. I consider myself as something of a pioneer, since I was encouraging everyone to stand against the status quo and embrace the opportunities of the new technologies all along. This new, younger generation and their talents is a wonderful realization of my dreams for all people.


  4. Frankie Sachs (@frankiesachs)

    I really want to be a Pirate because I love the positions on fair use and DRM, but I just can’t convince myself that it’s all for the cultural good to take independent creators and bend them over for the entertainment industry to fuck five years later, which is exactly what’ll happen if media companies have carte blanche to take anything they like and do anything they want with it without paying the creator a red cent. There are books that spend longer than five years out on submission. It takes years between a successful book and movie adaptation.

    Requiring registration to extend the copyright is just another way to squeeze a few more dollars out of independent creators, too. Either you pay the government for the right to keep the buzzards circling for a few more years, or you leave all your work open to be raped by media companies at their leisure.

    The PP really needs a copyright platform that differentiates between corporate owned/created works and those works created by actual independent human beings because the platform as it stands now is all about balancing culture and big business and leaves indies out in the cold.

    And to put my comments in perspective, all my shit on the web is wearing a CC BY-NC-SA license. I have no problem with other human beings reading and sharing and enjoying my work and creating their own stuff based on it, even if I don’t see a penny. But I have a huge problem with policy that leaves it and me open to (even more) corporate exploitation.

    • aeliusblythe

      To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about commercial copyright terms/extensions/etc. I consider myself a Pirate (and will be once the party is recognized in NY,) because I think the first priority needs to be protecting non-commercial users (i.e. our readers!) from
      harrasment etc. You’re right that with commercial control ending after 5 years, the big industries would take advantage. I don’t know what the proper term should be, 5 years seems arbitrary.

      On the other hand, even commercial use of someone else’s work can benefit them, even if they are not getting paid. In China, where I’ve been living for the past few years, EVERYTHING is bootlegged–people are making a lot of money off of authors and other artists without giving them a cent. Similarly, in anime culture in Japan, you have what is basically fan-fiction and other commercial products being sold without artists’ or authors’ permission. However, the creators rarely have a problem with this, and in fact they benefit from the popularity and the community that grows around their work. Just because someone is making money off of them, doesn’t mean that they arelosing money–in fact, the reverse is often true. Because of this, even though I find it distasteful and unethical to make money from something you didn’t do, I’m not sure it should be illegal.

      And from a purely idealistic view as a creator, I feel like if someone can make something better out of my work, then they should be able to. Think, for example, of how mashup and cover songs are often way better and more interesting than the originals. But of course, that line of thought takes into account only the art and not the artist.

      I don’t know. I will admit, that is one aspect of pirate philosophy that I struggle with.

      • aeliusblythe

        It’s not just in the East that the value or harm of commercial piracy is being questioned. Perhaps you saw the decision by the Spanish judge a few weeks ago that the sale of unauthorized copies may actually help–and at least cannot be determined to be harmful.

        Of course, judges’ ruling in the past haven’t been particularly reliable. But it is at least interesting to see this kind of thinking present at all in a western judicial system.

        • Frankie Sachs (@frankiesachs)

          I think that commercial piracy, if distribution rights are not enforceable under law, can endanger an the creator’s ability to profit from their work by exclusive licensing of the distribution. Which is basically how copyright works now–a company pays a creator for the right to reproduce and distribute the work. (And the current Pirate platform is set to preserve the maximum corporate profit window.)

          I think limiting the term of a distribution monopoly to a maximum of 20 years, renewable in five year increments, and that lifetime profit rights of the creator as a percentage of a distributor’s gross should be enforced.

          This has the advantage of accommodating everyone–the creator is still able to receive lucrative contracts from media companies for the rights to exclusive distribution, media companies have a right to exclusive distribution for the window which is most profitable, and after that window ends, open distribution can take place without fucking over the creator. (And, of course, if distributors are required to pay a percentage, those that distribute for free don’t have to pay and all this can be accomplished without divesting the creator of moral or profit rights, which is what happens if the work enters into the public domain.)

      • Frankie Sachs (@frankiesachs)

        The main problem, I think, is that the Pirate platform is still the same old copyright, just shorter. It’s all about consumer protection, which is important, because consumers are massively abused by the current system. But so are creators. And that’s the other half of the cultural exchange.

