Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pirates aren't that bad, mkay?

So, as royalty statements went out this quarter, the near-deafening cry that went up from ebook authors was, "STUPID PIRATES". This is pretty much to be expected. If I do a google search of my pen name, Abigail Barnette (Abigail's latest steampunk story, BOUND IN BRASS is now available at All Romance Ebooks), illegal download requests and sites pop up on the very first page. It's enough to make an author gnash her teeth and rend her garments. Unless we start to look at it another way.

This man is not the enemy. This man gets us drunk.

First of all, we need to stop looking at every download as a sale lost. There's an old saying, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" I've never really understood that saying, because it usually has to do with women giving up sex for free, and the whole milk metaphor seems to work better in conjunction with semen, but that's a blog post for another time. While one could apply this to e-piracy of our books by saying, "If they couldn't get the books for free, they would purchase them," I think the opposite is true. If ebook pirates couldn't get the books (milk) for free, they wouldn't buy them (the cow), anyway. Because clearly, if you're getting it for free, it's not something you'd be willing to spend money on. The opportunity is there for these people. They can easily go find our books on any of the fine retail websites that carry them. But they don't. Instead, they go on message boards and say, "Looking for a torrent, plz," and wait. They wait for it for free, when they could easily drop the measly three or so bucks to have it immediately. To me, that kind of proves that they don't want that book that bad. They want it, but obviously not enough to pay for it.

So, instead of going, "I saw that my book was illegally downloaded twelve times from this site, that means twelve sales I lost," maybe we should look at it like, "My book was downloaded twelve times. That means twelve more people read it than would have otherwise." Sure, this doesn't have the same monetary value to us as authors, but it does have some value.

I'll fess up to something here: I've been known to download episodes of popular cable television shows because I'm too poor and too cheap to pay for cable. It is what it is, okay? Occasionally, I'll tell one of my friends, "You have got to watch this show, it's totally awesome." But she won't illegally download anything. Not a song, not a book, not a tv show, not a set of photoshop brushes, nothing. She is the anti-pirate. I can respect that. So, when I tell her, "You really need to see this show," she waits for the dvd, and either rents it or buys it through perfectly legal means.

Let's extrapolate that out, to the world of books, specifically, romance books, where our reputations as authors are based largely on word-of-mouth sales. Let's pretend our pirate's name is... I don't know, Sheila. We'll call her Sheila. For whatever reason, be it our current economy or just plain being a miser, Sheila doesn't spend much money on books. If she wants a paperback, she gets it from her library, if she wants an ebook, she downloads it from a pirate site. So, let's say Sheila downloads... oh, I don't know, GIANT by Abigail Barnette, and she likes it so much that she tells her friend, we'll call this friend... Harriet, about how great GIANT is, what with the sweet romance and super hot love scenes and all. Harriet, being morally opposed to piracy, goes and buys GIANT from ARe. And while she's there, she picks up the first book in the series, GLASS SLIPPER.

Obviously, this isn't going to happen every single time, so let's talk about a different scenario. Let's say Sheila reads the book, then goes to a review site, like Amazon or GoodReads, and leaves a glowing review. And, since she's such a book nut, her reviews are being followed by, I don't know, fifteen people. That's fifteen people who have just been told that GIANT is an amazing book, and fifteen people more likely to check it out.

Not to mention the fact that just having your name come up with more search results on google is a good thing. If I run a search for either of the names I write under, the last thing I would want is to have six results lead back to me and the fact that I write, and the rest of them pointing to a real estate agent in Kentucky who has more internet gravitas than I do. I'm grateful to pirates for the fact that when I search Abigail Barnette, google no longer asks me, "Did you mean Abigail Breslin?" That shit is disheartening. So, even if you google your name and all that comes up is your site and a thousand piracy sites, at least it's saying, "Hey, this person is out there, and they write books, and they're not Abigail Breslin."

Now, please understand that I'm not trying defend theft. But I'm consistently surprised at how many authors publicly bitch about piracy, when readers are quick to point out how obnoxious they find it. When my latest Jennifer Armintrout release, AMERICAN VAMPIRE came out, I joked to a reader on twitter, "Thanks for buying it instead of pirating it." I meant it as a joke, because I really don't give a shit what other people do with their computers. But the reader was clearly taken aback, judging from her response. I've probably lost that reader over my stupid joke, and it's not like I have so many readers that I can afford to lose them.

