Sunday, February 17, 2019

Endless problems with my books being stolen

It's hard to learn to be a decent enough writer that strangers will want to buy your books. It takes at least a decade of sacrifice, working a normal day job while writing when you can fit it in, taking courses, reading craft books, joining critique groups, and spending your time and money on that. Even then, working a second unpaid job for a decade to build your writing chops, there's no guarantee you'll hit the right combination of luck, timing, and technology that allows you to sell enough books to pay the mortgage and eat. It took me almost 30 years to find that lucky moment.

A lot of writers--some whose names you might know--make less than $10,000/year once they find their luck. I'm doing a bit better than that, but I still make less than an assistant manager at a McDonald's makes (and she has health insurance.)

I sacrificed for years to learn and improve my craft. I didn't go on vacations--I wrote. I didn't buy new cars--I wrote. I didn't buy new clothes--I went to thrift shops, and I wrote. I've been without health insurance for half my adult life--because if I worked a day job part-time for a few years here and there instead of full-time, I could write more.

Nonetheless, every lowlife criminal in the world thinks it's fine to steal from me. They sit there on their $1500 iPhones (I can afford no cell phone, BTW) and cavalierly steal my books in various ways. More than one person has stolen my IDENTITY. There are "lou cadle" websites in other countries that are not, I assure you, me or approved by me or in any way related to me. They are just scams and thefts.

And so my income keeps decreasing as piracy, illegal sharing, and theft of my professional identity carves away at what little money I'm making.

There is no legal recourse to this, as some of the thieves are in China or Russia or India. Even if a writer does spend thousands of dollars on investigators and attorneys to track down the piracy site owners and tell them to cease and desist, they'll pop right up with another website 24 hours later. So we writers just eat the losses and grow more and more disheartened.

What tears my ass about this is not that there are evil people in the world who would steal: that I figured out when I was a child. What really bothers me is not the pirate but the reader, that for an ebook I've spent maybe 500 hours of damned hard work on, I'm asking you to pay less than you pay for a cup of coffee. Less than most of you pay for a day of cell phone service. A quarter of what you might pay at the movies (and my book will last you for many more hours of entertainment than would a movie, unless you are a big fan of When Yukong Moved The Mountain and Shoah). Less than what you pay for a candy bar or soda pop at that movie. And yet for some, that's not nearly a low enough price, so they steal from me.

Things that are not stealing: using Kindle Unlimited. Using Overdrive at your public library. Paying at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Google Play or iTunes for a book. (There are even legitimately free books at some of those places, a free price approved by the author.) Things that are stealing: file sharing and reading a whole series and then returning all the books for a refund. (That doesn't hurt Amazon or Apple one bit. It hurts only writers, and you eventually, for they will remove your account if you do it very often.)

Tell everyone you know, please. Stealing a book, or downloading books from piracy sites, or sharing DRM-stripped KU files is EXACTLY like breaking into someone's home, stealing their wallet, and setting on fire their cherished mementos of a life. Is that last an exaggeration? No. I've given my life to writing, so when you steal my books, you don't just steal my wallet. You steal the years of work and sacrifice from me. A book thief might have been vacationing in the Caribbean 15 years ago, but I was eating generic corn flakes and getting up at 4:30 to practice writing before I got on the bus to get to work.

Theft is what book piracy is, and that's all it is. Bad people will keep doing it, of course, for that is what bad people do. They commit crimes and do not care at all who they hurt. It's the nature of sociopathy.

But everyone with any moral center should recognize their crime for what it is and stop committing it.

Thank you.

- Lou