I was reading the posts at one of my publishers' loops this morning. The discussion began to turn on why fewer and fewer authors are giving away free e-book downloads via contests. The reason, of course, is rampant piracy.
Most writers know there are "contest whores" out there who haunt Yahoo groups and blogs. Although I find their mindset a little annoying, I've never taken too much issue with them. Hell, who wouldn't like to score a free read now and then? But are their numbers growing, and could their motives be more nefarious now than in the past?
While I was checking out Wave's site today, I noticed her stats. At the time of my visit, she'd had 78,647 visitors from 136 countries -- an incredible achievement for a relatively "young" review site, but one with a potential downside. Just how many of those visitors, I wondered, are e-book pirates, hoping to nab one of the free Amber Allure or Dreamspinner titles or the books routinely offered by individual authors? You know such people are lurking in the shadows. Frankly, that realization creeped me out.
So what's the solution? One writer at the aforementioned loop said she only offers print books and bundles of promo items (bookmarks, pens, that kind of stuff) as prizes. Many writers who have only e-books available either don't offer them at all or offer only backlist titles that have been out for, say, six months or longer. Should publishers follow the same route? Should they stop doing highly visible promotions that have the potential for attracting dozens of pirates? Should they only put up older titles in these promotions?
I hate like hell that the world of e-publishing has come to this, but look what's happened in the music industry. One executive said their sales are down 50% since the advent of Internet thievery.
I, for one, don't mind freebies going to people I know and trust. But I don't know that many people in cyberspace, and I trust even fewer. So how would you feel if the well of e-book giveaways ran dry or only backlist titles were offered? I just know something has to be done, because the industry has been farting around way too long on this issue.