First, the ground rules:
- I have been published for nine years and pirated for eight of them. Whatever pro-piracy, “chillax” argument you are going to make, I have heard it. And I don’t care. Your comments on this subject will not be approved.
- Speaking of, I have a very detailed comment policy. In a nutshell, when you visit my blog and step into my virtual home, you are entitled to my opinion; I am not entitled to yours.
- Since the point of this post is compassion and empathy, or lack thereof, I do recommend you step back and consider that before reacting in a way that proves my point.
- You can believe that piracy is great and right and STILL respect others’ wishes/opinions in this matter. I think vodka is great. I do not force others to partake of it.
Zara Lain is dead.
I’ve had very simple policies regarding books in the Demons of Oblivion series and its continuation.
The first is that future books depend on sales. As it was initially conceived as a five-book series (and only when I realized how Oblivion ended did I know there should be more books) with a particular arc that came to a conclusion with the fifth book, I knew I could end it at five and hopefully readers would be satisfied, but that there was room for more. And even after I said last year that I needed to let go of the possibility of book six and beyond since sales were so poor (despite being 3x what they were with a publisher) and it was stressing me out, I have always left the door open for more (for confirmation, check the description of the Patreon milestone “Oblivion and Beyond”).
The second policy was that if Exhumed ended up pirated, that was it. I would never, ever publish another Zara Lain book. Ever.
Searching for illegal copies of my books leads you to my site first where I make this abundantly clear. This has led to some people, over the past year, legitimately buying the books (including Bloodlines, which has been out there for pirating for a year and a half now). I have also reached out to/confronted any attempted pirate I found and asked them not to steal from me. It’s an exhaustive process but, generally, appealing to someone’s humanity as a fellow human is more effective than ranting and threatening legal action.
For some time these policies, combined with the sheer obscurity of me as a writer, has worked to keep most of my books from being illegally distributed.
This is no longer the case.
Therefore, Zara Lain is dead.
When a google alert on Sunday popped up to tell me Exhumed was being requested at a forum devoted to illegally distributing books, my heart sank but I headed over to try my best. I reached out to the pirate–who I have no doubt hit my website first, as they always do–and very nicely, very calmly asked her (I’m assuming “her” as, sadly, I find a great number of pirates are, because women seem to enjoy fucking over other women) to please not do this.
This book, I said, has sold little in the past month. I am not some big time author, I am really struggling with basic things like affording food and vet care for my ailing cat. Readers and writers have a symbiotic relationship; I cannot do my part–producing more books to be read–if readers do not do theirs by obtaining books legally. I suggested that perhaps she could visit her local library and request that they order a copy if she cannot afford the book.
This was one instance where appealing to someone’s humanity didn’t work.
“jdscott666” (aka “jd25” aka “bookho”) is responsible for the death of any potential the series had left. Unequivocally.
“But Skyla, YOU are the one choosing not to write them! You can’t punish everyone for one person’s actions!”
I get it. I do. But here’s the thing: I am the one who has to write these books.
I am the one who has to make financial sacrifices to write something that doesn’t earn a living wage. I am the one who has to face the word processor plagued by the knowledge that this book I’m pouring myself into is going to be illegally distributed more than bought; that if I bear my soul in this thing, this piece of art that has emotional resonance with people, I will eventually have my rights violated and consent disregarded.
I can tolerate low sales. I can tolerate piracy. I cannot tolerate both at the same time.
This does affect legit readers. I feel terrible about that, I really do.
But however much you might love the characters and books, remember that they come from my brain. I live and breathe these fictional people. I’ve invested over a decade of my life into this series. These stories have parts of me in them.
I am also, whatever my faults, a woman of my word. When I say “If you do this thing, there will be a consequence”, I’m not making an idle threat. It’s been almost six years since Wolfe came out. Has there been another River novel? No. There hasn’t even been a short story(1). Like I said, piracy guaranteed I would never, ever go back and write another of those books. I said that if you pirate Exhumed, you will kill this series too.
I don’t bluff.
Exhumed…just about killed me to write.
I cried through most of it. It absolutely terrified me to go to the places I did with the book. I put my blood and tears into everything I write–those who know me see glimpses there in everything–but never as openly as I did with that book. That is my soul bared on the page. Out of the thirty+ books I’ve written, there are maybe half a dozen I can say that about.
