ForDummies

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I got a swift response to one of my first emails to the “For Dummies” authors.  This one was directed at Barbara Obermeier, author of Photoshop CS5 All-In-One for Dummies.  The reply, however, came from someone else–her co-chair at the Education Committee of AIGA Santa Barbara, Anna Lafferty.  Ms. Lafferty has told me that my letter was in fact forwarded to Ms. Obermeier.  In the meantime, here is our correspondance.  To make things simple, Ms. Laferty’s words are in red.

~

Her first reply to me: (which I’m actually pretty sure wasn’t meant for me but got to me anyway–notice: “this person” and “your work”…)

Dear, Ms Obermeier,

I don’t know if you are aware, but several “John Does” are being pursued for torrenting your book, Photoshop CS5 All-In-One for Dummies.  Since piracy is known to increase sales, I wanted to let you know about this, if you didn’t already–it would be terrible to see an author robbed of sales because no one was allowed to share their work!

HUH? Does this person want people to steal your work or not?

I know that legal action is often taken without the author’s knowledge or consent, and that there may be nothing they can do to stop the harassment of their fans and the abuse of their own work.  (A sad thing that an author does not have this right!)

HUH?

Still, a dissenting voice can sometimes have an effect.  And an author, of all people, should be allowed to have that voice.

I DON’T GET IT

~

Rather confused I double checked the source for Ms Obermeier’s contact info and sent back this:

 Is Ms Obermeier no longer education committee co-chair?  Perhaps her contact info is out of date.  If so, do you have a current contact info for her?

AeliusBlythe
cheapass-in-residence at www.CheapAssFiction.com

~

Got this back…

I’ve contacted her. She is still on the education committee. She said her book was illegally downloaded 35,000 times! Do you think this increases her sales?

~

And I replied…

35,000!  Wow, that’s impressive.  Of course without access to sales data and piracy data (not just the total number of downloads, but the downloads over time) I can’t say whether there has been any effect at all.  It’s very likely, however, that such a large number of downloads did have a positive effect on sales.  This, anyway, has been the overall trend observed in books.

Are you aware of the 2009 study by O’Reilly media that documented a lift in sales for books that were pirated?  Though two years old, it is still one of the most specific studies to date in the publishing industry.

AeliusBlythe
cheapass-in-residence at www.CheapAssFiction.com

~

Then I remembered that I hadn’t actually addressed her confusion from the previous email (that probably wasn’t meant for me) and replied to that separately…  Her response is in red, my response to her response is in bold.

In response to your earlier email… (Sorry for not addressing it before.  I really can’t multitask!)

—Dear, Ms Obermeier,

I don’t know if you are aware, but several “John Does” are being pursued for torrenting your book, Photoshop CS5 All-In-One for Dummies.  Since piracy is known to increase sales, I wanted to let you know about this, if you didn’t already–it would be terrible to see an author robbed of sales because no one was allowed to share their work!

HUH? Does this person want people to steal your work or not?

No!  Not at all. People who download books want to read them, not steal them!  Often, the person who downloads a book wouldn’t have bought it anyway, but after reading it they may very well decide to buy it, or they may share it with someone else who decides to buy it. That’s why when a book is shared (because people like it enough to share it) it often increases in popularity.  And popularity = sales Sometimes.  But the fact is, that popularity rarely HURTS sales!  :-)

I know that legal action is often taken without the author’s knowledge or consent, and that there may be nothing they can do to stop the harassment of their fans and the abuse of their own work.  (A sad thing that an author does not have this right!)

HUH?

As I’m sure Ms Obermeier is aware, authors sometimes don’t own the books they author.  This is particularly true with series like the “For Dummies” books.  I’m not sure of the specifics of her contract but often the authors actually sign over the copyright to the publisher.  However, even in regular cases where the author keeps the copyright, the publisher will often act on cases of piracy without even letting the author know. (Even sometimes when the creator is dead!)  That is why I attempt to contact authors whose books are embroiled in these disputes.

Still, a dissenting voice can sometimes have an effect.  And an author, of all people, should be allowed to have that voice.

I DON’T GET IT

My hope is that more authors will speak up.  I hope to see authors speak up when publishers act without their knowledge or consent.  I hope to see authors speak up when publishers act in ways that are harmful to themselves and their books.  I hope to see authors made aware of the true (and positive) effects of piracy instead of falling for the scare-tactics of the industry.  I hope that authors might speak up for their work even though they do not have the legal right to do anything.

It is a faint hope, I know.  

AeliusBlythe
cheapass-in-residence at www.CheapAssFiction.com

~

Sent that this morning.  And now I wait.

5 Responses to “Writing to Authors for Dummies: Photoshop CS5 All-In-One”

    • aeliusblythe

      I could totally use a hug too… :-( these responses have been not quite so friendly as Caitlin Kittredge’s (who I’m still trying to draw into the debate! :-) ) I mean, I didn’t exactly expect thank you cards and chocolate.

      The response I got from the Dreamweaver author wasn’t so bad, though. Will post momentarily…

      Reply
  1. live60

    Really, Aelius, I suspect most authors will stay far away from you. There’s really no debate about the subject of piracy, although you wish there was and frame the subject as though debate may be there, or could break out at any moment. It doesn’t appear such tactics are working out for you.

    R.D….

    Reply
  2. aeliusblythe

    “There’s really no debate about the subject of piracy…”

    LOL! hehehehe Somebody should really inform the European Parliament. And Germany. Poor Germany. I wonder what they’ll do with those 15 EMPTY seats in Berlin and those 56 EMPTY seats around the country. Well, empty seats are always useful for setting your purse on….

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

    Thanks for the idea for my next post: “You know you’ve become irrelevant when…”

    Reply
  3. live60

    Perhaps piracy concerns appear when it invplves people like Rupert Murdoch among the legal community, but your piracy plans don’t even appear on the radar screen. So I figure you know a lot about being irrelevant.

    R.D….

    Reply

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