        I do take issue with Falkvinge’s stance that it’s not the problem of the politicians to get artists paid. Falkvinge is a politician and consumer and businessman foremost, and so he looks at the interests of politicians and consumers and businessmen. It is the problem of politicians, when they are talking about gutting the (admittedly flawed) system that is currently the only thing that gives creators and artists any protection and not offering any replacement.

        “Too bad, so sad, you should be happy to create art for the common good,” is a bullshit answer to artists and creators. It’s not anyone’s fucking business to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do with my art.

        I think the real answer lies in strengthening not just consumer rights, but creator rights. There are (should be) some clear moral rights besides the right of attribution that should go with creatorship. I do think there should be lifetime profit rights for creators–if someone’s making money off an artist’s work, they deserve a cut of that. I think lifetime plus 70 is ridiculous no matter how it’s sliced. But lifetime is important. You can’t in one breath make a special case that artists are supposed to be happy to contribute to culture, and at the same time deny the return obligation of culture to support those artists it deems valuable.

        I think it’s very important to understand that when Falkvinge says things like, “But in a market economy, everybody need to find their own way to contribute to the economy and make a living off of it.” and “That means it is up to each and every one of us to find a paying job; politicians will not and can not dictate how a particular person is going to make a living.” his whole stance is based on taking away the rights of a creator to profit from their art, and by the way giving everyone else the right to profit from it without sharing any of the profit with the creator. Basically, Falkvinge’s position amounts to “Get a real job,” coupled with the moral assertion that art should not be a real job. (Which I guess is only fair, since I don’t think politics should be a real job, and I champion the position that it should be an unpaid public service, and politicians should all have to get real jobs if they want to eat.)

        But I do think the assertion that artists and creators have no right to get paid for art and creative work displays, I think, a profoundly ignorant view of an information and entertainment economy. Nobody tells brick layers they should go out and lay bricks for free because it’s for the good of society to have buildings. Even if the brick layer in question really loves laying bricks.

        (Which brings me round to work-for-hire versus work-on-spec. But this comment is long enough already. :)

        • Frankie Sachs (@frankiesachs)

          I wish I could edit. My first paragraph isn’t entirely clear. I don’t mean current copyright is all about consumer protection. Really it’s two separate thoughts; the Pirate platform is geared toward consumer protection and it preserves the same flawed copyright system, just shortens the duration.

      • Frankie Sachs (@frankiesachs)

        And from a purely idealistic view as a creator, I feel like if someone can make something better out of my work, then they should be able to. Think, for example, of how mashup and cover songs are often way better and more interesting than the originals. But of course, that line of thought takes into account only the art and not the artist.

        Moral rights are trickier. Where does an artist’s right to preserve their work and creation intact end and the right of the culture as a whole to embrace that work and reimagine it begin? I feel very much like you, and if someone was inspired to create derivative work from mine, to make a short film or a song or something about it, I’d be so freakin’ thrilled.

        But some artists, writers, creators feel very differently. And I think they should be allowed a certain period of integrity of their work if they want. (Five years, maybe, with an option on another 15? Lifetime? I don’t know.)

        And I do think that if someone makes an adaptation of your work as a commercial product, you have a right to a reasonable percentage of the gross, regardless of how old the work is. (Which means that fanfic could go on as usual, but if a major studio wanted to make a film of your book, they’d still have to pay you. That seems entirely fair to me.)

        • Mai

          OK Jan, you MUST show me that link.Also, something that keeps cmniog up: I don’t know why people think that if books are officially available online, people will stop pirating.My book is available at my official website, and it is pirated. The last time I counted, roughly 145 websites had my works.Also, Stuart Immonen serialized his original work on his official website.Each day a page went up, the page was pirated elsewhere. Free webcomics are ROUTINELY pirated.Creators and publishers making works available online EVEN FOR FREE will not stop pirating.At all.If someone can take your content and add it to their site to create more hits, they will do it. And many people will never bother to look for the official site.Digital comics from DC or Marvel WON’T stop pirates any more than my official FREE website stopped my book from being pirated.



  1.  How will we get paid? (part ii.) « Cheap Ass Fiction
  2.  How will we get paid (part iii) « Cheap Ass Fiction

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