Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I'm hard at work on Josie's story right now -- Sylvie's assistant in The Bride's Baby. It's set in Botswana and she's moved on from punk to vintage fashion (now she's a partner she has to look the part -- but in her own way), so as you can imagine I'm having fun with the research. The writing, as ever, is a lot harder. But you've turned up and expect to read something new and so first off I have to announce a new competition.

To celebrate the birth of a new grandson, Anne McAllister is having a "Mother & Baby" contest which will run up to Mother's Day. There's a great prize, including a copy of Secret Baby, Surprise Parents, so check it out HERE. And if you haven't read Savas' Defiant Mistress, rush out and get it NOW! It's terrific.

Oh, and while you're surfing, take a look at the Harlequin Romance Authors where two great HR authors Jackie Braun and Melissa James are talking about writing.

But not for a minute. I've got something to say and I hope you'll listen while I speak my piece.


I'm back on the wii after a rather long lay off. My hips have been sore and the deadlines desperate and I just went off the whole idea of exercise, but I'm missing the exercise, too.

I'm decided to give the Stepping a rest since that seems to aggravate the hips, but I beat the heck out the punchbag this morning. Bang, bang, bang...

Very therapeutic.

I needed that after yet another message informing me that my books are yet another pirate site.

At this point I Googled "pirates", so that I could provide a blood curdling image. What I found were endless pics of jolly Jack Sparrow, colouring pages for children and that whole, yo-ho-ho "pirates are fun" thing.

I think recent events prove that real pirates are an entirely different kettle of fish -- that they are in fact thieves and murderers.

Okay, book pirates don't kill people, but they can kill an author's career. Publishers take notice of how many people "buy" a book and offer further contracts on that basis. Stolen books don't get counted.

And it is stealing. There is a notice on the inside of books -- and on eBooks too -- that reads:

"The text of this publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photogcopying, recording, storage in an information retrievalsystem, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher."

It's there for a reason. To protect the author's intellectual rights. To protect the publisher's investment in the product he's put on the shelf at great expense. Because there is a law against stealing a work that's still in copyright. (Lots of books aren't. If the author has been dead for seventy years you can help yourself and welcome.)

If you buy a paper book you can sell it or give it away. The physical copy (that one in your hand -- no copies, remember) is yours to dispose of as you will. That's the law.

The words, however, belong to the author because he or she wrote them. Copyright protects him or her from anyone else benefitting from the blood, sweat and tears -- the months, years even, that it took to produce that book without written permission from the rights holder (and he will expect you to pay for the privilege). That's also the law.

It's not just authors and publishers who are protected by Copyright. You are, too.

Here's how it works. Suppose you write a letter in a fit of pique to someone. It doesn't show you in a very good light. Two days later you really wish you hadn't written it but life moves on and you forget all about it. A year or two passes. You get famous and the recipient of that letter thinks he owns something valuable. Something that the media will pay to publish. He'll get rich on something you wrote.

Nope. The media won't pay him a cent.

He owns the paper, but you own the words. They're yours. Protected by copyright. (If you don't believe me check the case involving letters written by Princess Diana to one of her lovers. The sleazebag thought he was going to earn a fortune. The High Court ruled against him and it never happened.

Copyright protected her from the sleazebag. The letters were never published.

The same law protects authors and publishers, for whom the book represents an investment of time, effort, inspiration, money.

Publishing is not a business like producing furniture or frozen meals. It's not something that can be simply costed and sold. If publishers had to pay authors the entire value of the book upfront they wouldn't able to produce the quantity of books that readers have to choose from now because it takes maybe five years to earn all those royalties.

There seems to be a movement that suggests that everything should be "free". That's music, films and books. Obviously the "free" movers expect to get paid for the hours they put in at the coal face. To have their salary paid into the bank at the end of month.

Authors eat, too. Send their kids to college. Buy shoes. If they have no prospect of a return for their time and effort -- and they have to wait around five years to realise the full worth of their labour remember, they don't get a check at the end of every month -- well the only books out there would be celebrity memoirs and the few authors who can guarantee huge sales in a very short time. The ones you read about in the newspapers.

How many a year would that be? A dozen maybe? Twenty? Start counting.

J K Rowling didn't get a seven figure advance. She had a tiny little advance that her publisher risked on an unknown author. That's how it works unless you're already famous for something else.

But pirates (thieves, remember), who've already undermined the music business and are giving the film industry the heebie jeepies can bring the house tumbling down.

So what, you might think. Why should I care?

Well, if your favourite author isn't making the numbers, her publisher will drop her. If the publisher isn't making a profit people get laid off. Not just authors, but secretaries, delivery drivers, editorial assistants, cleaners... It's a chain reaction. This business is, as the great Penny Jordan describes it, an inverted pyramid. At the bottom is the author, working for nothing until her book is sold, holding the whole thing up.

I know times are hard, but if you want free books go to the library. Go to the library anyway. They buy books and authors love them. The librarian will thank you (she likes her job, too). The publisher will thank you and the author will kiss the ground you walk on.

Meanwhile, hitting the punchbag will do me good. Get the blood flowing fast and the brain working efficiently.

Okay, I've gone on long enough and I'm stepping down from the soap box now. Josie needs me to sort out her wardrobe. You can go and check out Anne's competition now. And the wisdom of Jackie and Melissa.


Jan Jones said...

Very, very good post, Liz. I'm sitting in admiration here.

Kate Walker said...

Here, here! Liz - or perhaps, as I'm logging in from Ireland - O'here! O'here! A grpost. Impassioned, articulate and brilliantly presented. So many authors are plagued by these thieves - everything you said needed saying loud and clear.

I just hope people listen.

Thank you for saying it!


Anne McAllister said...

What can I say, Liz, except "Amen."

And thank you.


Kate Hardy said...

Brilliant post, Liz. Articulate and saying exactly what needs to be said.

Let's hope that the pirates - who consider themselves to be generous souls, sharing their goodies with friends (despite the fact that the goodies don't actually belong to them) - will listen. Or, better still, that the site owners will be more proactive and ban the accounts of these people - surely it will be less work for them than removing each document at the request of the publisher?

Snookie said...

Hear Hear! Good job Liz, you need to publish that rant somewhere besides your blog though... I think you should post it on the ehar site in several places...

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Fab post, Liz. It horrifies me to think of all the 'pirates' out there. Here's hoping that they develop a conscience sooner rather later.

Judy Astley said...

Tremendously well put Liz, thanks. Next up? Those who set up online book-swap sites on the spurious grounds that 'recycling' books is a greener option than having more printed. With piracy and swapping, it's getting to the point where no-one will ever expect to pay for books at all.

Nell Dixon said...

Very well put, Liz. It makes me so cross. My Little Black Dress books have just been released as e books and the first alert I got was from some theif on a pirate site with a whole list of LBD books wanting to know if anyone had them yet.

Carol Townend said...

Eloquently put. I do think that many people don't understand the whole royalty system and that authors don't get a penny unless someone buys the book from a reputable shop/outlet. Your explanation will hopefully set the balance straight.
Best wishes

Shirley Wells said...

What a great post, Liz. I think people forget that even authors have to eat.

Thanks for speaking out and let's hope people listen!

Heather Rae Scott said...

Wow! It needed to be said and you said it so passionately and convicting that I wish EVERYONE could read this. I know I'm going to send people over here.

Awesome, Liz! Someone needs to be accountable for this and there needs to be a way to make these theives pay for their actions.

Well said!