Monday, March 3, 2014

The Price Of Piracy

Okay, y'all. It's time for a little circle time with Miss K.K.
I need everyone sitting criss-cross applesauce, and if you have a pen and paper, that would be great, too.
It has come to my attention that there are some people who think that it's okay to steal other people's books.
Without paying for them.

Now, I KNOW that it wasn't you, because y'all know how VERY VERY BAD stealing from other people is. But we need to review this, because there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that ANYONE should think that stealing books is okay.

There is absolutely no circumstances ever ever ever ever ever that stealing books is okay. Never.

And because I am so incredibly DONE with this, I decided to pull out my calculator and soapbox, because this was something I couldn't ignore anymore.

This isn't about me. This isn't about my books. This about my friends, this about their books, and this about doing the right thing.

I did math. A lot of math.

Now, let's start with the basics, okay? How many hours on average does an indie author take to write, revise, edit, publicize, etc. etc. etc. their book?

(NOTE: These are not exact numbers. Not everyone takes the same amount of time to do the same things. This is probably A LOT less than it actually takes. That being said...)

An average book is around 70,000 words. On a good hour, I can write around 2500 words. But that doesn't usually happen. For math's sake, let's pretend for every hour of working, an author writes 2,000 words an hour. (HAHAHHAA. But still.)

MATH TIME: So, 70,000 words divided by 2,000 words an hour is 35 hours to write a first draft.

Now, nobody actually publishes a first draft of a book. (PLEASE GOD I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IF THIS IS THE CASE. DO NOT EVER DO THIS EVER EVER EVER.) So, now you need to revise your manuscript.
More than once.

Now, let's say each round of revisions takes 15 hours. And let's say you go through THREE rounds of edits and revisions with CPs and betas.

15 hours of revision multiplied by 3 rounds is 45 hours of revision.

So far, the average author has worked around 80 hours of work on their book. Now, it's time to send it to the copy editor for final edits. (This is assuming that said author hasn't used a developmental editor, because their CPs were thorough enough. This is not always the case.) Between reviewing edits from the copy editor and rereading it before sending it to the formatter? Add another 5 ish hours.

TOTAL HOURS so far: 85 hours.

Now, publicity? I've heard a lot of different numbers for the average amount of hours spent on publicizing a book- anywhere from 10 hours to 40 hours to more than that. That involves social media, organizing blog tours (or just writing the guest posts for a blog tour), sending out ARCs, cover reveals, packaging swag to send to people... lots of stuff. And for every author, it's going to be different.

So let's go with a fairly conservative number- around 20 hours.

TOTAL HOURS: 105 hours. 

That's a little over two and a half weeks of 8 hour days.

Now. Let's say said author is selling their book for $2.99 on Amazon, with a 70% royalty, thereby making $2.09 per book sold.

Divide $2.09 into the 105 hours that they've worked so far and the HOURLY WAGE of an author per books sold comes out to $0.02 (rounded up to the nearest cent).

That means for every book an author sells under these circumstances, they are making TWO CENTS for every hour they have worked on their book.

Are we done with math?

Okay. So, so far we know that an author makes two cents an hour per book they've sold. Two cents per hour is not livable. At all. Uh-uh, no way. But hopefully, an author sells more than one book, right? Right. The question is, how many books does an author have to sell in order to have made minimum wage for those 105 hours they spent on their book?

Minimum wage differs between states, but the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. (There are many states that have a higher minimum wage, but for this, we'll use the federal.)

More math!

105 hours multiplied by $7.25 an hour is $761.25.
Now, divide $761.25 by $2.09, the amount of money per book received, and you get around 364 books that need to be sold in order for an author to have made minimum wage for those 105 hours.

Are we done yet?

Because we haven't added in the PRICE of publishing a book. Now, we can debate about this from here to next week, but for argument's sake and for this blog post, let's pretend that an author needs to lay out $1500 for the book. (This is an underestimate, for the most part. But whatever.)

Now, to make back the $1500 spent to publish the book, an author needs to sell around 718 books. This means for an author to make minimum wage for ONLY the 105 hours mentioned before, they need to first sell 718 books before they can even make a penny.

Which means for an author to have made (BEFORE TAXES) minimum wage for the hours they spent working on said book, they need to sell 1082 books.

Let's recap, shall we? To make minimum wage as an indie author for one book for only the hours you spent actively working on the book, you need to sell 1,082 books. But if you want to have a roof over your head 0and some food on your table, $761.25 is not really practical in the United States to have made for one year. If you're working 40 hour weeks, 12 months a year at minimum wage, you'll be earning a little less than $14,000 before taxes.

As an author? You need to sell 6,698 books for that to happen.

Do you hate math? Did you skip down here for when the numbers finally stop? Well, here we are.
Here's the little lesson we've just learned from all that math.

Every. Single. Sale. Counts.

You may think that stealing two cents an hour per book from an author isn't a big deal. You may think, PFFT! There are plenty of other people who are buying that author's book, that my measly $2.09 or however much they're making isn't really going to make much of a difference.

You would be completely and utterly incorrect.
First of all, you have no idea how many people are purchasing that book. You don't know how many people WOULD HAVE purchased the book had it not been pirated. Granted, not everyone who pirates books would have actually purchased the book if stealing it was not an option. But some of them would have.

To be honest, though, all the numbers we just went through? Don't matter. There is not a price I can put on the emotional and mental stress an author goes through when their books get pirated. Because after all those hours and hours of work you've put in, and the amount of your heart and soul that is invested in that book, having someone steal it is basically giving you and everything you've worked so hard for the middle finger. Now, multiply that by every illegal download. Every website that uploaded a book without permission of the author.

We're not even getting into the legal ramifications of piracy, because Lord knows that I did not go to law school, and copyright law is something I am not as familiar about as I could or should be. But the fact of the matter is, legalities aside here:

Stealing from other people is despicable, and there should never ever be a reason you should be doing so. How much money someone already has is not the point. How much money you're stealing from them is not the point. "I wouldn't have bought it in the first place!" Not the point.

Would you walk into a store and just walk out with things you didn't pay for? Not even hiding the things while you walked out? Would you go to the manager after and say, "Hey! You know that really nice thing you have that I stole from you? I really like it a lot! You should get more of those so I can steal more of them!"

You wouldn't.

I know it's the internet, and we like to think we're all invincible here behind our computer screens, and that we can do things like steal from people because it's only online and it doesn't count, and write nasty comments and bully people because it's not REAL, but guess what, y'all?

Just because it's on the internet doesn't make it any less of a crime than if it was in real life.

Stealing is stealing.

And you should not do it.

(and now for some entirely appropriate Weird Al:


  1. By this logic, libraries are stealing. So, in reality, not very considered a viewpoint at all.

    Most of the authors whose work I now purchase I never would've even heard of if I hadn't pirated them when I was much younger and had no money.

    Eliminating piracy will only reduce sales. If only the world were as simple as you imagine it to be.