It didn’t sell well. It was rarely reviewed and barely read. People spoiled the twists for readers within the first week of release. It didn’t make any favourite book/top reads lists.
But the handful of die-hard fans bought it, read it, and loved it. And it was a book I was tremendously proud of.
And now I cannot even describe for you what it feels like to have that book illegally distributed. The reader/writer agreement is, “Okay, here is a piece of my soul; you can have it and do with it what you will–hate it, tear it up, whatever–if you’ve paid for the thing.” Then NOT paying for the thing? Having my rights violated, my consent stomped all over? When I am having to have conversations with myself about whether or not it’s time to break down and go to the motherfucking food bank?
It is heartbreaking. And it hurts too much to even contemplate putting myself in this position again with these books.
A lot of people, when dealing with pirates, say, “It’s a shitty thing to do, but I don’t think you’re a bad person for stealing.”
Sometimes, I’d agree. I don’t think illegally distributing books in itself makes you a terrible person; I think intent matters a lot and I ultimately believe in a human being’s potential to do better.
But I do think that when the creator of something reaches out to you and says, “Please don’t do this; this harms me and those I care for, and has a tangible, negative impact on my life,” and you do it anyway…well, yes.
Yes, you are a TERRIBLE FUCKING PERSON.
You are lacking in empathy, either because you are an actual sociopath or because you have deluded yourself into believing your entitlement to cheat the system and read without abiding by the rules in place that ensure I can make a living outweighs my rights as the person who CREATED THE BOOK IN THE FIRST PLACE. You knowingly, deliberately, maliciously set out to hurt another person, and for what? A couple of hours of entertainment? This book would not exist without me, and to thank me for the contribution, you completely fuck me over?
If you do this, you are a shitty person. Period. Full stop. No justification or excuses.
This dearth of empathy, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me.
Like the more and more we’re connected, the more we see avatars instead of people; the greater our access to content creators, the less human we see them as. If someone came to me and said, look, this thing you are doing that violates my rights is having a real negative impact on my life, so please do not do it? Fuck, I’d feel like shit. I’d try to find a way to make it right. I sure as hell wouldn’t double down.
I regularly write from the POV of murderers and monsters, and yet this is still baffling to me, how someone can feel so entitled to a book, they will disregard the creator’s wishes–how they can refuse to see that creator as human. How they justify their mentality of “want, take, have” and believe it trumps my right to things like groceries and veterinary care for my pets.
This lack of empathy is nothing to be proud of; in fact, I think we–as a society–should be shaming the fuck out of people who show so little regard for others. If we could take the amount of energy we put into shaming people for stupid shit like obesity or promiscuity and put it toward having no tolerance for actual character flaws like lacking empathy and willfully harming others, maybe humans wouldn’t be such a shitty species.
This bears linking to again.
The bottom line is that artists’ rights are workers’ rights. You are not being progressive or radical by denying artists the right to control their own work. You are not helping the underprivileged by making it impossible for anyone who isn’t already rich and privileged to take up artistic careers. Your pirated Taylor Swift song isn’t feeding the poor. If you want to fight the power, maybe try hacking JP Morgan instead of pirating a vampire romance for your Kindle.
As a writer, when you spend a lot of time sending takedown notices and dealing with this aspect of the business, you get pretty familiar with piracy sites. You see the same things over and over.
You see dozens of people thanking and giving praise to “all the hard work” someone put into a torrent of three hundred books.
These people are able to disconnect the book from the author so much that it doesn’t even occur to them to THANK THEM FOR WRITING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Not that we can live on praise and thanks alone, of course, but that the writer is left entirely out of the equation is very telling.
I fully support ebook (and movie) piracy in specific instances, like smuggling content across the border to North Korea. That is hugely important work making a difference within that country. But we are not talking about distributing work across tightly controlled borders to help oppressed people see what’s happening elsewhere in the world.
We are talking about people who claim to love books and yet actively work to ensure the people who produce them can’t make any more.
And this is absolutely baffling to me, in part because for a long time I have been very poor and therefore very aware of how I spend my money. I shop local as much as possible, even if it means spending a bit more money. I buy books by my friends even if they’d give me a free copy. If I like a thing, I try to ensure my pennies to toward supporting it, and even if I DON’T like a thing, other than boycotting, I wouldn’t go out of my way to cause someone harm.
“Nothing you say here, Skyla, will make a difference.”