Let's take that example and extrapolate it out again. Let's say I love an author. Love, love, love this author, so much so that I follow her on facebook or twitter or some other form of social media that I don't know about because my youth is over and I'm relegated to some hellish limbo wherein I'm no longer "young" but not yet "middle-aged". But when she's tweeting or facebooking or yonking or whatever people do these days, she's always on and on about pirates. Pirates this, pirates that. It seems like her disdain for pirates has consumed her, so much so that everyone is a suspect, including me. Also, it's clear from these tweets and yonks or honks or franks or whatever that she's not really interested in crafting stories for me to enjoy. That's secondary to the real reason she's writing, which is money. And if she's not getting enough to be appeased, I'm going to have to listen to her complain about it.

So, I implore you, authors of the world. Let's just shut up about the book piracy thing. Yes, it sucks. But we're not losing as much money as we assume we are. If they're pirating our books, they're not buying. That doesn't mean they'd have bought them in the first place. And having our work in front of more readers is a good thing. And while we're only in it for the money, we can't tell readers that. It would destroy the illusion that we're all artsy, creative types who live for our work.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unexpected Benefits to New York Recognizing Gay Marriage

Like many people across the nation today, I'm thrilled as can be that last night, New York became the sixth state in the nation to allow folk who are homosexual to get married. I mean, there is that horrible, cynical side of me that is irked that only six states have done this so far, that goes, "Oh gee, you're going to let them get married, just like real people? That's mighty big of you," but even I can set that crotchety old-manness aside to be genuinely grateful for the brotherhood of man today.

(That wasn't an intentional reference to How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Musical references just kind of come out of me. I'm like the Seth McFarlane of not doing anything of value. So basically just Seth McFarlane.)

So, this decision has gotten me thinking of the unexpected effects this is going to have on the economy in New York state. This is what I've come up with, so far:

There's a 50% increase in job openings for wedding planners.
I'm not great at math or statistics or presenting factual information in a helpful way, so I figure that about half the people in New York are gay, and half are straight. Let's say half of those gay people and half of those straight people are engaged. We're going to need someone to plan these weddings, and I bet wedding planners in Manhattan alone are already swamped. Plus, we have to factor in all those "sensitive" guys who told their long term girlfriends that they would get married "When love is equal" or some other political shit they were hiding behind because they're really afraid of commitment. I'm looking at you, Brad Pitt, even though you do not live in New York that I am aware of. So, now we've got gay engaged people and commitment-phobic engaged people looking to get married. We're gonna need some more wedding planners.

So many more opportunities for cake.
This one saddens me a little bit, because most of the people I know who are my friends and also gay aren't dating anyone. Also, we live in Michigan, a state that does not recognize gay marriage. So, while the thought of this makes me super happy, it's bittersweet. See, there are going to be more weddings, and therefore more cake. And I'm not going to get any of it. But still, if you live in New York state, there is a fair chance the number of weddings you're required to attend will go up. I know, I know, that's a total bummer and you don't even want to spend every weekend at Crate and Barrel trying to find the cheapest thing on somebody's registry before dashing to the church, but I assure you: there will be cake. So, don't think of this legislation as another way your friends can suck the money right out of your bank account in a socially acceptable manner. Think of it as an increase in cake.

Divorce lawyers, expect to buy a boat in eight years.
Everyone is super happy right now, and I don't want to cast a pall on that, but the fact is, in the United States, it's estimated that most divorces occur around the eight year mark. This is fantastic news for divorce lawyers in New York, who just had their client base expanded for them by the state legislature. Doubled, if you use my faulty math.

Expect at least three gay-wedding themed reality shows on basic cable.
You know it's coming. Turn on any basic cable channel, they probably have a show about weddings. Planning weddings, buying dresses, family drama, people can't get enough of that shit. Now just imagine "Say Yes To The Dress" but with two brides arguing over what they should be wearing. I think it's safe to say that those creative liberal television types in New York City are going into development meetings as we speak: "It's called My Big Fat Gay Wedding. Write that down."

Okay, so it's fun to joke. And maybe some of these predictions will actually come true. But the bottom line is, I'm so, so happy for all our brothers and sisters in New York state who happen to love someone of the same gender and who are now, far, far too late, being recognized as our fellow Americans.

Now other forty-four states? Get your asses in gear, and stop your fucking whinging.

God bless New York, and God Bless America.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wherein I change the lines to Mean Girls to be about Billy Joel instead of Regina George

How do I even begin to explain Billy Joel?

Billy Joel is flawless. He has two Fendi purses and a silver Lexus.

I hear his hair's insured for ten-thousand dollars.

I hear he does car commercials. In Japan.

His favorite movie is Varsity blues.

One time, he met John Stamos on a plane. And he told him he was pretty.

One time, he punched me in the face. It was awesome.

He always looks fierce. He always wins Spring Fling Queen.