I just published my first novella, Supervillain of the Day. It will be followed by six other novellas before the year is out. That’s right, I’m writing a series. This series is not released under a traditional copyright. This series is released under Creative Commons. Do you know what that means?
The short version means it can’t be stolen. I give you permission to copy, to share, to write sequel and fanfic, to give it away, to alter and reproduce, to completely rip-off my characters. The only way you can steal that book from me is to break into my house at night and take my inventory. You cannot steal it, because I give it to you. Why? You ask. Why would you do such a thing? The answer is simple. I am not afraid.
I am not afraid that sharing my work freely will cause me to lose sales. I am not afraid of anyone else doing the same idea better then I can. I am not afraid that success comes only to the selfish. I am not afraid of someday finding my work on a pirating website.
The other day an author I follow on Twitter posted a link to another author telling successful writers not to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Contest. The reason given was that the terms and conditions state that if you win you have to sign a non-negotiable publishing contract sight unseen. No one has any idea what’s int hat contract–you could be signing over authorship of your award winning novel. You have no idea what they’ll do with it, or how much they’ll even give you in royalties. If you’re that good, the writer said, don’t sell yourself short. Be published traditionally.
I disagree. Amazon is offering a $50,000 dollar advance in exchange for signing that contract. That’s far more than most publishing companies will give you. That’s more than you’re likely to make as a writer. That’s a serious amount of money. That’s enough money to more then make up for all rights to your work now and forever. I’d sell my work, my art for that kind of money.
I’ve heard writers time and again who don’t want to write scripts, or allow their novels to be made into films, because that would involve taking a story and handing it over to a director to cut and interpret and changes as he pleases, even to the point of hiring other writers to rewrite your work. They can’t imagine putting heart and soul into a good story and then giving it away to someone else. Their art is too precious to them. They can’t let go.
If you want to be successful you need to learn to let go of your art. If you want people to read your work – let go. If you want to make money – let go. You can always write more books. The creativity that sparked your first story can surely start a second. And if you win the Amazon Breakthrough Contest your second book stands an enormous chance of being successful on its own terms.
Another person on twitter is a successful filmmaker. He recently discovered his movie on a pirating website with over 50,000 downloads. Rather than be ecstatic so many people had viewed his film, he was outraged that they had stolen it. But how many of those people would have actually watched the film if they hadn’t downloaded it? My guess is 1-2%. How many of those people actually contributed to sales? It’s impossible to say. I imagine an alternate universe where his work hadn’t been “stolen” and was less successful as a result.
I know how to stop piracy. Stop considering it stealing.
It can be hard, after spending months or years of your life on a project, to release it in the world and watch that world rip it to parts. But such is the path of the artist. Even God’s work suffered at the hands of the world. Trying to keep yours sacred and pure is impossible; unless you put it under a glass case and never let anyone touch it. But what is the point of art if not to share? And what is the point of sharing if those who share too enthusiastically are met with snarls of disapproval?
Let. Go. Write your perfect story, give it wings, and set it free. Keep it caged and it will never sing. Set it free and watch it soar. Don’t worry that the world will change it, because it will change the world.