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  • Karen Frost

Piracy is Bad Because Your Favorite Lesfic Authors Aren't Rich

Recently, there's been a bit of buzz on Twitter among lesbian fiction writers about book piracy. The sum of it is, there appears to be more piracy of lesbian fiction books than authors realized. Some individuals have been copying lesfic books and putting them places online so that readers can access them for free. Authors have been shocked to discover their books have been sucked into this underground. It's an unfortunate situation for multiple reasons.

On the one hand, I empathize with readers. In many parts of the world, the $10 it might cost to buy even a single lesfic ebook, much less what it might cost to buy multiple books, may be a week's wages. The reader may live in a location with no free, public library and buying is their only option, an option that will quickly price them out of readership. Or perhaps their library has a limited selection they've already read through. I understand that not everyone is equally able to enjoy literature, and that in and of itself is an injustice.

On the other hand, there are multiple very significant reasons that readers should avoid piracy. These include:

  1. The authors this lesfic piracy impacts aren't the JK Rowlings or Danielle Steeles of the world. They're not billionaires swimming in money Scrooge McDuck-style. There are very few full-time lesfic writers because at the end of the day, this simply isn't a lucrative market. No one is selling millions of books or even hundreds of thousands of books. Even the absolutely most successful lesfic books probably only sell in the tens of thousands of copies. As a result, the money that authors lose to piracy may be the difference between making enough money to write full-time (and thus writing more books) or paying for expensive medical treatments. You wouldn't steal $5 from the wallet of a stranger. Book piracy isn't actually any different.

  2. Independent publishing as a business is languishing. It's being squeezed out by the rise of self-publishing, which enables authors to price their books lower and dominate rankings through Kindle Unlimited. This means that only a few years from now, the seven lesbian publishing houses could all be gone. We can argue to what extent that's a bad thing vs. the natural consequence of market forces, but the point is, piracy hurts these publishers even more than it hurts authors. If the lesfic publishers go under because readers would rather steal content than pay for it, then we've failed as a community and we've done an injustice to future generations of readers who might have liked the curated content produced by these publishers.

  3. Finally, American society in particular (I can't speak to other countries) need to re-learn that content isn't free. We've gone so long with things like Spotify and Tubi that we think all content should be served on a platter to us for free. But there's a paradox here: how can content be free and its creators get paid at the same time? In the case of both Spotify and Tubi, the creators are paid through ad revenue, but the truth is that revenue is absolute peanuts. And in the case of lesfic that's not on Kindle Unlimited, there isn't ad revenue to be had. I say this all the time, but we CANNOT have content without it being paid for somehow. So if our community refuses to pay, we should expect consequences for that stance.

I suppose it's bad form as an author to tell readers what we make in revenue. It's a secret or something, I don't know. But I'm going to peel back the curtain, because I think it's important people understand the extent to which lesfic authors are NOT rolling in money. Last month, my quarterly profits were $214. For four books. That's an average of $18 per book per month. Or, three venti Starbucks lattes.

At the start of this post, I recognized that many people couldn't afford the $5-10 an e-book from a lesfic publisher may cost. I have great sympathy for those people. But the truth is, there are also people who engage in piracy who could pay for the books they steal. But they choose not to. They choose to pay for a Starbucks latte but not the book they read while drinking it. To them, they have a right to free content. And that is a very different matter. So to any reader who finds themself in that situation, I hope you'll think twice about it. Issues like this are not just about how individual actions affect other individuals, but about how the collective effect of these actions affect entire communities.

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