That? That does not make me feel better, you realize.
I am fully aware that I am shouting into the void. That talking about piracy makes me a target for more of it (because, again, their entitlement blinds them to the fact that I am an actual person and that it is a shitty thing to work to harm another human being and her family for no reason). That it would be much easier if I could just flip a switch and stop caring about my work being stolen.
Let me tell you, you do not want to see what kind of person I will be if I stop caring about all these un-winnable fights.
I am told the same thing every time I take in a stray dog off the street, feed it, and try to find its home, or take in a cat when dear god I do not need another but it’s starving and freezing outside. “Just care a little less.” But as soon as we shut off that little part of us that empathizes and connects with others, the closer we get to being the kind of person who willfully disregards the rights and wishes of others.
And I don’t ever want to be that kind of person.
So I care. And I will speak up. Loudly. Even when it doesn’t appear to make a difference. Because the alternative is sitting back and pretending it’s okay, and I am not going to do that. I abhor dishonesty of any kind too much.
Please do not tell me to stop caring when someone violates my rights. Please do not tell me to stop caring when someone’s actions make it that much harder to keep the heat on. Please do not tell me to stop caring because “it’s never going away.”
How about instead, you start trying to care a little more?
“Seriously, Skyla, what the hell does this mean now?”
- Nothing has changed for Oblivion. Either I get to it when I get to it or, miracle of miracles, somehow Patreon reaches my sustainability goal first and then I will buckle down and prioritize it.
- This has not changed the potential resurrection of Amends on Patreon. If that milestone is reached, Zara will rise again there, for that book only. I am undecided about whether or not, when it’s complete, I’ll release it for sale; it might remain exclusive to patrons.
- Dial V for Vampire remains exclusive to my website shop and this is the only place a post-Oblivion world will be glimpsed.
- Solace, Zara’s next full-length book in the series, will be written eventually because it’s a story I want to tell. And then it will sit on my harddrive, except for when it goes to visit close friends to be read. Absolutely no one will stop me from writing, because writing is breathing for me. But publishing? I will not publish a book only to have it stolen more than bought.
I am not rage-quitting writing or closing up shop. I have more stories to tell. More books will release at some point. I’ve been through this before and the wheel keeps turning.
Maybe the next books will sell better.
But, like River Wolfe, Zara Lain is dead, and will remain so.
tl;dr – piracy killed another series, wheee!
(1) Rebellion is still on my plate here, but I am so fucking depressed right now (and still dealing with med dosage changes fucking up my moods), I’d rather tackle my pile of paying work for a while. Hopefully it’ll still be done by the end of the month.
Yet another reason why I hate people. Fucking pirating scum. If you come work as the children’s governess, can I make it part of your employment contract that you have to keep writing Zara Lain just for me and B?
Skyla Dawn Cameron says
I will write Zara forever for you, darling. In fact, I am enough of a contrarian that I will probably write Solace as soon as Oblivion’s done, and quite happily at that, since I have completely shut the door on it ever seeing the light of day.
There is likely something wrong with my brain.
In the meantime, I will finish the second draft of Odin’s Spear for you because WEST. And then I will write Zara/West crossover fic because HILARITY.
If I could figure out how to put gifs in a comment, I would put Heath Ledger’s Joker slow-clapping here. Because FUCK YEAH.
Also, THIS. ALL OF THIS.
Fuck it, I’ll just mail you the gifs.
EDITED BY SKYLA FOR DINA:
Rissa Watkins says
See you asshole thieves- this is why we can’t have nice things!
I am so sorry this happened. Some people are just scumbags. I think you should bitch slap whoever tells you it isn’t a big deal and to get over it.
I loved this series and I am sad to know you won’t be publishing more- but I completely understand why.
Skyla Dawn Cameron says
Indeed, humans are terrible. They ruin everything.
I dunno, I was brought up to understand “right” from “wrong.”
If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, then you are a thief. Full stop.
You aren’t cool, you aren’t a “pirate,” your explanations of “I didn’t know,” or “I couldn’t pay for it” mean nothing. Was it free? No. Did you pay for it? No. Then you are a thief.
Just because you got it from someone else who got it from someone else doesn’t absolve you of the theft.
If you took a 5 cent candy from a store and you were caught, you would be charged with theft. The amount of the item means nothing. The fact that you took something from a faceless person on a faceless website doesn’t change the fact that you are a thief.
