Should Writers Worry About the Pirating of E-Books?

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Many unpublished writers worry that their ideas will get stolen, or
that their work will get stolen before it reaches publication. I always
counsel writers to stop this unproductive thinking. First, writing
isn't exactly a lucrative thing to steal. It is not a highly profitable
venture to steal unpublished novel manuscripts. Second, given the
extremely low success rate when pitching editors/agents, who wants to
undertake the burden of selling an unpublished novel? (Not to mention
anyone who steals work is likely to be exposed sooner or later.)

However,
with the advent of e-books, there is a new concern that
writers will lose out on sales if the files aren't adequately protected
(the whole DRM issue, which has been eloquently and passionately discussed over at Booksquare).

Sandy James mentions this worry in a comment in my post Do Writers' Futures Lie in Indie E-Publishing Platforms?

My first five books are all ebooks,
although they will eventually hit print. … I have signed with a great agent, and
I hope to expand my fanbase by publishing with larger houses. But these
ebooks were a fantastic way to get my foot in the proverbial door. I
learned about the publishing process, how to handle edits, how to work
with cover designers, etc... All of my books are given a great edit,
they are available from many outlets, and all will be in print only a
few months after the ebook release.

As far as worries -- pirating is at the top of my list. I suppose
ebooks are as vulnerable as music files, and we all know about how
easily data is passed around. Think the Napster debacle or the Google
settlement. On the other hand, how is that any different than one
person buying a book and loaning it to her friends? Either way, it's a
loss of income for an author and publisher.

Now, I freely admit that I tend to worry a lot less than other
people. I tend to think that the more unreservedly you give, the more
you will receive. People notice, respect, and reward generosity. And I think this has proven out even in the music industry.

We've
seen it happen in the book industry, too. When Suze Orman's book was
available free from Oprah's website (to coincide with a show appearance),
the book returned to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller
list.

Giving things away for free, or at the very least, giving
away a large portion of your work for free (to hook people and prove the value),
leads to more sales. When your work is passed around for free, other
people are doing your marketing for you. Presumably a new
audience is being exposed to your work.

What is your experience? Does free sell?

Photo credit: St_A_Sh

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