Friday, August 19, 2016

False Sense of Entitlement

At the end of last year, all of us here at the Grip made suggestions for topics. This one actually happens to have been one of my suggestions. Yay me!
All right, so entitlement is something we’ve probably all experienced before. After all, the word technically means “the fact of having a right to something”. That could be something as simple as your weekly wage. You’re entitled to receive that as recompense for doing your job. Or something as basic as respect, which should be afforded every person until such time as they show they’re not worthy of it.
Where the trouble starts, and indeed where my inspiration came from to suggest this as a topic, is really that ever-growing bugbear, a false sense of entitlement. Truly it seems to be more rampant with every passing week.
We authors usually experience this phenomenon in the form of piracy. Folks uploading our books to pirate sites, and others taking advantage of it. There was a reasonably large furore a few months back when someone on Facebook made a public post requesting links to download books for free. That was dealt with in the way you’d expect… most people piling on and saying “yeah, we want the freez too, maaaaan”.
The occasional voice of logic and reason got in there and pointed out it was actually stealing. That these people were essentially taking the money from the authors’ pockets. To which one person replied “I think [the authors] make enough”, and to which another replied “yo, but we’re poor” (I don’t guarantee I have those quotes verbatim).
Look, in all seriousness, I don’t have a lot to add to that. People steal stuff and claim they were too poor to buy it. That might be true, but it’s one thing to ask for something and explain you’re doing so because you’re poor. It’s a whole other to be running down the street with it and yelling over your shoulder “yo, but I’m poor, man”. Doesn’t quite feel the same. And seriously, if simply being poor was the problem, I doubt they’d be stealing books rather than food or clothing.
The thing about it is, though, it’s not just books. And the other thing about it is that most humans, including authors, are totally cool with all kinds of entitled shit… until it hits home.
Comedian Bill Burr observed a few years ago that in the case of stand up comedy, people were generally happy to laugh at edgy material that poked fun at religion, race, sexual orientation etc. That is, right up until that material infringed on their particular edge. When a comedian was making fun of others, then it was jokes. Now he’s making fun of me, “he’s making statements”.
How is this relevant to the point I was heading for?
It’s not a real biggie. I have just observed many authors who moan about their books being pirated, even going as far as doing the math. That the five thousand books downloaded from that pirate site would have been worth whatever… ten thousand dollars, perhaps. Yet so many of those same authors think nothing of finding a torrent and downloading, say, the entire Breaking Bad series. For free. As pirates.
Now it’s entirely possible the production companies who make those TV series (and movies, and albums etc) DO “make enough” and won’t be destitute because of the false sense of entitlement of those particular authors. And it’s entirely possible the authors are “poor, yo”, and equally possible their situation has been caused by, or at least exacerbated by, book piracy.
But are those authors acting any less entitled than the book pirates?
Personally, I don’t think so.
It’s really important to note, of course, that I’m making no sweeping statements here. I’m not suggesting it’s all, or even a majority, of authors behaving this way. I’m simply pointing out that I know some do. Some others take a much more laissez-faire approach. They don’t think twice about downloading a TV series illegally, but by the same token turn a blind eye to those who are pirating their books. Still not an ideal setup but at least not hypocritical.
Personally, I strive to keep everything above board. I do not download from torrent sites, and I do not actively pirate anything, nor do I accept pirated items. The trouble these days is how hard it is to avoid doing it even passively. Watched a song on Youtube? Was it on the artist’s own channel, or their company’s? If not, then it was probably there illegally and the artist makes no money from it.
On the author side of things, we’ve had a hand in exacerbating this situation. Offering ten novels in a box set for 99¢ was a great idea when it would get that bundle to the top 100 on Amazon, and perhaps bestseller status on USA Today and maybe even New York Times lists. It worked then, and because of that, it became a bloated market.
And now, the general buying public gets upset if they get ten novels for 99¢ and only like three of them. “I liked less than a third of these books… it was a waste of money”.
Meantime, the ten authors are each making under 4¢ per copy sold. So yeah… they’re poor, yo.
I’m sure we’ve all noticed the cyclical nature of it all.

So I suppose the end point of all this is that I’d urge those who create items which can be pirated to be part of the change they wish to see in the world. If you don’t want people pirating your books, then don’t pirate someone else’s movie, or album, or TV series. 
Will it stop your books being pirated? Hell no. But at least you won’t be contributing to the vicious cycle, and you can sleep long hours and wake to bright sunshine and everywhere you go pretty birds will land on your shoulder and sing sweet songs to you while your excess kilos evaporate from eating magical chocolate.

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EDIT: I also forgot to mention that, among other things I've been doing lately, I've also moved into creating pre-made cover art. These are quick and painless covers from the author side of things. Pick one, tell the artist the title and author name and, as they say in Australia "wah lah"!

I've made nine covers so far, in various genres. If you'd like to check them out, come on over here ––––>


  1. I expect nothing less from you Willsin. It's why I love ya as a person and not just as an artist! Mwah...!

  2. I expect nothing less from you Willsin. It's why I love ya as a person and not just as an artist! Mwah...!

  3. Do you find people pirating your cover art? Is that even possible? I've had stock photo cover art on my books (not my choice) that was used for other books, too, but that's a known risk.

  4. I don't think I have ever pirated anything. Don't feel like I'm missing anything either.

  5. Good sermon, Willsin. I must confess that I've done a little piracy, like stealing one gold doubloon at a time when it washes up on the beach. I review books, which are often sent to me as PDFs. Sometimes I then offer to share them with whoever I know who might like to read them. Sometimes I even ask: "Do you think you would buy this?" (I tend to ask this of folks I know who don't seem likely to read a particular genre, say lesbian erotica, and that's the genre of the book I reviewed.) If not, and if they're interested, I sometimes send them a copy. It's tempting to do this, but I think I will stop, in order to feel righteous, attract pretty birds, and lose kilos. In all fairness, I don't throw hissy fits when I discover that something I wrote was pirated by someone I would never suspect (e.g. one of my stories from Best Lesbian Erotica in the on-line porn stash of a person called Marcel Lee of Detroit, Michigan, who described himself as a 31-year-old African-American man). In some cases, I like the free publicity. In general, no one is entitled to a free lunch, free story, or free ebook.

  6. Hi, Willsin!

    I read about the FB brouhaha, and read Sarah Madison's much shared blog post on the issue. My reaction? I went out and bought one of Sarah's books, and reviewed it on my blog.

    You can check out her post here. (One thing that impressed me was the fact that she answered every one of the hundreds of comments.)

    I have stopped sharing blog posts about boxed sets on Triberr, for the reasons you cite.

    Now I'm off to look at your premade covers! One of these days (ugh) I'm going to have the time to finish one of my WIP!

  7. This makes me so glad I'm not on Facebook anymore. I've always been against illegal downloads of any kind, for reasons similar to what you state here. I do generally feel like people who illegally download my books wouldn't have bought them anyway, so I try not to let it worry me. That said, I'm not okay with it. It's just not something I spend much time thinking about.

    Your cover art looks awesome! I hope that new effort goes well for you. I always love looking at those and seeing stuff like "Author Authorson," too. Easily amused, I guess.


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