It doesn’t matter if it costs 99 cents or $99. If you took something that did not belong to you, therefore; YOU. ARE. A. THIEF.
And that’s all I have to say about piracy.
Skyla Dawn Cameron says
They just installed cameras in the charity secondhand store downstairs–the one raising money to rescue cats in the area, run ENTIRELY by volunteers–because people were stealing.
Stealing. From a non-profit.
I mean…I… Look, you can walk your ass down to the Sally Ann up the road and they will give you stuff if you’re in dire straits and can’t afford it. They will give you grocery store gift cards. We have a food bank in town. I know these things because I am so poor I NEED TO know about options available just in case. There is no fucking excuse.
And I didn’t link it here, but to the inevitable crows of “file sharing isn’t stealing!” and want to play semantics, a. it’s not “file sharing” either–it’s illegally copying and distributing someone’s intellectual property, and b. we use “theft” for good reason, and here’s an article on the subject: https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2010/09/15/a-quick-word-on-the-word-theft/
I was raised to know that stealing is wrong, being mean to someone is wrong, and hell basically taking advantage of someone in anyway is wrong. Things like this make me think “I don’t understand ” a lot.I said this after my ex bf basically neglected and accused me of faking my brain infection for attention. Finally convincing him to take me to my parents 7 hours away, after I had to wait for the weekend, and after going to 3 different hospitals till I finally got help I finally found out that I had hydro encephalitis. At least he waited until I recovered from my stroke, almost dying a couple of times, vision loss, and having to learn to walk again and got out of the hospital before letting me know I basically wasted 5 years of my life with him because he had cheated on me, even having a daughter that was turning 3–do the math, and keeping all of my stuff that he could use for himself or his family. That included stuff I can never replace, like the quilt my great grandmother made along with stuff that had sentimental value to me, oh and my computer because blind people don’t need them. Guess it was okay that he kept the bulk of my clothes since I lost about 45 lbs during my 6 month hospital stay. This man is now a police officer…. Another good thing he did? After katrina he used his FEMA money to buy gold for WoW. It is sad to see that the people who do this type of shit usually they get away with it, who would believe it happened?? His dad raised him to take what he wanted, just not to get caught at it… His dad routinely used his connections to get speeding and running red light tickets changed to no seat belt tickets for my ex and felt it was his right to take stuff from the city –he worked for the city doing maintenance on their vehicles–he took like gas and car parts. Just rethinking about it boggles my mind because it reminds me that most people don’t believe it or think I want sympathy for it –which I don’t because I haven’t shared the story with anyone besides family for the most part. My ex bf routinely pirated stuff, not books though he usually called what I read dragon porn… If Robert Jordan was still alive I bet he would think wtf??
I’ve seen many small time authors fight a losing battle with pirated books of theirs and it makes me so sad and angry. Authors are brave people, it takes a lot to publish a book–even if it doesn’t do awesome. I have never pirated a book…. I only do a few reviews for a site and even if I don’t have much money I will use it to buy books. Even if I haven’t finished the series yet, I bought everything for the oblivion series and plan on reading them when I’m wanting to read something like that… I read a lot of different types of books.
It is unfortunate, but stupid people happen to be the loudest and most vocal. They also tend to breed more… Accountability is lacking, how can you even stop it? It sucks, but you cans steal shit if it is not there. I totally understand the reasoning behind your decision and hope the asshat that is at fault enjoys their bit of instant gratification and hope that they get very very sad about having no more. It might be a lost cause, but I am hopeful that someway the few who have to suffer because of the actions of thieves will find a way to make it so shit like this doesn’t happen as much.
Good lord I talk too much, sorry. This type of thing makes me angry and feel so frustrated because once again the few get screwed over because of the idiots who lack human decency and fail at doing things the right way.
I still don’t get it….
Skyla Dawn Cameron says
I hear you, I had a not quite SIMILAR but certainly “in the same spirit as” type of bf, some people are absolutely baffling.
It saddens me because I always believe in a human being’s potential to learn and be better. I’m thirty-two, I came from the Napster generation–I know all about the ease of illegal download, cracking software, etc. When you’re young, even when you know it’s wrong, you can justify it hundreds of ways, but when someone reaches out and says “Hey, maybe don’t do this thing”…um, stop doing it. Hell, ALL I WRITE are flawed characters who make horrible mistakes and have to work at redeeming themselves, so clearly I understand that. But some people are just terrible. And yes, of course they’re also breeding and doubtlessly raising little entitled sociopaths as well. Whom they have not vaccinated.
