Blanket warning: If you are a friend—or even someone I just know well—and I hear you brag about pirating ebooks, we’re done. No second chances. No fucks given. There are numerous ways to legally get free books from authors.
Here’s a helpful list:
Promo days – Amazon gives Kindle-exclusive books five days over the span of three months in which to give away ebooks for free. Tons of small-press, independent, and self publishers use this tool to gain exposure. Does it work? A little. If a reader likes the freebie, they’re typically inclined to look at what else an author has written. Or so we hope.
Giveaways – Like an author? Follow their Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. At some point, the author is likely to host a giveaway. All you have to do is participate for a chance to win. Takes two seconds, in most cases, to enter.
Contests – Or the author/publisher will make you work for it by entering a contest of some sort. Still, most are easy and in the end *gasp* a free book if you win.
Become a book reviewer – You won’t always get free books just by saying you’re a reviewer. However, I personally send out at least ten to fifteen review requests for each new book release. My publisher does some, as well. Make a site. Start reviewing. The requests and books will come in if you do your job right. Everyone needs exposure in today’s book market. There’s a flood of new writers and not nearly enough people who are reading them. Why? Reading isn’t cool. I call bullshit. Reading is sexy. Show me someone reading a good book and I’m ready to jump them and stroke their . . . mind. Get your head out of the gutter. But you get the point, reviewers get books in trade for time and exposure on their blog. Don’t know where to start? Look on a publisher’s site. Just Ink Press, my publisher, has a contact page to request review copies of their books.
How not to get free ebooks: Pirate sites. These dickdrips buy books, or grab them on free promo days, rip the file apart, and throw it into the world–usually in a garbled mess that’d make the book formatting gods cry into their morning latte. Then they RETURN THE EBOOK.
So by the time all is said and done, God knows how many people will read the book for free, and the author hasn’t even really sold ONE copy. Depending on the way royalties are set up, authors generally only make 30-50% in royalties on each book sold (up to 70% if they self-pub via Amazon). That’s literally pocket change. But it adds up. Sure, most of us can’t pay our bills when the quarterly payout comes in, but it helps. When you’re staring at an empty pantry, the $.75 made from a book seems like a lot. That’s two meals for my dog, guys.
I’m not doing this to call anyone out or shame anyone. A lot of authors have touched on this very subject, with a lot more information to back it up, surely. I don’t have numbers for my rant. I have people and animals relying on me to get my shit together as an author. That’s my backup. That’s my motivation. But I can’t do my job for you, dear readers, if my efforts to take care of my family are undermined quicker than I can make sales. I’m not signed with one oft he Big 5 publishing houses. I do not get a nice hearty advance to pay the bills while I sit for twelve hours a day pouring my soul onto the page. I live hand-to-mouth on what comes in from sales—with more help than I care to admit from my mother. Because, let’s face it, I’d be dead in an alley somewhere if I had to rely on book sales to keep myself alive. But that help has limits.
And I’m not the only author struggling to make ends meet and still do what they love.
Artists are unappreciated, mocked, expected to live on table scraps. Would you pay an accountant what equates to less than a penny an hour? No. Of course not. So why would you balk at spending $3 on a book that took an author months or years to write, and nearly as long for their publisher to release it—fully polished just for you—into the world?
Art is not free. The mentality that we have to give away a year-plus of hard work sickens me. But that’s the way it is done now. I have to learn to adapt. The least I ask is that if you want to skip paying someone for their art, do it in a way that helps them. Write reviews. Tell your friends and family. Email the author and tell them nice, shiny things about the book. My first (and only, so far) fan email made me cry tears of joy. I understood at last that I’m not shouting into the void. There is someone out there listening. The hard work, sleepless nights, tears of frustrated rage . . . it was all worth it for that one email comprised of a single, thoughtful paragraph.
Don’t take artists for granted. Without art, the world would be a dreadfully boring place.