And really, what bothers me more than anything is disregarding CONSENT. Okay, so you think illegally downloading/copying/etc is great. There are plenty of authors who share that view. So…pirate their books. I have never said “don’t pirate anyone’s book ever” because lots of writers don’t care, and if they give their consent for it, have at it. I have not given MY consent, so leave mine alone.
I dunno, I guess it’s because of the particular things I’ve been through in life, it’s the violation aspect I really get stuck on with piracy.
Oblivion will at least bring a sense of closure to the main series arc, that much I can promise. It’s from Peri and Mishka’s alternating POVs, but I’m going to insert a couple of extra sections in the book for key scenes–one from Zara’s, one from Ryann’s, and maybe the odd other one–to give everyone a chance to have a few final moments, so to speak. At this point, I’m only writing it out of fan service, I’d’ve trunked the whole thing but I want readers to have SOME sense of closure, even with all the threads still left hanging. I might try focusing on standalone books for a while, or at least trilogies or something so it’s less of a pain in the ass for everyone if it gets axed midway.
When I was getting River ready for re-release last year, a third novel in that series opened up in my head just fully formed, I could’ve opened a doc and written it right then, but in the end…it just hurt too much. I am going to do a couple of short stories there for fun to thank long time readers, but I spent eight years playing whack-a-mole with pirates of that series, and I don’t want to do it with another book.
I think all we can do, as a culture of people who love books, is to keep being against piracy and doing what we can to support the books we love (including supporting libraries, indie booksellers, etc). Nothing changes overnight, but the more we say “This is unacceptable” and share that message, the greater the chance it’ll get through to some people.
I think it has a lot to do with the fact you are aware of the value of things. It comes from actually having to work for something and dealing with the consequences of going without. For me I know I have the additional bonus of having to lose everything, more than once. Shit is too easy to get with barely any sort of consequence to get it.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That works for a lot of things. The issue is jamming it into heads. People these days make me sad… I just don’t get them. I mean did they stop teaching what the golden rule is? Along with logic… Vaccination or no vaccination? It is like a person taking meds to allergies and after a while they forget about the headaches, itchy eyes and stop taking it thinking that there hasn’t been any symptoms so… When they come back, sometimes with a vengeance, the person is all confused? Can we say epidemic boys and girls?
You know that saying about not to do something, regardless of how asked, a strung desire to do it anyway happens? Some people are stupidly over vindictive and will do it anyway, whether they actually want the result. Gah, I hate people. I’m 35, separated and plan to divorce, and live with my parents again. Unless a miracle happens I don’t plan on dating, much less marrying, again. I will just make do with my dog cooper. Sadly my family is a no cat family. So, I cans become a crazy cat lady and my parents refuse to build a basement for me to live in. My sister recently had twins so no pressure to give my mom grandchildren… bonus!
Whatever you plan to do with Oblivion will be fine with me. At least you offered something. I would be happy with a 100 word epilogue basically saying everyone lived happily ever after in a trailer park in the middle of tornado alley. Which they use as a home bass for their traveling circus. It is not idea, but hi, you are the creator you can do whatever you want.
I started to follow your blog from following Lillith St. Crows blog, which in turn introduced me to Dina James.
At the time, yes, I had pirated music, movies and TV. It had never dawned on me that books could be pirated too. I am ashamed of the person I was, because if I had known I probably would have pirated books too. I would have had a wealth of excuses too….book is no longer available in print ( still looking for a book i read in English class that i can’t find even through used book sellers….makes me want to cry) … Cost of a printed book was scandalous. Ebook vs print copy……really guys should be half. These would HAVE been acceptable excuses to me AT THAT TIME.
Between yourself, Ms Lilli, and Ms James my home is a NO Frigging WAY in HELL free download home to the best of my ability. My household knows my views, they know the consequences….delete delete delete of any media that is unpaid from a legit site. From the writer/ author, crew (editor/ publisher/ set designer), this is a livelihood and need to be paid for your WORK just like I need to be paid for mine.
We have all been sheople ( sheep + people) at some point in our lives. The well everybody’s doing it attitude. You have been instrumental in changing my attitude